DEEP # 1/2011 (April)
There are some
essential CDs among the fifteen compilations, which form the first section of
this column. All but one are retrospective records, but it’s that one I’m
going to kick off with, because, among other things, it features the last
recorded material from both Ron Banks, and Levi Stubbs.
L.J. Reynolds tells more about the project further down.
There are also
ten new albums from indie artists, who all represent Southern soul, except one,
and again I’ll start with that one West Coast gem. Abraham Wilson’s
double-CD is now finished, and below
Russ Terrana tells about the
new tracks on it.
The last time I
talked to Louisiana’s
Lil’ Fallay was almost nine years ago, so,
leaning on his latest recorded material, I called him and asked him about the
state of Southern soul today as well as other questions, and it turned into an
interesting interview. The third section of the column introduces three recent
books on our music.
Content and quick links:
CD soul reissue albums or compilations:
Various Artists: Motor City Hits, vol. 1
The Contours: Dance With The Contours
Ted Taylor: Keep What You Get/The Rare and Unissued Ronn Recordings
Various Artists: Manhattan Soul
Etta James: Who's Blue
Various Artistst: The Big Beat/The Dave Bartholomew Songbook
Joe Tex: Singles A’s & B’s, vol. 3, 1969-1972
Z.Z. Hill: Snap your Fingers with Z.Z. Hill
Evelyn "Champagne" King: I'm in Love
Melba Moore: Melba
Patti LaBelle: Patti LaBelle (1977)
Edwin Starr: Clean
Marlena Shaw: Take a Bite
Esther Phillips: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby / All about Esther Phillips
Esther Phillips: Here’s Esther, Are You Ready & Good Black Is Hard to Crack
New CD reviews:
Abraham Wilson: Smooth
Menta Malone: Love Gangsta
Ms. Jody: Ms. Jody’s Keepin’ It Real
Carl Sims: Hell on My Hands
Nellie "Tiger" Davis: I’m Going Out Tonight
Patrick Green: Rated PG
Wilson Meadows: Man Up!
Mel Waiters: Say What’s on Your Mind
Lil' Fallay: Lucky # 7
Clive Richardson: Really Sayin’ Something/Memoirs of a Soul Survivor
Ian Phillips: Diana Ross – Queen of Motown
Charles Farley: Bobby Bland – Soul of the Man
MOTOR CITY HITS
“The idea for this new CD comes from a guy by the name of Herb Strather
and from me. Herb Strather was a big fan of Motown and so was I. We knew we
couldn’t be and we didn’t even want to be Motown Records, so we decided we want
to bring the music back to Motown, and we decided to call it Motor City Hits.”
CEO Herbert J.
Strather is an influential figure in Michigan’s real estate and casino
businesses, and in January his label, Motor City Hits Records, signed a
long-term marketing and distribution deal with the Texas-based Thomkins
Marketing & Media Group and recently released a CD called Motor City
Hits, vol. 1 (www.motorcityhits.com,
MCH-8119; 10 tracks, 48 min.). L.J.: “It was recorded at Harmony Park Studios
here in Detroit, Michigan, and we used a lot of live musicians.”
track is L.J.’s strong mid-tempo interpretation of Marvin Gaye’s Come
Get to this from 1973. L.J.: “I learned a lot by listening to Marvin Gaye
as a kid, and he was a great guy. I got to know him personally. I used to
sing that song at home fifteen-twenty years ago, just playing the bass, along
with a lot of Marvin Gaye records. At the time we were putting together the
Motor City Hits project we didn’t have a lot of love songs. Then Mr. Herb
Strather actually said ‘why don’t you cut a Marvin song for this album?’ After
he had asked again, I said ‘okay, I’ll cut something I’ve been singing for
years. I’ll cut Come Get to this.’ I thought ‘ain’t no way you can
record Marvin Gaye and don’t do something special, something different.’ So in
comes this bonus called Steppin out Tonight.”
“Now the record
is currently in the top-20 here in the U.S.A., and it’s gaining momentum. I
just shot the video for it – over forty dancers on stage, my band and
everything... a great video! You’re going to love it (it’s already on YouTube).
Each of these artists on the album, if they get to top-20 like I just did, get
to do their own solo album. I’m working on my album right now. It’s called Get
to this. I’m going to release it within months.”
The second track
on the CD, Bad Girl by the Dramatics, was co-produced by L.J. and
cut a couple of years ago, and this slow and slightly dragging song in a more
contemporary style was written by two members of the group, Larry (L.J.) and Winzell
Kelly. L.J.: “We were experimenting on that one, because I didn’t use any
drums at all. I used a different type of technology. It’s never been
officially out. For the buying public it’s a brand new record. I’m now
putting it in the mainstream.”
“If we get into
the top-20 with Bad Girl, there’ll be a new Dramatics album released
soon. As a matter of fact, I’ve already got half of the album finished. The
album will be called Bad Girl.”
“Ron Banks is
on that song Bad Girl. That’s the last recording he did before he
passed. We will eventually find a replacement for Ron. It took us two years
to replace Lenny Mayes, and it might take us three years to replace
Ron. I’m not in a hurry, because I don’t want to get anybody that’s not going
to fit or causes me problems. You get a lot of problems, when you deal with a
lot of entertainers. We just want to make sure that we’ll get the right sound
and the right person.”
For the third
track, a slow and seducing cover of Smokey Robinson’s ’73 Tamla hit, Baby
Come close, was cut by Keith Washington. “Keith was always around
the Dramatics as a kid, and we were like uncles to Keith. Keith is now over at
Motor City Hits with us, and he’s going to be back on the map again. We know
how to hit the marketplace now.”
Powell is the producer on Keith’s track, as well as the co-producer on Bad
Girl. “Michael Powell is a great producer. He produced a lot of the Anita
Baker records, Kirk Franklin and the Dramatics, a lot of artists.
Michael Powell is also a part of all the songs I’ve recorded so far for my new
co-produced by Larry and co-written by Tamika Brown, a snappy and hooky
beater titled Could It Be that All I’m Missing (In My Life Is You) is
sung by Carla Cooke, Sam’s youngest daughter.
A mellow and
enjoyable floater named Miles Away is performed by the Four Tops.
“This song was recorded around the time Bad Girl was, but for the main
public it’s never been out. I thought it was a great record and that’s why I
put it on this album. We’re getting a great response for it, and again it’s
produced by Michael Powell.” Theo Peoples is the main vocalist on this
song. “He’s currently been replaced in the group. They have a great guy by
the name of Spike DeLeon (aka Harold Bonhart), and he sounds a
lot like Levi Stubbs.”
produced by Luther Jackson, a modern mid-tempo “stepper” called Step
on By is interpreted by Winzell Kelly. “Winzell is trying very hard to
establish himself in this business as a songwriter. He has already established
himself as a member of the Dramatics, and now he wants to ‘step on by’ and
establish himself as a solo artist, and I gave him – what they call – an
opportunity. I am the vice president of Motor City Hits, and I decided I would
allow Winzell to develop his career to the best that he could.” To woo a
younger audience, one thing Winzell is using on this track is autotune.
