DAVID PORTER-GRITTY, GROOVIN’ AND GETTIN’ IT.

DAVID PORTER-GRITTY, GROOVIN’ AND GETTIN’ IT.

By the summer of 1969, David Porter was one of the most important people at Stax Records. He’d played his part in the label’s success story since 1961, when he cowrote That was The Life I Live, the B-side to Barbara Stephens’ single I Don’t Worry. Soon, David established a reputation as a songwriter, arranger and producer. Many of the songs he cowrote were with Isaac Hayes. The pair had formed a successful songwriting and production partnership. Isaac was ying to David’s yang. One complimented the other. Their track record of success was enviable. Everything they touched turned to silver, gold or platinum. Not only did they write most of Sam and David’s biggest hits, but wrote songs for Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Mabel John, Albert King and The Bar Keys. Then there were the songs Davd wrote for artists not signed to Stax.

Away from Stax David Porter penned tracks for Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Wilson, Pickett, Charlie Rich, The Sweet Inspirations, Don Covay and Joe Cocker. It seemed David Porter could do no wrong. His songs were released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Artists were desperate to record David Porter’s songs. Everything was going right for David Porter. That wasn’t the case. 

Something was nagging away at David Porter. Here he was, nearly thirty years old, and he’d not enjoyed a successful solo career. The nearest he got was when Can’t See You When I Want To reached the top thirty in the US R&B Charts in 1965. That was the sum-total of David’s solo career. So, he set about relaunching his solo career. Maybe his luck would change when David Porter released his debut solo album Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It, which was recently rereleased by Ace Records. Would Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It be the start of a successful solo career for David Porter.

At last, David felt his solo career was getting back on track. Since he’d arrived at Stax full-time in 1962, he’d been concentrating on songwriting and then production. He was one of the “house” songwriters. Later, he’d became a staff producer. He’d worked with the great and good of Stax throughout the sixties. Lately, he’d been thinking about resurrecting his solo career. His only real success had been his 1965 single Can’t See You When I Want To. That was one of the song’s that featured on his debut album Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It. Maybe it be his lucky charm?

Considering David Porter was a talented songwriter, who’d formed successful songwriting partnerships, including with Isaac Hayes, David only cowrote one track on Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It. That was Can’t See You When I Want To, which he’d penned with Ed Lee in 1965. The other seven tracks were cover versions. This included Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s I Only Have Eyes For You, Curtis Mayfield’s Just Be True and I’m A Tellin’ You, a Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler composition. Stevie Wonder, Paul Riser, Don Hunter and Lulu Hardaway cowrote I Don’t Know Why I Love You. Other songs included Jesse and Jo-Ann Bevlin’s Guess Who, Dee Ervin’s One Parts-Two Parts and Bobby Rogers and William Robinson’s The Way You Do The Things You Do. These eight tracks became David Porter’s long awaited debut album Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It.

Recording of Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It took place in the familiar surroundings of McLemore Avenue, Memphis. That’s where all the Stax sessions took place. It must have been like a second home to David, who’d spent many a session in the McLemore Avenue studios. Recording began on 10th September and stretched into October. With The Mar-Keys accompanying David Porter, he laid down the eight tracks that became his debut album Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It. Dale Warren and Isaac Hayes arranged the eight tracks and Isaac produced Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It. Overdubbing of strings took place on 29th December 1969, and Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It was ready for release in 1970.

Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It was released in March 1970. It reached just number 163 in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B Charts. For David, this vindicated his decision to pursue a solo career.Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It, which I’ll tell you about, was the perfect start to David Porter’s solo career?

I Only Have Eyes For You opens Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It. A familiar track, it’s given a complete makeover by producer Isaac Hayes. Just a drum, hi-hat and piano take the song in a direction it’s never been before. Soon, were on safer ground when David delivers the familiar lyrics. It veers between needy, heartfelt and sultry. Flourishes of strings, soaring harmonies and chiming guitars accompany David, his powerful, pleading vocal full of urgency and need. 

There’s no let up in the emotion on Guess Who. A slow, meandering arrangement with lush quivering strings at its heart provides the backdrop for David’s tender, emotive vocal. Cooing harmonies sweep in. Just like the horns, they add to the sense of melancholia and sadness. David sincerity and longing filling his voice, can’t win over the woman he’s lost his heart to.

Chiming guitars, piano and hissing hi-hats combine as I’m a-Tellin’ You unfolds. Straight away, there’s a Stax sound. Similarities with Sam and Dave are striking, right down to David’s vocal. Horns blaze, drums pound and strings sweep and swirl. David’s gruff vocal is vampish. Soon, harmonies accompany him. They seem to spur David on. He delivers a vocal that bring to life the suffering and hardship in Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield’s lyrics.

