I Travel Alone
By Ron HartJune 15, 2012
Long before they conquered American radio with their super corny smash "You Sexy Thing", London's Hot Chocolate were assumingly unaware that during their days recording singles for Apple Corps and being mentored by Mickie Most they shared their name with the funkiest group in Cleveland, Ohio at the time--led by one of the greatest voices to emerge from the Midwestern soul movement of the 1970s.
That one-time O'Jays road manager and Jet Magazine
delivery man Lou Ragland has spent the last quarter century as one of the longest running members of the iconic 30s doo wop outfit The Ink Spots is tantamount to his prowess as a singer. But his work in Hot Chocolate shows that his skills as a songwriter and composer should have placed him among the ranks of Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers, a notion whose case is made on the Numero Group's comely box set chronicling the salad days of the man they called "The Purveyor". I Travel Alone
is comprised of three CDs (or four LPs) and offers the completed works from that fertile era in Ragland's career. Included within is Hot Chocolate's eponymous seven-song debut (featuring cover art by the man behind the logo for the Cleveland Indians and highlighted by the epic 10-minute groove mover "Good for the Gander"), Lou's 1977 solo work Understand Each Other
, a previously unreleased 1973 live album from Hot Chocolate that features a relentlessly fuzzy rip through the other Hot Chocolate's hit from that same year "Brother Louie" and the priceless grab bag of a-sides, b-sides and collaborations he delivered in between.
If you have been following the trail of bread crumbs down the rabbit hole to Numero's rainbow bridge of underground soul classics, consider I Travel Alone to be one of the label's finest archival treasures to date. -Ron Hart