Dennard wrote and produced Nothing Compares, a sort of speedy and
even loud slowie, which he sings himself. “Quentin Dennard is a sound man. He
has also worked on the road with us doing our sound. He and I engineered and
mixed Come Get to This. He’s also a drummer and he’s also a singer...
and a writer. Nothing Compares was such a great record that I wanted to
sing it. Then I said ‘I’m going to put this on this album. I’m going to give
you an opportunity, because you’re too talented not to have it’.”
Paul Hill co-produced
his own cover of the Marvelettes ’67 Tamla hit, The Hunter Gets
Captured by the Game, and this interpretation certainly is different. You
can hardly recognize the melody in its new, slowed-down and slightly jazzy
arrangement. “Paul Hill is a singer that’s been working with George Clinton
for years. He’s one of those thousands of people on stage with the
Parliament. You can’t put a face to nobody but George, when they’re up
there.” Paul also wrote Miles Away for the Four Tops.
In the line-up
of Bobby Rogers, Marc Scott, Dave Finley and Tee Turner, the
Miracles excel at vocal interplay on their self-penned mover, Leaving
You. “They are all the current Miracles. Bobby Rogers is one of the
Miracles that used to write with Smokey Robinson. He’s the only surviving
member other than Smokey of the group that existed back then. Smokey’s wife is
still around, but the other guys have passed on.”
track brings all the artists together on a swinging and jazzy show-tune titled Motorcity
Hits Hall of Fame, and it features real instruments, including horns. “The
horns were arranged by a guy named Harry Kim. He’s a great arranger.
He worked with Phil Collins, and he did the horns also on my signature
song, Key to the World.”
“This song was
written and produced by myself along with Michael Powell. I had a variety of
artists on there. That’s Freda Payne singing the first verse. In the
song you hear Levi Stubbs. He was in his wheelchair. That was his last
performance ever on any record before he died. On that record we also got the
Dramatics, the Four Tops, the Miracles, the Contours... the Marvelettes,
the Vandellas, even Laura Lee and Pat Lewis. There were
so many that wanted to be on that record that I couldn’t get them all on.”
L.J. is really
excited about this new project, as well as the upcoming ones. “I haven’t had a
record in top-20 in the past twenty-five years. To me it’s like another
chance. It’s a blessing, and I’d like to thank everybody for the support.” (Interview
conducted on April 22. Acknowledgements to Iris Smith).
the Contours (Kent, CDTOP 350, www.acerecords.com,
26 tracks, 66 min.) is a perfect compilation for the lovers of romantic,
late-night ballads, right? Actually there is one slow blues moan on this CD
called Throw You out of My Mind, which has Billy Hoggs on the
lead. Otherwise it’s a cavalcade of wild uptempo jungle tracks, a dance fiesta,
with a few more moderate movers thrown in.
“featuring unissued Motown recordings 1943-64”, only two songs on this set have
been out earlier as single sides, Can You Do It and Can You Jerk Like
Me. The rest 24 unreleased tracks contain an 11-track album that was
scheduled for a ’64 release. In the booklet Keith Hughes tells the
history of the group in a profound way and offers a detailed track-by-track
In the line-up
of (the late) Billy Gordon (lead), Joe Billingslea, Billy Hoggs, Hubert
Johnson and Sylvester Potts, the group is said to have been quite a
stage act. By music you can believe it. On the other hand, when you don’t
have the visual effect, the mere scorching, raw shouting & support harmonizing
on the record may numb you in the long run. I counted that on this set there
are as many as fifteen such dance tracks. Some were primitive (Foot
Stomping Time) and some downright silly (Minnie the Ugly Duckling).
Williams was the main producer for the group, but also Smokey Robinson, Berry
Gordy, Norman Whitfield, Harvey Fuqua and even Sylvester Potts, a member
of the group, oversaw some tracks. These were mainly more mid-tempo numbers,
more melodic and more pop - even calypso (Tonight) - but they also
brought out more to the front the musical talent in the group.
You Get/The Rare and Unissued Ronn Recordings (Kent, CDKEND 348; 24
tracks, 79 min.!, liners by Tony Rounce) offers eight officially
issued tracks, while the rest sixteen are either unissued at the time or
alternate versions. These early 70s recordings were mostly produced by Miles
Grayson, Tim McQueen and Jewel Akens.
high-pitched voice is one of the most distinctive ones in the world of our
music. He recorded for numerous labels ever since the 50s, but his Ronn period
- starting from 1967 - is his most consistent one. Among those official
releases on this set there are Ted’s four duets with Little Johnny Taylor in
’73 and ’74. My picks among them are Cry It out Baby, a perky toe-tapper,
and Pretending Love, an uptempo, melodic ditty.
Alongside six straight
blues numbers, there are two soulful slowies with a blues undercurrent, Got
to Have a Woman and (Long As I Got You) I Got Love. Four funky cuts
are balanced by two light mid-tempo songs, a “Tyrone” type of a bouncer called Farewell
and the tuneful Fair Warning.
Finally we reach
the cream cuts, Ted’s heavenly and so-soulful ballads. Sweet Lovin’ Pair is
a beautiful soul song, while I’ll Be Here is a memorable swayer. Anytime,
Anyplace, Anywhere is a fascinatingly high-pitched interpretation, and Make
up for Lost Time is a soft and tender love ballad. Ted’s music has really stood
the test of time.
Drawn from the
Scepter, Wand and Musicor catalogues, Manhattan Soul (Kent,
CDKEND347; 24 tracks, 61 min.; liners by Ady Croasdell) contains uptempo
dance tracks from the 60s and early 70s. Six are previously unissued. There
are only three slower songs on display – Walking with Pride by Dan
& the Clean Cuts, a beat ballad with a heavy arrangement called Will
There Ever Be Another Love for Me by Winfield Parker and a
fascinating Philly mid-pacer named So Help Me Woman by George Tindley.
In some cases
the tracks featured here represent the poorer side of the repertoire of the
artist in question, like with Marie Knight, Maxine Brown, Ed Townsend,
Johnny Maestro and Jackie Moore. Then there are quite a few
lesser-known acts, whose contribution can only be described as “equipped with
minor musical values.”
But there are
also goodies hidden in-between. One of them is the familiar Platters song,
I Love You 1,000 Times, and another one is Take My Love Along With
You, an uptown pop & soul ditty by the Tabs. Lee Thomas’
mid-tempo cover of Millionaire is also a pompous (in a positive way)
uptown song, while Ann Bailey’s Sweeping Your Dirt under My Rug is
a big-voiced scorcher. I’m sure that all the northern soul fans have grabbed
this CD by now.
