Curtis Blandon came from Birmingham, AL and grew up with such soul luminaries as C L Blast and Eddie Kendricks, but his main influence was his older brother Richard who moved to New York and became lead singer of that premier doo- wop group the Dubs. As soon as he could Curtis joined his brother in the Big Apple determined to make a career in the music business. He joined the Vocaleers and cut a 45 with them for Twist Time in 1962.
He then set out on his own, making his first solo release for Port, both sides of which came from his pen. The downbeat “Soul” and Latin tinged “Mr Imagination” are fine early soul tunes, with some touches of both doo-wop and R & B in them. What is immediately apparent though is Cutis’ voice. He came across as an uninhibited gospel vocalist with a hoarse cry very much in the line of the great Sam Cooke followers. After a spell in the armed forces Blandon came back to New York to resume his career.
He demoed two more of his own songs Young Dumb and “I Need You” for the ubiquitous Robert Banks and Richard Pittman, and very quickly cut them for real and signed with Capitol who put them out on their Tower subsidiary. “I Need You” is frantic uptempo dance soul, but “Young Dumb” is something else altogether. After a lovely hummed opening phrase Blandon delivers a wonderfully flexible vocal performance, soaring over and around the melody just like Sam Cooke used to do. The gently cooing female chorus back him up in fine style, and the uptown instrumental arrangement is mighty good too. A quality track and no mistake.
But Capitol proved to be a bad bet, soul music not being their bag, and Blandon looked for other avenues. Via his new manager Bunny Jones he obtained a contract with Buddah who released the outstanding So Much To Give in 1969. I’d rate this as easily his best ever track, full of all the best things in deep soul. A dead slow tempo, classic chord changes (Blandon himself again), a fine horn rich setting and a vocalist who really gives it everything. Right from the opening phrase Curtis’ hoarse tone is thrilling and he gets more committed as the song continues all the way to an intense conclusion. Love those falsetto shrieks too. The similarly paced Where Is My Baby would be a very fine track indeed if it wasn’t on the flip of a masterpiece.
Buddah apparently gave the 45 no promotion at all and Blandon joined the Dubs for a spell, but had one last attempt at solo success with Wand. After hearing a demo, Gene Chandler agreed to produce Blandon who flew to Chicago to cut a session. “In The Long Run” is a pounder of a track, with a typically full Windy City production, and it has long been a favourite dance tune on this side of the Atlantic. The flip “Push Comes To Shove” has a funky little feel to it. Sadly this 45 didn’t make it either, despite getting a lot of airplay, as Scepter/Wand was on its last legs.
Disillusioned Blandon went back to working the clubs with a small band, but continued writing. He managed to get some songs onto Gloria Gaynor’s “I’ve Got You” set as well as placing tunes with other artists. In 2007 Blandon released some new material under the heading “Northern Soul Legend” but although it was great to hear his voice again the synthesised arrangements are too much for me to take. But we wish him well with it.
In many ways Blandon’s story is a sad one, a highly talented musician who never had the luck. But he has left us a small but very high quality recorded legacy from the Golden Age – and for that we are all grateful.
Mr. Imagination / Soul ~ PORT 70035 (1963)
Young dumb / I need you ~ TOWER 355 (1967)
So much to give / (Somebody tell me ) Where is my baby ~ BUDDAH 94 (1969)
In the long run / Push comes to shove ~ WAND 11241 (1971)
"Northern Soul Legend" (2007) - tracks inc;ude "Don't Take Me For Granted", "Sexy" and "Time To Move On".
1. You can find “So Much To Give” on the UK Sequel CD “Buddah Deep Soul".
2. You can read more on Curtis Blandon on his own website here.