Latimore

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"Let's Straighten It Out"

Latimore

Composed by Benny Latimore


February 1, 2014: NEW ARTIST GUIDE ALERT!


Latimore is now the #21-ranking Southern Soul artist on Daddy B. Nice's new 21st Century Top 100 Countdown.

Go to Daddy B. Nice's new 21st-Century Artist Guide to Latimore.

*********

April 1, 2011:

Listen to Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out" on YouTube.

Watch & Listen to Latimore performing the Live In Vienna Extended Edit of "Let's Straighten It Out."

*************

March 6, 2011: NEW ALBUM ALERT:

Bargain-Priced Live In Vienna CD.

Contains extremely high-quality live versions of "Let's Straighten It Out," "Around The World," "Keep The Home Fires Burning," "City Life" and "My Give A Damn Gave Out."

DBN

**************************

See "Tidbits" below for the latest updates on Latimore.

To automatically link to Latimore's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other references, go to "Latimore" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.

*********************

Daddy B. Nice's Original Critique:

It's almost impossible to exaggerate the long, deep, soulful shadow that "Let's Straighten It Out" casts over today's Southern Soul. Like Ronnie Lovejoy's "Sho' Wasn't Me" (which came a generation later), it's a primal template for the Southern Soul sound by an essentially one-hit artist. And although Latimore continues to enjoy a lucrative, artistically-satisfying career, no one outside his circle would claim he had another hit that came even close to the signature impact and influence of "Let's Straighten It Out."

Avid Southern Soul fans can recite the opening, spoken verses of "Let's Straighten It Out" by memory, the way they have memorized the "Pledge of Allegiance" or the "Our Father" prayer. All they need is the opening words to prompt them: "I don't care how old you are. . . "

". . . Or how young you are.
Everybody's got to straighten
Out something sometime."

I don't care if you're married,
Single, divorced, engaged,
. . . Or shattered."

Yet the verses always sound fresh--vivid, larger than life itself--overlaid against the deep, bluesy, guitar world that no one else has ever quite duplicated--a mix of Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and The Doors. Peggy Scott-Adams' anthem "Bill" came close, as did Chris Isaac's beautiful country-rock song, "Wicked Game," but they both learned much of what made their records masterpieces from Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out."

And the "guitar" grooves, both the clucking, upper-register, rhythm-guitar-like licks and the lower-register, broader chord strokes, are Latimore himself on a Fender Rhodes piano.

Cast against the perfect bass line and impeccable drumming in an atmosphere as stark as the soul recording industry had seen, Latimore's guitar-surrogate Fender Rhodes created atmosphere that positively dripped with the kind of 100%-pure blues ambience we associate with otherworldly recordings like B. B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone."

I've introduced "Let's Straighten It Out" to people who've never heard it, intentionally withholding any background information from them, and time and again they assume it's "just out," a mint-condition release of the latest hot thing. And the arrangement--as alluring as it is--is invisible to these first-time listeners because they are invariably focused upon Latimore's words. Or more to the point: Latimore's voice.

"But I want you to think about
All the times that you've heard somebody say,
'Let's straighten it out.'
Think about it, and I guarantee you that
Most of the time it was a man who said it.

"Now the reason why I say that is,
Well, let's face it--
Most of the time it's a man
Who makes it crooked in the first place."

Can you imagine what the studio/tech people were saying at the "Straighten It Out" sessions, when informed the singing wouldn't begin until two minutes into the song? They had to be wondering if this was a dicey venture. It just wasn't done. And when the song "worked"--when the combination of the riveting monologue and the streamlined blues meshed perfectly (as evidenced by its eventual chart success)--what happiness and delirium must have befallen Latt' and his mates!

Latimore wasn't the first to talk on record, a tradition that began well before today's rap, with artists like Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway. Talking intros, talking songs, and talking verses were a staple of countless country-western crossover-pop hits of the fifties and sixties. And Clarence Carter talked on record perhaps most famously in a Southern Soul fashion on his evocative song "Patches."

Of Latimore's immediate generation, it was Shirley Brown who came closest to delivering the female equivalent of "Let's Straighten It Out" with her own well-known and influential talking prologue in "Woman To Woman." But Latimore's "Straighten It Out" talked longer than anyone has before or since. And the funny thing was, we never got tired of it.

Whew. The guy had you in the palm of his hand with his every word. Latimore's talking voice was so strong and seductive. If you ever saw old-fashioned comics with "Lil' Abner," you knew that Latimore had biceps of that sort. You knew, because of the country twang, that this was a man who regularly got his hands dirty. Maybe neither was true, yet that's what the voice conveyed. One never tired of that voice. What you saw and heard and felt was a man going deeper--really much deeper--into a subject, instead of glossing over it, as is usually the case in this world.

