Your NPR news source

Reviving Twinight

SHARE Reviving Twinight

[MUSIC: George McGregor & the Bronzettes – “Temptation is Hard To Fight”]

Most of the recordings made for the Twinight between 1967 and 1972, like this song by Evanston's George McGregor & Bronzettes, are a long way from the slick polish of a Motown assembly line hit. But that's precisely what makes so much of the music produced fro Twinight so captivating. The Twinight label was largely built on the success of one artist, Syl Johnson. He was responsible for seven of Twinight's eight national chart hits. But “Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation” isn't a chronicle of Johnson's music, or the label's hits. Instead, it focuses on Twinight's more plentiful near misses and never-had-a-chances. These are the singles that never made most radio station's heavy rotations, records that, with a little luck, were played once or twice by a late night deejay – that is, on the “Lunar Rotation”- before being forgotten.

[Music: Pieces of Peace – “Pass It On, Pt 1” ]

Lots of talented musicians played behind Twinight's artists. A Chicago group called the Pieces of Peace did some of the best work. And when Syl Johnson wasn't busy singing his own hits, he did some fine producing. But there was no one identifiable “Twinight sound”. There were dozens of talented acts who recorded singles for the Twinight label though. And Numero's re-issue of their work shows that even the most obscure among them had something to offer. Take for instance Harrison & the Majestic Kind, a group whose back story, even today, remains a complete mystery…

[Music : Harrison & the Majestic Kind – Tearing Me Up Inside]

The Numero reissue crew does a great job of reconstructing the history of Twinight, digging up an impressive amount of facts and details that few of the artists themselves are likely to have even remembered. The 31-page booklet included along with the 2 CDs in the set is nearly as valuable a document as the music itself. God only knows where they were able to find some of the rare promotional photos and snapshots that accompany the liner notes. And in contrast to the dry, historical account of facts you often get in this sort of project – the notes are not only informative, they're filled with writing that's lively and entertaining, bringing the history to life. Believe me, you will need to the read the notes to figure out who most of the artists are. For an act like Chuck and Mac – Cairo, Illinois's answer to Sam & Dave,  recording a 45 for Twinight was about as close as they ever got to the big time….

[Music: Chuck & Mac – “Powerful Love”]

A few of the artists included in this set did eventually get a taste of success. Johnny Williams would later go on to make his mark nationally in the mid-70s as a purveyor of the Philly Sound, with a hit song titled “Slow Motion.” The Notations, represented here with three of the finest of all the near misses in Twinight's catalog, scored the label's only non-Syl Johnson hit with a song called “I'm Still Here”. They're still active here in Chicago today. And Donny Hathaway, the one artist here who later became a bona fide star, was still pretty much unknown when he recorded as a session musician behind several of Twinight's artists, including an Evanston vocalist named Josephine Taylor. Hathaway's shimmering electric piano is a foreshadowing of the sound that would help make him famous… 

[Josephine Taylor – “I Made Up My Mind”] 

Not every one of the 40 songs collected in this set is a keeper. There are songs where raw talent and ambitious production ideas are undun by that same lack of polish that makes some of the best songs so captivating. And not every obscure artist on Twinight truly deserved to become a star. But if you have even a passing interest in Chicago music history, or an ear for the sound of classic soul, you'll find Numero's new set, “Eccentric Soul: Twinight's Lunar Rotation,” a fascinating document.

For Chicago Public Radio, I'm Dan Bindert….. 

[Music: The Notations – “A New Day”]


More From This Show