Chess Recordings from the 60s and 70s”, Etta’s Who’s Blue? (Kent,
CDKEND 345; 24 tracks, 68 min.) covers the period from 1960 to 1976 and
features mainly album tracks and b-sides. 16 tracks are from the 60s and the
rest 8 derive from the 70s. In the booklet Etta’s history is told by Mick
Patrick, and he also wrote the annotation.
The CD can roughly be divided into three
parts. First six tracks are either funky numbers (Only a Fool, Fire, I’ve
Been a Fool), or fast and ripping dancers, such as the Motown-influenced I’m
so Glad (I Found Love in you) from 1967.
The second part
consists mainly of Etta’s earlier 60s input, and here we have a variety of
styles on display. The only previously unreleased track, Can’t Shake It,
is a captivating ‘64 dancer with a big orchestration. Then there are uptown
type of pop & r&b movers like Seven Day Fool (’61), You Can
Count On Me and Street of Tears. Country & soul meets
post-doowop on Look Who’s Blue, and in Nashville Etta cut a fast
boogaloo titled Do Right, which could easily be one of the later Ikettes
numbers. In Chicago she recorded a mid-pacer named That Man Belongs
Back Here with Me, which has even some Latin elements to it. The
only jazzy track is the fast It Could Happen to you.
The last eight
songs are all slowies, either tear-jerkers, or strong testimonies. Are My
Thoughts with you, I Worry ‘Bout you and Sweet Memories are all on
the country side of soul music, while My Man Is Together features
already straight and intense soul singing. Let Me Know (’62) and
What Fools We Mortals Be (’70) are both big-voiced, big-production
ballads from different periods. Today we have lost Etta to dementia, but there
certainly isn’t any shortage of her recorded music available. If you want to
listen to not only her biggest hits, this CD is a good choice. (www.myspace.com/myspaceetta).
Dave is a
musician, singer, bandleader, arranger, producer and - most of all - a
songwriter, who was born in Louisiana in 1920. His most significant
contribution was for the Imperial label in the 50s and early 60s. In Ace’s songwriter
series they have now released The Big Beat/The Dave Bartholomew Songbook (Kent,
CDCHD 1303; 25 tracks, 61 min,), which draws most of the tracks from the 50s,
but also seven from the 60s and four from the 70s. Three tracks are previously
unreleased. Tony Rounce has written Dave’s history and a track-by-track
The start of it all
was The Fat Man, which Dave wrote together with his main partner in New Orleans in the 50s, Fats Domino, and which turned into a # 2 r&b hit in
1950. Rightfully that song has the honour to open this CD. Dave himself sings
on the original recording of the self-penned My Ding-A-Ling from ’52 and
talks his way through a novelty titled The Monkey (1957).
from those days include Shirley & Lee’s slow ’52 hit, I’m Gone,
Annie Laurie’s previously unissued, jazzy r&b jump, 3 x 7 = 21,
Smiley Lewis’ fast boogie-woogie, Down the Road and Roy Brown’s
uptempo but quite restrained Let the Four Winds Blow. A slow blues
called Every Night about This Time by The World Famous Upsetters (in
’62) is vocally penetrating, but mainly due to their undisclosed lead singer, Little
Richard. Let me add still the Del Vikings, and their rendition of
the title song, The Big Beat.
understandable that this set wants to shed light on Dave’s songs from many and
even surprising angles, but I believe that here they have gone too far in terms
of variety of different styles. All by Myself by the Johnny Burnette
Trio is rockabilly, Valley of Tears by Buddy
Holly is teeny pop, I’m Walkin’ by Larry Storch is supposed
to be humour, Sick and Tired by Neville Grant is reggae and I
Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds is rock.
(Please, Please, Please) is a country singer and Keith Powell is
a sloppy British pop singer. Georgie Fame (Blue Monday) and, of
course, Elvis Presley (Witchcraft) fare better, and I really
liked Brenda Lee’s version Walking to New Orleans and Tami
Lynn’s intense soul cover of One Night of Sin. Otherwise, once the
50s period is covered in the first half of the set, it becomes a hotchpotch.
Joe’s late 60s
and early 70s Dial singles, which were recorded both in Nashville, and in
Memphis under the guidance of Buddy Killen, are now available on Singles
A’s & B’s, vol. 3, 1969-1972 (Shout 72; www.shoutrecords.co.uk, 23 tracks, 74
min., liners by Clive Richardson). Almost each song written by Joe
himself, the biggest hits from this period were Joe’s slow recitation with a
lesson in lyrics and a hooky chorus in music called Buying a Book, a
funky scorcher titled I Gotcha and almost like a sequence to that, You
Said a Bad Word. The funky Give the Baby Anything the Baby Wants didn’t
do bad either.
Happens on Time and The Only Way I Know To Love You are both big
ballads, whereas Joe’s opening monologue covers the whole part 1 of the only
outside song on this set, Bacharach’s & David’s I’ll Never
Fall in Love Again. That’s the Way is quite similar to Buying a
Book, Takin’ a Chance is a beautiful and soothing floater and the
concluding song, It Ain’t Gonna Work Baby, is a sad farewell ballad –
all gorgeous tracks.
Dial period concentrates more on Joe’s showmanship and the upbeat side of his
music. There are fun songs like Chicken Crazy, which carries on where Skinny
Legs and All left off, fooling around (It Ain’t Sanitary, Bad Feet),
carnival music (Sure Is Good) and a lot of funk. Everything Happens
on Time is an interesting, experimental number with tempo changes, and the
mid-tempo I Knew Him is actually inspirational. Papa’s Dream is
an exhilarating, story-telling hand-clapper. I can only say that Joe is a true
icon in our music.
Arzell Hill was
another mighty music man in our genre. Unfortunately Joe Tex passed away in
1982 and Z.Z. only two years later. Snap your Fingers with Z.Z. Hill (Shout
70; 23 tracks, 71 min.; liners by Clive Richardson) combines Z.Z.’s first and
third United Artists albums, The Best Thing That’s Happened To Me (1972)
and Z.Z. (1978).
All six sides of
the first three UA singles can be found on that first album, produced by Matt
Hill, Z.Z.’s brother, and arranged by his partner from the 60s Kent period,
Arthur Wright. Two first singles, however, missed the charts. Your Love
was a mid-tempo toe-tapper, backed with Dream Don’t Let Me Down, a
heavy, bluesy slowie. Both sides were written by Fred Hughes, and the
latter one Fred recorded on himself, too.
The plug side of
the second single was a great Southern soul ballad called I’ve Got to Get
You Back, which Jimmy Lewis had originally written for Bobby
Womack. Backed with another Fred Hughes composition, a mediocre toe-tapper
named Your Love Makes Me Feel Good, this 45 for some strange reason
flopped as well.
