The Sherlock Holmes Investigation - The Pot's Hot
The pensive - but funky -
Carl "Sherlock" Holmes
Here we go. Despite all of your fears and a sense of pure dread brought on by the “leadership style” of the numbskull in the White House, it’s Friday once again. Spring is upon us (though not that firmly if you live in the Northeast) and as a result, so is the mud. Aside from the general improvement in the average temperature, the departure of winter often seems like the morning after a particularly raucous bacchanal. The trees are grey and bare, the streets are scarred by road salt and all the garbage the ice and snow could conceal and the greenest lawn now looks like the main street of an old gold mining boom town, all rutted mud interrupted here and there by the remains of once healthy vegetation. As a result, we cling to the optimism that spring will inevitably arrive, but this is tempered by the ugly reality around us. So, to help give you the impetus you’ll need to survive an aesthetically draining weekend (especially if anyone in your house is a devotee of college basketball), I follow through on my promise from earlier in the week by posting a favorite from my Philly crates. Carl Holmes is not a familiar name outside of the sphere of record collecting types. This despite the fact that he had a pretty solid track record, recording for local and national labels through the 1960’s into the early 70’s. He formed Carl Holmes and the Commanders in the early 60’s. Featuring Holmes on guitar, Marco King on vocals, Sports Lewis on sax, Fats Howard on electric piano, Calvin Irons on bass and John Holmes on drums, The Commanders recorded a full length LP, ‘Twist Party at the Roundtable’ for Atlantic in 1962. The LP (from which a 45 of ‘Mashed Potatoes” was released) is a slice of rocking R&B, composed almost entirely of hepped up versions of classics like ‘New Orleans’, ‘Good Good Lovin’ and ‘Shout’. The Commanders would go on to record 45s for Parkway (the crazed ‘I Want My Ya Ya’), and Verve (‘Telegram’). In May of 1966 a pre-Experience Jimi Hendrix gigged with the group but never recorded with them. Their last recorded work is the super hot (and ultra-rare) 45 for local Philly label Black Jack, ‘Crossing Over’ b/w ‘Soul Dance #3’. By this point the group had been joined by local organist Pervis Herder (who's 45, 'Soul City' on Jamie is an R&B killer). I actually held a copy of this intense record in my hands once, but sadly, after weighing the condition of the record (dire) against the asking price (even more dire) I had to pass. By the end of the 60’s the Commanders had disbanded and Holmes had formed the Sherlock Holmes Investigation. A funkier outfit, the Investigation included Chico Green on bass, John Hammond on keys, John Daves on flute, Jimmy Towns on bass, Chubby Brown on guitar, Art Grant on sax and cats named Dickie, Peachie and Sly on vibes, congas and organ respectively. The group recorded an LP for Curtis R. Staten’s C.R.S. label (also home to at least one 45 by the Caprells) entitled ‘Investigation #1’. The disc included smoking funk like ‘Black Bag’ (which opens with a deadly break) and ‘Get Down Philly Town’, and smooth, soulful ballads like ‘Your Game’ and Burt Bacharach’s ‘Close To You’. This LP, like the Black Jack 45 is today hopelessly rare, pulling upwards of $300.00 if you can find a copy. There was one 45 released from the album, with ‘Your Game’ as the a-side, and the non-LP b-side ‘The Pot’s Hot’. Opening with doubled guitars, one fuzzed and one wah-wah, ‘The Pot’s Hot’ begins with a little bit of Latin percussion and a horn section before the fuzz guitar returns to take the lead for the rest of the song. The overall feel is a Latin-inflected funk with a slightly ‘uptown’ edge, especially when the flute and vibes come in together. The tune – like all the songs from the LP except for the Bacharach cover – was written by Len Woods, who was not as far as I can tell a member of the band. I have no idea what became of Carl Holmes after the ‘Investigation #1’ LP. It has since been reissued (without ‘The Pot’s Hot’). The 45 of today’s selection runs $40 - $50 when you can find it (I fortunately found mine years ago for much, much, MUCH less…).