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The Chambers Brothers’ Lester Chambers discusses the new Moonalice EP

Lester Chambers is joined by his son Dylan in the full Moonalice entourage along with Pete Sears from Jefferson Starship, the T Sisters trio, and more
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GOLDMINE: Lester, it is wonderful talking with you. Congratulations on the new EP with the extended group Full Moonalice Vol. 1. It is a wonderful variety and a great sample of what you bring to your shows.

GM: Your photo of the full band, especially with Pete Sears in it, reminded me of the photo on the back cover of one of my all-time favorite albums, Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus with an entourage of male, female, black, and white musicians from California.

Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus back cover, Pete Sears bottom row left

Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus back cover, Pete Sears bottom row left

LC: We are quite a ten-person crew now.

Moonalice photo by Bob Minkin, back row: Roger McNamee, Jason Crosby, John Molo and Pete Sears, middle: Barry Sless, front row: Chloe, Erika and Rachel Tietjen, Lester and Dylan Chambers

Moonalice photo by Bob Minkin, back row: Roger McNamee, Jason Crosby, John Molo and Pete Sears, middle: Barry Sless, front row: Chloe, Erika and Rachel Tietjen, Lester and Dylan Chambers

GM: Let’s start with the opening number “Turn on Your Love Light,” celebrating the 60th anniversary of Bobby Bland’s Top 40 pop debut with this fun song and fun video. It is so up-tempo and has a wonderful call and response with the T Sisters, reminding me of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, with the female singers, Maryann Price and Naomi Ruth Eisenberg, who Dan Hicks nicknamed The Lickettes. The guitar, harmonica and piano are also great.

LC: I remember Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. We have a great group, having fun on this old song. Moonalice does it justice, with Dylan on lead vocals, who is sitting right next to me, a complete part of my life. Without him, there would be no Lester. It is a blessing every time we are on stage together, to look up and see my son looking at me and I am looking at him. I don’t know if anybody can imagine what kind of charismatic feeling comes from that. It is such a great moment and I get it two or three times a song. On “Turn on Your Love Light” he is electric!

GM: Yes. Dylan, your vocal delivery is powerful. I also learned from your recent interview quite a historical lesson about your family, sharecropping and oppression. It is wonderful having the two of you together. Thank you for continuing the Chambers family music tradition, which appeals to a wide audience.

DYLAN CHAMBERS: Absolutely. It is my pleasure. I was born to rock and roll, so that is what I am here to do.

Lester and Dylan Chambers from the video “Turn on Your Love Light”

Lester and Dylan Chambers from the video “Turn on Your Love Light”

GM: Next on the EP is “Woo Woo.” I like how it ends with a bit of “This Train” which I learned from Peter, Paul and Mary’s recording, also celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. T Sisters’ Rachel Tietjen told me, “T Sisters have been performing the song ‘Woo Woo’ for a number of years and I think the Moonalice version is the best use yet.”

LC: It is really fantastic. We have a great group of musicians. Barry Sless as our musical director is just incredible. He is very talented and very easy to work with. He makes great edits musically and lyrically. He is really good at that, and he is a hell of a guitarist.

GM: “Nick of Time” takes me back to Jefferson Starship again with Jason Crosby’s piano reminding me of “Count on Me.” Roger McNamee’s vocal delivery is soothing, and the T Sisters add a lot of beauty to the recording.

LC: T Sisters can bring it to any song.

GM: There are also three Chambers Brothers songs included. “Let’s Get Funky” did well in 1970 on the soul chart. I enjoy Pete Sears’ opening bass lines on this new version.

LC: “Let’s Get Funky” was an idea that I thought would get everybody dancing, like walking down the street and yelling across the street, “Yeah! Let’s get funky!” They would do that in the clubs too, “Hey bro, let’s get funky!” The beginning of it came from when I was nine or ten years old watching Mama cooking in the kitchen and then watching Dad’s response to her cooking, “Mama’s in her kitchen. She’s stirring in her pot. Daddy’s sitting, waiting. He wants to see what she’s got.” Dad knew that when she was in the kitchen, stirring in the pot, something good was coming up.