Then, finally, as if after a long, fascinating journey, one arrived at the song itself--the long-anticipated "singing" verses.

"Sit yourself down, girl, and talk to me,
And tell me what's on your mind."

Why does the song have so much staying power? It's a man trying to "clear the air," a man trying to right things with his woman. This is one of the most universal of sexual conflicts: a woman, beset with complex emotions; a man, dull and blunt as a sledgehammer, but looking for an intimate opening--on watch for a glimmer of female emotional warmth.

The song voices a man's deepest desire to make his woman smile again. It also speaks to a woman's overwhelming desire to be paid attention to. A man may be crude, insensitive, and without a clue, but he can still make himself deserving of a woman's graces by engaging her, by talking to her. At the same time, he obeys his own biological need to "straighten out" the wrinkles in the domestic fabric.

It's the essence of what Southern Soul is all about. An unvarnished sound. A message of emotional directness. A focus on the importance of physical and spiritual intimacy, rendered with slice-of-life realism, without any of the "filters"--satire, cynicism, misogyny, etc.--that dilute musical genres like adult-alternative, progressive and hiphop.

And that's why, regardless of a career in which he never again achieved the heights scaled in "Let's Straighten It Out," Latimore resides like a Greek god amongst the sun-filled clouds of Southern Soul's Mount Olympus. In fact, if you listen closely to the background in "Let's Straighten It Out," you'll hear what sounds like Latimore plucking a celestial harp.

"Instead of laying there
Crying your eyes out, baby,
You and me ought to be getting it on."

--Daddy B. Nice


About Latimore

Benny Latimore was born in Charleston, Tennessee in 1939. He entered the music business in the early sixties as a pianist for various Florida-based groups including Joe Henderson and Steve Alaimo, and began recording singles for the Florida-based Dade and Glades labels under the name "Benny Latimore."

Steve Alaimo, who had had a pop-chart hit with "Every Day I Have To Cry," became Latimore's producer. Their first recording of substance, a cover of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday," came out in 1973 (from the album, Latimore, on Henry Stone's Glades label).

Then Latimore came up with a self-penned song, "Let's Straighten It Out," and history was made. Using only a rhythm section and Latimore on a Fender Rhodes piano, with Latimore not only singing lead vocal (with discreet female backup) but delivering a two-minute-plus spoken-word prologue, the Alaimo-produced track rocketed to Number 2 on the R&B charts (inexplicably never making number one) and made a solid showing on the pop charts. The album, More, More, More, was released in 1974. The lead cut on the More, More, More album (containing "Let's Straighten It Out") was a cover of Bobby "Blue" Bland's classic, "Ain't Nothin' You Can Do."

"Let's Straighten It Out" was a revolutionary record because it redefined the blues in a startlingly original way. The record captured all of the feeling of the blues, but it put that feeling into an upbeat, streamlined, impeccably-arranged musical format. Yet, as successful as it was, "Let's Straighten It Out" was largely lost in the deluge of mid-seventies musical material (singer-songwriter, reggae, disco, etc.), which were all peaking around that time. But for a coterie of soul musicians and fans, "Let's Straighten It Out" became a talisman of what R&B could become. Songwriter/performers like Texas-born Mel Waiters and Chicago's The Love Doctor--to name only a couple--heard and absorbed Latimore's style from far beyond the usual chitlin' circuit venues.

Latimore always looked the part--not that that was requisite to the success of his musical art. Ruggedly handsome, with a long mane of hair and a regal bearing, he looked the way he sounded, which was like a lion, the king of the jungle. (In later years, he's become known as "the Silver Fox.")

Latimore's work ethic was--and continues to be--unflagging. He has released CD's regularly since the mid-seventies. In the eighties he moved to Southern Soul's venerable Malaco Records in Jackson, Mississippi, joining fellow stars like Johnnie Taylor, Z. Z. Hill and Bobby "Blue" Bland to form the nucleus behind the soul-blues hybrid "sound" that would become today's Southern Soul genre.

Latimore has achieved other hits over the course of his career--"Keep the Home Fires Burning" and "Something 'Bout Cha" from the early years, "Lay Another Log On The Fire" from the later years--but nothing to match "Let's Straighten It Out." The latter has received the ultimate tribute: inclusion on countless "compilation" albums.


Song's Transcendent Moment

"How in the hell
Do you expect me to understand?
When I don't even know
What's going on?"


