PRESTON LOVE’S OHAMA-BAR B-Q.

PRESTON LOVE’S OHAMA-BAR B-Q.

Preston Love was already forty-eight by the time he decided to climb onboard the funk bandwagon. He’d  had a long and varied career. This began back in the swing era, when Preston was an assured balladeer and alto saxophonist. He played in Nat Towles, Lloyd Hunter, Snub Mosley, Lucky Millinder and Fats Waller’s bands. However, in 1945, the twenty-four year old Ohama born saxophonist caught the biggest break of his nascent career, when he joined the Count Basie Orchestra.

For the next two years, Preston was a member of the Count Basie Orchestra. He even played on Open The Door Richard, which proved to be Count Basie’s only number one record. Preston’s time with the Count Basie Orchestra proved to be the perfect schooling for the bandleader in waiting.

By the time Preston left the Count Basie Orchestra, he realised the swing era was well and truly over. So, he formed his own band. His new band would play R&B. They recorded for a number of labels, including Federal. However, Preston’s band also accompanied a number of high profile vocalists.

Lena Horne, Wynonie Harris and Billie Holliday were just three of the vocalists Preston’s band accompanied. His band were the go-to band for many vocalists. Preston, however, wasn’t content with being a bandleader. He wanted to own and run his own label.

So in 1952, Preston and his friend, songwriter Otis René formed Spin Records. It was home not just to Preston Love, but a number of other artists. Sadly, the vagaries of running a record label proved problematic, and Spin Records was a short-lived venture. Undeterred, Preston continued making music.

After the demise of Spin Records, Preston was busier than ever. By the late fifties, with R&B very much in the ascendancy, Preston’s services were highly sought after. This continued right into the sixties, when Preston met Johnny Otis.

Johnny Otis played an important part in the Preston Love story. The two men met in the early sixties. They became firm friends, and enjoyed a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Preston also became part of the Johnny Otis band. Later, Preston worked with Johnny Otis’ son Shuggie Otis. This was still to come. Before that, Preston was about to enjoy one of the most productive decades of his career. 

The sixties were very much a golden era in Preston Love’s career. As the decade began, California based Preston worked with Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Then as the sixties progressed, Preston moved to Detroit. 

In Detroit, Preston became part of Motown’s house-band. Eventually, Preston became bandleader, working with The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Tammi Tarell and Marvin Gaye. For several years, Preston was a familiar face at Motown’s headquarters. However, it wasn’t just soul acts Preston worked with during the sixties.

Later in the sixties, Preston worked with an eclectic collection of artists, including T-Bone Walker, Ruth Brown, Nichelle Nichols, Janis Joplin and the innovative and inimitable Frank Zappa on his Freak Out album. It seemed Preston had hardly stopped working during the sixties. So much so, that he hadn’t had time to release an album. That would change in 1970.

In 1969, Preston Love recorded his debut album, Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q, which was reissued on vinyl by Ace Records. Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q saw Johhny Otis and his fourteen year old son Shuggie, collaborate with Preston.

For Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q, Johnny and Shuggie cowrote six tracks, Chicken Gumbo, Cool Ade, Ohama-Bar-B-Q, Hoe Cakes and Sorghum, Shuggie’s Chittlin’ Blues and Pot Likker. They also cowrote Chilli Mac and Neck Bones with Maxwell Davis. Preston cowrote Cream Dream with Johnny and Jackie Kelso. These nine tracks became Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q.

When recording of Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q began, Preston had put together a small band. What they lacked in numbers, they more than made up with talent. Preston played flute and alto saxophone, while Clifford Solomon played tenor saxophone. Johnny Otis played vibes and piano, and Shuggie Otis played guitar and bass. Once Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q was completed, it was released in 1970.

On its release in 1970, on the small Los Angeles’ based, Hudson label, Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q wasn’t a commercial success. This wasn’t down to the music. Releasing Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q on a  small label, with a limited budget meant the album was almost destined to fail. However, since then, Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q has become a cult album. Word spread about Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q. Fans of funk and R&B sought out copies of an album collectors spoke about in reverential tones. Quickly, original copies of the album became a collectors item. Nowadays, mint copies of Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q can fetch over $150. For those who don’t have as deep pockets, Ace Records’ reissue of Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q, which I’ll tell you about, costs a fraction of the price.

Chicken Gumbo opens Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q. Searing, blistering guitar licks sit atop the rhythm section, as they drive the uber funky arrangement along. They’re joined by braying, blazing horns. When they drop out, the rhythm section and a guitar masterclass from Shuggie Otis take centre-stage. Then when the band unite, the arrangement moves up a gear. It’s as if Shuggie msucial coup d’état has inspired the funkateers. Playing as if their lives depended upon it, it’s a blistering way to start Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q.

Panning is used on Chili Mac. The bass is panned right to left, while percussion and growling horns. Later, vibes and Preston ’s flute add to the moody, dramatic, cinematic sound. It’s reminiscent of the Blaxploitation movies soundtracks that would feature heavily during the seventies. That’s why the best way to describe Chili Mac is an innovative, proto Blaxpolitation track.

