Saturday, November 15, 2014

Al Wilson, "Show and Tell" (1973)

Nov. 24, 1973, #1

Here's a sentimental favorite, a sweet and gorgeous ballad by Al Wilson, his only hit. Wilson was a big-barreled singer out of Mississippi, covering a Jerry Fuller song Johnny Mathis had already recorded (Peabo Bryson, much later, in 1989, recorded another version, which went high on R&B charts). Wilson brings a certain classic gravitas to it, a sense of a grown man grappling with love, in aching confusion at least as much as wonder at the splendor and so forth. In fact, the song is about his confusion. He's uncertain of his status and it causes pain. Does he dare speak? How will she respond? The woman may not even know him, or anyway may not be aware of his feelings. Inability to communicate seems to be the major theme. He's afraid to speak. He wants a sign. "Can'tcha see I'm tryin' to show love is right." There is desperation in it but it also has a kind of workingman dignity and poignancy—it resorts to strings but uses them well. Wilson inhabits every syllable. The band is fine. It's a song of great hope even as it works familiar steps of love. It insinuates slowly but methodically. I don't remember hearing it for the first time, or having any opinion or thoughts on it much at all, until I heard it early one dark cold morning on the way to work and suddenly I loved it and at the same time felt grown-up. I was working at a nursing home job while I waited for a vo-tech class I was taking in the spring to start. No looking back since. Inspirational background vocal: "do-do-do-do-do."

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