For the second or third time in a month this review and post comes a little late. The holidays and accompanying travel schedules are an easy excuse, as well as the hectic calendar of distractions Sara and I have been navigating in our other lives lately.
But I have to admit one of the biggest reasons: the last five weeks my attention has been riveted to the marvelous, unbelievable comeback my Tennessee Titans are staging since Vince Young’s return to the starting line-up.
After a well-documented 0-6 start, a team with Super Bowl aspirations plummeted to its nadir in an ambush of swirling snows in Foxboro, Massachusetts, victims of a 59-0 ass reaming by the New England Patriots.
Tonight, they rest at the cusp of the pit in a hotel in Indianapolis. A win tomorrow against the unbeaten, heavily-favored Colts would even their season at 6-6, a redemption previously unimaginable by any and all affiliated with the National Football League as players, coaches, commentators or fans.
In the last five weeks, through the reconfigured power of VY and the amazing Chris Johnson (one of the most exciting tandems in the league in years), the impossible shifted slowly to improbable. With a win tomorrow, the improbable shifts again and becomes possible. I wait with clenched teeth, a joyous heart, and baited breath.
Like most others on this planet, I’ve become accustomed to disappointment. Somewhere along the way, dreams began to seem, truly, as ephemeral as they are. Figments of the mind, a kind of con, nothing more than an elaborate coping—or brainwashing—mechanism to get us through the pain.
When did this happen? At eighteen, it seemed to me dreams were as valid a currency as money. Merely by imagining a reality with pure focus one could enter into it. Believing made it so. This is living not without care, but without caution. Caution comes from being wary over undesired outcomes. To the true hero—the liver of his own life—there is only one outcome, whatever may happen.
When one or more people truly believe this way, think this way, act this way to achieve their dreams, forgetting fear or failure or dread, a miracle occurs. I see that now. For the last five years, I haven’t believed in miracles. Since I watched cancer grind my father to dust on its cruel wheel, I lost the faith that anything happened to us mortals but the obvious, the hurtful, the statistical, the mundane.
The best we could hope for was grace, the trade-off for suffering that allowed us to survive. This belief—or rather lack of it—wound so deeply around my heart I didn’t even know how sick it had become. Sick of a lack of faith. In miracle, in magic, in the great redeemer, Time.
And so tonight I listen to Rotary Connection, not merely one of the most unique bands of the psychedelic Sixties, but in a sense a perfect symbol for all the magic and miracle and hope that age continues to stir our collective souls. The antidote and opposite to brown acid, bloody protests, political assassinations, and bad vibes.
Rotary Connection is not nearly as famous or revered as they should be. Formed in Chicago, they were regional superstars who failed for whatever reason (bad management or bad luck) to translate to the national or international level, much live Los Angeles’ Love, another pioneering mixed-race psychedelic rock band, to whom Rotary Connection is frequently compared.
Crate-diggers, however, have rightfully regarded Rotary Connection for decades. Anybody recognize this sample?
In some ways, Rotary Connection defies categorization. Composed of wild, shaggy white hippies and black soul singers from Chicago’s South Side, they incorporated ahead-of-their-time psychedelic experimentation with deep soul grooves, tight harmony singing and orchestral flourishes under the direction of Chess Records svengali Charles Stepney (the Chicago George Martin).
Were they a rock band, a soul band or a psychedelic novelty? The debate rage on…
Rotary Connection is most famous for discovering and launching soul goddess Minnie Riperton. After a brief, unsuccessful stint with an all-girl band called The Gems, she was working as a receptionist in the Chess Records office when she got the call to join Rotary’s rag-tag outfit.
A miracle? Probably. Why not?
The first Rotary Connection record, self titled, appeared in 1967 (same year as Love’s epic Forever Changes). It is a mix of weird originals and unorthodox, offbeat covers, such as the Stones’ “Lady Jane,” with its spectral, candlelit drawing room quality, and a charging, gospel-styled “Like a Rolling Stone” that omits all the verses in favor of an continually harmonized chorus.
Is it a soul record, a rock record or a psychedelic novelty? Who cares? Its one of the most uplifting, imaginative, wonderfully weird documents in music. As effective at getting you off as turning you on. Listening to its crazy instruments—guitars, sitars, harpsichords, organs and trippy overdubs—with Minnie’s immaculate falsetto soaring over the top is like getting super high, shapeshifting in a cosmic eagle and flying through the outer reaches of a kaleidoscopic star system.
Rotary Connection lasted for seven years. Their albums aren’t flawless, but the gems are legion. Aladdin, Songs, and 1971’s Hey, Love all qualify as must-owns if you can find them on vinyl.
And anytime you find yourself losing the faith, just listen to this and truth will be restored.
ROTARY CONNECTION ROTARY CONNECTION, 1967, Chess/Cadet