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Monday, February 27, 2012

Joe Tex month, day 27: The Funk Years

Well, Ray Charles must have been right, because in 1972 Joe had his biggest hit yet, "I Gotcha"! This song fully launched Joe into the funk era, topping the R&B chart and hitting #2 on the pop.  

The album had a number of "I Gotcha" soundalikes and a few ballads. It's not peak Tex, but it's not a bad record either. I think, however, I prefer Spills the Beans.

Spills the Beans was the last JT album before his temporary retirement. It's more of a return to traditional Tex sound, with a couple of funk numbers thrown in to remind you that this is the "I Gotcha" guy. The more contemporary numbers reflect the "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" style of social consciousness, like "A Mother's Prayer" and the apocalyptic "Living the Last Days". 

But more in keeping with Joe's strengths are the hilarious "King Thaddeus", one of the all time great songs about a rooster, right up there with Sam the Sham's "The Cockfight", and, best of all, "Papa's Dream", the song that inspired the album's title and weird cover. It's right up there with "Grandma Mary" in terms of being a great reminiscence of his time growing up, and is tragic and uplifting at the same time. 

And it was covered by Johnny Cash, ca. 1975, as "Look at them Beans".

In 1972, on the heels of his biggest hit, Joe retired from the recording industry, changed his name to Jusef Hazziez, and devoted his life to the Muslim faith, spending his time preaching in the service of Elijah Muhammad. However, upon Muhammad's death in 1975, Tex secured permission from the church to get back into the game.

An initial 1975 session yielded some singles and several unreleased tracks, comped together on the rather fine 2 LP collection of rarities Charly issued in the mid 80s, different strokes. This record is well worth tracking down, as it has material dating back from '65 that can only be found here. 

Taken together, the 1975 tracks make for an OK album on the level of Spills the Beans. But it wasn't the full bore comeback material he was looking for. That would have to wait until '78, where Joe would prove he still had a virtually inexhaustable supply of crazed novelty songs about women with unusual proportions.

Bonus cut: here's Austin rock and rollers The Hard Feelings, featuring Joe Tex afficianado John Schooley, whomping the stuffing out of "You Said a Bad Word" from I Gotcha.

Bonus click: Domino9, who's been contributing a number of great observations and corrections to Joe Tex month in the comments sections, has been assembling a website devoted to the life and music of the Dapper Rapper.  Check it out.