Tuesday, December 10, 2013

40 Year Itch: The Natural

[Out of Print]

"Music is obviously the thing I should have been doing all of my life"
-Charles Bevel

  "Mississippi" Charles Bevel was 34 years old by the time he released his 1973 debut album for A and M Records. Born the 14th of 17 children in Mississippi, Bevel lived on cotton plantations, joined the Navy, lived in Alaska, San Diego, Hawaii and then moved to Liberia for three and a half years. In Baltimore he lived in a commune. In Cleveland he pulled straight 8's as an engineer at a TV station. Through a miraculous turn of events, he managed to get some homemade tapes to Jerry Butler who introduced him to producer Calvin Carter. The eventual  result is an album that marries the sublime soul of Bill Withers with the churning percussion and political consciousness of Curtis Mayfield.

In an A- review of the album Robert Christgau wrote:

His songs are about black courage, hypocrisy, and ambivalence in a world shaped but not defined by racism; many of them ring like the proverbs and fables that provide him with crucial bits of language. The melodies are as sensible and eloquent as the lyrics, and Calvin Carter's production respects and augments Bevel's relaxed folk-soul voice.

 Though the album has vanished, Bevel has been nominated for a Tony Award for writing the blues revue It Aint't Nothin' But the Blues as well as for the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actor In a Revue.

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