Monday 10 November 2008

Classic Soul: Garnet Mimms




Career-retrospective of neglected Soul ‘Great Unknown’
GARNET MIMMS through the lens of a CD overview of his
reissue (Stateside/ BGO CD 268)

Before it blanded out into complacent Jeffrey Osborne / Alexander O’Neil late-night cliché, Soul was the street-hard buzzword for ‘real’. And although seldom remembered now, Garnet Mimms’ sharp suits and sharper hooks once rivalled Otis ‘Blue’ Redding, the wicked-wicked Wilson Pickett, and Solomon ‘King Of Rock ‘n’ Soul’ Burke as part of Mod Clubland’s pantheon of Scooter-R&B cultdom. Garnet – originally spelled ‘Garrett’ had sung in church choirs and smalltime gospel groups all the way from his native West Virginia to Philadelphia. After a military stint he formed the Enchanters in 1961, aged 27. All members had previous solo careers. Samuel Bell, who was also a song-writer of some small repute, was from Philadelphia and had toured the east-coast with gospel units. He’d also been a part of a Doo-Wop group called the Gainors with Garnet (and another future star, Howard Tate) before becoming an Enchanter at age 29. Charles Boyer – born in North Carolina, also had extensive background experience with vocal groups including five years with the Ambassadors. While Philadelphia-born Zola Pearnell at 25, had sung with the Paul Roberts Choir, played Europe, and worked with Philadelphia orchestras.

But, after heading for New York, it was to be Mimms’ collaboration with Jewish Soul-Boy Jerry Ragavoy and writer/producer Bert Berns – who was later to rescue a similarly career-stalled Van Morrison, that gave Garnet a run of smooth Deep-Soul hits that lasted from 1963-’66, both as front-name with the Enchanters and – after 1964, as a star in his own right. The slow-burning first US million-seller – “Cry Baby” (US R&B no.1 and Pop no.4 in September 1963), benefits from session back-up vocals from Dionne Warwick and Cissie Houston, its impassioned pleading built on Mimms’ gospel authenticity. It was later revived – although not bettered by Janis Joplin. A tenor of full-on warmth and power, sweetened by Jackie Wilson strings, few could heartbreak like Garnet.

Both sides of their follow-up single – a cover of Jerry Butler’s “For Your Precious Love” (no.26) and “Baby Don’t You Weep” (no.30 in December 1963) charted, and “It Was Easier To Hurt Her” (limply covered in the UK by Wayne Fontana!) mine the same cross-over Pop-Soul seam, until the second album – and his biggest solo chart hit “I’ll Take Good Care Of You” (US no.30 in May 1966) becomes harder and starker on a near Motown/Stax pulse. As his star waned in the States Brian Epstein promoted him with a showcase Soul Review at the Saville Theatre (with Edwin Starr) in 1967, followed by a fortuitous UK tour with Jimi Hendrix which helped build a solid reputation with soul-boys here, who ensured his flame still burned on.

All of their carefully hoarded 45rpm vinyl highlights are salvaged onto this valuable two-albums-for-one CD package. Taken from the original vinyl reissues of 1984 the sixteen track CD arrived in 2002, expanded to twenty-six cuts on a further 2005 edition. Here, scattered among Mimms’ own R&B hits “One Girl”, “Look Away” and “It Won’t Hurt (Half As Much)”, are personalised versions of the Drifters “There Goes My Baby”, Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me” (covered in the UK by the Pretty Things) and “A Little Bit Of Soap” (later revived into the chart by Showaddywaddy), each one drawn into Mimms’ own distinctive styling. And although seldom frantic, his easy-paced vocals always exude that tortured emotive quality that once made Soul the street-hard buzzword for ‘real’.

There was to be a brief Seventies Disco come-back, but this is Garnet Mimms at his finest. Once an Enchanter, always an enchanter…

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Hi Andrew,

On behalf of Exile Productions and Exile Publishing, many thanks for plugging Van Morrison and, for your readers’ info, up-to-the-minute news on Van’s latest album - Keep It Simple - and 2008 shows is, of course, available on and and, for a limited period, you can still see Van's exclusive BBC sessions at . We’re also pleased to announce that an increasing archive of exclusive film footage of Van Morrison performances has now been made available for fans on Exile’s official YouTube channel at .

Thanks again for your support.