A rather close
cover of Bobby Bland’s ’64 Ain’t Nothing You Can Do finally did
the trick in the charts (# 37-soul, # 114-pop) in the summer of 1973. On the
flip there was a melodic and mellow mid-tempo toe-tapper called Love in the
Street. Other tracks on the album were Z.Z.’s funky cover of his own ’63
debut single, You Were Wrong, a quite rough take on Joe Simon’s My
Adorable One, a messy arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s ’63 Can I Get
a Witness and a funky remake of Willie Dixon’s The Red Rooster.
The absolute cream cut is Jimmy Lewis’ soul deepie, Friendship only goes So
Next UA released
an album called Keep on Lovin’ You in 1975, for which Lamont Dozier produced
four tracks, Allen Toussaint with friends four and Matt Hill two. That
album gave birth to such charted singles as I Don’t Need Half a Love, Am I
Groovin’ you, I Keep on Lovin’ you and I Created a Monster.
Two years after
Z.Z. had left UA and scored at Columbia, UA gathered the leftovers and released
the “Z.Z.” album in ’78 to cash in on Love Is So Good When
You’re Stealing It and other Columbia hits. Produced by Matt Hill and
partially recorded at Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, among
three funky numbers (the slow It Ain’t Safe, the storming Am I
Grooving You and the message-carrying Clean Up America) there are
some familiar tunes, too. Z.Z.’s straight-forward reading of Little Willie
John’s Let Them Talk could easily have been cut for Kent in
the 60s and Joe Henderson’s hit, Snap Your Fingers, gets an
almost “Tyrone” type of a treatment.
As some sort of
a surprise there were as many as five straight country tracks on the b-side of
the album. They are all pretty and nice, but they make you wonder what the
purpose was. In which direction were they heading? After all, they are in a
big contradiction with Z.Z.’s specific, accustomed style. I guess we’ll never
know, since Matt also passed away, in late 1975.
Love (CDBBR 0036; www.bigbreakrecords.co.uk; 13 tracks,
58 min., liners by Justin M. Kantor) is Evelyn’s fourth RCA album and
released in 1981, but even though it was a top-ten soul LP it didn’t strike
gold like her Smooth Talk, Music Box and Get Loose did. Half of
the tracks and all the single releases produced by Morrie Brown and the
other half produced by Willie Lester & Rodney Brown, the main
writers were Kashif, Paul Lawrence and the producers. The eight
original album tracks are bonused here with five single versions and dance
The title tune
with an infectious beat shot up to # 1 on the soul and disco charts, but the follow-ups,
a slightly dragging, big-voiced ballad named Don’t Hide Our Love and a
poppy club dancer titled Spirit of the Dancer didn’t fare as well (#
28-soul and # 51-soul, respectively). Three more disco dancers (including the
sax-filled What Are You Waiting for), one sweet ballad (The Best Is
Yet to Come) and one relaxed mid-pacer (The Other Side of Love)
round up this pulsating album. (www.evelynchampagneking.com).
0034; 11 tracks, 61 min., liners by Christian John Wikane - including an
interview with Melba) was her first album on Epic in 1978. Produced by McFadden
& Whitehead with Jerry Cohen, arranged by Jack Faith and
recorded for the most part at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, Gene
McFadden and John Whitehead also wrote most of the songs on the LP.
single, a mellow disco bouncer called You Stepped Into My Life (#
17-soul, # 47-pop), was a cover of the Gibb Brothers (the Bee Gees) song
a couple of years back. A catchy dancer titled Pick Me up, I’ll Dance followed
it up to a more moderate success (# 85-soul, # 103-pop), and on the album there
were still two more disco dancers, It’s Hard not to Like You (first by Archie
Bell & the Drells) and I Promise to Love You.
downtempo songs were all sweet & tender, romantic and pretty. Melba
herself wrote a love ballad called Together Forever, and she did a
convincing job on Dexter Wansel’s big ballad named Where Did You Ever
Go, which Jean Carne had cut two years earlier. With two disco
smashes and four delicious slowies, this is a very worthwhile re-release. (www.melbamoore.com).
The self-titled Patti
LaBelle (CDBBR 0033; 10 tracks, 51 min., liners with interviews by J
Matthew Cobb) was her first solo album - after LaBELLE - on Epic in
1977 (# 16-soul, # 62-pop). Produced and arranged by David Rubinson &
Friends Inc together with Jeffrey Cohen, there were three singles
culled off from this 9-tracker, all with modest results sales-wise.
Jr. co-wrote a quite melodic and airy dancer named Joy to Have Your Love
(# 31-soul), which was followed by an overwhelming, gospelly ballad titled You
Are My Friend (# 61-soul), which Patti co-wrote. Dan Swit Me, a
fast stomping ditty, was the third one.
tracks had connections with familiar names. Rocking Funky Music was cut
by Edwin Starr earlier, Willie Dixon’s You Can’t Judge a Book
by the Cover is here discofied and similarly Bob Dylan’s Most
Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine) is turned into funk. Angelo
Nocentelli from the Meters fame wrote a quite melodic and infectious
jogger called I Think about You.
There are still
two outstanding, big-voiced ballads in a genuine Patti style, Do I Stand a
Chance and a powerful cover of the Skyliners’ hit, Since I Don’t
Have You. Not a bad solo debut! (www.pattilabelle.com).
20th Century album in 1978 was titled Clean (CDBBR
0027; 9 tracks, 44 min.; liners by Christian John Wikane), and for it Edwin
produced three tracks and Lamont Dozier four. Edwin wrote or co-wrote
six out of the seven songs on display. It’s still worth mentioning that the
string and horn arrangers on Lamont’s tracks are H.B. Barnum, Hense Powell,
David Blumberg and Paul Riser.
restrained but captivating dancer called I’m So into You was tested as
the first single, but to no show on the charts. The story goes that after
actually finishing this album Edwin went into a small studio to still cut a
disco dancer titled Contact at his own expense and added it to the LP.
True or not, Contact put Edwin back on the charts (# 13-soul, # 65-pop)
after a year and a half. Although Contact was a speedy and energetic
dancer, it was the product of the day with disco elements that sound funny
today, such as the cow-bells. Similarly to Contact, Edwin’s second long
disco cut on the album, Working Song, exceeded seven minutes.
I rate Lamont’s
70s production work high, and although this particular album isn’t among his
best achievements, his music is all the same very enjoyable. Two tracks that
stand out among his contributions are Storm Clouds on the Way, Lamont’s
own energetic, driving scorcher, and Don’t Waste Your Time, a melodic
ballad, which also is the cream cut for this writer and the only slow song on
the set. For me, among Edwin’s three 20th Century albums, Clean
is the best. (www.edwinstarr.info).
1979, Take a Bite (Expanded Edition) (Soul Music.com Records,
SMCR 5008; www.soulmusic.com; 12 tracks,
53 min.) is Marlena’s third CBS album, and in the booklet David Nathan,
the founder of Soulmusic.com and Marlena tell more about this album. Produced
by Meco Monardo, Tony Bongiovi, Harold Wheeler, Bobby Bryant and Marlena
herself, besides the ten original album tracks this CD offers still two bonus
ones - a special disco version of Love Dancin’ and a remix of Touch
Me in the Morning.
