LOU RAGLAND
I Travel Alone
RELEASE DATE:  9th April 2012

 
Available as a 3-CD or 4-LP collection I Travel Alone follows hero, Lou Ragland, through various and sundry styles, studios and combos, capturing one of Cleveland’s most daring musicians during his most adventurous decade.
 
 
 
With the release of 1970’s census data, Cleveland, Ohio, ranked tenth in population among U.S. metropolitan centres. The Forest City had lost nearly 200,000 people in the decade passed, and it would lose 200,000 more before the ball dropped into 1980. Cleveland’s legendary stores of musical talent would mirror that exodus, as no one—from Albert Ayler to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, from Bobby Womack to Edwin Starr, from Tracy Chapman to Chrissie Hynde— managed to break nationally until after they’d left the city limits. Even the O’Jays, greater Cleveland’s most enduring soul demigods, rode their “Love Train” not out of Cleveland Union Terminal but departing from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station with Gamble & Huff as the rails. No one made it in Cleveland, despite the hundreds that tried.
 
 
TRACKLISTING
 
Understand Each Other
01. Since You Said You'd Be Mine Lou Ragland
02. I Didn't Mean To Leave You Lou Ragland
03. Tend To Your Business Wildfire
04. Understand Each Other Lou Ragland
05. What Happened To The Feeling Lou Ragland
06. Since You Said You'd Be Mine Lou Ragland
07. Just For Being You Lou Ragland
08. What Should I Do? Lou Ragland
09. It's Got To Change Lou Ragland
10. The Next World Lou Ragland
11. Understand Each Other (Instrumental) Lou Ragland
Live From Agency
The World Is A Ghetto (live) Hot Chocolate
Understand Each Other (live) Hot Chocolate
It Ain't My Fault (live) Hot Chocolate
Could It Be I'm Falling In Love (live) Hot Chocolate
Until I Met You (live) Hot Chocolate
Spend My Life Loving You (live) Hot Chocolate
Brother Louie (live) Hot Chocolate
Good For The Gander (live) Hot Chocolate
Hot Chocolate
01. I Travel Alone Hot Chocolate
02. Big Wheel Hot Chocolate
03. Red Robin Hot Chocolate
04. I've Got Something Going For Me Hot Chocolate
05. Good For The Gander Hot Chocolate
06. We Had True Love Hot Chocolate
07. Ain't That A Groove Hot Chocolate
08. So Dam Funky Hot Chocolate
09. Sexy Moods Of Your Mind Hot Chocolate
10. Messin' With Sly Hot Chocolate
11. We Had True Love Hot Chocolate
12. What You Want To Do Hot Chocolate
13. What Should I Do Hot Chocolate

Lou Ragland was among those hundreds. In 1970, the Cleveland native founded Hot Chocolate as a vehicle for his compositions. Drummer Tony Roberson was plucked from an after-school job at a 55th Street print shop; bassist George Pickett had been working on his senior year at an undetermined school in Cleveland Heights. The trio would have to be both tight and compact, as everything including players and instruments had to squeeze into Lou’s 1965 Mustang. With his trio, Lou Ragland began committing to tape a host of recordings that would make up Hot Chocolate’s eponymous debut. The seven-song affair is a team of vocal numbers and instrumentals in search of a leader. Dick Dugan, the Cleveland Plain Dealer sports illustrator who’d later conceive iconic mascots for the pro baseball Indians and pro football Browns during his career, was commissioned to sketch out the Hot Chocolate cover for a paltry $100. Working from a photograph, Dugan penned an imaginative rendering of the group, performing in a mug full of their namesake dessert drink.
 