Tidbits

1.

Oct. 2, 2006. Gwen McCrae has released a new version of "Let's Straighten It Out," and it's proving popular with chitlin' circuit deejays. Latimore himself duets with McCrae. The song doesn't have the power of the original, but it percolates with a slow passion that's reminiscent of the original, and it does it no disservice.

Incidentally, one of Latimore's R&B chart-mates back in the seventies was George McCrae. McCrae's influential "Rock Your Baby (Take Me In Your Arms)" hit the charts around the time "Let's Straighten It Out" did. You can hear them both on Billboard's Top Ten R&B 1974. (George and Gwen McCrae were married for a short time in the 1970's.)

DBN

2.

January 31, 2008.

Back 'Atcha, Latimore's latest (Latstone 07), is very obviously an attempt at a full-fledged Southern Soul album, with up-to-date chitlin' circuit themes and appeal, and you've got to respect that. Any time the singer who still possesses one of the strongest and sincerest voices in rhythm and blues wants to "riff" is an occasion for joy.

And yet, there is no "Let's Straighten It Out" or "Lay Another Log On The Fire" here. The (Bargain-Priced) Back 'Atcha CD is a good collection of songs that simply comes up a little short at critical points, and there's no better example than the CD's showcase single "My Give A Damn Gave Out A Long Time Ago."

"My Give A Damn" has a magnificent introductory hook (part Latimore's vocal, part guitar--or does he still use that Fender Rhodes to get that guitar sound?), but the hook is in the verse--and subsequent verses--not in the chorus.

The chorus--where, as you'd expect, Latt crescendoes for dramatic effect--is almost non-existent, musically-speaking. When Latt gets to the peak of the chorus--

"My give a damn gave out
A long time ago,"

--he drops off singing and lapses into speech. It's not because he has some cool "Staighten It Out" type monologue in mind. The reason he does that is because there is no melody to sing.

I don't know what key the song is done in, but the entire phrase rattles along on the same base note of that key, with Latt hopping up a chord in a kind of shout at one point. That's it. The brass section's repeated notes are all there is to hang your hat on.

Sadly, the chorus squanders the incredible soulfulness contained in the verses, and the song loses much of what it has going for it, which is considerable. But that initial hook is so good (and Latimore sings it with such relish)--

"And I came in early one morning
And the woman didn't even open the door."

--you just wish you could force him back into the studio and lock him him up until he discovered a chorus hook with some "meat on its bones".

Back 'Atcha is still so new you'd get paint on you if you rubbed up too close, so I hasten to add these are only first impressions. It will be interesting to see how the other music from the CD fares as the year unfolds.

I'm currently fascinated by the cut, "'Nanna Puddin'" (See Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten Southern Soul Breaking Singles: Feb 08.) "'Nanna Puddin'" (great title), relatively "stripped down" for Latt although still fairly bombastic by most artists' standards, may turn out to be a bigger hit than "My Give A Damn Gave Out."

I wonder if Latimore has ever thought about doing something really stripped-down--stripped down the way "Let's Straighten It Out" was back in the day, as a matter of fact. How about Latimore doing a gritty male version of Frederick Knight's song, "Someone Else's Bed" (recently done by Mashaa)?

DBN

3.

Daddy B. Nice's Note: September 30, 2009:

Latt' is back! It seems I was saying the same thing a year ago with the appearance of the Back 'Atcha album, but that CD held the significance of being a dramatic "comeback" album, with the hit single "My Give A Damn Gave Out" and its follow-up, "Nanna Puddin'," not to mention the overlooked "Edna Mae" making the "Let's Straighten It Out" icon of Southern Soul relevant once more.

Now Henry Stone, the producer behind Latimore's career resurgence, and Latimore have found another great single in the melodious "Around The World." (See Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles: Number Two, October 2009.) It's a majestic song by present-day standards, and Latimore is more than equal to the task.

Only a few years ago, Latimore seemed to be an esteemed forerunner in the twilight of his career, but his association with Henry Stone has changed all that. Latt' has legitimately rejoined the chase for contemporary stardom.

--Daddy B. Nice

4.

NEW ALBUM ALERT: May 5, 2010:

All About The Rhythm & The Blues

See Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles: May 2010-----"Don't Give Up On Our Love"

See Daddy B. Nice's Top 25 Songs Of 2009: "Around The World" by Latimore






If You Liked. . . You'll Love

"If you liked Brook Benton's "Rainy Night In Georgia," you'll love Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out."

