Lou Johnson “Park Avenue” (Big Hill 554-B, 1965)
Lou Johnson was perhaps the perfect African American vocalist to hand this chugging and charming aspiring capitalist dream to. Given that he had the vocal capabilities, but not necessarily the chart successes to back up his talents, this soaring ode to unlocking the key to Mainstream American Dreams circa 1965 seemed the perfect fit for his repertoire of Uptown Soul.
It’s far more Broadway Show Tune and Social Commentary; you listen to it and basically hear Walter Lee spouting dialogue to a imitation Bacharach/David arrangement, right down to Lou being a Chauffeur to a Wall Street Broker and striving for some semblance of that pie. Perhaps that’s what doomed it first to B-side status, then to relative obscurity. It’s one of the most beautiful, yet blatant wishes for economic parity of some sort in R&B music at the time. It’s also interesting that the desires are decidedly more urban than Suburban influenced; there’s little to no desire for the Levittown tract house and a Pontiac Catalina here. Perhaps big dreams are always found under the glitter of city lights, 50 years ago and even today.