Over the next 18 months, Hot Chocolate swelled from trio to quintet, shedding Dewitt McQueen in favor of Herbert Pruitt, and adding R. C. Johnson on flute and Pam Hamilton on viola. The bolstered line-up took on an ambitious first project: an hour-long live album cut on the stage of the Agora Ballroom, conveniently located downstairs from Agency Recording. Cathy Grant—daughter of Francis Grant, a decorated member of the Cleveland Orchestra—was enlisted for first chair viola, while Joseph “Rocky” Marszal stepped in to provide the sole violin. Among the highlights is the set’s destructive closer, “Good For The Gander,” terrorized past the ten-minute mark by Hamilton, a self-described square, who took instruction for her solo from Ragland—his advice was for Pam to play everything she ever wanted to play. Equal parts Jean Luc Ponty, Jimi Hendrix, and jet engine, Hamilton’s string statement transforms the song into an epic battle between good and evil, some distant ancestor to Charlie Daniels’ fiddling tussle with the Devil down in Georgia. Upon hearing the recording again after some 30 years, Pam Hamilton, now a teacher at the renowned Harlem Kids Zone, quipped: “And you know what? I still play like that.”
 
When a British group by the same name invaded US soil in the mid ’70s, Ragland’s cup cooled considerably. Within a year, “You Sexy Thing” would crash the Billboard Top 10 and Lou Ragland’s Hot Chocolate would go down as a discographical hanging chad. Now seven members strong, the group began flying the Seven Miles High banner for the final, and perhaps most monumental period in Ragland’s Cleveland career.
 
By its completion, Understand Each Other featured generations of Cleveland luminaries, and representation from most scenes, both sexes, and several ethnicities. The album’s credits read like the guest list for a Lou Ragland episode of This Is Your Life. The cover drawing, from the pen of Remus Peterson, depicts Lou Ragland as peacemaker, standing between a sabre-toothed tiger and a dove, asking them literally to “Understand Each Other.” Liner notes by Lou Ragland’s spiritual advisor of the moment, Lateef Mahmud, portray music as a cosmic language, with his pupil’s LP itself compiled as a tribute to the “ghetto masters—those who master the ghetto and have become among those who help shape the destiny of this land.” Lou Ragland is deemed The Conveyor: “...the conveyor of harmony thru the ethers manifested in words, songs, and deeds to bring into focus the universal, educational, and inspirational plane of consciousness.” While it could be argued that Mahmud wasn’t far off, his text read like gibberish to Ragland’s loyal cadre of players, with whom Lou was about to part ways.
 
With a guitar, a tuxedo, and a $300 paycheck, Lou embarked on his brightly lit Vegas chapter. By 1986, Lou had taken up guitar and baritone duties for the Ink Spots, a watershed doo-wop group—then in its umpteenth incarnation—that had risen to prominence in the late 1930s. When the Ink Spots appeared on Nevada Public Radio in February 2011, host Dave Becker asked Lou Ragland what songs he liked to sing. Though his repertoire spanned dozens of albums and work by a host of decorated songwriters, Ragland confessed that he still preferred singing his own material. “I mean, I like the Wright Brothers ‘cause they invented the airplane,” he explained to listeners, “but I don’t want to fly no place in it right now.”
 
I Travel Alone gathers together the work of a pre-flight Lou Ragland, laid down during those fertile Cleveland years when he did most of his traveling between Hough and Garfield Heights, up and down Kinsman Road, out to Lakewood or Euclid...maybe Parma if the situation called for it. Stuffed into a ’65 Mustang, guitar case angled between the seats, his LPs stashed in the trunk, Lou Ragland never was quite alone, though he followed a road all his own.
 
MORE UPCOMING RELEASES FROM NUMERO
 
To Listen to Tracks taken from various upcoming releases, CLICK HERE
 
27-Feb Shirley Ann Lee ALBUM Songs Of Light
19-Mar Personal Space ALBUM Electronic Soul 1974-1984
09-Apr Lou Ragland ALBUM I travel Alone
Apr Eccentric Soul ALBUM A Red Black Green Production (DC Soul 1972-1977)
08-May Codeine 6LP/3CD box Set I See The Sun
08-May Codeine 2LP/1CD Frigid Stars
08-May Codeine 2LP/1CD Barely Real
08-May Codeine 2LP/1CD The White Birch
TBC Los Nombres ALBUM s/t
TBC Love Apple ALBUM Love Apple

 
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