Levert Allison “Loving On My Mind” (Tupelo Sound, 1972)
(Click title to listen to track)
Born in Pegram, TN Levert Allison (also written Leevert) was raised alongside his more famous brother Gene Allison who is most well known for his 1958 “You Can Make It If You Try" on the Vee-Jay. Gene, though only having brushes with widespread recognition is known to have made an impression on the most visible figure to move from spiritual to secular music, Sam Cooke, who remarked “I wish I could sing like Gene Allison.” If you can’t leave a legacy of Billboard hits, a stack of great singles, inspiring your younger brother to do the same and impressing Sam Cooke isn’t such a bad legacy.
Following Gene’s lead quite literally - Levert often filled in for Gene when he was unavailable- Levert started his career in gospel with the Dynamic Dixie Travelers releasing LPs on the Nashboro label. Levert’s hand at secular music was handled by Gene’s manager Ted Jarrett who put out a few excellent sides with Levert on his Poncello label and Robert Riley who produced sides on the SBI/Spar label, Elbejay label and the side we’re looking at here on Tupelo Sound out of nearby Tupelo, MI.
This record, though not Levert’s most expensive or elusive, is a remarkable piece of wax. The record opens with a killer break and guitar wail that I could listen to looped for an hour. Levert’s “Ow! Good God!” while representing only three syllables and taking up 2 bars of the whole track place Levert alongside us as listeners in our awe of the music we’re hearing. He proceeds to warm up a little and then call our attention to the lovin that is on his mind. All in all a pretty straight-forward track in terms of arrangements- one basic groove ties it together from beginning to end- but as I listened to this song over and over and over as I kept coming back to all the little elements that make this song so special.
Like, what’s up with the back up singers? They ask at the beginning of the song “Do I really?” after the first three times Levert states “You put loving on my mind.” until he exclaims “YES!” then they totally drop off until the last couple bars when they say “you got it” before being faded out. It’s like Levert just shushed them out of the track with his conviction! The strange strings, the occasional descending off note, the reverb getting turned up on a particular shout.
"Lovin On My Mind" is just an excellent track that I have had on repeat for days and represents one of the things I love so much about small label productions of this era. It has idiosyncrasies that allow me to keep listening and finding new, unexpected elements that make my brain scramble around a little bit trying to think of the creative process that took place in the studio.
Though active and popular in Nashville and despite displaying unquestionable command over ballads, sitting comfortably on amazing soul and funk records and having a proven pedigree as a performer Levert’s records failed to break into larger markets. I know it’s beat into the ground in basically every post here, but dang it, there’s so much talent and his fame should stretch far beyond Nashville and the limited selection of 45s we have available.
Levert continues to perform to this day, (if you’re in Nashville at the end of the month you can see him! ( http://musiccityroots.com/events/wednesday-july-30th/ ) both as a solo artist and with The Fairfield Four. A nice collection of his music was released on CD a few years back if you’re looking for one stop shopping.
That’s all for today! Should have a couple of longer mixes, including a singles mixer collecting the last 15-20 45’s I’ve written up on here.
Hope you enjoy the record!
-George / Snack Attack