Colin Bryce A.K.A Mohair Sweets recently caught up with a couple of legends for eyeplug.net…
Scott Morgan and the Sights: Rough and Ready (Rouge Records) After a lengthy – seven years in fact – wait we finally have a new Scott Morgan album! His last record was the 2010 release on Alive Records simply titled Scott Morgan. The UK based Easy Action label has done some collections of Scott’s tenure with the Hydromatics, Sonics Rendezvous Band and his solo records of the 80s and 90s but in terms of new material this is the latest.
In the years that have passed since his previous solo record, Scott has dealt with a serious health scare and a lengthy recovery period. Thankfully he is now back in playing shape and ready to take his rightful place as an elder statesman of Detroit rock & soul. With backing by the Eddie Baranek led Sights -whose own lengthy resume includes some of the finest Motor City sounds of the last couple of decades – Morgan is able to get down and get with some of the great – now almost lost – classic soul sounds.
The band’s material (co-written by Morgan and Baranek) owes much to their shared influences and with the added bonus of horns, keys and backing singers they easily chug, groove and soothe through the tunes. From salty (“Mom Scott’s Smoking”, “Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me”) to sweet (“Jamaica Vanilla”) and deep (“Soothe Her”) this is the real deal Soul. Don’t be square, get it here and get it now!
BUY IT HERE
Interview with Scott Morgan
Eyeplug: This new record was a couple years in the making wasn’t it?
Scott: About two years. I lost my voice during my downtime but we hit it off right away after that and started putting a show together. Then Eddie and I decided to write all the album together. You can find it at rougerecordco.com We’re pressing 12-inch vinyl at Third Man, Detroit, as well as digital downloads.
Eyeplug: I mentioned to Eddie that I hear more of a Stax influence in the writing. Is that a fair comparison?
Scott: We started off old-school soul, but then it just became our own originals. The live show will also include some Rationals and soul covers like Nina Simone, Staple Singers etc.
Eyeplug: Its tough times in the music industry for gigs and touring. What are you hoping will come about with this new record?
Scott: A release party is at Ants Hall in Hamtramck December 1st. The record is in pre-order now and hit the streets October 27. After that, we would like to travel as much as possible.
Eyeplug: I’m a little surprised you didn’t play any guitar on the record. When you and Eddie were writing the tunes did you work out anything on guitar or did you just leave it all to Eddie? Surely you must have chimed in here and there?
Scott: I stopped playing guitar on the Solution sessions for the most part. Now I write lyrics and Eddie handles the music with me participating in the arrangements. I did chime in here and there. The Sights were a rock combo. We added horns and singers. I grew up on Motown with an equal dose of Stax and all of Soul.
Eyeplug: I’m sure all your fans are hoping you get the show on the road beyond a few select Mid-West or NYC dates but without tour support, a larger band is bound to be a challenge. I guess the one good thing about being based in Ann Arbor/Detroit is that with only a few hours here and there you should be able to hit Chicago etc. Do you think that will be manageable? Say yes. HA!
Scott: We’ll start in Michigan and hope to travel more of the U.S.
Interview with Eddie Baranek
Eyeplug: So this is the second time you’ll have recorded and worked with Scott Morgan on a project. This time though you participated in the writing of the tunes. Could you tell me a bit about how it came about and how you approached the tunes?
Eddie: Yes, the first time Scott and I collaborated on a record I was brought in midway through the recording. That was fun, but I just sang a little with Scott and played some guitar. This time around Scott and I wrote all ten tunes together, face to face in a room. It began a few years ago when Scott was recuperating from a serious health scare. I asked him to sing a song onstage with my old band The Sights. It went really well, and you could hear that his voice was in there and he was back. It quickly grew into a “Hey man, why don’t we try writing some stuff?” Scott would bring a batch of lyrics over – it’d usually be a handful of different ideas. Then I’d pick one or two of them and we’d start chipping away at it. I’d have a guitar in my hand and I’d work through chord changes and when he dug one he’d tell me. Or, if I was strumming and he didn’t say anything to me then I knew we were alright, ha-ha. We’d write in batches of 2-3 songs at a time, and then we’d go in and record them. Once those tunes were recorded, we’d get together and write more. It never took us long to finish a song once we both got cooking.
Eyeplug: I hear a strong Stax influence in the tunes. Am I wrong?
Eddie: You are correct! I don’t think it was a conscious thing, like let’s aim this thing toward Memphis or Georgia. It was more organic, and that’s probably why Scott and I are working together in the first place. When I was a teenager and I first heard The Rationals I could identify with it right away. Sure, it was 1999 and 35 years after they debuted, but it was coming from the same world I was coming from. Anyway, I am not big on a two-guitar attack, and I wanted to hear Scott’s voice come through in a different way. His voice works so well on slower, moodier tunes, like a mournful ballad, so some of the tunes we wrote were in that vein. It was a lot of fun, and we brought horns and female backing vocalists in and they are all over the record.
Eyeplug: What are you hoping to do with the new record in terms of touring and stuff?
Eddie: We are gearing up for a record release party December 1st at Ant Hall in Hamtramck. After that, we shall see!!!! Maybe New York City, Chicago, anything east of the Mississippi.
Eyeplug: I’m pressuring you guys to get some dates west of the Mississippi of course but I know nowadays with a line-up of six pieces or more that will be a major challenge. Any interest in making it up to Toronto at least? I know Scott’s last trip up there with Powertrane was a bit of a hassle.
Eddie: We’d all love to be touring, I’d think. But this record was made with nine people. Toronto would be fantastic, and I don’t think unrealistic. The Sights had played Toronto a ton of times, and I know Scott has as well. I’ve heard the border has relaxed a bit for musicians. We’ll see, I know Chicago is on our “go to” list.
Eyeplug: Both you and Scott have a solid history in the Motor City area so what kind of interest are you seeing from fans regarding the new record?
Eddie: I’ll try to be humble here but I think it’s a great record, one that serves Scott’s voice well. Not only that, but I love the stories in his lyrics and he has the street cred to back it all up. When he opens his mouth and sings, it’s believable. I think authenticity goes a long way. Fans are loving the combination – The Sights were on their last leg and so we shifted gears and just started backing up Scott. The band only exists today as his backing band. I’ve built up history and cred as well, and it’s just been really fun to collaborate with someone who’s been in the business for over 50 years! Fifty years. I mean, I have 20 years under my belt, and I’ve watched the sea changes happen. This project has really injected some energy back into both of us, and to think – we almost lost Scott a few years ago. People love a comeback story, and Scott is back with a great band and some great songs.