An immense record, Saturday Night Special‘s reputation in jazz, psych, and funk circles is completely deserved. Long considered a holy grail amongst record collectors, copies of the rare-as-hen’s- teeth LP typically changed hands for upward of two hundred dollars, before being reissued by Wax Poetics Records in 2009.
Saturday Night Special was tracked in two sessions. First, keyboardist Lyman Woodard, guitarist Ron English, and drummer Leonard King laid the foundations on a Teac 4-track tape machine at the Strata Gallery. Woodard played the bass lines on the Hammond organ with his feet and left hand, while complementing or leading with his right. When a Woodard composition favored the sophisticated sound of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, English switched to electric bass, his imaginative picking revealing his origins as a guitar player.
The second session came nearly two years later. By then, Strata Gallery had acquired a 16-track mobile recording facility, which they literally backed into the existing space. Furthermore, saxophonist Norma Jean Bell had joined the Lyman Woodard Trio, necessitating a name-change to the Lyman Woodard Organization. Bell’s key contribution to Saturday Night Special is her sultry playing on “Joy Road.” To top the album off, Woodard borrowed a Mellotron, a primitive synthesizer stocked with prerecorded tape loops (famously used by The Beatles on “Strawberry Fields Forever”) to give the illusion that a high-budget string section was present for these scrappy sessions.
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