Marlena has a
strong jazz and soul background, so there’s much more to this lady than being
just another disco diva. That’s why I’m not too crazy about the close to
20-minute nonstop disco medley, where melodies merge into each other. This was
commonplace thirty years ago, but hasn’t stood the test of time.
On the b-side of
the album, however, there are a couple of Marlena’s own songs that suite her
style better. She wrote the recitation titled Shaw Biz for a jazzy slow
jam called Suddenly It’s How I like to Feel, and composed a brassy mover
named No One Yet and still a churchy uptempo number with minimal backing
called I’ll be Your Friend. Duality dominates this record.
I must start by
confessing that I’ve always been a big, big fan of Esther Phillips. I
like all of her recorded material ever since 1950, but for me her peak period
artistically fell on her early Kudu years, highlighting in From a Whisper to
a Scream in 1971. After Kudu, Esther moved on to Mercury, cut four albums
and now they are available on Soul Music.com Records.
Come a Long Way, Baby & All about Esther Phillips (SMCR2 5006; 17
tracks, 80 min.!; essay with interviews by David Nathan) reintroduces
the first two albums from 1977 and ’78. Unfortunately none of the four Mercury
albums – not to mention Mercury singles - saw any chart action.
Wee” Ellis produced and arranged the music on the nine tracks on You’ve
Come a Long Way, Baby, which was for the most part recorded in New York. Denise LaSalle and her hub, James Wolfe, wrote a driving funky
number and Esther’s first single titled Love Addict.
latter part of her Kudu era and especially after What a Diff’rence a Day
Makes Esther got caught up in discofying standards and familiar tunes, and
not all had the same spark as that ’75 top-20 pop hit. On this album If I
Loved You, My Prayer and also Grey & Hanks’ Unselfish Love
suffer from worn out, repetitive formula.
You’ve Been a
Good Ole Wagon and the oft-recorded I’ve Never Been a Woman Before are
both bluesy slowies, whereas on a jazzy, downtempo song named Somewhere
along the Line Esther revisits Dinah Washington’s songbook. In a
Soft and Subtle Way is a rather “soft” beat-ballad, but the real gem on
this set is Esther’s subdued but still expressive interpretation of Van
Morrison’s Into the Mystic.
Henderson produced Esther in L.A. for the All about Esther Phillips
album. Again a funky cut, The Man Ain’t Ready, was tested as a
single, and Odyssey’s Native New Yorker was the obligatory disco
track on this album, but now the outcome was effortless and quite enjoyable.
this time, however, was on downtempo, almost late-night material, which
inspired Esther into rather intimate interpretations. The keyboardist Bobby
Lyle wrote a twilight, lush tune called You Think of Him (You Think of
Her), and Obie Jessie’s Pie in the Sky was also an
atmospheric song. David Oliver’s beat-ballad Ms. had more punch
to it, but again the best is saved for the last – If I Fall in Love by
Morning, a melodic and touching song, co-written by Otis Blackwell.
Esther, Are You Ready & Good Black Is Hard to Crack (SMCR2 5007; 17
tracks, 77 min.) were released in 1979 and 1981. Harvey Mason, a
drummer and a recording artist himself, produced the Here’s Esther
album, and now we step back onto the dance & disco territory with such
tracks as Mr. Melody (Natalie Cole), Philadelphia Freedom (Elton
John), Love Makes a Woman (Barbara Acklin) and Our Day
Will Come (Ruby & the Romantics), which was released as a
single. Another forty-five from the LP was a fast and catchy dancer titled Oo
Oop Oo Oop, which was typically sparkling music from its co-writer, Michael
– I Hope You’ll Be Very Unhappy without Me and Bedtime Stories –
and one jazzy supper lounge song (I’ll Close My Eyes) round up this set,
which is the most uptempo and indifferent one among these four Mercury albums.
Black Is Hard to Crack the music was produced and arranged by Benny
Golson, but Bobby Martin and Esther herself acted as executive
producers. Recorded in Hollywood, California, Sam Dees’ fine soul
ballad, Cry to Me, was the only single release off the album, but
unfortunately it didn’t score, either. Sam himself sings on the track. The
flip was Crazy, which as Esther’s rendition turned more into soul than
Co-written by Cissy
Houston, Reaching out for Love with Love is a light toe-tapper, as
well as the Jackson 5’s We’ve Got a Good Thing Going. For
orthodox disco-goers there are two tracks, You Can’t See Thunder, with Hank
Crawford’s sax solo in the middle, and Changin’, co-written by Jesse
James. Although – besides Cry to Me - there are no real highlights
on this last Mercury album, this is the smoothest and most laid-back of the
& SOUTHERN SOUL INDIES
After two and a
half years, Abraham Wilson’s Smooth (20 tracks, 95 min.)
is finally ready, and you should be able to purchase it any day now. What
started as one ten-song album, evolved into a 20-track double-CD. You can read
not only about all the songs on the first edition of the CD and its making, but
also about Abraham’s background and his haphazard re-acquaintance with Ralph
Terrana at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep309.htm#abrahamwilson.
The only song
that was dropped from the first edition was Abe’s gentle rendition of Rainy
Night in Georgia. Russ Terrana: “You have to get a license, because
it’s not an original song. You have to pay royalties. It just gets so
complex. We can always re-release it or release it as an extra. Abe did a
really nice job on that song.” All twenty songs are penned by the producers of
the CD - Ralph Terrana, Abraham Wilson and Teddie Morrow (for more
information on him, please see that linked article above). A mixing and
engineering wizard and Ralph’s twin brother, Russ, is one of the co-producers,
On the pic above: Russ Terrana (Photo courtesy of Ralph Terrana)
The first of the
eleven new songs is a fast and a driving scorcher called It Only Seems like
Yesterday, which starts and ends with a Spanish guitar but has a rock
guitar in the middle. Russ: “The guitar player we used on all these songs is Tom
Ayers. This guy could play anything from rock to r&b to country to
you-name-it. He just comes up with these things, and if it feels good then it
is good” (laughing).
Say Say starts
as a slow and tender love song but grows towards the end. “This song is from a
few years back. A lot of the stuff that we used was when Ralph and Teddie were
writing and doing stuff together.” It is followed by a gorgeous and touching
country & soul ballad named For the Rest of My Life, which has Abe
and Nancy Jones sharing the lead and which captivates you for its whole
On the pic above: Abe & Nancy Jones (Photo courtesy of Ralph Terrana)
In order to
break the downtempo stream every now and then, they had to include some
grittier songs, and BYOB (“bring your own baby”) is actually a funky
number. It is, however, followed by another fascinating country & soul big
ballad titled One Wish, which is even slightly churchy. It’s Abe’s and
Nancy’s duet again. “These two voices really seem to complement each other.
