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Soul Sundays: Ox-Bow Incident

April 25, 2010

Ox-Bow Incident – Reach Out (click on the song)

Many will recognize this tune as the Four Tops song from the ice-cream sundae laced daydreams of their youth (as far as I’m concerned every single person who lived in the 50s or 60s listened to oldies while eating sundaes at diners) or your local oldies station (in my case). Nothing could be a greater contrast to the almost regal quality of the Four Tops’ version (flute and all!) than this garage rock rendition by the Ox-Bow Incident.

Ox-Bow incident were formed in the early 1960s by a bunch of Brooklyn natives after seeing the Beatles play on Ed Sullivan. Their name comes from a film by of the same name from 1943. They recorded a couple of 45s in the mid-60s, but eventually moved on to greener pastures (though they apparently still play together to this day). There’s a nice history of them here and interview here.

Sonically, the song is fascinating. While I have about as good of an ear for music as Blind Willie McTell had an eye for paintings, I did notice that something curious was going on with distorted, wobbly vocals. There is this almost aggressive sound to them and when paired with lush, saturating organ it really makes for quite the match – it really brings out that garage charm. Naturally, I did what all people should do in such a situation and that’s consult with an expert. I happen to live with a recording engineer, my roommate, who informed that the vocals with being run Leslie speakers from a B3 organ (see below).

Lo and behold, I did a little research and in an interview they admitted that’s exactly what they were doing (not that I didn’t believe you, Sebastien). By running the vocals through the Leslie speaker you can get a sound based on what is called the Doppler Effect, which basically is caused by an acoustic horn that is spun around a loudspeaker causing the sound to spin in a circle. The result is your ears picks up the changes of volume and tone tied together — in layman’s terms it means the singer’s voice sounds like the sound an organ makes.

For the math fans – this might help with the Doppler Effect:

Photo source: Leslie Project

4 Comments leave one →
  1. George Napolitano permalink
    October 16, 2011 7:38 am

    Your roommate figured it out perfectly. The lead vocal was sung through a Leslie Speaker. At that time a song by Kenny Rogers, “What condition My Condition Is In” , was a hit and the engineers though that the vocal on Reach Out would have a nice quality if sung through the Leslie. We are just glad that the song has “lived” this long. George NapolitanoOx-Bow Incident

    • October 16, 2011 1:57 pm

      Hi George, Thanks for reading! I’ll let my buddy know he nailed it. The song is fantastic – a wondeful piece of rock history. Best regards, Jared.

  2. George Napolitano permalink
    February 19, 2012 12:37 am

    Hi! Once again thanks for helping our song “live”. It’s always a thrill to look back and listen to what we did as a group. While we never “made it”, thanks to you and others on the internet the Ox-Bow Incident lives on.

    • February 19, 2012 10:58 am

      Glad to have been of help with my modest blog. The music certainly lives on!

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