Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mike Finnigan -- "Just One Minute More" (1978)

What Boz Scaggs had wrought.

When Silk Degrees became a multi-million selling album in 1976, he basically busted open the door for blue-eyed soul like never before. Suddenly, it totally cool for white guys to sing soul music blatantly in the style of Motown, Philly and Stax. Of course, the guys who really took that concept to the bank were Daryl Hall and John Oates, right through most of the 80s.

But let's go back to the Silk Degrees era. In 1977, English guitarist Dave Mason had the biggest selling album of his career when Columbia Records paired him with producer Ron Nevison for a slickly-produced collection of catchy rock tunes. Mason's band was a collection of immensely talented musicians and composers. The single that drove it through the roof, "We Just Disagree," was written by his guitarist Jim Krueger. Also in the band was keyboardist Mike Finnigan, who had already played on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland and other classic rock records.

Mason's album Let It Flow sold tons, so all of a sudden those talented guys in his band had solo albums released on Columbia, who probably thought they could duplicate that success. While we will discuss Krueger's impressive Sweet Salvation another time, Finnigan released what was actually his second album under his own name, called Black and White.

Not a subtle reference, Black and White was like the Boz Scaggs album that Boz never did. Also produced by Nevison, Finnigan sounds remarkably like Mr. Scaggs' deep voice, powerful and emotional all at once. Other than covering Krueger's straightforward rock ballad, "The Words," every song is right out of the Philly and Chicago soul playbook, and it seems they were all written by, yes, white guys! One exception -- his completely fitting cover of The Soul Survivors' "Expressway To Your Heart."

Finnigan's keyboards are right up front, either with a B3 organ or piano, sometimes very gospel-ish, or downright bluesy. And this guy could sing. The obvious single was the unforgettable lead-off tune from the album, "Just One Minute More," co-written by music legend Al Kooper. All slick guitars, orchestration, Finnigan's insanely pleading vocals ("He wants you for decoration/But I need you just to live!"), and thumpety drums. It's just one of those songs you can't get out of your head, right out of another era.

These days, Finnigan is touring all over the world, welcomes just about anybody to friend him on Facebook (over 4,600 of them as of this writing), and contributes to the political blog Crooks & Liars in pretty much the same way he performs -- no holding back. If you want to hear true songcraft style and singing, well, let's go to the video... (and if you'd like the song, you can download the album from Mike himself)...

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