The arrangement to Cream Dream bubbles away.  This bubbling sound is panned right. Meanwhile, the rest of the arrangement features just a melancholy combination of sultry saxophone, fluttering flute, vibes and understated drums. Again, they’re responsible for a broody, wistful cinematic sound, one that has a late-night, smokey sound.

Neck Bones sees Preston Love and friends mix jazz, funk and R&B seamlessly. Shuggie Otis unleashes flamboyant, confident, guitar licks. He’s accompanied by a piano that’s panned left and grizzled, jazz-tinged  horns. Meanwhile, Shuggie Otis is unleashing another guitar masterclass. It’s hard to believe he was just fourteen, when he played on Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q. He plays like a veteran, and plays in important part in the sound and success of Neck Bones.

Cool Ade sees the tempo drop, then things get more than a little funky. The rhythm section provide a funky backdrop, and Shuggie unleashes some funky guitar licks. A bass is panned left, and the guitar panned right. They’re just scene setters. This leaves the rest of the arrangement available for first, Johnny and Preston’s good natured vamp, then blazing, blistering horns. The horns are at the heart of everything that’s good about Cool Ade, with Preston’s saxophone playing a starring role. 

Dramatic and funky describes Ohama-Bar-B-Q. It literally bursts into life. A driving, pounding, rhythm section, piano and a searing, chiming, blistering wah-wah guitar combine. They’re joined by a saxophone. It makes a fleeting appearance, before the piano picks up the slack. Everyone gets their opportunity to shine. When Shuggie’s turn comes, he produces a breathtaking performance. This raises the stakes, and the rest of Preston’s band ensure Ohama-Bar-B-Q  is a musical tour de force.

Hot Cakes And Sorghum is a slow, bluesy track. The arrangemenmt shuffles along, with the rhythm section, piano, crystalline guitar and braying horns combining. They lock into a groove, playing as one. Preston’s grizzled horns rasps, while Shuggie lays down some licks. Meanwhile, the rest of the band, create a bluesy backdrop. Above the arrangement, sits the growling, grizzled saxophone. Preston puts to good use three decades experience, on a track where he’s got the blues.

Not many fourteen year old guitarists have a song name after them. However, there’s only one Shuggie Otis. Shuggie’s Chitlin Blues is another slow blues. He unleashes some searing, bluesy, licks, before the rhythm section create a slow, broody, bluesy backdrop. They’re joined by heartachingly beautiful horns. Along with Shuggie’s guitar masterclass, the horns play their part in a late-night sound that’s a mixture of melancholia, heartbreak and regret.  

Pot Likker closes Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q. Again, it has a dramatic, cinematic sound. It could easy be part of an early Blaxplitation soundtrack. The rhythm section and Shuggie’s chiming, crystalline guitar drive the arrangement along. They’re joined by scorching, blazing horns. Some of the time, Shuggie goes toe-to-toe with the horns. They drive the other to greater heights, as Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q reaches a dramatic, cinematic and uber funky high.

Preston Love was forty-eight, when he released his debut album, Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q in 1970, which was released on vinyl, on 1st December 2014 by Ace Recors. His career had already spanned four decades. It began in the forties, in the big band era. Since then, Preston watched as music evolved. 

By 1969, when he recorded Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q, funk was flavour of the month. So he put together a small, talented band. This included his friend Johnny Otis and fourteen year old Shuggie Otis. He was a musical prodigy, who could’ve and should’ve become one of the most successful musicians of his generation. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. However, back on Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q, Shuggie made his recording debut. He oozed skill and confiednece, unleashing funky and bluesy licks. Shuggie’s licks were a huge part in the success of Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q. Especially when combined with Preston and the rest of his uber talented band. They were resposnible for an album that should’ve been a huge comemrcial success.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q passed critics and music lovers by. It was the age old story. Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q was released on a small, independt label, Hudson. They didn’t have the werewithal to promote Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q properly. As a result, Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q became another of music’s best kept secrets. 

Eventually, discerning music lovers discovered the delights of Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q. It became a cult album. Gradually, word spread about Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q. Original copies of Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q started changing hands for ever increasing sums of money. Then as the internet age began, word spread like wildfire. Part of Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q’s U.S.P. was Shuggie Otis’ guitar playing. So, it’s no surprise that Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q was reissued. Since then, Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q has become a minor classic. 

No wonder. Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q features a small, talented band at the peak of their powers. Over the nine tracks on Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q, they combine blues, funk, jazz and R&B. It’s a case of all killer, no filler. Sadly, Preston Love didn’t release another album until the next millenia.

In 2001, Preston released his sophomore album Ohama Blues. Two years, later, in 2003, Preston released his eponympous album Preston Love. A year later, in 2004, Preston Love died aged just eighty-two. The veteran alto saxophonist, bandleader and songwriter had enjoyed a career that lasted seven decades. During that period, Preston only released three albums. Preston Love’s finest moment was the minor class Preston Love’s Ohama-Bar-B-Q, which introduced the world to guitar virtuoso Shuggie Otis.

PRESTON LOVE’S OHAMA-BAR B-Q.

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