Just Be True was penned by Curtis Mayfield. The lushest of strings, tender, subtle harmonies and wistful horns set the scene for David’s needy vocal. Sincerity fills his vocal as the bass helps drive the arrangement along. Bursts of woodwind and braying horns and pounding drums join punchy harmonies from Pat and Diane Lewis and Rose Williams, who’d soon become Hot Buttered Soul. Sung in a call and response style to David’s soul-baring vocal, their ethereal beauty is the finishing touch to a bewitching, beautiful and dramatic track.

 A piano and ethereal, angelic harmonies open The Way You Do The Things You Do. They give way to bursts of rasping horns. That’s the signal for things to get funky and swing. Horns growl, while the piano and rhythm section drive the arrangement along. David delivers a vocal that’s feisty and sassy. As for The Mar-Keys, they add their trademark funk, while Hot Buttered Soul’s harmonies are sassy, ensuring this song where Southern Soul and funk unite, swings…and then some.

Although David had released Can’t See You When I Want To as a single back in 1965, he rerecorded the track in 1969. From the opening bars, it’s obvious that a heartbreaking, soul-baring song is unfolding. The rhythm section create a slow, sultry heartbeat, while wistful horns, piano and melancholy strings provide the backdrop for David’s lovelorn vocal. Washes of Hammond organ and tender, needy harmonies accompany him. Soon, he’s delivering what’s best described as vocal Magnus Opus. Full of sadness and emotion, his vocal is needy. He pleads his way through the lyrics to the best track on Gritty, Groovin’ and Gettin’ It, tugging on your heartstrings all the way.

One Part – Two Parts sees a real change in style. The tempo is quicker as soul, funk and gospel unite. Written by Di Fosco Ervin it’s another track that has a real Stax sound. It also allows David to kick loose. Burst of growling horns and gospel-tinged harmonies accompany The Mar-Keys’ rhythm section. They provide the arrangement’s funky heartbeat, while Steve Cropper lays down some more of trademark guitar licks. As for David, he struts his way through the lyrics handclaps and harmonies accompanying him all the way.

I Don’t Know Why I Love You closes Gritty, Groovy and Gettin’ It.  A pensive, thoughtful David delivers a half-spoken vocal. A burst of drums signals David to deliver an impassioned, heartfelt vocal. Full of emotion, heartbreak and hurt are familiar friends. Horns growl, strings sweep and swirl and drums drive the arrangement along as an infatuated David says” “one day I’m goin’ to leave.” He knows that’s not going to happen. That’s just wishful thinking. It’s a case of he can’t live with her, but he can’t live without her.

Just eight songs and thirty-two minutes long, David Porter’s debut album Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It is a mini-musical masterpiece. From the opening bars of I Only Have Eyes For You, right through to the closing notes of I Don’t Know Why I Love You Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It is a beautiful, bewitching and captivating listen. Bristling with emotion, it’s an album where heartbreak and hurt almost ever-present. Full of relationship songs, women are always just out of reach for David. He seems to fall in love with the wrong women and end up getting hurt. Sometimes, it sounds as if he’s drawing on his own experiences. His vocal sounds weary and lived in, as he brings the lyrics to life. You get a sense he’s live the lyrics and survived them. David Porter it seems is a soul survivor, who was ready to record his debut album.  

That David didn’t record his debut album Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It earlier is no bad thing. Look at the songs he recorded. Songs like I Only Have Eyes For You, Just Be True, Can’t See You When I Want To and I Don’t Know Why I Love You aren’t suited to a younger singer. They require someone whose lived a little, and isn’t just reading the lyrics. Only then can they bring out the subtleties and nuances in the lyrics. David certainly does that. His delivery veers between heartbroken, emotive, despairing, wistful, joyous and dramatic. He’s helped no end by the all-star cast of musicians and backing singers that accompanied.

With The Mar-Keys providing the backdrop for David’s vocal and the soon-to-be Hot Buttered Soul adding harmonies, some of Stax’s most talented personnel appeared on Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It. Then there’s David’s songwriting and production partner Isaac Hayes. Drawing on all their years of experience, David and Isaac ensured that Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It was well worth the wait. That’s an understatement. Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It, David Porter’s debut album, which was recently released by Ace Records, is a mini-musical masterpiece. Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It, David Porter’s debut album is the nearest thing to musical perfection that you’ll get. One listen to David Porter’s Gritty, Groovy And Gettin’ It, and you’ll realize why. Standout Tracks: I Only Have Eyes For You, Just Be True, Can’t See You When I Want To and I Don’t Know Why I Love You.

DAVID PORTER-GRITTY, GROOVIN’ AND GETTIN’ IT.

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