The Dynamics: First Landing

As "found" albums go, First Landing is a rare treasure whose luster will bewitch fans of soul music.

The Dynamics

First Landing

Label: Hacktone
First date: 1969
US Release Date: 2007-06-12
UK Release Date: 2007-06-12

In 1969, The Dynamics released First Landing, their first album on Cotillion Records. A smooth slice of soul called "Ice Cream Song" garnered substantial airplay on R&B radio stations, but almost as quickly as the band appeared on the scene, they evaporated into the patchouli haze of psychedelic soul that dominated the airwaves towards the end of the '60s. Though a second album, What a Shame, briefly placed the Dynamics back on the radar of soul music fans in 1973, the legacy of the group was relegated to cult status. Thanks to David Gorman and Michael Nieves at Hacktone, First Landing has been lovingly unearthed so that a contemporary audience can savor a long forgotten entry in the canon of '60s soul music.

The Dynamics were Zeke Harris, George White, Fred Baker, and Samuel Stevenson: four vocalists from Detroit whose different vocal styles blended into one lustrous whole. Under the management of Ted White, who had escorted his wife Aretha Franklin from Detroit down to Muscle Shoals for her legendary Atlantic recording sessions, The Dynamics were similarly transplanted to American Studios in Memphis to catch some of the magic that catapulted Franklin to "Queen of Soul". Shaping the group's sound were producers Tommy Cogbill and Chips Moman, a team whose Midas touch spun pop gold on records by Elvis Presley ("Suspicious Minds"), Wilson Pickett ("I'm in Love"), the Box Tops ("Cry Like a Baby"), and Neil Diamond ("Sweet Caroline").

Like their Detroit brethren, the Temptations, the Dynamics alternated lead vocalists. The versatile voice of Zeke Harris, who fronts eight of the 12 tracks on First Landing, defined the group's sound. He approached his performances with nuance and a keen interpretation for the lyrics. As for the other lead vocalists, George White possessed an Eddie Kendricks-like falsetto and Fred Baker supplied the grease to the Dynamics' southern fried Detroit soul.

Pretend for a moment that it's 1969, when First Landing was only available as a shiny, round platter of vinyl. (Kudos to the folks at Hacktone for the faithful reproduction of the album's art.) "Side One" would sport a whole bunch of white rings marking up the grooves; it's frontloaded with six would-be hits. A groovy little number called "I Don't Want Nobody to Lead Me On" gets things started followed by "Ain't No Love At All", one of the more dramatic tracks on the album that boasts a shimmering unison vocal, reminiscent of the 5th Dimension. "Dum-De-Dum", which veers close to bubblegum territory based on its title alone, is actually quite a funky workout. Harris, who sings lead on the first five tunes, brings a soulful sweetness to "Ice Cream Song" and gives "Ain't No Sun" (a Temptations cover) an urgency equaled only by Gene Chrisman's incessant drumming on the track. Closing side one is "What Would I Do", which is gently caressed by George White's angelic tenor and the dreamy notes of Bobby Emmons' organ.

"Side two" (or tracks seven through 12) is where the album flat-lines just a tad. While the vocalists do their best to imbue the songs with passion, the melodies simply are not as remarkable as those on the flip side. "The Love That I Need" proves that Harris mastered the upbeat material a little better than White. Unlike his vocal on "What Would I Do", White struggles to keep up with the jaunty rhythm section. Zeke Harris brings some tinge of excitement back on "Too Proud to Change" and George White redeems himself on "I Want to Thank You" with a heaven-bound reading of the line "God knows that I love you". Fred Baker makes his lone lead vocal appearance on "Since I Lost You", channeling "Proud Mary"-era Tina Turner during the spoken word section. "Fair Love" and "Murder in the First Degree", the last two tracks, seem tacked on to just satisfy an even six-song-per-side album.

While First Landing is not essential listening, the songs endear themselves to the listener, even if some of the daydream-y ruminations about love become rote by album's end (example: three songs use bees and honey as metaphors). As "found" albums go, First Landing is a rare treasure whose luster will bewitch fans of soul music.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.