Much of what I know about about soul music comes from listening first to AM radio in the early ’70s, then FM radio for the rest of the decade. However, mine tends to be a wide but shallow pool at times.
I plead guilty as charged when it comes to the Chi-Lites. I long knew them only for their smooth, gentle love songs, the radio hits — “Have You Seen Her” from 1971 and “Oh Girl” from 1972.
A short while back, I heard “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People,” a powerfully funky protest song featuring Creadel “Red” Jones’ bass voice. A bass? With the Chi-Lites? Head asplode. It’s from 1971, done along the lines of the stuff done by the Temptations at the time, and oh, how I dug the Temptations.
So I started digging — and digging for — the Chi-Lites, who came out of Chicago and worked together for a decade before hitting it big in the early ’70s. I recently found tonight’s record for a dollar. It’s a delightful mix of those smooth, sweet sounds and the funkier stuff.
As the liner notes on the Brunswick Records album jacket say: “Eugene Record, Marshall Thompson, Robert ‘Squirrel’ Lester and Creadel ‘Red’ Jones are the four stars of this amazing quartet.” Record sings lead, Thompson and Lester complement him and Jones’ bass anchors it all.
In the late ’50s, Record and Lester started out with another singer, Clarence Johnson, in a group called the Chanteurs. Thompson and Jones were a group called the Desideros. About 1960, they joined forces and became the Hi-Lites. In 1964, they became Marshall and the Chi-Lites, the latter reflecting their Chicago roots. Not long after, Johnson left the group, and they went simply as the Chi-Lites. It wasn’t until they signed with Brunswick Records in 1968 that they started to make it nationally. Their peak years were 1969 to 1973.
Thompson and Lester continue to perform as the Chi-Lites along with Frank Reed, who joined them as lead singer almost 20 years ago, after Record left the group. Record and Jones have since died.
Enough talk. As those liner notes say, “stoke up your stereo and treat yourself to a generous helping” of the Chi-Lites. Here’s Side 1.
“Yes I’m Ready (If I Don’t Get To Go),” “We Are Neighbors,” “I Want To Pay You Back,” “Have You Seen Her” and “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People,” the Chi-Lites, from “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People,” 1971. It runs 20:40.
Record — the lead singer — also produced this album, did some of the arrangements and wrote or co-wrote seven of the nine songs.