by Don Waller
Spotlighting the yearning, brrr-ning, clenched-throat vocal stylings of Norman (a.k.a. General) Johnson — who wrote and sang the 1961 rock anthem "It Will Stand" and the title-tells-all cult-jam "39-21-46" back when he fronted the Showmen — this two-CD, U.K. import sports 36 songs, cherry-picked from the four albums that the Chairmen Of The Board (Johnson, fellow ex-Showman Danny Woods, Harrison Kennedy and Eddie Curtis) recorded for the Detroit-based Invictus label.
Invictus — and its sister label, Hot Wax — were formed by legendary songwriters/producers Holland-Dozier-Holland, who'd exited Motown in a '67 royalty dispute that kept the trio sidelined for two years. But then …
Powered by Johnson's all-glottal-stops-out performance, "Give Me Just A Little A More Time" — written by HDH under the contract-beating pseudonyms Dunbar & Wayne — rocketed to No. 3 on the 1970 pop charts, followed by the similar sounding "(You've Got Me) Dangling On A String," the one-two body punch of "Pay To The Piper" and "Finders Keepers" (both co-written by Johnson), the bouncy "Everything's Tuesday," and the straight blues-no-chaser, "Chairman Of The Board." And they're all here.
Same goes for the Chairmen Of The Board's original version of the sentimental story-song "Patches" — a No. 4 hit for Clarence Carter — which was also co-written by Johnson. Better yet, we get a healthy dose of psychedelic soul ("Hanging On To a Memory") and some still-smokin', guitar-driven funk: "Skin I'm In" and a version of Sly Stone's "Life and Death in G & A (Pts. 1 & 2)," complete with universe-expanding instrumental interludes.
When Invictus/Hot Wax collapsed, Johnson — a Virginia native — found perennial success on the Carolina "beach music" scene. Which explains why the guy whose contributions to the Motor City's proud musical history — he also co-wrote hits for Detroit's own Honey Cone ("Want Ads"), 100 Proof Aged In Soul ("Somebody's Been Sleeping"), and Freda Payne ("Bring The Boys Home") — have been almost criminally underappreciated.
Don Waller writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.