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DEEP # 1/2006 (June 2006)

including new Southern soul indies, archive material, some literature and fresh interviews with Mighty Sam McClain, Lacee’ and Renea Mitchell, plus interviews from our vaults with Mel Waiters, Lee Shot Williams, Sheba Potts-Wright, J. Blackfoot, David Brinston and Irma Thomas.

  Many months have passed since I finished my column for our last printed issue, so some of the CD’s reviewed here are not brand-new, but in the future my aim is to keep intervals shorter.  Once again I’d like to remind our readers that although the column is called “Deep”, its main purpose is not to cover only deep soul but also new Southern soul, vintage issues and see how some of our respected “classic soul and prior” acts are doing.

MIGHTY SAM McCLAIN

  At the end of April this year April Jazz celebrated its 20th anniversary in my hometown of Espoo, Finland (www.apriljazz.fi).  One of the top performers at the festival was a frequent visitor to our shores, the ever-friendly Mr. Mighty Sam McClain, who again came up with a great and energetic performance.  Should he come to your neighbourhood, don’t miss the opportunity to witness a great show.  I reviewed Sam’s latest CD, Betcha Didn’t Know (on Mighty Music 102), last year and found it more varied than its predecessors.  Produced and arranged by Sam and Pat Herlehy and featuring accustomedly real live instruments with a strong horn section, there are four tight funky chuggers this time and three songs from the past (What You Want Me To Do, Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and Hold On To Your Dreams), which have been rearranged.  Sam also introduces some jazz elements and even rap, by Jesse “Apesh” Lannoo, but my personal favourite is a ballad, a pretty love song titled Just Wanna Be.  Sam is still looking for a nationwide and worldwide outlet for his record.

  Sam: “I recorded that CD in 2004, in September-October, just before I went to Russia and Turkey.  I’ve been sitting on it.  That’s why it’s not released yet.  I’ve been shopping this record around trying to get a bigger and better deal, trying to find somebody to really push it and promote it.  I can’t do it.  I don’t have the money.  I went in and recorded it.  I spent something like 35,000 dollars.  I have invested in this CD already.  I had 3,000 copies printed up.”

  The word about the quality of the CD gets around, and Sam has been contacted a few times already with the latest call coming from Nashville.  “I’ll be meeting with the Sony people in Nashville.  The people, who are putting some money in it, are going to have something to say about the content of the CD, of course.  And I’m going to let them say what they have to say, because they are putting some money behind me.  They told me they love it.  It fits right into what they’re doing.  Sony is creating another small label.”

  (One month later, at the end of May, Sam already had some good news to tell.  “Our visit to Nashville was fantastic!  I will be signing a recording contract and a publishing contract for my catalogue of songs.  The label is A&R, Inc.”).

  In the past Sam was known to deliver also some touching country & soul songs - which seem to return to favour these days – and they are still an option in his repertoire, but today his artistic goals are not necessarily only in that direction.  “As an artist I grow, and I’ve grown some.  My music has grown some.  People, who are my fans, either have to grow with me, or they have to get off the train.  I’ve noticed that artists, who had a whole bunch of fans with them, when they decided to do something a little different, a lot of the fans fell off the wagon.  They didn’t want to see him change.  I’m not that way.  I change.  If my fans can’t change with me, God bless them – I see them in the next life.”

  Sam is positive about the future of the music he does.  “Soul is on its way back.  That’s what I’ve been fighting for, because I’ve always fought against people trying to make me a blues singer, because I’m not a blues singer.  I sing blues, but I’m more or less a soul singer.” 

  “In today’s rhythm & blues I hear some stuff I like.  In hip-hop I hear a lot of positive stuff, but there’s also a lot of negative stuff.  It’ll be always like that.  Every generation brings on a new thing.  We better get used to excepting that.  I know some negative people, who are everyday working people.  They beat their wife, they are mean to their kids, they call women whores and bitches; hip-hop is just expressing the way it is.  In hip-hop they share what they know, what they hear, what they see in the neighbourhood.  That’s all they know, until they get shown something else.  Some of it is good, some of it is bad.”

  “As I said, soul is coming back a little.  The world keeps going around in circles.  That’s why I’m not too concerned, not too worried, because I know my time is coming.  God has not given me this voice for nothing.  Now I can sing anything I want.  I can sing country, gospel, hip-hop, blues – anything I choose to sing.  I didn’t give me this voice, so my voice is dedicated to God, first and foremost.”  (Our in-depth Mighty Sam story appeared in the # 3/98 printed issue of Soul Express.  Please visit also http://www.mightysam.com).

MEL WAITERS

  The first time I talked to Mel Waiters was in 1996 after his debut solo album, I’m Serious, came out on Seriousounds, and you can find that interview here.  After the follow-up, Suki-Suki Man (also on Serious Sounds in ’97; reviewed with an interview in our # 1/98 issue), Mel joined the Malaco company, and now his latest CD, Throw Back Days (WCD 2842; ‘06), is fifth in a row for the Waldoxy subsidiary (>www.malaco.com).

  All of Mel’s trademarks – a heavy and sharp (programmed) beat, a lot of saxophone and some testosterone-driven, masculine singing – are evident on party songs such as Half Pint, Ladies Party Night and How Do You Do It, not to mention a catchy cover of Lenny WilliamsI Like Your Sister (from Lenny’s Volt album, Love Therapy in 2000).  Another outside tune is a remake of Bump and Grind, a bluesy swayer Z.Z. Hill cut for his self-titled ’81 Malaco album, which here was produced by Vick Allen and Tommy Couch Jr.  The main producer and writer on this set is Mel himself.

