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Chicago Sun-Times write-up: The Notations

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    Posted: Mar 29 2009 at 10:23pm
THE NOTATIONS, one of the main attractions at an old-school concert this week, date back 40 years, to the heyday of one of the signature sounds in Chicago music
Shag carpet, wide lapels -
now that's an album cover
The Notations released only one album, for Curtis Mayfield's Gemigo label. Mayfield's trusty studio talent (such as arrangers Tom Tom Washington and Rich Tufo) accented the group's seamless harmonies on "The Notatations," released in 1973.
But "The Notations" left its mark on popular culture.
The Album cover is over the top. The Notations are wearing light blue polyester suits with white lapels as wide as Lake Shore Drive Each Notation has a large "N" on his waistband.
They are sitting in a faux lounge, which was actually built in the home studio of photographer Paul Gremmler, who lived at 916 W. Armitage.
The album cover gained entry in the brilliant 378-page Bob Merlis and Davin Seay coffee table book Heart & Soul: A Celebration of Black Music Style in America, 1930-1975 (Stewart Tabori & Chang, 1997), which features unique African-American album covers. The authors write, "The group, decked out in powder-blue, triple-knit, poly-velour suits with double -wide lapels and hyper-flared pants, are seen kicking back in a rattan, shag, and palm-front paradise, while behind them the ghostly image of their stage slelves seem to be serenading their earthly personae."
Notations co-founder Clifford Curry said the outfits were designed by Bruce Lance, the brother of late late Chicago soul singer Major Lance, who had national hits including "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um'' (both composed by Curtis Mayfield).
Bruce Lance still lives in Chicago. Curry recalled, At the time he was living on 76th and Eggleston. He's a great tailor. He made the suits right in his house. He had three machines in his home."
Dave Hoekstra
The Notations stand tall in a Ravenswood loft. You may never heard of the Notations, which is understandable because Chicago soul always gets the short hand in a city known for blues and jazz. You are missing something. The sweet Chicago soul quartet has been has been together 43 years. They face a band of young upstarts called J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound in the rehearsal loft. A spring sun is setting on the street below.
The ensemble launches into the 1971 Brad Bobo ballad "A New Day,'' which features every key element of Chicago soul: defined rhythm, springly horns and positive message. The curling fiffs are reminiscent of late Chicago singer Curtis Mayfield. His spirit permeates the room, from a Mayfield album cover that hangs on a wall to the precious moments ofthe Notations career when they recorded for Mayfield's Curtom Records (on the Gemigo subsidiary).
The group is rehearsing for the Numero Group's Eccentric Soul Revue, which debuts Saturday at the Park West. The concert is a spinoff from the Numero Group's 2006 double CD compilation "Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation." The Notations recorded for Twinight (aka Twinight) as did Park West performers - Nate Evans, Renaldo Domino, the Kaldirons, the Final Solution and blues-soul legend syl johnson. The Uptown Sound and a 15-piece string and horn section will back all acts.
Active between 1967 and 1972, Twinight was a triumverate of the sparkling minds of Chicago soul-blues great syl johnson, Howard Bedno (co-founder of the blues-tinged Cobra Records) and Peter Wright (former manager of the pop-rockers New Colony Six), Wright's Chicago-based Quill label was the home was the home of the late 1960s garage rockers like the Exterminators and the Skunks. Quill also released the 1969 LP "Cub Power" that included vocal performances by Cubs Willie Smith and Nate Oliver and a band led by Johnny Frigo featuring Bobby Lewis on trumpet.
A three-ring circus like this would only assemble in Chicago.
"Chicago soul is undocumented here,'' says Uptown Sound guitarist/bandleader Billy Bungeroth before rehearsal. "There's only one book on it [Robert Pruter's completist 1992 Chicago Soul]. Chicago blues is documented tenfold. But our soul is unknown here. Our band is only two years old and we're trying to bring this into the next era. Its an easy sell. We play the Metro. People want it. Then (if) the Notations go overseas and they're the Beatles.''
The "Eccentric Soul" series gives props to forgotten soul soldiers throughout the Midnight. The Numero Group label was born in 2003. Ken Shipley and a four-person staff run the business out of the basement of Shipley's home west of Pilsen. "Our primary market is people from their mid-20s to early40s,'' Shipley  says in a separate interview. "We don't have a lock on the Boomer generation. It's mirco. Boomers are looking for Motown and Stax." Shipley is 31.
He says, "The younger generation is attracted to the underground nature of the music. People get into us through indie rock or punk, and it's the same kind of subculture. There's really no difference between Bandit [the obscure South Side R&B label "Eccentric Soul" rediscovered in 2006] and Touch and Go in the '80s - one or two people putting out records. Younger
people can get past the imperfections of it and realize it is just so difficult to make anything. ''Its beautiful that it exists at all."
Clifford Curry is co-founder and leader of the Notations. Co-founder LaSalle Matehews died in 2004. Original member Jimmy Stroud is a minister in Calumet Park. The group formed in 1965 out of Parker High School (now Paul Robeson). Curry was in the same English class as members of the Emotions, and Gene"Duke of Earl" Chandler was emerging down the street as a member of the DuKays.
Curry, 63, keeps on pushing. He is not to be confused with beach music vocalist Clifford Curry of "She Shot a Hole in My Soul" fame. Other current members are first tenor Michael Thurman, who joined in 1993 after singing with Weapons of Peace, Bobby Thomas on first tenor (and a Notation for 37 years) and bass vocalist Marcus Gentry. Curry floats betweenbaritone and second tenor. All members can sing lead.
The Notations were looking for action from the day they named the group. "Back in the day a lot of groups had names with the i-o-n at the end,'' Curry says. "I'm songwriter and writing things down. One day LaSalle said, "You're always jotting notes down: notations.' That's how we got the name and we let it stick. Temptations, Notations...''
The Notations had one shot at the charts.
In 1970 Curry and Carl Smith (of Cal Davis' Brunswick Records) wrote the ballad "I'm Still Here" which was a perfect conduit for the group's smooth four-part harmonies. "I'm Still Here" peaked at number 26 on the R&B chart and is included on the Numero compilation. syl jofnson produced the track. The drummer was Fred White, younger brother of Earth Wind and Fire's Maurice White. Bobo, whose songs were also covered by jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris, played guitar.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Don1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Mar 30 2009 at 8:30am
If anyone that happens to read this post who may not be filmilliar by the name of Nate Evans, he's a member of Dennis Edward's Temptations Revue.
- Donn 
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