Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have a record for which I really can’t say why it took me so long to get with it, and to get it.
“I’m Doin’ Fine Now,” the title track from the 1973 album by New York City, has long been one of my favorite pop-soul songs from the early ’70s. I finally found this album a few weeks ago, and it’s quickly become one of my favorites of the moment.
Listen to this, and it’s a little surprising that New York City was together for such a short time. This veteran quartet came together in 1972 as Tri-Boro Exchange, recorded two albums on Chelsea Records as New York City and had called it quits by 1974.
For all the sweetness on this record, it seems the gents who made up New York City did not mess around. The liner notes take pains to cite their professional credentials.
The biggest name was John Brown, who had been one of the Five Satins and a backup singer for the Cadillacs. Tim McQueen, Edward Schell and Claude Johnson also had been singing for years, in church, in school and in soul and doo-wop groups.
“We feel personally that a group should be able to sing anything from the lowest, dirtiest blues, through spirituals, right up through pop to the heaviest kind of music. If you call yourself a quartet and you call yourselves singers, then you should sing everything.”
Tonight, listen for yourself.
“Quick, Fast, in a Hurry,” “Uncle James,” “Ain’t It So,” “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” and “Reach Out,” New York City, from “I’m Doin’ Fine Now, 1973. This is Side 2. It runs 16:11.
The LP is out of print. However, eight of its 11 cuts are available on this greatest-hits CD, which draws from this album and “Soulful Road,” from 1974.
The first four songs on Side 2 were arranged, conducted and produced by Thom Bell, who worked with the Stylistics, then New York City, then the Spinners. If you know those groups, it’s fascinating to hear how this group fits into the evolution of Bell’s signature Philly soul sound.
New York City released six singles from its two albums, and two came from this side. The title track was released first, in 1973, and reached the Top 20. The first cut on this side, “Quick, Fast, in a Hurry” was released as a single a year later. It did nicely with black audiences, as did all of NYC’s singles, but made it only to No. 79 on the pop charts. Even at that, it still was the group’s second-biggest single.