Albina Music Trust comes through once again with a beautiful previously unreleased LP from the Portland area and this time featuring The Legendary Beyons!
For over fifty years, The Legendary Beyons have delighted Portlanders with their music. And now, for the first time, their work has been documented in this high fidelity LP accompanied by a detailed oral history of the group. The album’s well-designed booklet features a range of archival photography, serving as a period piece for the uninitiated.
On the cover of this previously unreleased 1977 album, there’s an image that tells you nearly everything you need to know: four Black men, resplendent in custom-tailored suits, are working it with synchronized steps before the rushing falls of Portland’s Fourcourt Fountain. In their joyous faces is written a brotherhood that began when this core of singers—Jeddy Beasley, Thurtis Channel, James Tims, and Ira Hammon—endeavored to harmonize as The Legendary Beyons. The group’s presence in this image reveals the richness of their soulful, Motown-inspired vocal sound.
These songs are the culmination of a story that began when these young men began singing in the locker room after basketball games at Jefferson High School. As their reputation grew, The Beyons––with the help of a crack backing band featuring arranger Dan Brewster and The Soul Masters–aspired for greatness in Albina’s club scene. A litany of touring acts on the Chitlin Circuit stopped through the area, performing side-by-side with The Beyons: The Whispers, Bloodstone, Blue Magic…the list is deep. But without a local recording industry or sustainable income for gigging Black musicians, The Beyons never released a recording in their heyday.
This session represents a seasoned group roughly a decade into their career. It is their only 20th-century recording that has survived. These songs, ranging from the jazzed “Dreaming You In My Mind” to the quiet storm of sweet soul ballad “There We Were, Here We Are,” spotlight the group’s tightly knit harmonies––pleading, sensual, playful, and romantic. Meanwhile, album single “Love Notes” comes as a burst of energy and “Let’s Talk About Love” begets a cosmic intro calling upon Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle to assist in sharing the band’s take on a topic called L-O-V-E.
To put it simply: put this record on and look inside the jacket. There is a booklet with classic photography and an oral history that provides not only a snapshot of this great group but a well-portioned inquiry into the experiences of Portland’s Black musician community in historic Albina–a truly unique project from Albina Music Trust.