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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Baby Huey Story

A fantastic reissue album has just been released and y'all should get involved.

Baby Huey, real name James T. Ramey, was a mountain of a man, clocking in at a scales-busting 350 pounds, and unfortunately that's not the only thing he shared in common with Mama Cass of The Mamas and the Papas because both stars succumbed to heart failure (Huey in 1970 and Cass in 1974) at a premature age. Huey may have had some pharmaceutical help along the way, but there's no doubt he was hit hard by the death of his friend just five weeks before, a certain Jimi Hendrix. To add to the macabre few weeks, Janis Joplin died between Hendrix and Huey.

But while Mama Cass has secured her place in rock history, Baby Huey hasn't been so well treated. Hopefully this release will go some way to addressing that.

The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend is a monster of an album, with self-penned numbers like One Dragon Two Dragon and Mama Get Yourself Together sitting alongside covers of The Mamas and The Papas' California Dreamin' and Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come. The singer was signed to Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label and the soul legend himself pitched in with three tracks for Huey - Mighty Mighty, Hard Times and Running.

So what did Baby Huey sound like? I would put it firmly in the same stable as Mayfield, his near-falsetto vocals proving a softer counterpoint to the often-thunderous rhythms and beats. There's a big dollop of Hispanic influence in there too, something Mayfield was known for as well. The album even on occasion goes into Abraxas-era Santana - no bad thing. It's eight tracks of big jazzy, funky, soul-filled numbers that sound at once of their era but still totally captivating now.

Huey has had some small fame in the intervening years. His tracks have been a staple for hip-hop producers for some time now with A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube and Ghostface Killah amongst those that have sampled him.

So there it is - the one and only album from a fallen legend-in-waiting. It's good to have you back Huey, and hopefully this time you'll stick around for a little while longer.

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