Abe has that smooth, r&b kind of a thing, and she’s got that more
in-your-face kind of a sound” (laughing).
The opening song
on the second CD, One More Mountain, is an uplifting, almost
inspirational mover with Abe and Nancy letting really loose. “It is one of my
favourites. I really like that song. It’s very pop, it’s very catchy, kind of
a sing-along thing. I think it would have a mass appeal, because it crosses
many boundaries from pop to r&b and even country.”
This Band is
a honky-tonk beater, which even Creedence Clearwater Revival could have
cut back in the day. “It’s Tommy on guitar again. He put a great country feel
on that song. One thing I like this album is that it doesn’t restrict itself
to just one style. It has a blend of various from pop to r&b to country.
It has a lot of different colours.” According to Ralph Terrana “This Band was
going to be used by Garth Brooks and Reba McIntyre for
a planned duet album. For some reason, the project never got off the ground
and the song was shelved. While working with Abe and Nancy, I pulled it out of
the can and re-worked it.”
my Baby to Call is like a show-tune, ragtime jam – Russ: “this album has
something for everybody” – whereas Freedom is an upbeat chant with a
message. Forgiven is a spiritual, swinging mover, and finally the
closing song, Plains of Darkness, is a driving spirit-lifter, which
could have been a part of the musical Hair. Russ: “All these songs have
something to say, and I like the versatility of them all. They are all unique
in their own way.”
What does Russ
do, when he gets a new song to work on? “It’s a lot of trial and error. You
have to envision, where you want to take it. You want the verses to be a bit
more subdued and hit harder on the choruses, or, when you get to a solo, let a
track open up a lot more there? It’s just a matter of dynamics, actually. I’m
a big fan of dynamics, ever since I was mixing all this stuff at Motown.”
On the pic above: Ralph Terrana & Abe (Photo courtesy of Ralph Terrana)
“For me, if you
get on a roller-coaster that didn’t have any hills, it would be kind of a
boring ride. If the roller-coaster has steep hills, that’s the dynamics right
there. I think the same thing applies to music. You need those thrills, you
need those quiet moments exploding to bigger times and then come down again.
That’s what makes it interesting, getting that emotional rush here and there.”
“I live in Santa Cruz and the others live down in Monterey, so normally we just work on Saturdays.
We were in no rush to finish this record up. We wanted to take time to do it
right. Hopefully we could satisfy quite a few people.” Do yourself a favour
and become satisfied with the wonderful music on this CD. (Interview conducted
on April 22).
Menta Malone, a.k.a. Lil’ Morris J is the son of Morris
J. Williams, and he was a member of Gnarls Barkley Band and sang
background on their album, St. Elsewhere. Produced, arranged and
written by M.J. Williams and James Cain, Love Gangsta (Tip
Records, out of Memphis) offers eight songs, plus two remixes and a radio
repetitive mid-tempo tracks and dancers there are certain titles I won’t even
mention simply because they are poisoned by that awful voice box. She’s the
Real Deal is an easy, melodic mover, though. By far the best cut on the CD
is a gentle floater called Ever Lasting Moments. Otherwise the music
sounds cheap and clichéd. It’s not unpleasant as such - with the exception of
that voice box - it’s just indifferent.
John Ward and
Raymond Moore are the main writers on Ms. Jody’s Keepin’ It Real (ECD
1130, www.eckorecords.com), but Ms.
Jody a.k.a. JoAnne Delapaz co-wrote four tunes, too. There seems to be
a change in her image, as a vulnerable girl has given way to a more determined
and strong-willed lady, witness such dancers as Move On and I’m
Keepin’ It Real. There are as many as seven uptempo cuts on this set, and
the effortless Take Me and the quick-tempoed The Jody Juke and I
needed that sound the most stimulating.
The laid-back I
Wanna Rock It in Your Rocking Chair and I’m Staying with My Man Tonight
are both pleasant mid-tempo numbers, although the latter one bears a remote
resemblance to Tony Troutman’s Your Man Is Home Tonight. Ms.
Jody has always excelled at slowies, but unfortunately this time there are only
two of them, the sweet and dreamy The First Time and a “walking out” or
“staying out” ballad called I’ve Got the Strength to Stay Gone.
It’s been over three
years since Carl put out his previous CD, Can’t Stop Me, on Ecko
Records. Now his Hell on My Hands (CDC 1041; www.cdsrecords.com) is available on CDS
Records and it’s produced by Ron Johnson and Alex Johnson, who
also play guitar and keys on this set. Ron wrote most of the new songs
together with Renee Caldwell. Machines unfortunately take over the
drums and horns, but Carl himself is as real as he can be and his gruff voice
is as soulful as ever.
beaters (Trail Ride and Sugar Daddy) and one bluesy slowie with a
dirty guitar solo (Hell on My Hands) aside, a mid-paced cover of Tony!
Toni! Toné!’s Thinking of You (’97) - which has always sounded like
an Al Green song – and a remake of Marilyn McCoo’s and Billy
Davis, Jr.’s You Don’t Have To Be a Star (’76) are both convincingly
intensified in terms of soulfulness, and actually Willie Hutch’s easily
flowing ballad, I Choose You, belongs to the same league. On the Star
track Debra Benson sings Marilyn’s part.
slowies include the relaxed Still the One, the moaning New Address and
a beat-ballad named Go On, but - in spite of their good quality singing-wise
- I give preference to an intense and close to 6-minute-long soul ballad called
Just One Night, which Carl wrote and produced together with Jazzy
Johnson and which has been around for a while by now. It’s even spiced
with a sax solo. Carl has come up with a no-nonsense Southern soul CD.
NELLIE “TIGER” TRAVIS
abandoned Southern soul for blues; temporarily, at least. Her latest CD, I’m
Going Out Tonight (BEN 8; www.benevolentblues.com),
was produced and the music arranged by Max V and recorded in Chicago. Nellie wrote or co-wrote seven songs and Dylann DeAnna three. She’s
backed with a real live rhythm section, mostly her own band.
There are six
blues romps, which are at times plagued by long rock guitar solos, and four
slow songs. Among the latter ones there is a rework of the wistful Koko,
which in its original form appeared on Nellie’s previous CD, and a tender and
plain ballad called There’s a Queen in Me. Blues wins over by eight to
another creditable vocalist with a flexible and emotive voice, but here mostly
the melodies and programming – and especially those terrible toy horns - let
him down. Produced by Carl Marshall, Rated PG was
released on Patrick’s Across The Board Records out of Houston, Texas.
If we start from
the brighter side, Rated PG is a nicely swaying, laid-back beat-ballad
and Let Me Be a Part of You is another mellow floater and there’s still
one very slow and very intense ballad, I’m Tired of Missing You.
are mostly downtempo songs on display, either the songs are monotonous and
almost drift you into a light sleep, or they are ruined by programming.
