Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr – “You’re All I Need to Make It”

Numero Month The Single File

Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr

“You’re All I Need to Make It”

Capsoul – 1972

Founded in 1970, Capsoul Records was created by radio deejay Bill Moss, who hoped that his new label might do the same for his hometown of Columbus, Ohio as Motown had done for Detroit. Over the course of the next five years, Capsoul would release just a dozen singles – plus an LP by a group known as Four Mints – but came tantalizingly close to making a much larger impact.

Capsoul’s brush with success came with the 1971 debut single by a group formerly known as The Revelations, who were rechristened by Moss as Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr – Moss mistakenly credited Al Dawson as “Hawkins.” Brooding and atmospheric, with a plaintive lead vocal from Virgil Johnson, “You Can’t Blame Me” was a hit throughout the Midwest and much of the East Coast.

The group’s follow-up single, “A World Without You,” traded in a similarly downcast mood. While a fine song in its own right, it failed to duplicate the success of its predecessor, and Virgil Johnson – whose commanding falsetto had dominated both tracks – would leave Ohio, and the group, in hopes of finding stardom in Los Angeles.

Though hindsight is 20/20, one can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the follow-up to “You Can’t Blame Me” had showcased another side of Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr (for the record, Dawson remained “Hawkins” on all future releases and reissues of the group’s material). That question is only amplified by the fact that the group had such a song in their back pocket: specifically, the B-side to “A World Without You.”

Brimming with a vibrancy that echoes the best of the aforementioned Motown, “You’re All I Need to Make It” should’ve been massive. Written by Capsoul guitarist/songwriter Jeff Smith – who also produced the track – it recasts Virgil Johnson’s soaring lead vocals as the vehicle for a plea to an unrequited love. Buoyed by Frank LaRue’s string arrangement and unfolding at an appealing pace, it’s not hard to imagine the song burning its way up the charts upon its 1972 release, as opposed to its moodier A-side.

Then again, maybe not. After all, by 1972, soul music had largely moved away from the slick, upbeat sounds and lovestruck themes of the classic Motown era. Coinciding with the blaxploitation movement in film, soul artists had embraced social commentary and grittier, more propulsive sounds. In comparison to contemporary work from the likes of Curtis Mayfield or Sly & The Family Stone, “You’re All I Need to Make It” sounds practically anachronistic.

Of course, no art is released in a vacuum, but time has a way of sanding down the effects of trends, and allowing works to be judged on their own merits. However out-of-step “You’re All I Need to Make It” may have sounded in 1972, it felt little short of timeless when it appeared as the opening track to the Numero Group’s first compilation, 2005’s Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label. It was that release which finally brought long-overdue vindication to the work of Bill Moss, his Capsoul collaborators, and this absolutely stellar slice of classic soul music.

Author

  • Matt Ryan founded Strange Currencies Music in January 2020, and remains the site's editor-in-chief. The creator of the "A Century of Song" project and co-host of the "Strange Currencies Podcast," Matt enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has a particular affinity for 60s pop, 90s indie rock, and post-bop jazz. He is an avid collector of vinyl, and a multi-instrumentalist who has played/recorded with several different bands and projects.

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