  The title tune and current hit, Throw Back Days (produced by Bruce Billups), is a relaxed mid-pacer, loaded with nostalgia, and Friday Night Fish Fry belongs to the same bag.  Get It on Song is a moody ballad, whereas the rest of the slowies, Blues Radio and If He Don’t Care, raise the intensity to a higher level. (www.melwaiters.com).


LEE SHOT WILLIAMS

  Forty-four years have passed since Lee’s first single, and he’s still going on strong.  A couple of months ago he released his sixth Ecko CD, Starts With A “P” (Ecko 1080; 06; www.eckorecords.com).  You can read about Lee’s earlier career here from an interview conducted in 1997 during his visit to Finland.

  Produced by John Ward, the usual workshop of writers of John Cummings, Morris J. Williams, John Ward, Robert Smith and Raymond Moore is at work again.  Out of ten, they created eight songs, and the two outside bluesy renditions originate from the late 60s, early 70s – I Never Loved a Woman the Way I Love You (Aretha Franklin) and Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven (Albert King).  On those two you are treated to real live instruments.  The other two slowies on the set are Who’s Knockin’ Boots? and Why Am I Always at the End Of Our Love Line?, saddish introspections of a resigned man. 

  It’s Not What You Got, It’s What You Do with It is a light, mid-tempo ditty, while the title tune and Meat Man are more formulaic bouncers.  Of the dancers, You’ve Been Lying holds it back a little, whereas on It’s Your Party and You Don’t Have to Be a Freak to Do Freaky Things the tempo is as quick as it can get.  Do the listeners still need their everyday “freak?”

  “P” is not one of Lee’s best Ecko discs, and although I’m glad that Lee has found success I still find it hard to connect him with the roster of Ecko Records, since due to his earlier output I tend to count him as one of the heavyweights - in the traditional meaning of the word - leaning more to the blues and hardcore soul.  But, as stated, it’s only good to see him have a dance-floor hit every now and then.

SHEBA POTTS-WRIGHT

  I’ve always liked Sheba’s sensual voice, and although her fourth Ecko CD, Big Hand Man (Ecko 1078; ’06), isn’t her best it’s pleasant enough to get repeated spins in my player.  I talked to Sheba about her debut CD and preceding career in 2001, and her comments are available here.

  Lyric-wise Sheba is not about to abandon her “naughty Southern sex kitten” role – witness the title song, a thumping beater, or a blues romp called Private Fishing Hole and Don’t Get Yours Before I Get Mine, a mellow mid-pacer.

  The conscience-stricken Sheba gives her best “vulnerable woman” delivery on a slowie titled I Don’t Wanna Say Yes but I Can’t Say No, and the slow-to-mid-tempo If You Don’t Want My Love comes close.  Just For The Night and Knock On Wood are mid-paced floaters, while I Know You’re Missing Me, I Just Can’t Walk Away and Love Did It are all fast dancers.  The latter two may melody-wise remind you of David Ruffin’s Walk Away From Love and Syl Johnson’s We Did It. 


BARBARA CARR

  After her five-year fling, Barbara is back on Ecko with a rousing CD called Down Low Brother (Ecko 1081; ’06), and she is greeted with real instruments, including drums.  The opening cut, You’ve Got to Right the Wrong, is an infectious, captivating dancer with Y’all Know How to Party and You’re a Liar coming close behind.

  There are two bluesy stompers with interesting titles, the slower You Gonna Mess Around and Get Bit By My Dog Trying to Get to My Cat and a romp called Ain’t Nothing in the Streets That You Can’t Get at Home, but she shows still more determined side of her on such mid-pacers as Just Be A Woman About It and I’m Not Going Down Without A Fight.  Of the slowies, the swaying title tune makes the deepest impression.  Actually, this sounds like one of the best albums in Barbara’s career. (One source to purchase the CD is www.intodeepmusic.com).

J. BLACKFOOT

  John Colbert aka J. Blackfoot has hooked up with the Barkays boys, Larry Dodson and James Alexander, for his latest, delightfully soulful CD, It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over, on their JEA Right Now imprint (JEA 0011; ’06).  Actually, John had joined the Bar-Kays for the first time already in the late 60s, and his husky vocal contribution can be heard again on a toe-tapper called Long Time Comin’ on the group’s 2003 CD titled The Real Thing.  Produced by Larry and recorded in Memphis, much of John’s new solo CD is programmed, but his singing and background vocals (Lacee’, Ann Hines and Archie Love) are so magnificent that they more than make up for it.  I first talked to John way back in 1993, when we also had a cursory look at his career, and you can find it here.  (It’s far from being in-depth; for instance John Colbert’s 60s singles are not dealt with).

  Let’s start from the rock bottom.  The closing cut, If It Don’t Make Dollars – featuring the Barkays – is an awful rock-funk cut that even has that devilish invention I simply “adore” called vocoder in the mix.  The less I say about it, the better.  Then for the better things; a laid-back mid-pacer and a duet with Archie Love called Same Woman appeared already on Archie’s Sincerely Yours CD last year (reviewed with an interview for our # 2/2005 issue).  The title track is a brisk mover and has evolved into a small hit for John lately.  A melodic jogger called Just Can’t Tell Nobody and the pulsating Keep It in the House plus the joyous Stop, Drop & Roll over round up the uptempo supply.

  Picking up the Pieces and Man Made Love are slow swayers, L.O.V.E. and Let It Flow are easily flowing (pun intended) slowies, but vocally the most impressive ballad is I’m Just a Fool for You, an intense duet with Lenny Williams.  Stick to this CD, because it grows on you.