Patrick can do much better. For the concluding beater called Shake it all
the horror items were added – voice box, rock guitar... It doesn’t get any
worse than this. For me this is Patrick’s poorest album so far. (www.thepgman.com).
to the latest CD by “the Gentleman of Soul” titled Man Up! (M&M
Records/Brimstone), I was first delighted, because the first five tracks
sounded really good. The rest five with blues, funk and loud dancers - even
rap - didn’t impress me anymore, but the overall feel was that all this sounded
faintly familiar. After a little research I found out that Wilson has recorded
at least six of the ten songs here on his earlier albums.
Aided by Harrison
Calloway and Terry Montford, the opening perky mid-beater named Personal
Matter has hit potential to it, and the other one that I liked a lot was
the title tune, a pleading ballad with strong social comments. (www.myspace.com/yourwilsonmeadows).
After a long
stint with Malaco/Waldoxy, Mel has now released his latest CD, Say What’s
on Your Mind (www.melwaiterslive.com)
on his own Brittney Records. Mel wrote or co-wrote all nine songs on the set.
Although his musical trademark still consists of a hard-hitting beat, heavy
saxophone and energetic vocalizing, he has mellowed down and become more
restrained. The sound is not as full and powerful as before. The music is
more hollow and tame, and consequently more mediocre.
mid-beater, When You Get Drunk, shows that Mel still sticks to whisky
and drinking topics. If I Fall in Love and Let Me See You Twist are
similar in tempo, and the latter one introduces an awful bass imitation. Among
the four slow songs, a personal favourite is the quite melodic Friends.
Then there are still two fast dancers left, and the final track, All I Want
Is a Beat, is the closest to what it used to be. I defy you to stand still
to this. Other than that track, Mel’s music doesn’t leave you breathless
John Andrus has released a few months ago a CD titled, Lucky # 7 (www.myspace.com/lilfallayboy) -
his 7th CD, you see. I first talked to him about ten years ago, and
you can read about
Lil’ Fallay’s early career here. These days he has a
company called Hot Like “FIRE” Management in Scott, Louisiana. “It’s my own
management label, because I have other people also. I manage some acts down in
Louisiana.” Besides music, Lil’ Fallay also does community work, as within
The Northside Community Cares Concert Series he and Matt Noel organize
charity concerts and present checks to local schools.
On the Lucky
# 7 set there are some funk (Uptown Coolie Brown) and party (Par-ta)
tracks, which makes one wonder, if Lil’ Fallay wants to become a Southern soul
funkateer. “We definitely down in New Orleans got some f-o-n-k going on. The
writers that helped me on this particular album were different from previous
albums. They are new writers. They took my ideas and brought them to
With rock, rap
and even zydeco (Lucky # 7), the album sounds somewhat experimental.
“We definitely were experimenting there. We saw that zydeco itself had gained
itself a Grammy place. For four years they’ve been having their own slot with
the Grammys, and we thought that – being from Louisiana – adding from zydeco to
what we were doing could take us to another level. And, of course, hip-hop and
rap is on another level also. It was always good to have different music out
there.” Lil’ Nate is playing accordion on the Lucky # 7 track.
guitar and sax players in the studio, but keyboards created the rest of the
sound. On the opening track, Uptown Coolie Brown, there are a lot of
Andruses on vocals. “Kris is my son. Andre and A.J. are my nephews. I
brought them all in the studio to give them a taste of what’s it all about.”
beater named Hard Time has a lady by the name of Joyce Sorrell singing
on it, too. “She is also on an independent record label that I’m on. She is a
lady from Loreauville, Louisiana, who came out about two years ago. She’s a
gospel singer. We just thought that her voice would fit that message song, Hard
You can clearly
hear Mel Waiter’s stamp on another mid-pacer, Eyes on the Prize. “That
was a very interesting situation. My manager from Houston, Texas, who passed
away about three years ago, was from the hometown of Mel, San Antonio, Texas. She always kept saying ‘you and Mel Waiters, you’re gonna make a record’. She
introduced me to so many people. She used to be with Tyrone Davis for
twelve years. She was also on the road with Little Milton for four
years. Her name was Beverly Goody. She helped Mel Waiters to get his
music played in Houston a long time ago. Every time we played there and Mel
was there, she used to say ‘one day you’re gonna make a record’.”
“When Ms. Goody
passed away, we went to San Antonio. Mel Waiters was at the funeral and he
said ‘Fallay, I really don’t know you, but on the strength of your friendship
with Ms. Goody one day we’re gonna make a record’. And that came true. Mel
Waiters called me up ‘I’ve got a track that I’d like you to listen to, when you
come to San Antonio’. I went to San Antonio, he let me hear the record, I
wrote the lyrics and that became the song.”
Southern soul male artist that pays a visit on the CD is Andre’ Lee, who
is featured on a light and easy mid-tempo number called Love Will Never
Change. “Unlike a lot of musicians, I make it a point to speak to other
musicians and find out what they are doing. I met Mr. Andre last year at a
local Southern soul concert I was a part of. He was playing guitar for Mr.
Wilson Meadows. He told me he was releasing his own album and asked for help
getting it played in my city. I told him I would try to help with that. I
listened to the album and thought that one of his songs, Love Will Never
Change, would be great as a duet from two men about a woman playing both of
us. He agreed and we redid his song. That’s how our music relationship
Blues is a slow moan in the Drown in My Own Tears vein. “The way I
write and put records on my album, I’m always looking for ‘it might not fit
this radio station, but this song might fit this radio station’. You always
got to have at least one blues song, and that song there is doing real good in Dallas for me.”
Dedication is a tribute to Lil’ Fallay’s late brother. “Unfortunately I
lost my brother at forty-nine. He was only a year older than I was, so
everything we did together throughout life. He was always encouraging me. The
last ten years he saw me going through ups and downs, but he always would tell
me ‘be true to yourself, write your music’. I dedicated that album to him.”
“The CD is doing
well. Unfortunately my father is ill, so I’m unable to really, really get out
there and do it. I had to come off the road. And I’m still a fire-fighter in
the city of Lafayette. The record is doing well, but surely could have done
preceding CD, Strong Enough (A True Story), has practically the
same writers as the latest one. “We were taking the music in different
direction. We handed that record to a young lady by the name of Lola Love out
of California (LHB Entertainment & Consulting, in L.A.), and she was able
to introduce it to the Music Academy Awards. I know for a fact that there are
thousands of people, who have introduced their music every year trying to win a
Grammy. There was one more Southern soul artist on the list that I was on.
There were 59 artists. There were Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Charlie
Wilson, Frankie Beverly & Maze... From that list they picked the five
people that were actually going to win the Grammy. That was a big thing for
The CD is filled
with uptempo party songs, including a new hiphoppish dance called My Swagger,
featuring Polo & Cupid. “We were trying to get away from the
straight Southern soul music that the world just doesn’t see as worldly. I’m
glad we did a couple of songs on the record that people have seemed to like,
and we were able to get our name on the list.”
