Nolan Porter had been through a lot in his short recording career. His records were billed as Nolan, Frederick II, and N.F. Porter, and his producer Gabriel Mekler's record companies (Lizard and Vulture) closed up shop. Mekler licensed Nolan's previous Lizard/Vulture recordings and new Nolan Porter material to ABC. It is important to note that ABC never signed Nolan Porter as an artist, but his licensed recordings appeared on the label in 1972 and 1973.
Mekler got Nolan Porter back into the studio in the middle of August 1972. The resulting sessions, which would prove to be Nolan's last for many years, produced the rockin' soul classics "If I Could Only Be Sure" and "Oh Baby," as well as Mekler's "Work It Out In The Morning" and the reggae/pop tune "Singer Man."
The best session performers were on hand to lay down these tracks: Clarence McDonald (keyboards), Jim Gordon (drums), Ray Pohlman (bass), Larry Carlton (guitar), Ron Elliott (guitar), Charles Owens (sax), Oscar Brashear (trumpet), and The Blackberries (backing vocals). The most notable player at these sessions was Johnny "Guitar" Watson, whose guitar lines helped make "If I Could Only Be Sure" a classic with rock and soul fans – especially Northern Soul fans in England. The song would be covered by the likes of Paul Weller (of The Jam and The Style Council). For some reason, "If I Could Only Be Sure" in its remixed single version sold poorly upon its release.
The album "Nolan" (finally credited to Nolan Porter) contained the four new songs above and stereo remixes of his Lizard and Vulture recordings. It was issued in late January 1973. Other than "Let's Burn Down The Cornfield," which was exactly the same as the "No Apologies" version, the mixes of the older material were noticeably different than their original releases. "Groovin' (Out On Life)" had a different vocal than the one released on the Vulture single. To generate additional interest in the album, the single "Singer Man"/ "Oh Baby" was issued in late May 1973. Neither the "Singer Man" single nor the album performed well, and Mekler's work with Nolan ended quietly.
Nolan Porter returned to the music scene in 1978 and 1980 to record two sets of tracks to attract some attention to his more modern songs. The 1978 sessions produced "Bird Without A Song," "Only A Thought Away," "It's Alright To Dream," a brilliant cover of Paul Simon's "Cloudy," and the country crossover song "City Lights." In 1980, Nolan Porter and Gordon Austin (co-writer of "Oh Baby") re-recorded "I Like What You Give" and "Oh Baby" along with "Every Little Move" and a surprisingly effective cover of The Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes" (one of the few ever attempted).
When nothing happened with all of these recordings, Nolan did not release anything for two decades. During the 1980s, Porter performed occasionally in places like Singapore, Bali and Alaska. In 1999, Nolan was asked by co-producer Jeffery Ward to do a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You" for the film "The Quickie." The track was recorded at GVS Studio in Van Nuys, California. After the film was completed in 2001, it went directly to DVD. Nolan Porter's vocal on "I Put A Spell On You" is so surprising that you can't believe it's him, but it is! Along with the tracks from 1978 and 1980, "I Put A Spell On You" officially debuts here.
Nolan Porter had met Frank Zappa's sister Patrice "Candy" Zappa around the time of "I Put A Spell On You," and they found that their voices worked very well together. In fact, the May 11, 1999 date of their meeting was one day after Nolan's 50th birthday. They put together a live revue called "Once A Legacy" in early 2000 and they continue to do live concerts for charity and for their fans. Their first show was on November 12, 2000 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center in Simi Valley, California.
Nolan and Candy did some vocals for Brian Hudson And The Popular Front's "Condoleeza Condoleeza" CD in 2004. This was followed up by recordings with Zappa "Cosmik Debris" author Greg Russo's group Neonfire. The Neonfire tracks were highlighted by the Nolan/Candy duet "Alive" and Nolan's emotive vocal on "Lying Down." Nolan Porter and Patrice Zappa made things official by getting married on April 28, 2007.
In addition to numerous charity performances with Candy Zappa, Nolan continues to record and perform as a solo act on both sides of the Atlantic, where he is in great demand. More recordings will follow!
CONCLUSION AND POSTSCRIPT:
Gabriel Mekler passed away in September 1977, leaving the entire Lizard/Vulture catalog unguarded. This has led to numerous unauthorized and/or unlicensed releases of Nolan Porter's material. With the Porterville Records releases of his entire output, those funny releases come to an end. The REAL DEAL is here and it sounds better than ever!
Remastered by Greg Russo. Special thanks to Mark Wheaton for tape transfers.
Here's the track listing:
- I Like What You Give
- Groovin' (Out On Life)
- Somebody's Gone (Mix #2)
- Work It Out In The Morning
- Oh Baby
- If I Could Only Be Sure
- Crazy Love
- Singer Man
- Let's Burn Down The Cornfield
- Keep On Keeping On
- If I Could Only Be Sure (Stereo Single Mix)
- Bird Without A Song (1978 Version)
- Only A Thought Away
- It's Alright To Dream
- City Lights
- What A Fool Believes
- Every Little Move
- I Like What You Give (1980 Version)
- Oh Baby (1980 Version)
- Bird Without A Song (1980 Version)
- I Put A Spell On You
- Lying Down
- Alive (AAA Mix)