Ernie Hines was one of three artists who arrived at the We Produce label, a subsidiary company of Stax. The label had been set up by Stax’s co-owner, and label chief Al Bell, to expand Stax, making them big enough to stand alone company, following the discovery of the problems with the seven year distribution contract with Atlantic Records. Having signed the distribution contract, Al Bell discovered that the contract’s terms left Stax with a problem, they’d hardly any catalogue. Under the terms of the contract, Atlantic had control of the Stax catalogue.
Now that he’d discovered this problem, Al Bell decided that Stax had to expand. His idea was to increase the label’s size, bring more artists, writers and producers to the label. Among the people that joined the label were Don Davis, who helped transform Johnnie Taylor’s career, turning him into a soul and R&B star, with albums like Who’s Making Love. Next to join was Tom Nixon, who helped Rufus Thomas‘ career, resulting in hits like Do the Funky Chicken. After Tom Nixon’s success with Rufus Thomas, Al Bell decided to launch a new label, with Tom and Josephine Bridges, who worked in the Stax back office running it. Once the We Produce label was launched, just three acts were on the label, The Temprees, Lee Sain and Ernie Hines. Of these three acts, only The Temprees singles charted. However, of the other two acts, Ernie Hines produced one album Electrified.
Ernie Hines was born Earnest Lee Pickford-Hines in Mississippi, but was brought up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he first learned to play guitar and started his career. After this, he moved to Chicago, recording three singles in 1967 and 1968, one of which was for the famous Wand label, based in New York. As well as working as a singer, Ernie also wrote songs, with groups like The Violinaires and The Lovelites. However, by 1970, Ernie was without a record deal, and looking for a new label. Luckily for him, fate intervened, when the publisher of Jet magazine, for whom Ernie’s wife worked for, recommended Ernie to Al Bell. Acting on this advice, Al signed Ernie to Stax.
Once signed to Stax, Ernie recorded one single Help Me Put Out the Flame (in My Heart). Sadly, although the single is a great Southern Soul cut, which can be found on The Complete Stax/Volt SIngles 1972-1975 it didn’t do well. Luckily for Ernie, the new We Produce label had just been launched, and he moved labels. Now that Ernie was on the new label, Tom Nixon and Josephine Bridges set about arranging the sessions for what would become Electrified.
The album was recorded over three separate sessions, with some of Stax’s best musicians playing on the album. Isaac Hayes, The MGs, The Bar Kays, The Movement and The Malaco Rhythm Section all played on the album. Of the nine songs on the album, three were either written or co-written by Ernie, while Leon Moore wrote or co-wrote three songs. One of the best known songs on the album is Let’s Straighten It Out, which was sampled by Pete Rock. A cover of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come was also included on the album. Over three sessions, the album was recorded, with Carl Hampton, Jo Bridges and Tom Nixon producing four songs during the first session. When the second session took place, Lester Snell replaced Carl Hampton as producer, joining Jo Bridges and Tom Nixon in the control room For the final recording session, Tom Nixon was joined by Fred Briggs, and the final two tracks were recorded. Having completed the album, which became Electrified, all that was left was for it to be released.
Sadly, neither the album Electrified, nor the singles released from the album were a commercial success. The two singles released from the album were Electrified Love at the start of 1971 and What Would I Do. Although both singles were great tracks, neither sold well. However, once Pete Rock name-checked having sampled Let’s Straighten It Out, the value of the singles and album shot up. Following the release of Electrified, Ernie performed at the legendary Wattstax music festival, where he was one of six singers to accompany William Bell during his performance of Old-Time Religion. Not long after that, Ernie left Stax, having been dropped. He headed back to Illinois, where he continued his career as a musician, and formed Baby Blue Records and Colorful Music Publishing. His career path took a new turn as the new millennia began, when he became a minister. Nowadays, his new role as minister continues alongside his music career, and next year will mark the fortieth anniversary of the release of Electrified, which I’ll now tell you about.
Electrified opens with Electrified Love, which was one of the tracks released as a single. When the track opens it’s blazing horns that unite with the rhythm section, chiming guitars and keyboards. They give way to Ernie’s smooth vocal which is accompanied by angelic sounding backing vocalists singing harmonies. As if this isn’t good enough, the meandering arrangement has a gorgeous sound, with horns rasping throughout, while the rhythm section provide the track’s heartbeat. Ernie’s stunning, heartfelt vocal sits above the arrangement, surrounded by layer upon layer of gorgeous harmonies. It’s a lush and sumptuous sounding, soulful track that is full of hooks, whose beauty you’ll never tire of.
Come On Y’All opens with dramatic drums and shimmering guitars, before swirling strings enter briefly. Quickly, they give way to the earlier combination of drums and guitars, as Ernie’s vocal enters. His vocal is much more considered, as he almost instructs the people to come with him and “have a ball.” Ernie becomes a soulful “Pied Piper”, as backing vocalists reply to his instructions. It’s quite different sound from the opening track, with a folk influence prevalent, amidst the swathes of swirling, grand strings. Together, they combine to create a late sixties sound, with the rhythm section and guitars sitting behind the proliferation of strings. By the end of the track you begin to realize why the track was just a B-side to Electrified Love. It really isn’t up to the standard of the opening track, even with the all those lovely strings in the arrangement.
Following on from the disappointment of the previous track is a much better track, Your Love Is All I Need, a track Ernie cowrote with Leon Moore. This is a song that’s much more suited to Ernie’s vocal, than the flakey folk it’s predecessor. Against a slow backdrop of chiming guitars, keyboards, gentle horns and the rhythm section Ernie delivers a gentle, heartfelt vocal accompanied by subtle, but beautiful backing vocalists. Lush strings enter, as Ernie pleads with his partner that he needs her, loves and is sorry for treating her badly. As he sings with emotion and passion, the arrangement flows slowly along, with chiming guitars, sweeping strings and the rhythm section combining to produce a beautiful, emotive and tender backdrop for Ernie’s vocal. Add to this the backing vocalists, and the result is a very beautiful song, one of the album’s highlights, and one that more than makes up for the previous track.