INTRODUCING… LACEE’

  The Songstress was the title of Anita Baker’s debut solo album in 1983 on Beverly Glen Records, and now it’s the title of Lacee’s first CD (Loveland Productions/Right Now Records, JEA 0013; ’06).  Produced by Archie Love and Sam Fallie, instrument-wise the set is heavily programmed.  Lacee’: “I had met those guys years before the CD actually came out.  After singing with Isaac Hayes, I started singing in a group with Archie Love.  I met Sam through Archie.  Then I met Larry Dodson and James Alexander – all of them through Archie.”

  The CD was recorded in Lacee’s hometown, Memphis TN, at Archie’s Loveland studios, and the first single is a big-voiced, punchy beater called You-Gon-Make Me (Clown about My Man).  “That single and the whole CD were released April the 18th.  It’s actually playing now all over the state, all parts of Mississippi, some parts of Texas, Missouri…”

  Sweetest Hangover is a beat ballad with some real strong vocalizing from Lacee’.  “I’m basically a ballad type of a person, but I really have to cater to a wide variety of people.  Some like to listen to ballads, some like to listen to uptempo songs.”

  A slowly swaying soul deepie called Every Day Is a Heartache builds up into gospelly heights.  “I like that song myself.  It does come about as a gospel tune.  I’ve had a lot of calls from people about that song, because it takes them back to traditional gospel.”

  Both I’m in over My Head, and Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Right are melodic mid-pacers, whereas on A Woman Knows we are treated to a soft, mellow and poignant ballad, on which Lacee’ may remotely remind you of Stephanie Mills or, in louder passages, of Chaka Khan.  “I love that one.  It has that sensuous touch of Toni Braxton in it.”  On this song as well as on the whole CD the main writers are Sam Fallie, Archie Love, EZ Rock and Lacee’ herself.  “Most of my songs come from my personal experience, like Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Right.  I put something on paper, then I go to Archie and he puts something on paper, then Sam.  We all collaborate together, and we come up with one good song.”

  Ooh Wee is a slightly bluesy duet with Archie.  “That was written by Sam.  When we were in Mississippi and did that song, we got rave reviews on it.  It was dynamite!  Working with Archie is always a pleasure.”

  Dr. Feelgood is a remake of the song Aretha Franklin cut for her first Atlantic album in ’67.  “It was Archie’s idea to do it.  Everybody got together to think of a song we could cover.  With my voice being a strong voice and, of course, Aretha’s voice is strong, too, they came up with that song.  I said ‘ok, I’ll do it.  I love Aretha anyway.  I’m not Aretha, but I can do the best that I can’.”

  A beat ballad called I’m Tired was written by Ollie Moore, and it is cut in a more contemporary style.  “That was written by a guy we call Momo, and not only does it fit my voice, it fits me, because I’ve been through that, and I’m tired of them lies! (laughing).  I met Momo some five-six years back through mutual friends, and he thought I would be perfect to do demos of his songs.  He was trying to get people to hear his different styles of music, and he used me as one of those persons.  He’s a very good writer.”

  Lacy Yvonne Reed was born in the early 70s, July 1st.  “I learned music from my mom.  She was a dynamic gospel singer, and my father was a pastor, a preacher of a church.  I owe it all to my mother.  She taught me everything.”  When asked about the biggest influence in her career, there’s no hesitation in Lacee’s answer: “Patti LaBelle!  I love Patti LaBelle.  All through school I would do Patti LaBelle, and I would do some Gladys Knight, but Patti – I love her.  And I got to add my mom, too.  She was ingenious in her own way.”

  “I started singing in the church, when I was five, and I’ve been singing there for years and years.  Once I started singing in school, I started thinking that it was something I wanted to do.  I’d say, about ten years back I started going to competitions, winning competitions and stuff, and then I started singing with Little Milton, and while singing background for him I really started to want to do this professionally.  Since then I’ve worked with Archie Love, J. Blackfoot, Howard Hewett from the group Shalamar, a guy named Stevenson Clark – he’s gospel.  I’ve been on stage with a lot of different people – Shirley Caesar, Tyrese, Mint Condition…”

  “This is my very first CD.  I had done something years ago.  It was gospel for a local label, but it didn’t really work out like we thought.”

  These days we’re experiencing an interesting phenomenon of many Southern young chanteuses coming up with impressive new albums.  “We have so much talent here.  I’m very determined, and I know a lot of these women are, too.  We’re trying very hard to get our message across through our music.  It’s time for us to come out.  Men have been out for years and years.  It’s time for us to show what we’re made of.  We’re strong women, and we want to get in where we fit in.”

DAVE MACK

  Produced by Chris Mabry, songs written by him and Dave McCullum and recorded in Jackson, Mississippi, 13 Days (Mabry Music, MM-755 610 001 2; www.mabrymusic.com) was released in February this year and it has spawned two moderate single hits so far, a pleading and haunting title ballad and another, still slower pleader named Part Time Lover.  Excluding two interludes and one rap version, we actually get only five new songs and thirty minutes worth of programmed music, which simply isn’t enough these days.

  Dave is targeting a younger Southern audience with his more contemporary style – he’s closer to Sir Charles Jones than, say, Lattimore – and besides those two ballads the only other noteworthy cuts are two dancers, the bouncing Swing Out (quite popular currently) and the obligatory “Tyrone Davis” lilter, Somethin Ain’t Right.

K BAND

  A beach music label called Roya Records (www.royarecords.com), out of South Carolina, which gave us, both something old, and something new from Roy C and Sam Green recently, signed K Band over a year ago, and now this self-contained group’s first CD, The Party Is Right Here (Roya 0921001; ’06), has hit the market.

