Monday, April 26, 2010
A classic 1970s Chicago soul group led by singer Bill Brown along with vocalists Christopher Allen (aka Chris Bernard), Charles Scott IV, and Earle Roberts, Shades of Brown began as the Fortrells, changing their name to the Mentors during a short stay at ABC Records (they recorded two singles -- four tracks in all -- for ABC but none of this music was ever released), and became Shades of Brown when they signed to Chess Records subsidiary Cadet Records. Working initially with producer Billy Davis, the group really found its stride when Dells maestro Bobby Miller took over the producer's chair, and Shades of Brown, helped by marvelous musical arrangements from Richard Evans and Charles Stepney, released three wonderful singles and a LP, S.O.B., for Cadet, none of which had much commercial success. Leaving Chess, the group recorded some material for producer Clarence Johnson (which, again, was never released) and then issued a final single (produced by Calvin Carter), "How Could You Love Him" b/w "He Ain't Heavy," in the early '70s on the On Top Records imprint before calling it quits. Shades of Brown had a wonderful, almost Motown-like (via the Dells) Northern soul ensemble sound, and their lack of commercial success is baffling, although their sole album has become a samplers favorite in recent years, particularly on the opening drum break on "The Soil I Tilled for You." (Check out "Excursions" from The Low End Theory for further listening).