Although singer/guitarist/songwriter Aalon Butler is far from a major name in either soul or rock, serious connoisseurs of '70s music may remember him for backing British singer Eric Burdon and for briefly leading his own band, Aalon. Butler is a resident of Los Angeles, where he recorded an obscure single titled "Gettin' Soul, Pts. 1-2" (released under the name Aalon Butler & the New Breed Band) before hooking up with singer Burdon in 1973. Burdon is best known for his years as the lead singer of the Animals, one of the top British Invasion rock groups of the '60s remembered for major hits like "We Got to Get Out of This Place," "Don't Bring Me Down," "House of the Rising Sun," and "It's My Life" -- and after the Animals' breakup in 1969, Burdon moved to southern California and spent a few years with the L.A.-based funk-soul powerhouse War (whose manager, Jerry Goldstein, also managed Aalon).

Burdon, in fact, appeared on War's Latin-influenced breakthrough single, "Spill the Wine," but he left War at the height of their popularity in 1971 and went on to form the Eric Burdon Band. Butler was an excellent choice for Burdon's guitarist because, like Burdon, he was someone who held rock and R&B in equally high regard and enjoyed combining the two -- the fact that the Animals had been a rock band with soul and blues influences and War was a soul-funk band with rock influences obviously wasn't lost on Butler when he joined forces with Burdon.

Butler's interest in blending soul and rock continued after he left Burdon's employ and, in 1976, formed Aalon, whose members included Juan Luis Cabaza on keyboards, Luther Rabb on bass, and Ron Hammond on drums. Aalon signed with Arista Records, and in 1977 recorded their debut album, Cream City, which Goldstein produced. On Cream City, Butler did more than play guitar -- he provided all of the lead vocals and did much of the writing (with help from Goldstein on some songs). Underscoring Butler's appreciation of Sly & the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, Ike & Tina Turner, and the Isley Brothers (among others), Cream City was a soul-funk gem with a definite rock influence.

In a perfect world, Cream City would have made Butler as much of a superstar as Prince, Larry Graham, George Clinton, or Rick James, but regrettably, the 1977 release wasn't the major hit it deserved to be; some have speculated that Aalon might have been too funky for rock stations and too rock for R&B stations, although Butler's group didn't take the rock influence as far as, say, Mother's Finest. Butler's group never recorded a second album, although he continued to perform around Los Angeles in the late '70s and '80s. In 1996, Cream City was reissued on CD by Thump Records. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

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