Graded on a Curve:
Lee Moses,
How Much Longer
Must I Wait? Singles
& Rarities 1965–1972

Many folks place singer and guitarist Lee Moses in the ranks of the worthy one-and-done artists, as he only managed a solitary full-length release, Time and Place, for Maple Records in 1971. However, deep soul fans likely know that starting in the mid-’60s, Moses cut a handful of smoking if obscure 45s for a few small labels; How Much Longer Must I Wait? Singles & Rarities 1965–1972 rounds up those platters, adds three unreleased songs, and is a soul lovers’ delight. It’s out now via Future Days Records with a red and tan color version available through Light in the Attic.

Aside from the three unreleased tracks, the music on How Much Longer Must I Wait? has been reissued before, specifically by Castle Productions roughly 12 years ago, though that label’s expanded Time and Place, which dropped this material onto a second LP, has been selling for stupid money for a good long while. As Future Days has kept their wax reissue of Moses’ sole LP in print since reissuing it back in 2016, the inflated prices attached to the Castle edition should return (hypothetically, at least) to the realms of the sensible.

Lee Moses’ life has been described more than once as an enigma, but he’s far from a cipher. He was born in Atlanta and had a successful band there in the ’50s but moved to NYC in the middle of the following decade where he hooked up with producer Johnny Brantley and worked as a session musician. This included some material with Jimi Hendrix (released under Hendrix’s name as Moods).

The connection with Brantley helped Moses land his first single, “My Adorable One” (a Joe Simon tune) b/w “Diana (from N.Y.C.),” which came out on Lee John Records (the combined enterprise of Moses and Brantley, natch). According to some sources the record hit racks in 1967, though this LP says ’65; as Pat Thomas served as co-producer here, I’m going to assume this earlier date is correct.

“My Adorable One” establishes the template of tough-throated belting, prominent in-the-pocket guitar and Southern grit heft, while the flip, in relating the man’s move up north, ups the melody, increases the emphasis on horns and then kicks the raw testifying into overdrive. A fine recipe, but another appealing aspect of Moses’ stuff is the undeniable on-a-budget quality. This ambience extends to but doesn’t dominate the instrumental disc “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” b/w “Day Tripper,” the first of three 45s for the Musicor label.

Covers of the Four Tops and the Fab Four may read like a no big deal sorta single, but Moses’ guitar playing is sharp and the band is in a sweet groove, including a drummer who really enjoyed giving his kit a workout. And since Otis Redding basically owned the flip in a vocally soulful context, the choice to not sing made total sense.

The disc is also a fine prelude into what might be the pinnacle of his discography, the double-sided whammy of “Bad Girl,” dished across both sides of the 45 in two distinct parts. Moses’ emotionalism is perfectly calibrated, his guitar sustains a comparable level of oomph, the drums are getting a sweet beating, the bass playing adds depth, and the horns charts swing in just right.

People, it’s an utter gem, and its follow-up, his last for Musicor, “I’m Sad About It” b/w “How Much Longer (Must I Wait?)” isn’t far behind, in part for how the A-side delivers a terrific instrumental shift at the 90-second mark; if sorta throwing back to soul/R&B from earlier in the decade, the song just sounds killer today. “I’m Sad About It” does insinuate that maybe one reason for Moses’ lack of success was that he wasn’t necessarily on the cutting-edge, but on the other hand, both of these compositions were his own, and as strong songs, they underscore how he never succumbed to stylistic desperation.

Furthermore, his unreleased cuts are fully up to snuff. The first of them, “You Are too Much for the Human Heart,” sounds like it’s of ’67 vintage, possibly the byproduct of the same band heard on the Musicor 45s, and it attains an atmosphere reminding me very much of prime Stax. Next in the sequence and beginning side two is Moses’ sole 45 for the Dynamo label, here dated to ’68.

While “If Loving You is a Crime (I’ll Always be Guilty)” doesn’t hit as hard instrumentally as the Musicor stuff, the guitar is sharp, the horn section is rich, and the singing is powerful. It’s an undertaking of warmth, but if it’s a full-on heater you want, “Never in My Life” will take care of that need, establishing a wicked groove early and then letting it ride, with the results bringing to mind the verve-sweat of later ’60s James Brown injected with just a touch of the moxie heard on those early Meters’ singles.

Jumping ahead to 1970, “I Can’t Take No Chances,” which served as the flip to “Time and Place” as issued by the Front Page label, adds a bit of finesse into the overall equation courtesy of some well-judged backing voices. This facet really accents the dawning of a new decade and leads right to the doorstep of Time and Place, though the tracks following it chronologically hold nary a disappointment and further highlight Moses’ adaptability and sheer range.

That is, his single for the Gates label holds up well, partly because the grand sweep of the funky revue-styled B-side “She’s a Bad Girl” transcends a mere revamping of an earlier tune to sound very much like 1972. The plug side of the 45 is the oft-covered nugget “Dark End of the Street,” which if not eclipsing James Carr’s version, is quite worthwhile and pairs well with the unreleased “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man,” a tune well-known through readings by Carr and Percy Sledge.

“What Do You Do?” is an ample dose of soul blues that again through a lack of production slickness which extends across both sides of How Much Longer Must I Wait?, connects as potent (think prime Buddy Guy) rather than overly sophisto. It drives home that Moses was a major talent who recorded far too seldom. It’s a shame, though the return to availability of his early work eases the unpleasantness of this circumstance considerably, if temporarily. For anyone who digs classic soul, it’s a must listen.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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