The Agents - You Were Meant For Me
A quick one today... I can’t say I know much about the Agents. They were definitely a Philly based group, active in the mid-60’s. Their producer Phil Gaber worked with many great Philly soul artists, including the mighty Emperors, Ronnie Walker, Emanons and the Temptones (featuring a young Daryl Hall). The Agents – Warren Lundy, Jimmy Downs, Nat Williams, Kenneth Davis and Norman Bowen – were formed in 1962. The recorded a few 45s for Gaber’s P&L label, as well as sides for Liberty Bell. Today’s selection, ‘You Were Meant For Me’ was released in 1965 and got some local airplay, but never broke outside of Philly. I picked up this 45 years ago when I was grabbing as much Philly soul as I could afford/get my hands on. The first time I listened to it it didn’t grab me. This is more my fault than the Agents’, since I was on the prowl for hard-hitting, upbeat soul shakers, and as high quality a record as this is, it’s not one of those. When I finally settled down, and my senses were more suitably attuned to the sweet side of soul, I pulled a bunch of 45s from my Philly crates that leaned in that direction and slapped them together in a mix. It was a good thing I did too, because ‘You Were Meant For Me’ is really something of an undiscovered treasure*. Opening with just a bass line (it almost sounds acoustic) and tambourine (I can’t hear any drums on the track) , the group drops in with a falsetto harmony line. Nat Williams lead vocal and the guitar backing start at the same time, and the gentle, somewhat stark backing gives the singers lots of room to shine. The overall effect is not unlike some of the great, early Curtis Mayfield helmed soul sides out of Chicago, where the harmonies are anchored in soul but manage to throw a line back into the waning days of group harmony R&B. I love the relatively understated reverb effect on the vocals. When the backing vocals reach the occasional peak, there’s the slightest bit of echo mixed with distortion, and it takes a fairly “spare” sounding record into another space entirely. Those little touches have made ‘You Were Meant For Me’ an enduring favorite of mine. *When I say “undiscovered”, I mean only by the general public. Dave Brown and the Philly Archives label have reissues a number of Gaber-produced sides on the comp ‘Philly Soul Volume 1’. The CD includes five tracks by the Agents, nine by Ronnie Walker and others by the Temptones, Emanons, Exceptions, Royal Five and Clarence Williams. Like their other releases it’s thoroughly annotated and includes lots of cool pictures (like the one above, which I borrowed for today's feature). Buy one and keep a great reissue label going.