Herbie Mann – Chain Of Fools

20th July 2021 · 1960s, 1969, Music, Soul

This is another long jam for a summer’s day, fusing an R&B groove with the flightier embellishments of jazz.

It marries the hypnotic rhythms of the peerless Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section with some of the hottest young talents in New York jazz and takes them to Memphis to breed.

It’s an extended 11-minute cover of Don Covay’s classic Chain Of Fools – his original, replete with the sound of children in what sounds like a playground, having been released in 1968 just after Aretha Franklin‘s popular version.

This smooth version is taken from the album Memphis Underground by jazz flute virtuoso Herbie Mann. Memphis Underground was once cited as the greatest album of all time by Hunter S. Thompson, and that’s enough to make me pay attention.

It’s apparently one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, even though it’s not really jazz, especially on this tune. But it certainly hits the spot when the sun is out.

The metronomic R&B groove, by drummer Gene Chrisman and bass guitarist Tommy Cogbill from Muscle Shoals, is not a million miles away from the motorik rhythms of krautrock.

It’s largely a vehicle for the solos of flautist Mann himself, the vibes of Roy Ayers and two jazz guitarists, Larry Coryell and Sonny Sharrock.

Produced by Tom Dowd, the album was recorded in 1969 at Chips Moman’s American Sound Studios in Memphis, and if the rhythm section sounds so tight it could play this in its sleep, well that may be because Cogbill had previously played on Aretha Franklin’s chart-topping version a couple of years earlier at Atlantic’s New York studio.