By James Calemine
A close friend of mine was admitted to the emergency room last night. As I sit and wait on an update, I wanted to hear something I haven’t heard in a while–I needed soul music. So, I pulled out my rare copy of Motel Shot.
Released in 1971, Motel Shot counts as a great, obscure recording–the fourth studio album by Delaney & Bonnie. The players on this record prove impressive: Clarence White, Gram Parsons, Duane Allman, Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Joe Cocker, Bobby Whitlock, Kenny Gradney, Bobby Keys and Jim Keltner.
Delaney produced this spontaneous, after-show environment. The liner notes written by Tom Wilkes explain the album’s essence:
“If the rock musician is today’s troubadour, then the motel is his watering place, his caravansary, his wayside inn. Standardized, depersonalized, anonymous, the motel room is where the rock performers sleep, relax, plan, compose, eat, and where they often make their best music.
“Amplifiers stay in the band van: they are too much trouble to unload, and the music must not be so loud as to draw the attention of the other guests or the management. Acoustic guitars, tambourines, a suitcase or soda bottle carton–sometimes even a piano in the lounge–perhaps an upright bass: this is the instrumentation of the ‘motel shot’.
“Sometimes it happens in somebody’s Basement gameroom, sometimes in a backstage dressing room, sometimes on a tour bus, but the ‘motel shot’, wherever it is played is always characterized by the non-electric, no–strain, no–pain, soft easy sound that Delaney & Bonnie–and their talented friends bring you in this record.”
Photographs by the great Barry Feinstein grace the album. I purchased my Japanese copy many years ago through Goldmine, remember them? It contains English and Japanese lyrics. Motel Shot opens with the emotive “Where The Soul Never Dies” with Leon Russell’s piano threading the composition. “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” counts as an up-beat, redemptive version. The traditional “Rock of Ages” retains a true gospel feeling.
“Long Road Ahead” proves why people like Eric Clapton covered Delaney & Bonnie songs, and toured with them in this original number. “Faded Love”, ranks as one of the collection’s most melancholy tracks. “Talkin’ Bout Jesus” returns to a Sunday morning, jubilant church glory. A cover of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” appears next.
“Never Ending Song of Love” sound like it’s played around a campfire. “Sing My Way Back Home” is my favorite song on this collection. Duane Allman’s slide guitar is the only electrified instrument on Motel Shot, and it resonates on a level that you can’t forget. Duane Allman’s slide outtro will slice your heart in the last ten seconds of the song. “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” sounds brilliant. Delaney taught this song to Jerry Garcia a few years before this album was released.
The final cut, “Lonesome And A Long Way From Home”, ends Motel Shot with a road song. The world weary vibe to this album remains so good it could fall in any gospel, soul, blues or country category–on any given night.
Motel Shot will at least get you through until the next time you get to church. It’s a shot of soul…