GM: With “Let’s Get Funky,” I was reminded a bit of your single “Uptown,” perhaps because I just watched Questlove’s Oscar and Grammy award winning documentary Summer of Soul, about Harlem in 1969. You are the first band featured in the film, performing this Betty Davis composition.

LC: We had such a great time at The Harlem Cultural Festival. It was well organized. All the artists who were chosen showed up to perform. It was a great summer of weekends filled with music. There were great artists and some of those performances will never be duplicated, now that some of the artists are gone.

Summer of Soul soundtrack back panel

Summer of Soul soundtrack back panel

GM: When I was ten years old, “Time Has Come Today” debuted on the radio and I loved it. There was a summer television series called Showcase ’68 and I remember seeing The 1910 Fruitgum Company, Sly & The Family Stone, and you when you performed “Time Has Come Today” on that show.

LC: The record company was promoting us. It was a perfect time for “Time Has Come Today” and I think it is a perfect time now as well as it was then. I am happy that we recorded the long version on the new EP, too. I think streaming should open up to that because sometimes you can’t get everything into a three-minute song that needs to be in it. “Time Has Come Today” done by Moonalice is very politically involved, with people hearing the words of the song and knowing that they do mean something.

GM: I love long songs because it gives musicians a chance to play, which is so true with the new nine-minute version of “Time Has Come Today” with John Molo’s drums and Barry Sless’ electric guitar on that song, which is just unbelievable.

LC: John is one of the most incredible drummers I have worked with. I can’t take credit away from Brian Keenan from our original group, but John is as great as Brian was. He brings in beautiful rhythms without interfering with the lyrics. It is wonderful. Barry and that group create a psychedelic soul sound which we mention in “Time Has Come Today” with the lyrics, “My soul has become ‘psychedelicized.’” Barry just took it all the way to the top with the way the band plays and it has that psychedelic moment in there. It is so warm, and the musicians are playing so well together. It is really wonderful.

GM: On the 1968 single for “Time Has Come Today,” the flip side was your version of The Impressions’ “People Get Ready.” I am so pleased you included this inspirational song on the new EP. Your harmonica is on there. It is smooth, soulful and soothing.

LC: Thank you. It is a wonderful song and a pleasure to sing every time we are on stage because it has such a great message for people to get ready. If you are walking, driving or flying it is so great to think of “People Get Ready” as well as “Time Has Come Today” as these are great thoughts to have in your mind as you travel through life.

Moonalice flip

Fabulous Flip Side: People Get Ready

A side: Time Has Come Today

Billboard Top 100 debut: August 10, 1968

Peak position: No. 11

Columbia 4-44414

GM: Let’s conclude with two more Chambers Brothers songs, not on the EP, that I grew up on. You taught me “I Can’t Turn You Loose” in 1968 and I enjoyed it so much. Your version of this song was the next single on Top 40 radio after “Time Has Come Today.”

LC: You learned it from us and we learned it from Otis Redding.

DC: Some people didn’t learn it until The Blues Brothers’ version years later.

GM: Another song which meant so much to me was “Love, Peace and Happiness.” The title alone made me want to buy the double album and there is a lot to it. The song “Love, Peace and Happiness” fills the entire second side and the second album in the set is named Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East with “People Get Ready” and “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” I have enjoyed your music for so many years.

Moonalice Happiness

LC: Well, thank you. We’ve got many years coming with Moonalice. We want the new EP to sound like we are right there with you. Thank you so much.

DC: Yes, thank you for enjoying our music and spreading with word to Goldmine readers.

Video: "Turn on Your Love Light" - Moonalice

Video: "Woo Woo" - Moonalice

Video: "Time Has Come Today" - Moonalice

Video: "People Get Ready" - Moonalice

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