  Produced by Shelia Cauthen and featuring live rhythm section and horns (the strings are programmed, but quite skilfully), there are many brisk, good-time dancers on display, such as the title track, Undercover Lovin’, the vigorous 9 to 5 and the horn-heavy instrumental, K Band Groove.  Two powerful deepies, Circumstance and If You Can’t Stand Pain, with a “Teddy” type of a baritone (Jon Jon) on lead, simply make you stop and listen.  Both vibrant and impressive!


INTRODUCING… RENEA MITCHELL

  In the Lacee’ feature above it was mentioned that there’s an interesting but most welcome trend of young Southern soul songstresses releasing albums that meet with the standards set up by traditionalists and rootsy music fans, too.  Renea is one of those artists and she has a lot of common with Lacee’, as you shall notice when reading on.

  The Road Of Love (Jomar; ‘06; 67 min!; www.jomarrecords.com) was produced by Marshall Jones and Morris J. Williams, and they also provide the music – mainly programmed, but not in a disturbing way (with the exception of horns here and there).  Marshall is an established figure on the Memphis music scene having worked there ever since the early 60s, being involved with Hi and Stax, too, and his later hits include Carl SimsHouse of Love and David Brinston’s Hit and Run albums.

  Renea was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 2nd in 1967.  Renea: “My father was a DJ.  He worked for WLOK, a popular radio station in Memphis, and he’s really the one that got me interested in music.  I grew up in the church singing with my family.  My oldest sister actually sang with Isaac Hayes, doing some background for him in the studio.  We did a lot of singing together, and then I kind of branched off and I started singing background for David Brinston.”  Renea’s own idols make an impressive list of lady singers: Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Shirley Brown, Betty Wright and… “I’m a big Patsy Cline fan.”

  “I was at a club one night with some friends, and when coming up the stairs I started singing.  Scott Thornton (CEO of Jomar Records) heard me singing, he introduced me to one of the owners and I was asked to come back for a couple of nights to sing.  Marshall Jones happened to be there one night, and Scott and Marshall asked me to come to the studio and record.  I did a couple of songs and I did background vocals for David Brinston on his Hit and Run album, and then I kind of disappeared for awhile.  When I met up with them again, they asked ‘are you still singing’?  ‘I guess I am’.  ‘Would you like to do an album’?  ‘Yes, I would love to.  I’m ready’.  Road of Love is my first recording.”  You can read Soul Express’ chat with David Brinston here.  It took place right after the release of his ’95 Hit and Run album.

  For this writer Renea’s voice and style bear a slight resemblance to Deniece Williams and even Anita Ward doing her gorgeous ballads.  “When I was in the studio, even John (Ward) and Cheryl (King) said ‘she reminds me so much of Deniece Williams’, and they compared me to Minnie Riperton, too.”

  The first single is a cover of Carl Sims’ signature song from the late 80s, an infectious toe-tapper called Seventeen Days of Loving (Soul Express’ first Carl Sims interview appeared in the # 4/95 issue).  “I was approached by Marshall Jones, who worked with Carl Sims on Seventeen Days of Loving back in the day.  He asked me, would I be willing to answer to Carl.  I told them I would be honoured to do that.”

  An effortless, melodic dancer called Two Can Play the Game is penned by Renea herself as well as a more contemporary beater titled Mr. DJ (Play My Song).  She also co-wrote four other songs for the CD, either with Marshall, or Robert Smith Jr.  “I write much of my material.  I’ve done that in the past, and I’m just trying to do as much writing as I can.”  The current single, Dirty Women, plus Lay Your Head On Me and Party Lights are equally easily flowing dancers.

  Somebody’s Cutting My Cake is a melancholy slowie.  “That was a song that David Brinston did.  It was pretty big here.”  I’m Just a Fool is another emotional ballad reflecting dejection, while Giving It up Tonight is a mellow mid-pacer.

  The title song is a gentle, pretty ballad.  “Marshall presented a tape to me with songs that he would want me to do.  There were some old songs that they had wanted Diana Ross to do at Motown, but Diana had just left Motown.  He thought that ‘if Diana Ross can’t do them, I’m gonna take them away’.  He said ‘now I want you to do this one’.  ‘Wow, I’m touched’!  I just tried to put my soul into that one.”

  The concluding uptempo song is Lollipop by Cheryl King.  “Cheryl is another artist on the Jomar label.  She’s Marshall Jones’ wife.  That’s a remake of the song she did several years ago.”

  “The CD was recorded at Ecko Records.  John Ward played the guitar and organ on a lot of the songs.  After he was told that ‘we have a new artist and we want to record her in Memphis’ he was like ‘yeah, bring on, bring on… so that’s how that came about.  He had no problem with me recording at his studio, even though I wasn’t on his label.”

RONI

  Rhonda McCullumwww.sexyladyofSouthernsoul.com (another up-and-coming Southern lady) – wrote seven and co-wrote two of the twelve songs on her debut CD, Call Me (Allison Records; 06 - out of Nashville, TN), and the label boss, Steve Ganaway, took care of the rest.

  Three somewhat formulaic dancers (Let’s Shake It, Hit It Writer and Freaky) and two mid-tempo beaters (Do You Want and Cheatin’ On Me) aside, we are left with seven slowies, which is more than enough to make you convinced about Roni’s vocal capabilities.  Already on the first ballad, Call Me, her singing makes you a believer, but as often is the case on slow songs the scarce programming becomes too dominant in the mix.  Love Grows is a gentle beauty with some sax playing, and Not Gonna is another smooth swayer.  On those two Roni, however, can’t resist the fashion of listing the names of some other soul artists (such as Aretha, Latimore, James Brown, Bobby Womack, Millie Jackson, T.K. Soul, Willie Clayton and Tyrone Davis this time).  For this scribe the best ballads on the set are the churchy and intense Wrong Place – a tribute to Jackie O’Neal – and the poignant and touching Same Thang’.  Roni is a talented young lady, and I for one would love to see her grow, both in popularity, and as an artist.