What Would I Do Without Your Love is a track that when it opens up, features a deeply moving, emotional vocal from Ernie sung against an arrangement that veers between punchy and flowing, with his vocal swathed in a mass of the lushest strings, while guitars reverberate and a piano chimes, as it escapes from the arrangement, joining the beauty of the strings and backing vocalists that accompany Ernie. Meanwhile, Ernie despairingly contemplates how he’d survive without the love of his partner. When he sings, his soft voice rises, emotion and heartache never far away, as he despairs at the loss and loneliness he’d face. With such an emotive vocal set against a string laden arrangement, Ernie produces a hugely moving, beautiful track.
As Sugar Plum (Gimme Some) opens, it’s a very different sounding track, with this a funk drenched dance track. Rocky sounding soaring, screaming guitars, blazing horns and a driving rhythm section are augmented by sweet backing vocalists and keyboards as the accompany Ernie’s powerful vocal. Here, he really unleashes his vocal against a frantically, funky arrangement. He roars and hollers joyfully, amidst the braying horns and searing, rocky rocky guitars. Although very different from the previous two tracks, its infectiousness sweeps you along in its funk drenched wake.
A Better World (For Everyone) was written by Ernie and is a song with a message. During the song, he emotionally and passionately pleads for everyone to help make the world a better place. His sincerity is genuine, as he sings against a string heavy quicker, arrangement. The lushest of sweet swirling strings, a punchy rhythm section and guitars accompany Ernie as he issues his pleas. Later, rasping horns add a contrasting sound to the strings. Accompanying the strings is a Hammond organ which gives the sound its own musical DNA. This works well, providing another contrasting sound. Together, all these layers combine with Ernie’s passionate pleas to provide a song with a message that’s still hugely relevant today.
Of all the Sam Cooke songs to choose, Ernie couldn’t have chosen a better one to cover than A Change Is Gonna Come. It’s perfect for both his voice and the passion he delivers it with. He brings the song to life, against a slow, lush yet dramatic backdrop. Ernie really slows the song down, elongating phrases and sections of the song, to get across the impact of the lyrics. Meanwhile, strings play an important part in the arrangement, their lushness and beauty surrounding and dominating the arrangement. Everything else, including the the dramatic rhythm section, chiming guitars and piano play a supporting role, while the arrangement meanders gently, as Ernie delivers the lyrics with a real belief, that things will improve, that things will change and the world will be a better place. By the end of the track, you can’t help but be affected and overwhelmed by the sincerity, passion and a delivery of these wonderful lyrics by Ernie.
Explain It To Our Mama was a song that was a hit for The Temprees in 1972. Their version is excellent, and can be heard on The Complete Stax/Volt SIngles 1972-1975. Ernie’s version is very different, much slower and dramatic, featuring a hugely emotive delivery of the lyrics against an arrangement that features backing vocalists and a sumptuous string arrangement and a forlorn piano. A slow, dramatic rhythm section, piano and guitars accompany the strings, as Ernie slowly and emotively tells the story of a young woman led astray by a much more worldly, handsome man. As the track ends, I much prefer Ernie’s much slower and dramatic rendition of the song. Having listened to both tracks back to back, Ernie’s version brings the story in the lyrics to life, so much so, that you can almost imagine this sad, scenario unfolding before your very eyes.
Electrified closes with Our Generation which opens with a combination of punchy rhythm section, searing guitars and blazing horns. After that, Ernie’s vocal enters, as he delivers another message, this time, an anti-war message. This he does against a backdrop of spacious chiming guitars, driving rhythm section and blazing horns. Like other tracks, he’s accompanied by backing vocalists who provide a subtle accompaniment to Ernie’s much more powerful soaring vocal. Later in the track, he pleas for the populace of various American cities to help stop the senseless war and destruction that was happening overseas. Although the message behind the song was admirable, and both the arrangement and vocal are good, they just weren’t up to the standard of other tracks on Electrified. This isn’t a bad track, it’s just on seven of the other eight tracks on the album Ernie set his standards high, and sadly, this one just failed to achieve that standard.
Before I bought Electrified, I’d only ever heard a few of the songs the album. What I’d heard, I’d liked, and was looking forward to receiving the album when BGP rereleased and remastered it last year. When I received Electrified, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. On the album, Ernie Hines sets his standards high with Electrified Love, the opening track and by far the best track on the album. Apart from the folk influenced Come On Y’All, which is the only disappointing track on the album, it’s an album full of some fantastic music. Even Our Generation the final track on Electrified works, although it isn’t as good as the other seven tracks. During the album, Ernie Hines sings each song with a variety of styles and emotions, each perfect for that song. As for the arrangements, there are some great arrangements on the album, with plenty of the lushest strings featuring on many tracks. Due to the hugely talented musicians that played on the album, each arrangement sounds great. Mind you, Electrified did feature The MGs, The Bar Kays, The Movement and The Malaco Rhythm Section. So with such talented players on the album, it’s no wonder the arrangements sound so good. Although neither Electrified, nor the singles Electrified Love and What Would I Do were commercial successes, that doesn’t mean this is in any way, shape or form a bad album. Quite the opposite, it’s an excellent album full of some excellent music, from a hugely talented singer Ernie Hines. Standout Tracks: Electrified Love, Your Love Is All I Need, What Would I Do Without Your Love and A Change Is Gonna Come.