Address Los Angeles, a new recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, explores the lesser-to-unknown corners of LA: be it an address, an artist, or a fleeting thought.
Of Libra III’s handful of releases, none compares to “Good Thing Going.” Credited to “Pryor’s Love” (whose only appearance, aside from this 7”, is credit on the smoother soul cut “Sailor on the Ghetto Sea” from J. Evans), it’s catchy and funky and, to boot, executes a great 17-note synth solo. “We gonna laugh while the others cry / gonna groove as time goes by / cause we got a good thing” is as simple, powerful and soulful as a declaration of the first love could be.
Libra III is almost entirely elusive (and we’re on the hunt for more info – so leave a comment). The writers of “Good Thing Going” were Robert Ramsey, who cut several tracks in Los Angeles, including for Kent (a label kept alive since the 1980s through a hefty reissue business operated by Ace Records out of the UK), and Ralph Williams, one of the songwriters on “Mr. Big Stuff” (and also, likely one of the bus riders we mentioned when addressing that session’s under-appreciated classic from Bonnie & Shelia). How they got together, and where they got together, is currently unknown. It was likely in Los Angeles, where the two Southerners had each replanted in the late 50s or early 60s.
The Libra III trail brings you to The Taft Building in Hollywood at 1680 N. Vine St.; one of the more historic buildings in the city. Once home to film greats like Charlie Chaplin, the Taft housed numerous record labels, subsidiaries, publishing firms and all manner of music related businesses from the 50s through 70s (and beyond). Suite 819 also housed one release for Castle Records (who otherwise used a Hollywood PO Box) for a rather sexist single by The Tropics, “Women’s Liberation.” Adding to the web of confusion is that the songs publisher, L. K. L. Music, is the same as “Sailor on the Ghetto Sea.”
Being credited as a “Product of Consolidated Record Labels” ties this release to Mel Alexander, a godfather of Los Angeles soul, who issued releases under many labels, but mostly under the “Kris” name. Alexander employed Ralph Williams at US Records, which listed the Taft Building as its address (but in a different suite…), according to blues legend Ray Brooks, who recorded several releases for various Alexander labels – including Castle.
Another release on Libra III was “Will I Ever Be Loved” by Ella Woods. If nothing else, that release definitively places Alexander and Williams at the center of whatever Libra III was – they’re listed as as “A&R.”
The last nugget to pick over tells us is that it was “Distributed” by Virco Records in Alhambra, CA. That business, seemingly seminal to an unknown number of artists around Los Angeles who sought to press their records without major label backing, is more notable for the FBI raid of its facility in an anti-piracy crackdown in late 1980 and numerous environmental violations throughout its operating years.
The trail goes seemingly dead in Suite 819, but a second release of “Good Thing Going” in 1976 (now credited to “Pryor’s Love & Star Struck”) shows an address due South of the Taft Building, in LA’s Mid-City, the ground-zero of African-American owned labels and related businesses. 3719 W. Pico is now an auto-parts store. That release was distributed by “WILD,” also of Mid-City, and perhaps of the same address. It was also, at times, the listed address for Essar Record Distributers (as well as “Essar Records”), who racked up a number of L.A. addresses before settling on a P.O. Box for much of it’s 20+ years in business. It’s likely Alexander used the storefront as one of his ever-changing bases of operation. Maybe it was practical, maybe it was a tax dodge.
And that’s all fine and dandy, but who was Pryor’s Love? words / b kramer