“Be Honest (featuring
Charli) is the only slow song on that particular record. Our fan base
is so locked in what we call in Louisiana ‘Swingout music’. My fans will not
let me make them a strong love song. They always want my fast stuff, and
that’s why that record only had one slow song.”
How does Lil’
Fallay see the state of Southern soul these days? “Unfortunately we’re losing
our great mentors. I pray that they were helping young apprentices and young
artists coming up, because if they pass on and don’t pass on the information,
Southern soul is in a bad place. But I see a bright spot in Southern soul.
It’s starting to be more acceptant to music coming from different states. If
it comes from Louisiana, it’ll have a little zydeco, a little swing...
uptempo. If it comes from Memphis, it might have some blues and some booty
kind of a situation. As long as Southern soul is starting to accept
everybody’s genre in music, it’s starting to get a little bit more open instead
of just one style.”
These days Lil’
Fallay and his partners are sufficiently employed. “We’re in a nice little
spot. In Louisiana there are festivals every weekend. We not only do the Lil’
Fallay Southern soul party stuff, but we do cover music. There’s always
something going on. If Southern soul doesn’t have a concert or a festival in
our area, there’s always something else we can pick up on, like casinos. There
are a lot of casinos in Louisiana.”
“Right now we
are definitely in the process of recording new songs. I told the record
company that I would be ready in 2012, and it’s going to be different. It’s
going to be the music that the world can enjoy.”
FROM SAYIN’ TO SHOUTIN’
It’s always nice
to read the memoirs of long-standing music fans, because you can just feel the
enthusiasm, you can compare and reflect your own experiences and in a small way
re-live some of that past. In Really Sayin’ Something/Memoirs of a Soul
Survivor (ISBN 9781904408758, www.bankhousebooks.com,
226 pages + 28 illustrated) Clive Richardson fondly looks back on the
music scene he was involved in ever since the late 50s. He writes about the U.K. labels that released black music those days, fan clubs, shows, tours and concerts.
The book is so
crammed with names and facts that there’s no need for an index, otherwise
everything would be repeated all over again. Clive first ran a Don Covay Fan
Club magazine in the 60s, became after that a member of the editorial team of
Soul Music and proceeded to Shout and Black Echoes magazines.
In terms of
record labels he tells about Soul City, Deep Soul and others, until we come to
Clive’s current company, Shout! Records, and in this section he goes through
each issued record on that imprint so far. He also keeps himself busy with
internet broadcasting on Solar Radio.
I assume that
this book appeals mostly to British readers, but this is a nice read for soul
music fans in other European countries, too... all over the world, actually.
For me the most interesting part was Clive’s stories from his frequent trips to
– Queen of Motown (ISBN 9781904408697, Bank House Books; 300 pages + 24
illustrated) is a British perspective on one of the leading songstresses of our
era. Actually it’s a book written by a hardcore fan, Ian Phillips. Sharon
Davis wrote the foreword.
It’s a bit
challenging for me to go with the flow of the text, since at times Ian’s
writing is so overly worshipping that it becomes distracting. He praises even
lesser tracks. Maybe if I were a big Diana Ross fan, I would be nodding in
full agreement, but I’m not. I have a neutral, indifferent approach to her
music. I like many of her records, but I regard her more as a pop/show/cabaret
artist than a soul singer. I especially disagree with Ian on the quality of
her 80s recordings – which I have all, believe it or not! In the 90s I stopped
following her career altogether.
quotes from many sources, because there are no face-to-face or telephone
interviews here. Fortunately leaving rumours aside, Ian concentrates on music,
which means that this book is actually a cavalcade of record reviews and a list
of Diana’s public appearances. There are some minor mistakes and omissions –
e.g. Ian doesn’t seem to be aware of the origins of Someday we’ll be
Together, The Impossible Dream and To Be Loved – but generally this
is an easy read and proceeds chronologically. The first third of the book covers
the Supremes days (I was secretly hoping for more information about the
Primettes days, but no!), then comes Diana’s solo era and there’s still a
part covering her acting career. With recommendations, tributes from other
artists and industry people and the US and UK chart discographies at the end,
this tome documents profoundly Diana’s professional achievements and in that
sense can be considered as a solid reference book on her.
BOBBY “BLUE” BLAND
I still remember
Bobby’s performance here in Finland at the Pori Jazz Festival in 1994. He’s
now 81, but in spite of a triple by-pass heart surgery, congestive heart
failure, pneumonia and other illnesses he keeps on performing, and as far as I
know there’s a new CD in the making, too.
impatiently waiting for this book, Soul of the Man (University
Press of Mississippi; ISBN 978-1-60473-919-0; 330 pages with 18 illustrated),
but after receiving it I was first bitterly disappointed, when I found out that
Bobby declined to be interviewed. Instead the author, Charles Farley, interviewed
Roderick Bland, Joseph Hardin, Jr., B.B. King, Benny Latimore, Willie
Mitchell, Gerald “Wolf” Stephenson and collected information and quotes
from many published sources. There’s only a selected discography in the book,
but you can find the complete one at www.souloftheman.com.
After I started
reading the book, my disappointment wore gradually off. Charles is very
detailed and profound and he paints a vivid picture of the early 50s Memphis music scene and the city itself. He creates short profiles on Bobby’s partners
and band members throughout the years and goes a bit deeper with such names as the
Beale Streeters, B.B. King, Don Robey, Little Junior Parker, “Deadrick Malone”,
Joe Scott, Wayne Bennett, Dave Clark, Wolf Stephenson and Larry Addison.
Born in Rosemark, Tennessee, in 1930,
Robert Calvin Bland cut his first record for Modern in 1951. It may be now
hard to believe, but allegedly in the 50s Bobby was quite wild on stage and
very popular among ladies. He made his home, where his main lady at the time
was living (Memphis – Houston - Detroit – Memphis). Charles reviews Bobby’s
recording output first during his twenty-year stint at Duke, then on ABC ->
MCA and finally on Malaco since 1985. The music varied from blues and r&b
to jazz, country and even disco and easy listening.
There are a
couple of inconsistencies that I noticed. I wrote down that the blues singer Big
George Jackson is mixed up with Southern soul’s George Jackson (this
probably derives from allmusic.com) and then there’s the old question about the
originator of (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right. It may
well be that Bobby is one of those, who made an early demo of the song
alongside the Emotions and Veda Brown, but the fact remains that Luther
Ingram’s hit single was to the first finished and released recording of the
the Man is a very thorough bio on Bobby Bland, and it would have been
excellent, had the man himself commented on his life and music. If you’ve
never seen Bobby live, there’s a good DVD available, “Live” From Beale Street (Malaco, MDVD 9036; 1997).
© Heikki Suosalo
Back to Deep Soul Main Page
Back to our home page