Liner Note Author: Tony Rounce.
Illustrators: Ady Croasdell; Tony Rounce.
The Independents had one indelible hit, the silken "Leaving Me," which topped Billboard's Black Singles charts in 1973. "Leaving Me" shows up often on '70s soul compilations, its frequency implying that the Chicago-based harmony quartet was a one-hit wonder -- a situation not helped by the utter lack of digital-age compilations. Prior to 2016, the only Independents CD was a quickie Collectables released in their Golden Classics series in 1991, so Ace's comprehensive set Just as Long: The Complete Wand Recordings 1972-1974 is quite welcome, not only because it's the first of its kind but because it restores the reputation of this smooth soul group. The Independents had three other singles that placed in the Black Singles Top 10 -- "Just as Long as You Need Me, Pt. 1" in 1972, "Baby I've Been Missing You" in 1973, "Let This Be a Lesson to You" in 1974 -- and a few other 45s fell into the Top 20 ("It's All Over," "Arise and Shine (Let's Get It On)," "The First Time We Met"), and they're all here, alongside album tracks. Almost all of these were written by co-leaders Chuck Jackson -- not the "Any Day Now" soul singer, who confusingly also recorded for Wand in the '60s -- and Marvin Yancy, sometimes under the pseudonyms Jimmie Jiles and Maurice Barge. Veterans of Jerry Butler's Writers Workshop -- Jackson wrote the R&B hits "If It's Real What I Feel" and "Walk Easy My Son" for the Chicago soul star -- Jackson and Butler were fine craftsman, specializing in smoothness but occasionally pushing the tempo toward proto-disco, along with roping in elements of blues and the church. All this provides for a fine foundation for the Independents to layer their gorgeous harmonies. Jackson and Yancy traded leads with Helen Curry and Maurice Jackson (not a relation to Chuck; however, Chuck is the half-brother of Rev. Jesse Jackson) until Yancy decided he wanted to stay in the studio and not tour. Eric Thomas filled his role, and the remarkable thing about Just as Long is how all five voices feel interlocked; nobody hogs the spotlight, they all complement and harmonize with ease. This graceful touch underscores the elegance of the Independents: the craft of their construction and performance was so fine, it seemed effortless. That much was evident from "Leaving Me," but Just as Long illustrates how deep their talents truly ran. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine