Herman Hitson – Let The Gods Sing | Album Review

Herman Hitson – Let The Gods Sing

Big Legal Mess – 2022


9 tracks; 35 minutes

Now in his eightieth year, Herman Hitson has lived an interesting life. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Jacksonville, Florida, the young Herman started playing in a band in 1959. He met and played with Jimi Hendrix, at one time sharing a room, and Hitson is thought to be the person who encouraged Hendrix to sing. Sessions recorded with Hitson, Lonnie Youngblood and others were later released as being by Hendrix, whereas it seems that all the guitar parts were, in fact, Hitson’s. Hitson has played with a host of luminaries, a list that includes Bobby Womack, Garnett Mimms and Wilson Pickett, and has released occasional music in recent years from his current base in Atlanta. On this disc Hitson recorded in Memphis with Will Sexton on guitar, Mark Edgar Stuart on bass, Will McCarley on drums and Al Gamble on organ; Art Edmaiston adds horns to a few tunes and there is one cut on which there are backing vocals from Marcella Simien and guitar by Jack Oblivian. Hitson plays guitar, mainly in wah-wah style, and sings. There are several songs reprized from Hitson’s previous recordings, including two from the controversial Free Spirit sessions, once attributed to Hendrix.

The title track appeared on Free Spirit and here opens the album, funk and soul edging towards psychedelic rock with Hitson’s wah-wah guitar and spacey keys; the title is the one line chorus, otherwise it’s an instrumental piece. “Ain’t No Other Way” was a 70’s single and this remake takes us into James Brown territory, including a “sock it to me” interjection and some riffing horns in the background, as well as some discordant guitar. Hitson’s take on “Back Door Man” retains some of the sense of menace contained in Howling Wolf’s original version though the dominant, swirling keys take us more towards The Doors’ version on their eponymous debut album. “All I Want Is You” is an uptempo soulful tune with more fine organ work and a singalong chorus that gives it a 60’s sound whilst “Feast Of Ants” is an instrumental crafted in the studio and credited to Hitson, Sexton, McCarley and Stuart, a tune with a rather menacing feel from Hitson’s eerie wah-wah guitar.

“Suspicious” is another from the Free Spirit album, once thought to be sung by Hendrix. Hitson states that Jimi was on the session but played bass only. Here the strong core riff and wah-wah underpin the whole song, Hitson almost speaking the lyrics which clearly display a degree of paranoia about his lady. The strongest cut on the album, for this reviewer, was “Bad Girl”, originally released as a single in 1970 and written by Lee Moses; Hitson is well supported by the backing vocals, swirling organ and a fine horn chart which combine to drive the song along impressively. Hitson’s strained vocals work well on a song with a suitably menacing feel, “Stray Bullet”, which may be autobiographical and relate to the time when Hitson’s girlfriend was killed and he was initially arrested for the crime, later to be found entirely innocent. The album closes with another instrumental entitled “Yampertown Funk”, echoes of James Brown sitting alongside more wah-wah guitar and the horns/organ combo.

It is always good to hear a veteran musician getting the chance to record in the later stages of their career and Music Maker Foundation is to be congratulated on bringing Herman Hitson back to our attention.

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