This summer is going to be a weird one. Nobody knows what will be open for business just yet and we’re all worried about finances and health. Spending time at home with good music remains a safe bet. So while its strange times like we’ve never seen before, this week “Locals Pick Locals” Vol. 9 digs back and unearths some optimistic, summery tunes that’ll hopefully brighten your day.
John Olson aka Inzane Johnny (Musician, Wolf Eyes, “Inzane Michigan” co-host)
Pick: Danny Hernandez & The Ones “As Long As I’ve Got You” — 1970
Danny Hernandez And The Ones “As Longs As I’ve Got You” w/ “One Little Teardrop” documents The Ones’ move from Motown Records to the label’s Rare Earth subsidiary. This was two years before the band’s amazing lone LP, “Back Home,” released on local staple Spirit Records. Can’t ask for much more from a big dreamin’ single. The arrangements are tight and punchy, the tune is catchy and soulful. It’s the works. Hernandez’s vocal delivery never sounded more in line for major success — everything was in place. I can only imagine how scorching this unit was live right at the dawn of 1970, shaking the beer-soaked walls of The Brewery. This group has a flawless discography and this among its best. It doesn’t hurt that it was sonically polished by locally-based producer Bob Baldori, who’s still known for his excellent and inspired production skills. This belongs in every capital home. Pressed on red wax, it’s a permanent Lansing-made staple. No matter how dark it metaphorically gets this summer, spin it in the backyard under the bright Michigan sun.
Cathy Illman (Singer/songwriter, Veloura Caywood)
Pick: Earthen Vessel “Let Jesus Bring You Back” — 1971
I’m not a religious person, but “Let Jesus Bring You Back” (from the “Everlasting Life LP) by Earthen Vessel has enough power in it to make me wish I was. Recorded in 1971, and released on a small Nashville label, this track from Lansing’s psychedelic Jesus-rock band blasts your mind, body and soul into the heavenly sky of loud sound, dissonant chords and passionate, soul-stirring vocals. That first exploding guitar and organ riff sounds like an angelic choir of distorted car horns combined with the pounding and mesmerizing bassline that strings you along like a sacrificial lamb is beyond inspiring.
And, best of all, the vocals are a man and woman, with dizzying vibrato, urging you to accept Jesus—right in your ear, like it is your only option. Singer Sharon Keel takes the mood into a serious direction in the last two minutes of the song, possibly the most passionate two minutes ever. She pleads with you, with all her breath and her strength, to “let Jesus in!” A stunning masterpiece of Christian psychedelic rock from Lansing. A timeless summer time song for the ages.
Rich Tupica (Turn it Down! writer, “Inzane Michigan” co-host)
Pick: Plain Brown Wrapper “Real Person”— 1968
From the ashes of two bands — The Plagues (Lansing) and The Potentates (Flint) — Plain Brown Wrapper rose to the top of Lansing’s rock scene alongside fellow local bands Universal Family (aka Universe) and Ormandy.
From the band’s 1966 debut on the “This Is Music” vanity label, “You’ll Pay” by Plain Brown Wrapper is the earliest blueprint of the band’s budding progressive rock sound—a sound ultimately laced with proto-jam band improvs. Word is, the Wrapper’s live shows strayed even further into the auditory void and twisted the studio recordings into new psychedelic journeys.
By 1968, the band hit its stride with the track “Real Person.” Released via Monster Records, this 45 is a funky and faultless summer time jam out. Soulful and tight. No bummer trip here.
For seven years, Plain Brown Wrapper toured Michigan in its 48-passenger bus, sometimes gigging as far west as Colorado. All top-notch musicians, the Wrapper was not only known for its mind-melting jazz jams, but also it soaring vocal harmonies and Tijuana Brass-style horns. During its lifespan, the group shared stages with now iconic acts like Ted Nugent, Bob Seger and Alice Cooper.
From the Lake Lansing Bandshell to the legendary Grande Ballroom in Detroit, these cats kept busy spreading its experimental sounds across the mitten. Supreme long-gone Lansing sounds that are worth unearthing this summer.