IRMA THOMAS

  Irma’s club, Lion’s Den, may be a silent place these days in New Orleans, but the Queen herself keeps her fans all over the world happy by releasing new music.  Still on Rounder Records (www.rounder.com) and again produced by Scott Billington, After The Rain (Rounder 11661-2186-2; ’06) is a 13-tracker recorded in Maurice, Louisiana, after Katrina, but the songs (except one) were picked up before the hurricane.

  I had the honour to interview Irma, when she visited our country in 1994, and you can read the outcome here.  This year, July 20, she’ll be performing at the same Pori Jazz festival again (www.porijazz.com). 

  After the Rain is a collection of songs from the past – some standards, some otherwise familiar – done in an intimate setting with minimal backing from a small combo; purposely focusing on Irma’s singing.  There are a few slow-to-mid-tempo “swamp” beaters (Flowers, Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor and Another Man Done Gone).  These Honey Dos is a more uptempo jazzy item, while Soul of a Man veers into country blues.  Did you know that its writer, Blind Willie Johnson, was voted the best blues singer in Finland in 1971?  Now go ask your neighbour, was he aware of this.

  Till I Can’t Take It Anymore is arranged to a mid-tempo, energetic country & soul mover, whereas on I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free Irma stirs herself into a still more rousing rendition.  Stone Survivor is already rock.

  Another Lonely Night is a country slowie and the opening cut, In the Middle of It All, is also a submissively quiet ballad.  I Count the Tears and Shelter in the Rain are done almost a cappella, while If You Knew How Much is a big-voiced, intense beat ballad.  Please visit Irma at www.irmathomas.com.

CANDI STATON

  In twenty years starting from 1982 Candi had released twelve gospel albums on her Beracah label, until the Honest Jons label successfully put out a compilation of her sought-after Fame sides two years ago, which in its own way prompted this impressive newie, His Hands (Honest Jons Records 0946 356257 2 1; 06), a secular album of music that Candi describes “life music.”  You could call it also semi-inspirational, since it doesn’t really differ that much from her gospel output (incidentally, all those gospel recordings come highly recommended), and the only new notable element is country… the album was, after all, recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with real live musicians, including one Barry Beckett.  The set was produced by Mark Nevers, a member of the backing country band named Lambchop.

  The most obvious country selections are a beat ballad titled You Don’t Have Far to Go (written by Merle Haggard and Red Simpson), Charlie Rich’s sad slowie named You Never Really Wanted Me and finally Bill Owens’ mid-tempo ditty called Running out Of Love.

  Dan Tyler’s beat ballad, When Will I?, is poppy and infectious, whereas the only fast cut on the set, a version of Cry To Me, uses a totally different arrangement from Solomon Burke’s familiar hit single.  Canzetta herself wrote four ballads for the set – including a couple of bluesy ones – with It’s Not Easy Letting Go having the most beautiful melody out of them.  Tommy Tate’s and Richard Kuebler’s touching soul song, When Hearts Grow Cold, moves almost as much as Bobby Bland’s or Otis Clay’s interpretations, which leaves us with the title song, a solemn ballad with a marching pace arrangement.  His Hands is a truly inspiring album, which no doubt will sit in my top-five at the end of this year (www.candi-staton.com).

  Candi is coming over to Finland to perform at the Flow festival in Helsinki (www.flowfestival.com) on Saturday, August 19, and hopefully after that we’ll have also her comments about this CD… and other related issues.

MARGIE JOSEPH

  Margie’s first album in almost twenty years is a gospel set titled Latter Rain on her own Sistahpraise Records (SP 700; 06) out of Stevenson, MD.  Released in February and recorded in Atlanta, GA, Dale Ramsey is the producer and main programmer.  Some soul fans may remember Margie’s Okeh sides in the 60s, but her most memorable work was cut after that for Volt/Stax and Atlantic/Cotillion/Atco & WMOT.  Her disco-orientated tracks for H.C.R.C. and Ichiban in the 80s were not that spectacular anymore.

  Margie’s voice is still as fascinating as ever, and on this set she is backed by a powerful choir (Generation of Praise), which is bound to drown the machines – true; organ, sax and piano, too – but other than that my guess is that the music here pleases only her most die-hard fans.

  Alongside slowies, on this 7-tracker there’s only one mid-pacer and that is the beaty title song.  I’ll Bear You up on Eagles’ Wings is a big-voiced testimony, and on I Will Always Sing for Jesus Margie half-talking explains why she chose to sing only gospel.  Move On Up A Little Higher and Walk Around Heaven are rendered in a more traditional style, whereas the closest to highlights for a soul music fan are two intense, inspirational ballads, Spirit Of The Lord Says Come and When Jesus Walked He Walked For Me. (www.margiejoseph.com).

THE TEMPTATIONS REVIEW

  We’re not forsaking gospel yet.  Dennis Edwards (lead), David Sea (2nd tenor), Chris Arnold (1st tenor), Bernard Gibson (baritone) and Mike Pattillo (bass) have come up with an inspirational CD called Look What the Lord Has Done! on Ascend Music, produced by Rosetta Mines and recorded in California.  Rosetta also wrote or co-wrote eleven out of the fourteen songs on display, and the singers are backed by a 6-piece band plus keyboards and organ.

