James "Baby Huey" Ramey (1944-70) is legendary to soul/R&B collectors. Back in the '60s, the Rolling Stones would squeeze into packed clubs to see him. Popular locally but unknown beyond Chicago, he and his band the Babysitters seemed poised for national stardom, but Huey -- cursed with a serious glandular-induced weight problem and a taste for heroin -- died during the sessions for their sole Curtis Mayfield-produced album.
Huey had a magnificent voice, encompassing guttural Howlin' Wolf-style growls, the ardent wails of James Brown and Sam & Dave, the heartfelt élan of Otis Redding and Johnnie Taylor, and eerie falsetto shrieks, often within the same song. The Babysitters infused their straight-ahead, horn-driven R&B with aspects of psychedelic rock, somewhat presaging War and the original Santana. Despite three filler instrumental tracks, the remaining five songs, especially the reserved, intense "Hard Times," are well worth the price of admission.
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