Sunny & The Sunliners - Mr. Brown Eyed Soul
When it comes to living legends in the Texas and Latin Music pantheon, few have been at it longer and are more revered by their fans and peers than soul vocalist and Mexican-American songwriter and bandleader Sunny Ozuna. Born and raised in San Antonio, where he still resides, Sunny became a star right out of high school in the late ‘50s and hasn’t looked back in the six decades since. Among countless other honors and notable achievements, Sunny was the first Latino artist to appear on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” (in 1963). Songs like “Put Me In Jail,” “Talk To Me,” “Should I Take You Home,” “My Dream” and “Smile Now, Cry Later” still bring crowds to their feet throughout the Southwest and California and around the world at “oldies” and “lowrider soul” events. And after releasing dozens of albums since the mid-1960s (in Spanish and English), Sunny still keeps a busy schedule and loves performing as much as he did as a teenager. His classic 45s regularly change hands for hundreds of dollars among collectors around the world, affirming his timeless appeal. This new compilation on Brooklyn’s acclaimed Big Crown label – home to Lee Fields, Lady Wray, The El Michels Affair and many more – is a lovingly curated selection of songs from the years 1966 to 1972. All compositions were originally released on Sunny’s Key-Loc label, formed after his national star had been established, so he could have control of his own musical destiny. “For me the reason why Sunny is important is very simple,” says Big Crown’s Danny Akalepse. “He contributed all this great music to the world, but that is just scratching the surface. He’s a huge part of the Tejano music scene and one of its creators. And he started his own label in the ‘60s, they did everything in house. As an indie label ourselves, this hits home for us for obvious reasons.” Akalepse continues, “Getting to work with the Ozunas on this release – and we have more you’ll be hearing in the future – has been a real dream come true. And I think we have done a good job re-introducing this music to the world. I hope fans new and old love it as much as we do.” Sunny Ozuna first started performing as a vocalist in the late 1950s with high school bands including The Sequence and The Galaxies. By the early ‘60s he joined the Sun-Glows (also spelled Sunglows), penning their first big hit, “Just A Moment.” By 1962 Sunny had formed The Sunliners and recorded his first national hit, the Huey Meaux-produced “Talk To Me,” released on Meaux’s Tear Drop label. The popularity of the song brought him to stages around the country, including a pioneering 1963 slot on “American Bandstand.” Ozuna recorded multiple albums for Meaux on Tear Drop through 1966, at which point he formed his own imprint – Key-Loc Records. For the rest of the 1960s and the 1970s, his output – in English and Spanish – would be found here. This compilation is drawn from those years, which were arguably Sunny’s most influential and prolific. As Danny Akalepse explains about the Ozuna-approved tracklist, “We chose our own Sunny favorites and laid everything out so the LP would be a great listen, first and foremost. There are several cuts on here that I have played out and loved – as a DJ and record fanatic – for many, many years. ‘Mr. Brown Eyed Soul’ is not necessarily a ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation, although it obviously has a bunch of them on here. In the end, this is our take on the crème-de-la-creme of Sunny’s English language soul tunes.” Sunny Ozuna remains popular and active as a performer throughout the South, Southwest and in California, and songs like “Smile Now, Cry Later” and “Forever” are essential classics, not only amongst record collectors and “oldies” fans, but he also commands fierce loyalty in the “lowrider” scene epicentered in Southern California. As proof, hundreds of “Smile Now, Cry Later” tattoos adorn the bodies of devotees around the world. With Sunny hits – a mix of originals and some great covers thrown in – ranging from ballads like “My Dream,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and “Outside Looking In”; to mid-tempo soul groovers “Should I Take You Home,” “Put Me In Jail” and “The One Who’s Hurting Is You”; and the ultra funky “Get Down”; Mr. Brown Eyed Soul is an excellent celebration of Ozuna’s amazing body of work, and a perfect introduction to Sunny for newcomers. Lovingly chosen by the owners of Big Crown and in full collaboration and cooperation with Ozuna himself, the CD and LP packaging includes liner notes by Texas Music scholar and archivist Ramon Hernandez, and features dozens of rare photos provided by Sunny himself.