Friday, February 29, 2008

"The Greatest Record Ever"

Continuing to move through the 1970s Soul mix-tape on the way to work this morning, the first song up was "I Can't Stand the Rain," by Ann Peebles. The quote that serves as the title of this post comes from none other than John Lennon, and I'm not sure I would dispute it.

This is an absolutely perfect record, and an absolutely amazing performance. Peebles recorded for Hi Records, along with Al Green, and this masterpiece can stand proudly alongside anything the great Green recorded. And as Green's great hits were, Peeble's smash was produced by Willie Mitchell.

It's also the rare record that gets better and richer with repeated listens, because then you begin to appreciate everything that is going on. I sure wish I could have been present when it was recorded, because when the band locks into a groove, just as Peebles is completing the first verse, the only words that can describe it are awesome and majestic. It makes me wonder - as it was being recorded, did they know that the track they were laying down was that good? Were they able to appreciate and enjoy it as it was happening, or was it just a case of consummate professionals at work?

The entire band is great - horns Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson, the Hodges brothers (Mabon on guitar, Leroy on bass, Charlie on keyboards), but the song is absolutely driven by drummer Howard Grimes. It's one of the best drum performances I've ever heard on any record. It's not flashy - Grimes isn't pounding the skins like Charlie Watts or Mick Fleetwood - it's powerful and subtle, at the same time. And when Peebles pulls back on the word "rain" just as Grimes hits the cymbal, it's just magic.

There's a lot of records out there, but if you're gonna call one "the greatest ever," it might as well be "I Can't Stand the Rain." As a matter of fact, I think I'll go listen to it again.

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