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Searching For the Dolphins


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Performer Notes
  • Recording information: 1967-1971.
  • Johnny Rivers, the L.A. blue-eyed soul singer, signed Al Wilson to his own Soul City imprint and produced Wilson's debut Searching for the Dolphins, encouraging Wilson to pursue a lush sound that encompassed mellow Californian pop, folk, jazz, rock & roll, and soul, something that was sonically closer to what Rivers was cutting at the time, but hardly a pop sellout. After all, one of the highlights here is Wilson's first single (and only U.K. hit), a hip, swinging version of Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "The Snake," a groovy dance number that deservedly became a Northern soul staple, and it's not the only funky moment here, as it has a rival in a version of Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Shake Me Wake Me (When It's Over)." Also on this album is a slow-burning, late-night reading of Jerry Butler/William Butler/Curtis Mayfield's "I Stand Accused," and the terrific "Who Could Be Lovin' You (Other Than Me)," an early Willie Hutch song that strikes a precise balance between the aforementioned funky moments and the luxurious singer/songwriter material that comprises the rest of the record. The title song is an allusion to the Fred Neil '60s standard "The Dolphins," and Wilson also sings two Jimmy Webb songs ("By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Do What You Gotta Do") and a pair of Johnny Rivers hits ("Summer Rain," "Poor Side of Town,") all of which have a smooth, rolling feel as reminiscent of folk-pop as it is of soul. All taken together, Searching for the Dolphins is a unique record, a place where many divergent strands in '60s pop converge in a way that is perhaps easier to appreciate now than it was then. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Professional Reviews
Mojo (Publisher) (p.122) - 5 stars out of 5 -- "[A] lost classic, sung with monumental power and depth, fully fit for airing alongside DUSTY IN MEMPHIS."

Record Collector (magazine) (p.93) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] breathtaking piece of work....[Wilson] sculpts statuesque soul that taps into the same well of transcendental meditation that feeds Terry Callier and Jon Lucien's art."
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