Timmy Thomas: Why Can’t We Live Together (1972)

A real oddity this one. The title track was actually a huge hit in 1972, but the album quickly disappeared. So why is a million-seller on a silly blog focusing on underappreciated records? Because it’s so damn WEIRD. I’ve never heard an album that sounds quite like it: a primitive drum machine, seemingly random stabs of Hammond organ, and a gorgeous soulful voice. That’s it.
And that’s it for the whole album: ten tracks of plodding, brittle beats and haphazard improvised organ. There’s no variation whatsoever, bar some excruciating thunder sound effects on ‘In The Beginning’. The lyrics are stuffed with people-power platitudes, typified by the title track: “No matter what colour / You’re still my brother / Everybody wants to live together / Why can’t we live together?”. The production is rudimentary: I swear at one point the beat actually slows down, then speeds up again. But Thomas is an impassioned performer, and Why Can’t We Live Together is an endearingly eccentric package. And the more you think about it, the more revelatory it seems: every aesthetic decision taken by Thomas (who self-produced) was brave and innovative. This is one man’s peculiar vision, and it clearly wasn’t intended to spawn a hit single. It may not be an album you fall in love with immediately, but you may well learn to love its alien soundscapes.
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