In the interview with Larry Appelbaum that I posted yesterday in the Allen Toussaint thread, the interviewer asked about Toussaint’s greatest successes as a songwriter, excluding financial concerns. Transient by Lou Johnson was his Response. Whether the details of the title slipped his mind (or I have the wrong track) – it seems the actual title of the song was Transition from Johnson’s 1971 Toussaint produced album With You In Mind. A complex eight minute soul journey (too complex too play for the interviewer). Toussaint suggested that it was so unpopular that it might only be himself and Lou Johnson that actually heard it.
I have included the whole album here but the song in question is the second track. It’s such an inspired piece of music somewhere between Scott Walker and any classic Soul singer of the day. Johnson’s rich voice and the adventurous production takes the song to an unexpected mayhem. It’s an undiscovered gem that was simply too interesting to be successful, perhaps inspired by the end of A Day In The Life, it makes you realize how deeply The Beatles’ and George Martin’s ideas penetrated all areas of music, even those under the guidance of talented and experienced producers and arrangers like Allen Toussaint.
Johnson’s lack of success remains a mystery except that he was twice victim to collapsing record labels when with powerful material, initially written for him by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, he should have been a major star. His songs made the lower reaches of the Billboard charts but nothing set the world on fire. He recorded There’s Always Something There To Remind me before Sandie Shaw reaching No. 49 in 1964 in the the US whereas she went to No.1 in England covering the same song.
Reach Out for me originally recorded by Johnson was a hit for Dionne Warwick in 1964 as was Message To Michael (originally Message to Martha) recorded by Jerry Butler in 1962, it was another hit for Warwick in 1966. The song recorded by Johnson as Kentucky Bluebird in 1964 reached No.36 in the UK but when the song was covered by Adam Faith (with the same title) it was a bigger hit, reaching No.15 in 1965 – Johnson missed out again.
Famed producer Jerry Wexler produced an album for Johnson in 1969 for Atlantic/Cotillion with the Toussaint produced With You In Mind released on the Stax/Volt label in 1971. Johnson was also an accomplished piano player and multi-instrumentalist but It simply wasn’t to be and with a stint in the latter day Ink Spots, Johnson went on to be a club singer.
If you love Soul music and those great singers that sung their hearts out from the early sixties to the mid-seventies, search out his records – and if you find any extra copies please mail them to me here as I don’t have them in the archive.
01. There Were Times 0:00
02. Transition 3:20
03. Loving Way 11:34
04. Nearer 14:47
05. Beat 17:39
06. Who Am I 20:25
07. Frisco Here I Come 24:19
08. Wrong Number 27:09
09. Crazy About You Baby 31:14
10. Living Without You 34:10