Joe & Eddie were a folk-gospel duo who made their claim to fame in the early 1960s, but their career together was cut short when Joe Gilbert was killed in 1966 in an auto accident while driving home from a show.
Let’s start with…Joe & Eddie blew me out of the water. I liked nearly every song on this live LP. I’ve discovered many a new group while perusing the vinyl bins, but I’m very excited by Joe Gilbert (tenor) and Eddie Brown’s (baritone) There’s A Meetin’ Here Tonite (GNP Crescendo GNP 86, vinyl only!). Their gospel roots, combined with the folk movement in this time period meld beautifully. You can hear the church choir in their melody and harmonies, but don’t misunderstand, this is a very 1960s sounding pair. For example, take the opener, There’s A Meetin’ Here Tonite. Any song that repeats the same line some 42 times is probably in trouble, but not on this glorious rendition of this Bob Gibson penned tune. Joe & Eddie are so ebullient, so wonderful in their harmonies that you can’t help but snap your fingers or clap your hands along with them. You never tire of the lyric, because their performance is that good…and a perfect introduction for the uninitiated, of what is to come.
It isn’t just their harmonies, however. It’s the interplay, the jazz-like improvisational qualities the two men display with such ease, that separates them from other groups who sing well. Most harmonies are sung in unison with the melody, but there are plenty of times when they remind me of the joyous cacophony of a New Orleans jazz band. A melding of multiple instruments that never interfere and in fact, sound better together than apart.
My fave is Lerner and Lowe’s Mariah, from the Hollywood movie, Paint Your Wagon. The tune starts out slowly a capella, then quickly picks up the pace and sounds like the show tune that it is. I wasn’t sure I liked this version of the song at first. But verse two turns the chords minorish rather than the original upbeat, and it changes the feeling. Then, holy cow, verse three comes along and Joe Gilbert’s tenor takes over. Mariah closes with a call and response that mirrors the duo’s gospel roots and takes this rarely covered song into the stratosphere, if ever briefly. You don’t want it end. Always leave ’em wanting more certainly applies here.
How often has the end of the B side been the stuff of…the end of the B side? Not here. Check out Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, the second to last song on this LP. A story well told is this song and if the lyrics came from a book, you’d want to read it. I can’t explain well enough how well these two sing together. There are plenty of great 1960s groups famous for their harmonies; I believe Joe & Eddie would be the envy of them all. Both men turn a lyric into a wonderful, believable thing.
And you just know…you just know you’ve heard the angels sing.
60s groups that are comparable? The blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers comes slightly to mind. The gospel-tinged harmonies of the Chambers Brothers, too. Maybe if Marvin Gaye had a baritone for a brother.
The vinyl I bought for two bucks was clean enough and the recording quality of this live set is good, if a little light in the bass area. Not surprising given the time it was recorded. Does is sound like it was recorded yesterday? Nah. Regardless, the vinyl is quite listenable. There is no CD available of this particular LP, but a “Best of” compilation CD is.
A crime that this pair isn’t better known, but I suspect Gilbert’s early death put an end to any chance that 50 years later, the public would be clamoring to still hear them. Singer-songwriter Paul Hansen was the opening act for many of J&E’s shows and shed a little light on J&E. “They were indeed unique, powerful and exciting and like I said, two really nice men,” Hansen said in a 2013 email. “There was a lot of dope use among performers at that time but Joe and Eddie were very straight and didn’t indulge in any of that.” Apparently Gilbert’s was a single car accident with no alcohol or drugs involved.
I pride myself on having some knowledge of most of the musicians from this time period, but here’s an example of extremely worthwhile music sitting in the dusty bins of used record stores, waiting for no one.
Got one minute and 14 seconds? You can hear a brief medley of five songs from the LP!
Joe & Eddie: GNP Crescendo 75. Terrific first LP. Simple stories of hard work, sung like their hands got dirty in mid-song. Plenty of gospelish vibe, taken out of the church and onto the street, circa 1963.
The Magic Of Their Singing: GNP Crescendo 2012
Live In Hollywood: GNP Crescendo 2007.
Walking Down The Line: GNP Crescendo 2014. This LP is a little more pop oriented, and I don’t think it suits the two men quite as well. Interesting version of Sylvia Fricker’s You Were On My Mind, the big hit for We Five. A great guitarist, Louie Shelton, plays on most of these LPs.
Special thanks for contributing to this article: Paul Hansen / Neil Hogan / Keith Holland Guitar Hospital-Los Gatos, CA /