Before West Coast singer Frank Polk recorded the series of solo 45s for Capitol that have such high currency on the Northern soul scene, he recorded a couple of obscure duets with James Matthew which I really like. They followed in the great Los Angeles tradition of male duos like Marvin & Johnny and Don & Dewey, and made their 45s when R & B was just turning into soul. Both the melodic bluesy Make Up Your Mind and the smoother This Love Of Mine feature Polk’s silky tenor and some terrific harmonies. I’m a real sucker for music of this sort and will continue to feature it when I can.
As a solo artist Polk cut five singles for Capitol under the direction of producer David Axelrod. All ten sides are very well sung – he was a master of timing – but most of the songs themselves and many of the treatments aren’t to my taste at all. Northern soul dancers like the pounding “Love Is Dangerous” and the trite “Do The Jerk” is in the same bag. I’d say the pick of his uptempo material is “High Wide And Handsome” thanks to its superior melody. “Trying To Keep Up With The Joneses” adds a little funky edge, but Polk sounded most at home to me on the big city ballads like the fine “Years Of Tears”, “True Love” and the Drifters styled “In The Ring”. But my favourite Polk tracks are “Welcome Home Baby”, a chugging beat ballad with some tasteful doo wop styled background singers, and Cracking Up Laughing. This is by far his best straight ballad, a mournful, almost bluesy number which has been well arranged and presented.
After these Capitol sides Polk doesn’t seem to have made any further recordings sadly.
As POLK & MATTHEW
Make up your mind / Put out the fire ~ HY-TONE 300 (early 60s)
As POLK & JAMES
This love of mine / Pretty little girl ~ FILM CITY 100 (early 60s)
As FRANK POLK
High wide and handsome / True love ~ CAPITOL 5248 (1964)
Do the jerk / Years of tears ~ CAPITOL 5303 (1964)
Trying to keep up with the Joneses / Welcome home baby ~ CAPITOL 5387 (1965)
Crack up laughing / In the ring ~ CAPITOL 5442 (1965)
I am your man / Love is dangerous ~ CAPITOL 5581 (1966)
Note ~ Does anybody know whether or not the James Matthew who cut with Frank Polk is the same guy who recorded in Cincinnati for the Movin' Soothin' Stone Funk Band and Joy Incoporated? I don't think he is.