EDITOR'S NOTE

In the late nineties, when I first began to visualize a charting of Southern Soul music, my overriding motive was to correct what I perceived to be a grievous wrong. When I searched the Internet for information on the great artists I heard on radio stations on my trips through the South, I could find nothing about them. I was able to find information on blues and soul artists up to about the 1980's, but anything more contemporary was still a "dark continent"--unknown, unexplored and unmemorialized. Even "southern soul" was a suspect term, used mainly as an adjective to describe older artists geographically tied to the Deep South.

To help right that wrong, I went about constructing a Top 100 chart of the best Southern Soul artists from the 90's to the present, and I profiled those performers in "artist guides". But when I had finished that chart (Daddy B. Nice's Top 100), I again found myself faced with a wrong. This time the oversight was my lack of attention to the artists whose best material had been recorded prior to the 90's and 00's, artists without whom the Southern Soul phenomenon would never have occurred. Yes, one could find information on these performers on the Internet, but not up-to-date information, and not in the context of contemporary Southern Soul.

That is what brought me to formulate the chart you are reading: "Forerunners." Rhythm & Blues as it's played, appreciated and revered in the Deep South. The Golden Oldies of the Chitlin' Circuit. The artists who "count" and the songs that "matter" to the artists, producers and deejays who understand and create the Southern Soul sound. And that's different--although not altogether different--from the soul music many of us grew up listening to outside the Deep South. Although fans may be coming to this music long after it was first recorded, I believe it will only whet their appetite for Southern Soul music all the more. DBN.


Honorary "B" Side

"Lay Another Log On The Fire"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Let's Straighten It Out by  Latimore
Let's Straighten It Out


CD: Best Of Latimore: Sweet Vibrations
Label: EMI International

Sample or Buy
Best Of Latimore: Sweet Vibrations


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Lay Another Log On The Fire by  Latimore
Lay Another Log On The Fire


CD: Catchin' Up
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Catchin' Up


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Let's Straighten It Out (Live) by  Latimore
Let's Straighten It Out (Live)


CD: Live in Vienna
Label: Henry Stone

Sample or Buy
Live In Vienna


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy 'Nanna Puddin' by  Latimore
'Nanna Puddin'


CD: Back 'Atcha
Label: Latstone

Sample or Buy
Back 'Atcha


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Around The World by  Latimore
Around The World


CD: All About The Rhythm And The Blues
Label: LatStone

Sample or Buy
All About The Rhythm & The Blues


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy City Life by  Latimore
City Life


CD: Live in Vienna
Label: Henry Stone

Sample or Buy
Live In Vienna


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Keep The Home Fire Burning by  Latimore
Keep The Home Fire Burning


CD: Best Of Latimore: Sweet Vibrations
Label: EMI International

Sample or Buy
Best Of Latimore: Sweet Vibrations


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy My Give a Damn Gave Out (A Long Time Ago) by  Latimore
My Give a Damn Gave Out (A Long Time Ago)


CD: Back 'Atcha
Label: Latstone

Sample or Buy
Back 'Atcha


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Something 'Bout 'Cha by  Latimore
Something 'Bout 'Cha


CD: Straighten It Out: The Best of Latimore
Label: Rhino/WEA

Sample or Buy
Straigten It Out: The Best Of Latimore


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy There's A Red-Neck In The Soul Band by  Latimore
There's A Red-Neck In The Soul Band


CD: Straighten It Out: The Best of Latimore
Label: Rhino/WEA

Sample or Buy
Straigten It Out: The Best Of Latimore


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Ain't Nothin' You Can Do by  Latimore
Ain't Nothin' You Can Do


CD: Best Of Latimore: Sweet Vibrations
Label: EMI International

Sample or Buy
Best Of Latimore: Sweet Vibrations


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Don't Give Up On Our Love by  Latimore
Don't Give Up On Our Love


CD: All About The Rhythm And The Blues
Label: LatStone

Sample or Buy
All About The Rhythm & The Blues


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy If You Were My Woman by  Latimore
If You Were My Woman


CD: Straighten It Out: The Best of Latimore
Label: Rhino/WEA

Sample or Buy
Straigten It Out: The Best Of Latimore


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Right Place, Right Time by  Latimore
Right Place, Right Time


CD: Southern Soul Duets
Label: Waldoxy



3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Sunshine Lady by  Latimore
Sunshine Lady


CD: Blues Is Alright, Vol. 3
Label: Malaco



2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Stormy Monday by  Latimore
Stormy Monday


CD: Straighten It Out: The Best of Latimore
Label: Rhino/WEA

Sample or Buy
Straigten It Out: The Best Of Latimore


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