  It’s been a few years since Live at Casino San Pablo (remember the ever-beautiful serenade, Naturally), and the switch-over to holy music is argued in the sleeve-notes by Dennis simply as “this is what they call ‘New Gospel’, in other words, good gospel.  Now I’m part of it.” 

  Dennis leads two intense slowies, Jesus Is My Best Friend and God Called Me, while the fantastic David Sea handles Lord I Love You and the pretty My Child (I ran an in-depth feature on David in our # 2/97 issue).  Besides two mid-tempo beaters – I’m Not Ashamed led by Bernard Gibson and Ready (When Jesus Comes) soloed by Mike Pattillo – the rest of the repertoire consists of up-beaters.

  Heaven Is Where I’m Goin’, Give Him the Glory and What More Could He Do are busy scorchers, whereas Singing in the Spirit has some Caribbean elements to it.  Look What the Lord Has Done, Wait on the Lord and God Is Faithful veer slightly to the jazz territory.  All pieces seem to fit, but still I can’t be too excited about this CD.  I guess I was expecting even more memorable songs, more original arrangements and more intense vocal interplay between powerful vocalists – not unlike what Dennis and David did on the closing track, The Love of God.

REISSUE RUSH

JOE HINTON

  Funny (How Time Slips away) is actually a two-fer consisting of Joe’s albums, Funny (on Backbeat in 1965) and Duke Peacock Remembers Joe Hinton (on ABC/Duke in ’73).  Released on Shout (Shout 23; ’06; 21 tracks, 54 min.; www.rpmrecords.co.uk -> Shout!), it covers Joe’s 1960-1967 Backbeat period, although three poppy “uptown” cuts – The Whole Town’s Talking, Don’t Tell Her The Truth (written by Paul Anka) and Got You On My Mind – saw the light of the day posthumously for the first time only on the latter album.  Joe, having wandered the usual road from gospel to secular, died from skin cancer in 1968, when approaching his 39th birthday.

  Besides that one album, Joe had fifteen singles released on Backbeat, and five of them charted between 1963 and ’65 – You Know It Ain’t Right, Better to Give Than Receive, I Want a Little Girl, Funny (How Time Slips Away) and bubbling under A Thousand Cups of HappinessFunny, Willie Nelson’s country song in a r&b setting, and A Thousand Cups of Happiness, a pretty pop serenade, were included on the first album and, consequently, also on this compilation.  At this point Shout didn’t get the permission to release the non-album single sides, so that’s something we have to look for in the future.

  On the Funny album there are many covers, which was common those days, and some of them (I’ll Get Along Somehow, So Close, Everything and Guess Who) would easily pass a standard supper club test, but occasionally a brisk dancer enlivens things up – If You Love Me, Joe’s own gospelly If It Ain’t One Thing It’s Another and True Love á la High Heel Sneakers.  On many a song Joe flashes his trademark by breaking into a soaring falsetto.

  On the latter album, among other things, Joe covers Ted Taylor’s Be Ever Wonderful, renders a couple of bluesy items (I’m Waiting and Baby, Please) and goes uptempo on the swinging There Oughta Be a Law and Now I’m Satisfied plus on a soul stomper titled Got You on My Mind.

DON COVAY

  Funky Yo Yo is Shout’s third Don Covay re-issue (Shout 25; ’06; 13 tracks, 52 min.), and this time they went for Don’s eight-track Versatile album from 1977, supplemented by five tracks from the b-side of his Different Strokes… on Janus in 1971.  I liked Clive Richardson’s nostalgic liner notes reminiscing his 60s – and some 70s – days, when he ran the Don Covay fan club.

  Produced, arranged and written by Don himself, the origins of those Yo Yo album tracks must go further than 1977.  The opener, a galloping mid-pacer called Three Time Loser, was first cut by Wilson Pickett over ten years back.  It is followed by an almost acoustic, tender ballad titled Love Is Sweeter (On the Other Side) and more rootsy soul slowie named I Don’t Think I Can Make It.  Yo Yo is, as you might have guessed, a party song in a See Saw vein, followed by a simple but not very convincing ballad, Your Love Has Got to Me.  Don does his best Mick Jagger emulation – it used to be the other way round - on You Can’t Get Something for Nothin’, and the closing song, An Ugly Woman (Is Twice As Sweet), is constructed on a fast Bo Diddley beat.

  I adore Don on such deep ballads as Leave Him and I Was Checkin’ Out…, and the closest we get to those on the b-side of his Janus album is the beautiful In The Sweet Bye & Bye.

ANNA KING

  Anna King (1937 – 2002) became a member of the James Brown revue right after Tammy Montgomery (aka Terrell) left.  Anna came from gospel and went back to gospel.  During her secular spell she had two singles before and one after her Smash recording period.  Back to Soul (Shout 24; ’06; 12 tracks, 31 min.) is a reissue of her only album from 1964, produced and half-written by James Brown.  Informative liner notes are once again by Clive Richardson.

  Out of the twelve tracks as many as nine appeared on Smash singles between 1963 and ’65.  The three album-only cuts are a bluesy slowie called I Found You, an almost gospelly cover of I Don’t Want to Cry and a swaying mid-paced interpretation of Night Time Is the Right Time.  The rest three covers are a slow-to-mid-tempo Van McCoy song, Sittin’ in the Dark, the unrestrained, almost histrionic Tennessee Waltz and Come and Get These Memories, which is arranged to a fast swinger.

