Cliff Nobles, The Phil-LA of Soul Singles Collection 1968-1972

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 08.09.11 in Reviews

Irony abounds in the career and subsequent reputation of vocalist Cliff Nobles. Though the instrumental credited to his name, “The Horse,” was one of 1968′s biggest summer hits (kept from the top slot by Hugh Masakela’s similarly without-words “Grazin’ In The Grass”), he didn’t appear on it. It was originally the b-side of “Love Is All Right,” merely the backing track for the a-side, though it showcased the horns of what would become the MFSB, the mainstay section of the Philly Sound. Nobles was also discovered by producer Jesse James singing in a Norristown, Pennsylvania, church (James’s modus operandi it would seem). Cliff had recorded a trio of vocal singles for Atlantic before his move to Phil-LA of Soul, and though his name was featured (the rest of the band was Benny Williams on bass, Bobby Tucker on lead guitar, and drummer Tony Soul), he seems to have been left behind when “Cliff Nobles” became known for instrumentals, including four-legged follow-ups like “Horse Fever” and “The Camel.” Which must have been frustrating for Cliff, since tracks like “The More I Do for You Baby” and “Burning Desire” are fine warblings in the Sam Cooke mode, and “Judge Baby I’m Back” roughens and toughens his delivery.