I'm not really sure whose name to put at the head of this page. I believe that this guy's real name was Larry Vivio Capel but in addition to Fox he used both Larry Hale and Larry Cappel on disc - as well as lead singing with the obscure African Beavers as well. In the end I've chosen Fox as being the best known of all his aliases. Knowing the way the record business operated it wouldn't surprise me at all if these name changes weren't to do with issues of a contractual nature - but whatever the name used he was a first rate soul singer with some excellent gospel based flourishes and a really gritty tone. He worked predominantly with arranger/producer Teddy Vann in the 60s although I understand that Fox broke with him due to a considerable difference of opinion on the writing credits of a lot of the material that was issued.
In the autobiographical "Grass Roots" (credited to Vann) he sings "I was born in a little town called ....in North Carolina" - now all I have to do is decipher the name of the town and I could let you know what it was! In any event he made his career in the music business in the Big Apple recording all his 45s there. Sorting them all out is almost impossible but the first discs would appear to be two Larry Hale ones. "In Front Of Her House" is a classic Drifters style Bert Berns Latin ballad and although Larry's vocal is competent enough his performance on the excellent There Is Something Else I Want To Do is of an altogether different league. This is a Motown styled group ballad has a good chord structure and some fine playing but the real highlight of the song is Larry's lovely pure vocal. The flip "I Broke Up Inside" is an easy paced beat ballad - nice too especially Larry's gritty vocal.
The two African Beaver 45s are high octane raucous R & B verging on rock 'n' roll rather than soul recordings, but I do have a soft spot for their version of Nappy Brown's "Night Time". Sadly the Diamond and Columbia 45s are forgettable. Both the Tri-Spin are no nonsense soul with Fox's throaty vocals well to the fore and fine productions by Jerry Coombs. Perhaps the most effective is the beaty Why Did You Lie with its good horn charts and a really convincing vocal performance. Better loved by the deep fraternity than these 45s is the excellent River Of Soul on which Fox's screaming voice is echoed by an unnamed female accompaniment and aided by a really well developed arrangement by Teddy Vann, with the piano and organ being especially tasteful. I've always been puzzled by the fact that this track is labelled "Part 1" on the disc but I've never yet found part 2. The flip "Hush Hush" is pretty good too. "Say What You Mean" has a great church opening before easing into a quality beat ballad.
But even better than this was the wonderful double sided 45 ESP" / Because. ESP is a cleverly constructed ballad beautifully sung by Fox in his highest register with so many great gospel touches and accompanied by soft brushed drums, a cooing chorus and some understated horns. A gem. Because is a splendid haunting tune superbly realised by Vann and graced with a really churchy Fox vocal - check out how he reaches those high notes so effortlessly. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this wasn't cut at the same sessions as "River Of Soul". The 45 first appeared on Curtis Mayfield's eponymous label before being picked up by distributor Calla for a re-release. Sadly the parent company left off "Because" replacing it with a funky track "Do It To It" which commands some respect on that scene. My session comment above also applies to the excellent Lean On Me whose chord changes are just perfect and which features another really first class gospel delivery from Fox.
Both the Blaster and Emerald City 45s were included on Tony's only album "The Beginning" on which he took over production chores. This has been in demand for quite a time for the dance cuts on it and - to be fair - tracks like the midpacer "I Wanna Get Next To You" and the disco cut "A Nite For Love" are melodic enough to get 5 stars from me. But even better are the waltz time A Tear Fell which is a lovely country ballad which features on his last two 45s, and "Love And Care" which is a thinly disguised "Try A Little Tenderness". But what in the end makes this a rather less than successful LP is the vocal restraint that Tony puts himself under. Perhaps I shouldn't expect the same high intensity from cuts dated in the early 80s as we had in the mid 60s.
Tony Fox never got that big hit but since when has that ever been a measure of talent? Because if songwriting ability and possessing a classic soul singer's voice were the arbiter then Fox would have been a superstar.
UPDATE ~ I'm grateful to Alan Wheway for the update to the discography.
In front of her house / Sometimes ~ UA 701 (1964) (as LARRY HALE)
I broke up inside / There's nothing else I want to do ~ FONTANA 1937 (1964) (as LARRY HALE)
Jungle fever / Find me baby ~ RCA 8595 (1965) (as THE AFRICAN BEAVERS)
Night time is the right time / You got love ~ RCA 8707 (1965) (as THE AFRICAN BEAVERS)
Once / Polly Wolly ~ DIAMOND 203 (1966) (as LARRY HALE)
Shout and do the duck / Inst ~ COLUMBIA 43513 (1966) (as LARRY HALE)
I've been searchin' / I've been there ~ TRI-SPIN 002/3 (instrumental flip by the JERRY COMBS BAND) (1966)
I've been searchin' / Why did you lie ~ TRI-SPIN 004 (1966)
Say what you mean mean what you say / Powerful love ~ MOON SHOT 6712 (1966)
I dream one day / Everybody's got a thing going on ~ TRI-SPIN 005/6 (1967??)
River of soul (Pt 1) / Hush hush ~ RCA 9088 (1967) (as LARRY CAPPEL)
Because / ESP ~ MAYFIELD 7715 (1967)
ESP / (I've got to) do it to it ~ CALLA 146 (1968)
Lean on me / Grass roots ~ CALLA 151 (1968)
One hell of a child / Love power ~ MERCURY 73188 (1971)
A tear fell / A night for love ~ BLASTER 501 (1981)
Love let love and be loved / I wanna get next to you ~ BLASTER 502 (1981)
Give it all up tonight / A tear fell ~ EMERALD CITY 7219 (1981)
The beginning ~ BLASTER 50142 (1981)
1. You can read about the Calla track "Do It To It" on Funky 16 corners here. Mind you I don't think it sounds too much like the Sandpebbles "Love Power". Heikki Suosalo adds that "Tony Fox's "Because" has the same backing track as the Sandpebbles Because of Love, and maybe that's why it remained unreleased. I'm not sure, though. But I think the Sandpebble's cut is a better one." I don't disagree at all with this opinion - I'm grateful to Heikki for pointing this out.
2. You can find "Outside of the house" on the Ace UK CD "Mr Success The Bert Berns Story Vol 2". "Do it to it" is on the long deleted AVI CD "Calla Records". You can find "Love let love and be loved" on the UK BBE CD "Soul Spectrum Vol 1". "Lean on me" is on the Westside CD "Doctor good soul" in the notes of which David Cole described the track as "never issued in the UK, it was enough of a US turntable hit to attract a UK cover version by Root & Jenny Jackson on Beacon (while) the great humming intro was also shamelessly ripped off by reggae megastars Toots & The Maytals on...'Pressure Drop'.""
Thanks very much to Takumi Kitamura and David Cole for additions to the discography, to Mr Fine Wine for suggesting a new soundclip, to Pete Nickols for new CD info and to Heikki Suosalo for his clarification of the Sandpeebles connection..