  With the exception of a mover called If You Don’t Think and Anna’s biggest hit, an energetic and stomping duet with Bobby Byrd titled Baby Baby Baby (# 52-pop in ’64), the rest of the songs are down-tempo ones.  Come on Home and If Somebody Told You are slightly bluesy, That’s When I Cry is an uptown beat ballad and the opening song on the album, Make up Your Mind, is an intense, soul & gospel ballad.

CHARLIE WHITEHEAD

  Songs To Sing/The Charlie Whitehead Anthology 1970-76 (Kent 261; ’06; 21 tracks, 80 min!) – compiled and notes written by Tony Rounce – consists of two albums: Raw Spitt on Canyon in 1970 and Charlie Whitehead & The Swamp Dogg Band on Fungus in 1973, plus three singles on UA (’71), Stone Dogg (’72) and Atomic Art (’76).  The music is masterminded by Jerry Williams, Jr., as he produced and for the most part wrote the songs.

  Born in Virginia in 1942, Charlie moved to New York in ’68 and had his first single released on Dynamo a year later.  His only nationally charted record was Love Being Your Fool on Island in ’75 (not included here).  Charlie’s way to express himself is to sing loud – or to be more direct, shout – without letting any unnecessary nuances to spoil his noise.  If you like Swamp Dogg, you’ll go for this, too.  The songs often carry a social and political message.

  Alongside fast and funky numbers there are some mid-pacers (Who Do They Think They Are, I Dig Black Girls) and slowies, such as the bluesy Predicament # 3 and the movie score theme, Shaft’s Mama.  The highlights are three pleading ballads – Songs to Sing, That Ain’t My Wife and Help (God Help America) – one charming, pretty ballad called Excuses (actually the only moment Charlie really calms down on this compilation), two catchy and compelling uptempo ditties – Call Me Nigger and Sweet Bird of Success – and one easily floating disco dancer, I Finally Found Myself Something to Sing About.  Come to think of it, that’s quite many!

  Of the two instrumentals, The B.B. King is a guitar-led shuffle, while She’s All I Got is a sax-driven cover of Freddie North’s ’71 hit.  The first thing that came to my mind when listening to Gazelle was the Stones’ Let’s Spend the Night Together.

WALTER JACKSON

  There’s one word to describe Walter and his music, and it’s “majestic.”  During his 20-year recording career his rich baritone has graced many unforgettable gems, and now Kent (www.acerecords.com) is releasing all of his Columbia/Okeh recordings on three CD’s.

  It’s All Over/The Okeh Recordings, vol. 1 (Kent 265; ’06; 22 tracks, 60 min.) covers the years 1962-65 and includes Walter’s first album, It’s All Over (on Okeh in ’65), and ten more tracks, of which as many as nine are previously unreleased (two songs are displayed in two versions). 

  The It’s All Over album is comprised of Walter’s first three Columbia single and three Okeh single sides plus two MOR standards.  Besides the title song (his first charted record in late ’64) highlights include Walter’s first solo single, a toe-tapper named I Don’t Want to Suffer and one self-written emotional slowie, What Would You Do.

  The unreleased tracks are equally impressive pop & soul goodies, such as Goffin-King’s mid-pacer called Anything Can Happen and Curtis Mayfield’s lush ballads, It’s Hard to Believe and Tell the World.  A very welcome release, and one source to obtain it is through david.porter5@btinternet.com.

BOBBY POWELL

  Louisiana Soul (Aim 1509; ’06; 45 min., www.aiminternational.com) offers ten songs that this underrated soul singer – today 65 years old – put out on Hep’ Me Records since the late 70s.  These sides have been compiled before for the Ace album, Especially for You, over ten years ago, and Bobby’s more in-demand Whit and Jewel recordings from the late 60s and early 70s were released on Westside four years back.

  For Hep’ Me, Bobby cut many familiar bluesy moans (Queen Size Woman, When You Move You Lose, A Fool For You, Drifting Blues, Sweet Sixteen and Night Time Is The Right Time), but the ones to leave a more lasting mark were his soulful ballads, such as Let Me Love You, Spread Your Love and The Glory of Love.  The live cut of Late in the Evening is the only mover on the set.

RAY CHARLES

  In his biography, Brother Ray (by Ray Charles and David Ritz; 1978), Ray reminisces his days in Tampa, Florida, in 1948: “I bought a primitive wire recorder – it was really a toy to me – and some guys came just to practice.  I can’t even remember who the cats were.  In those days we were always practicing, jamming and inventing new items.  I had written a song… just a blues I made up.  Called it ‘Found My Baby There’.  It was a nasty little number, and that day we worked it out – along with a couple of other songs – with the recorder going… Years later the song popped up on several albums.  Somebody must have found it down in Tampa collecting dust.  I never got any money from it.”

  Found My Baby There aka St. Pete’s Blues, Walkin’ and Talkin’, Wonderin’ and Wonderin’ and Why Did You Go were Ray’s first-ever recordings in 1948 – even before his first national hit of Confession Blues with The McSon Trio a year later on Down Beat – and now during their re-release process they claim that those four songs were recorded as late as in 1951 in Florida, when Ray actually had a recording contract with Swing Time out of L.A. and, most importantly, had a completely different style to his music.

  This rip-off came to my mind when listening to Unreleased 1949-1951 (Night Train 7154; 06; 19 tracks, 41 min., www.tuffcity.com).  This CD presents not only different takes, but also false starts, incomplete takes and one extended version of ten songs that Ray recorded for Jack Lauderdale’s Down Beat and Swing Time labels before he joined Atlantic.  You still can hear strong Charles Brown and Nat King Cole influences in Ray’s music, but he was soon to change that and find his own niche – witness Kissa Me Baby on Swing Time in 1952.

