Not sure about you, but if I had run into this album (and may very well have living in the Bay Area for 8 years) prior to 2010, just from the look of it alone, I likely would have had a short laugh and just kept on digging. Despite the acclaim this album is now getting via it’s most welcome reissue via Light In The Attic, this album sounds exactly like it looks, a rare instance where you CAN judge a book (or LP in this case) by it’s cover. The lone recordings of brothers Donnie and Joe Emerson, largely forgotten after being recorded in 1979, have taken on a mythic status in some circles. Some choice write-ups, most notably by Oliver Wang at Soul-Sides.com, brought it more to the attention of underground music lovers, but now the good folks at Light In The Attic have done us all a major favor by reissuing this album and making it available to the masses.
It’s completely understandable why this record never caught on. There are a lot of aspects of this music that are honestly really pretty terrible, the sound quality is all over the place, the playing and singing is completely amateurish and muddled. But strangely it’s those same exact qualities that make the music so endearing as well. Nowhere is this more evident than on the track “Baby,” I could go on and on and on and on about why this song is so wrong, but what would be the point of that. You listen to “Baby” and the world falls away, it’s a completely imperfect perfect soul song. The fact that Ariel Pink’s cover of this song might very well be THE song of the year for 2012 is a major testament to the Emerson’s abilities, for all of the faults present in the original recordings. I think the most fascinating aspect of this, as highlighted by other fantastic reissues this year such as Chocolate Industries Personal Space or Stones Throw’s Minimal Wave, is that after 100+ years of recorded music, there are still so many unexpected discoveries to be made.
Light In The Attic has also done us a service in tracking down the Emerson’s and recording a short film with them about their music: