Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band
The Picadilly and Pye Studio Recordings
Well overdue reissue of the sixties catalogue of Geno Washington. Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews.
Geno Washington was the reference for powerhouse souls shows in sixties Britain. Criss-crossing the country with The Ram Jam Band, he made a lasting impression on British crowds and Dexys Midnight Runner’s tribute to him is ample proof of the place he occupies in British rock history. Geno stills tours regularly and his currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky-Butt… Live!”. Geno started singing in bands while being stationed in the UK as part of the US Air Force. After a short return to the US round 1964, he came back to the UK in 1965, fully committed to make it as a singer on this side of the Atlantic. Forming the Ram Jam Band with guitarist Pete Gage, Geno spent the next four years electrifying UK audiences with his soul revue.
First and foremost a live artist, he still managed to record a full length LP and a flurry of singles. All these recordings are neatly compiled on “The Piccadilly and Pye Studio Recordings”. Even if the band’s true potential was in its thunderous live performances, there is still much to enjoy here. The first CD compiles the singles the band released during 1966 and 1967 opening with the finger snapping opener “Water” sets things off nicely while the horn section honks convincingly on “Understanding”. Geno was an entertainer in the best sense of the world as proved by the band’s arrangements of Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera” or of the C.O.D’s Michael (The Lover).
“Shake A Tail Feather” features the usual suspect of the soul genre in the songwriting credits. “Raise Your Hand”, an Eddie Floyd – Steve Cropper composition starts off the proceedings followed by an energic take on Isaac Hayes’s “You Got Me Hummin'”. Two perennial standards are given the Geno treatment (“Knock On Wood” and “Bonie Moronie”) as is the fantastic Spooner Oldham – Dan Penn composition “I’m Your Puppet”. The album closes on a rare original song penned by Geno and Peter Gage (“(I Gotta) Hold On To My Love). The Second disc sees the band branch out with some more ambitious arrangements (“I Can’t Quit Her”, “Bring It To Me Baby”) featuring some nice harmonies. You can feel a move towards a more “easy listening” direction on songs like “My Little Chickadee” or “Alison Please”, however the band still return to their bluesy roots on the B-sides (“Seven Eleven”, “Dirty, Dirty”).
As stated at the start of the review, Geno and The Ram Jam Band were first and foremost a live act and over the band’s original lifespan, they released three live albums in the space of three years. The most emblematic of the three is “Hand Clappin’ Foot Stompin’ Funky-Butt… Live!” released in 1966, showed a band firing on all cylinders. It is a perfect snapshot of Geno’s show at the time and shows why he was such a success with British crowds. Its follow up “Hipsters, Flipsters, Finger Poppin Daddies” sees the band tackle an entirely new set of songs, funking up the Beatles’s “Day Tripper” in the process. “Running Wild” recorded in the more sedate environment of Bolton’s Casino Club shows a band repeating itself with several tracks already aired on the first two live albums. Its failure to chart would lead Geno and the original Ram Jam Band to go their separate ways.