  This compilation is of historical value only and meant for such Ray Charles suckers as I am.  The ten songs are Honey Honey, I’m Glad for Your Sake, Jack  She’s on the Ball, Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, Sitting on Top of the World, Ain’t That Fine, I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now, All to Myself Alone, Blues Before Sunrise and A Sentimental Blues.

MOTOWN’S 6th YEAR

  While waiting for the 1965 crop, which should be released soon, let’s still have a brief look at The Complete Motown Singles/Vol. 4: 1964 (Motown/Hip-O; 2006; a 6-CD book, 163 tracks, 7 h 6 min; www.hip-oselect.com), accompanied by a 130-page booklet with foreword by Janie Bradford and track-by-track annotations by Bill Dahl and Keith Hughes.  The labels the music came from that year were Tamla, Gordy, Mel-o-dy, V.I.P., Motown and Soul.

  In the heat of the British invasion, Motown, however, succeeded in increasing the number of their big hits in 1964: The Way You Do the Things You Do, My Guy, Every Little Bit Hurts, Where Did Our Love Go, Baby I Need Your Loving, Dancing in the Street, Baby Love, Come See About Me, How Sweet It Is and My Girl. 

  Alongside established artists like Stevie Wonder, Martha & the Vandellas, the Marvelettes, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye & his girls, Mary Wells and Kim Weston, the Contours, Eddie Holland and the Velvelettes, 1964 was the breakthrough year for the upcoming “superstars”, the Temptations, the Supremes and the Four Tops.

  By 1964 Berry Gordy had given up gospel and was cutting down on jazz and blues, too.  However, he still decided to release a lot of country (6 singles; some Johnny Cash, some Jim Reeves imitations) and an awful lot of pop (13 singles).  Among the artists there were still many little-known - even obscure – names and some surprises, such as the Serenaders, Sammy Turner, Oma Heard (one of Marvin’s duet partners) and Mickey McCullers.

A special mention must go to the Andantes, Motown’s prime background singers, who had a release on V.I.P. – (Like a) Nightmare/If You Were Mine – although Ann Bogan was leading on the plug side.  Almost a cult figure these days, Tony Hester, co-wrote A Little Bit of Sympathy, A Little Bit of Love for the Marvelettes.  After his Harvey singles with Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol, Jr. Walker & the All Stars debuted on Soul with Satan’s Blues/Monkey JumpEarl Van Dyke’s instrumental on Soul (Soul Stomp/Hot ‘N’ Tot) is actually the Funk Brothers.

Besides some of the obvious ones mentioned above, my favourites include Live Wire (Martha & the Vandellas), Oh Little Boy (Mary Wells), Sad Song (Brenda Holloway), Since I’ve Lost You (Jimmy Ruffin) and A Little More Love (Kim Weston).

SOUL-SHELF

 

SHARON’S CHINWAGS

  I was a subscriber to the Blues & Soul magazine (www.bluesandsoul.com) for over 25 years since the early 70s and I read numerous Sharon Davis’ articles in that paper through the years.  She was not a contributor only for certain British papers, but she wrote many books of her own as well - on Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Motown: the history etc.

  Many of her articles are now saved in a book called Sharon Davis: Chinwaggin/The Classic Soul Interviews (Bank House Books; ’06; ISBN 1-904408-08-7; 360 pages; www.bankhousebooks.com, available from Amazon.com), which after the introduction is followed by a previously un-published article by Dave Godin on Northern Soul.

  The interviews in this book were conducted in 1976-1992, and altogether 52 artists are featured.  The interviews are arranged in alphabetical order, but in books like these I always wish they’d include the “contents” part anyway, because we return to these sources periodically for some missing information.  But… guess what?  I made my own “contents” page!

  Mainly meant for a bi-weekly magazine, the interviews sometimes circle around only the latest album, but in many cases Sharon gives us a briefing on an earlier career and provides us with updates on every artist.

  With us hogs concentrating on certain factual and numeric matters only, it is truly refreshing to read Sharon’s articles, where she sheds some light on other matters, too, such as personal life, politics, sex, clothes, books, foods and drinks; and those last two are often described in detail.

  Considering Sharon was at one time the Motown British fan club president, the spotlight is on such artists as Cindy Birdsong, Johnny Bristol, Carolyn Crawford, Brenda Holloway, Thelma Houston and Ashford & Simpson, Jermaine Jackson, Marv Johnson, Stacy Lattishaw, Hattie Littles, Ray Parker Jr., Bonnie Pointer, Barbara Randolph (a long one, also some info on Tammi), Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Edwin Starr, the FLOS, Syreeta, the Temptations, the Velvelettes, Tata Vega, Mary Wells and Kim Weston.

  Among the other artists there were some I had completely forgotten about – Sharon Haywoode, Leee John (Imagination) and Kiss The Sky (Jaki Graham & Paul Hardcastle) – but some icons, too: Cissy Houston, Natalie Cole, Millie Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Melba Moore, Tina Turner and Barry White.  This is an easy and recommended read for Classic Soul fans.

FEEDBACK

  In our last printed paper in the O.C. Smith story there was a mention about a beat ballad called I Could Write a Love Song by Marilyn McLeod and Pam Sawyer.  Originally the song was a hit for a L.A. quintet called Mighty Fire in 1981 on Elektra.  The connection is the Mighty Fire member, Mel Bolton, who was an earlier Motown producer and writer.  Thanks to Ismo Tenkanen, our editor, who spotted this one.

  If you have any comments, corrections or additions to this column, please email us (to soulexpress @ kolumbus.fi) and I’ll answer you either directly, or in my next column.

Heikki Suosalo


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