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  One of the most remarkable soul singers of our time, Ali Ollie Woodson, has been singing with Dennis Edwards’ Temptation Review for one year now, but before that he was engaged in various music ventures for over forty years.  I first interviewed him for our # 4/2001 printed magazine, and you can read that feature here first.  It is followed by a recent update.


During the last five years Ali has made guest appearances on at least eight albums.  On a CD titled Lyrical Welfare (Warlock 2852; ‘01) by a southern rap artist named Chocolate Bandit Ali appears on a rap beater called Gotta Have It.  “A good friend of mine, Reggie Moore (the producer), brought me in on the project to make up some stuff, and that’s how it turned out to be.”

Next year Ali does some ad-libs on a track called Harambee from Helen Baylor’s CD, My Everything (Diadem 10682; ’02), and sticking to the gospel field he contributes on a slow song named Center Of My Joy, which is included on an album titled Expectations – I’ll Praise (Bajada 7701; ’03) by Straight Gate Mass Choir.  “Whenever I’m in Detroit, I would always go by the Straight Gate Church to see Bishop Merritt, a good friend of mine.  When I come to the church, they would always ask me to sing a song.  One Sunday I sang that particular song, and the next thing I knew they had recorded it, unbeknownst to me.  They have a big recording studio in the church to record their services.  They thought that the song I did was so good that they decided to keep it, mix it and put it on the album.”

  It’s Not So Easy ( 80000; ’03), a critically acclaimed CD by Juewett Bostick, has two songs with Ali’s vocals them.  One is You Need Love, a fascinating mid-tempo floater, and the other one is What Will I Do, a classy beat ballad and a duet with Jean Carn.  “They’re through the producer Norman Connors.  He brought me in on that project.  We started out doing some demos, and one thing led to another.  They brought in Jean Carn and another girl, Denise Stewart, one of the background singers, and it turned into an album.  It’s like a compilation album with different artists on it.  I did What Will I Do with Denise first, and they later put Jean Carn’s voice on it.”


  Rizen ( used to be a four girl group out of Saginaw, Michigan, performing contemporary gospel music, but these days the line-up is down to three.  On their self-titled debut CD (Light 5517; ‘03) Ali leads on an inspired, big-voiced ballad called Take Care of Me, and literally takes you to church.  “I was brought in by a producer out of Nashville, Tennessee, by the name of Sanchez Harley.  I’ve done a lot of work with Sanchez over the years and recorded a lot of songs with him.  This was another demo he wanted me to sing, kind of help the song along.  Then I found out it turned into a song for the Rizen album.  They liked what I did.  It was solo first.  Then they brought the girl in to sing the second verse part, and it turned into a good record.”

  On a recent Whispers album, For Your Ears Only (Satin Tie Productions 2503; ’06), there’s one slow song, Can I Get Next To you, that was written by Mr. Woodson.  “I wrote that song in New York City back in 1981.  I just kept it over the years, nurtured it and then I put it on my album, Right Here All Along.  The Whispers heard it and wanted to put it on their new album.”

  Turning again into a “rapper’s delight”, Ali visits on two tracks on Lil Bobb’e Bling’s CD, I’ll Always Love My Momma (Da Pit Bull Kat 34101; ’06), on a mid-tempo title track and on a pretty slowie called Everything To Me.  “That came through his uncle and a producer friend of mine, Preston Glass.  My daughter, Aliah, is on I’ll Always Love My Mama, too.  It started out as a demo that turned into a record.  I’ve done a lot of records with Preston, and this was just another project that we were doing, and it turned into an album.  Bobb’e Bling is an actor, too.  He’s regularly on tv, and he was in the movie, Idlewild.  He’s around eleven now, turning twelve.”


  Ali sings the opening song, A Christmas to Remember, on a compilation titled New Modern Christmas Classics (Honey Cat Tunes; ’05), and this beautiful, slightly jazzy slowie is the best song among a rather mixed lot.  “The executive producer, Diana Williamson, contacted me and told me there was a contest for writers to write Christmas songs, and the chosen songs will be put on an album.  I kind of stayed away from it, but at the last minute agreed to do it.  There was a choice of three songs for me to sing, and out of those three one stuck out, A Christmas to Remember.  There’s something about the melody of that song that I like.  I did my own thing to it, and it sounded pretty good.  Diana Williamson took it Jeff Lorber, a famous jazz musician.  He did the music, and it just turned out phenomenal.  We hope it will become a classic.”

  No matter how many times Ali Ollie chooses to visit on other artists’ albums, our biggest desire is to get a whole new CD from the man himself.  “We just recorded a song R. Kelly wrote for me called Heaven Told You to Be My Valentine… and I’m working on a new album.  I did record some gospel songs and put them on an album, but I’ve been just circulating it for the churches.  It’s titled He Died.  I got to reproduce the album, because a lot of people are requesting it.  Maybe I’ll put it on the internet” ( 

  When discussing gospel, I asked earlier David Sea’s opinion about the recent Temptation Review CD, Look What the Lord has done (my interview with David at and now I repeated the same question to Mr. Woodson.  “Personally I don’t like it, but it got started before I got into the group.”  Ali Ollie joined Dennis’ group a year ago.  “I had sung with him before, after I had left Otis’ group.  I got with Dennis back in ’96 – ’97.  We did a tour in South Africa, and then we did a tour in England.  Then I created the Emperors of Soul.  After that Ben Crosby, Dennis’ manager, called me and wanted me to join the group.  I thought it was a good idea, and that’s what I did.”

“The Emperors of Soul are scattered. I still own the name, but Richard Street wasn’t able to play in it anymore, so he branched off and got his own group. I brought Richard in the Emperors of Soul in 1996.  I got some new guys for awhile, but it’s hard work, when you have to do all these things – bookings, business side, all that.  It’s not an easy task.  I’m glad that Dennis came along, so I don’t have to do all that work.”


  Ali was diagnosed with throat cancer a few years ago, but now he’s in good health.  Everybody hasn’t been so lucky.  Recently Ali sang at James Brown’s funeral.  “James Brown is my real godfather.  About three or four years ago he made me his godson.  We ran into each other from time to time on the road, and we were supposed to come to Connecticut, where we were to do a show.  The next thing we knew, we got a call that he had passed away.  So I got with Mr. Bobbit, his manager.  They brought his body to New York, to Apollo, and then we went down to Augusta.  That’s where I sang Walk around Heaven All Day.

  The latest disc you can hear Ali’s singing on is a much-anticipated double-CD titled A Soulful Tale of Two Cities, Detroit artists doing classic Philly music and vice versa.  “When we were in Detroit, I got the word that they wanted Dennis Edwards and myself to do it.  They couldn’t get in touch with Dennis and they couldn’t get Dennis’ manager to agree, and by me not being under his management I was able to make my own decisions.  So I agreed to do it.  When I got into the studio, there weren’t several songs to choose from, and those are the ones I got a chance to sing” (Ain’t No Stopping Us Now and For the Love of Money). Those were great sessions.”

(Acknowledgements to Mr. Woodson, SisDetroit and Marva).

Heikki Suosalo

Photos courtesy of Ali-Ollie Woodson