music reviews

the time has come

by Jason A. Bermiller

The Chambers Brothers

"central and ground-breaking album in Psychedelic Soul, The Time Has Come stands as one of the most historically important sets of recordings"

"any listener with a passing understanding of the Woodstock generation will love Time Has Come"

The Time Has Come

by Jason A. Bermiller

Psychedelic Soul pioneers The Chambers Brothers exploded on the radio charts in November 1967 with their hit “Time Has Come Today”. Previously impressing crowds at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 with a gospel-infused folk style, the band forged ahead and evolved with the addition of drummer Brian Keenan, augmenting their style and adding a more aggressively electric approach to their experimental harmonies. The excitement that erupted from this new sound was partly influenced by Sly And The Family Stone’s album A Whole New Thing in October of 1967. The next month, The Chambers Brothers released The Time Has Come. Further emphasizing the connection between the two bands, and similar to many bands who were “paired” as musical foils in the 60s such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Chambers Brothers were openly compared to Sly And The Family Stone, not only because both bands were steeped in experimental use of harmonies fused into “Rock and Soul”, but also because both bands were multi-racial, performed primarily at Rock rather than Folk or Blues festivals, and both bands were pioneering a new genre. A central and ground-breaking album in Psychedelic Soul, The Time Has Come stands as one of the most historically important sets of recordings. Without The Chambers Brothers taking this musical leap into psychedelia, it’s arguable that The Temptations would never have released “Cloud Nine” in 1968, or “Runaway Child, Running Wild” and “Psychedelic Shack” in 1969. Prior to The Chamber Brothers and Sly And The Family Stone’s releases, The Supremes released the single “Reflections” in May of 1967, and that song is considered a fine example of early Motown Psychedelia. But The Supremes were not Soul; they were Pop. The Chamber Brothers were unique in their deeply psychedelic approach to Soul, rendering them a peculiar profile in music history. As a result, both The Chamber Brothers and Sly And The Family Stone are cited as influences for many famous bands, including Funkadelic.

The Time Has Come opens with “All Strung Out Over You”, an R & B gem that’s been deconstructed into the core bass line and graced by the harmonies that the Chambers had already been known for. The Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions classic “People Get Ready”, a traditional gospel song covered by many artists, both religious and secular, gets a full, respectful rendition. The production on this cut is especially bright, with drums as clear as water-droplets on a newly waxed car hood. The vocals ring out with the emotional force that The Chambers had established in their Gospel and Folk period.

A Chambers Brothers original, “I Can’t Stand It” delivers vibes reminiscent of The Temptations, but with surprisingly more sophistication in the harmonies than even Barry Gordy had orchestrated in the best of his productions at Hitsville, USA. Another Chambers Brothers original, “Romeo And Juliet”, could have been a Doo-Wop hit from about a decade earlier, if not for the bluesy guitar and laid back drum beat. “In The Midnight Hour”, the Wilson Pickett Classic soul piece, gets a full count-in with psychedelic freakishness leading into a loping instrumental accompaniment to a traditional soul vocal delivery. Unlike Pickett’s version, The Chambers Brothers exploit the “almost-Byrds” tone of twanging guitars to drive the melody. The concluding riffs are explosive. This very well could be the best cover of “The Midnight Hour” ever recorded.

Returning to a song recorded more than a year before the release of The Time Has Come, “So Tired” was already known by fans. A slow. harmonic lament reminiscent of many early soul ballads, “So Tired” stand as the one purely traditional track on the album. A highlight on the album, “Uptown”, another R & B gem, gets a full, electrifying treatment. The raw energy of this song is a hallmark of the vibrancy, the sheer power of The Chambers Brothers. An oft-overlooked Chambers Brothers tune, “Please Don’t Leave Me”, has some of the finest singing performances by the group. Carving a unique path through blues-gospel, “Please Don’t Leave Me” heralds back to the days when they performed at Roots and Folk Festivals.

The Burt Bacharach mega pop hit “What The World Needs Now Is Love” gets a full Chambers treatment on this album. With a funky bass line, Bacharach’s song gets one of the most soulful treatments the song will ever experience. Honestly, you cannot expect a more deeply soulful approach to Bacharach.

“Time Has Come Today”, the sprawling, psychedelic title track is the epic of the album. This song has so many moments that mark it as a psychedelic classic. From the dual cowbells and spare guitar opening, to the gritty, semi-psychotic lead vocals and chanting backing vocals, “Time Has Come Today” takes the listener on a full trip through the excitement, urgency and energy of the LSD-soaked psychedelic era. Slowing to half beats and utilizing echoes, the cowbells become eternal timepiece clicks that eventually bleed into a soup of ricocheting harmonic vocals, underlaid with a chorus of distorted, equally echoing guitars and pulsating bass guitar. It is the quintessential sound that we all think of when considering a hippy den drenched in LSD. “Time Has Come Today” stands as important a song as “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Interstellar Overdrive” or “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”.

The remainder of the remastered CD features mono singles that were previously unreleased. “Dinah” is the traditional song, done with gusto, but more a novelty piece than anything. “Falling In Love” has that clear blues pulse that The Chambers Brothers were known for prior to “Time Has Come Today”. “Love Me Like The Rain” has an almost Spector-like Wall-Of-Sound quality to the production. You almost expect The Wrecking Crew to be the accompanying band.

The final cut, “Time Has Come Today (Single Version One)” is the first single version of the full album version. It’s barely 3 minutes. So, the butchery is profound. Frankly, it’s a terrible, inauthentic version. The overall sound is muted, the vocals are too bright and the production is over-simplified. This is not an edit, but a full single recording. Why The Chambers Brothers decided to rerecord the song is obvious: no AM station in 1967 would dare play a song that was over 11 minutes, so they had to figure out how to trim it down. What’s especially disgusting is how the vocals are less “weird”, less emotionally charged, less openly defiant, less challenging… just, less. “My soul has been psychedelicized” gets delivered once in a flat, somewhat happy tone. It’s a record company’s destruction of a band’s vision. Thankfully, the “official” single version was a cleverly edited version drawn from the original recording, retaining some of the verve and emotion of the original album version, but not all of the sonic weirdness.

In all, the original album without the extra tracks keeps this remastered classic album well worth owning. Even if a listener has never been “psychedelicized”, I sense that any listener with a passing understanding of the Woodstock generation will love Time Has Come by The Chambers Brothers.

The Time Has Come

Artist: The Chambers Brothers
Album: Time Has Come
Release Date: November, 1967
Label: Columbia Records

George Chambers: Bass, Vocals
Joe Chambers: Guitar, Vocals
Lester Chambers: Harmonica, Vocals
Willie Chambers: Guitar, Vocals
Brian Keenan: Drums, Vocals

1. All Strung Out Over You, 2:30
2. People Get Ready, 3:52
3. I Can’t Stand It, 2:43
4. Romeo And Juliet, 4:32
5. In The Midnight Hour, 5:33
6. So Tired, 4:06
7. Uptown, 2:57
8. Please Don’t Leave Me, 3:01
9. What The World Needs Now Is Love, 3:20
10. Time Has Come Today, 11:07
(Extra Tracks)
11. Dinah, 2:24
12. Falling In Love, 2:19
13. Love Me Like The Rain, 2:51
14. Time Has Come Today (Single Version One), 3:52