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DEEP # 1/2016 (January)

  Will Porter is a singer with a rich and warm baritone voice.  Although born in West Virginia and now based in the Bay area, his two critically acclaimed albums were cut in New Orleans.  Will talks fondly about many artists that have had an impact on his career and helped him on his CDs, such as Wardell Quezergue, Dr. John, Mary Wells, the Womack Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Bettye LaVette, Bill Moss, Barbara Lewis and many, many more.

  The rest of the reviews consist mostly of retro compilations, courtesy of Ace Records, but there’s also a truly inspiring CD by one of my favourite ladies, Ruby Turner.  At the end of the column there’s still the authorized list of top ten CDs in 2015.

Content and quick links:

Interviews:
Will Porter

New CD release reviews:
Will Porter: Tick Tock Tick
Jools & Ruby and the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra

Reissue/Compilation CD reviews:
Various: Love & Affection/More Motown Girls
Various: Lost Without You/The Best of Kent Ballads 2
Various: South Texas Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue 2
Various: Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Soul, volume 2



WILL PORTER *

  Happy Tick-Tocking?  That too, but Will Porter’s music goes a lot deeper and covers a much wider range.  His first album, Happy!, was released in 2004 and the second one, Tick Tock Tick (Gramofono Sound, GS 1002) came out in Europe in November 2015, and in the U.S. it’ll be released this January.  Both albums produced and arranged by Wardell Quezergue and cut in New Orleans at Esplanade Studios, on both occasions Will had the same rhythm section to back him up:  Thaddeus Richard on keys, Todd Duke on guitar, Brian Quezergue – Wardell’s son – on bass and the late Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson and Doug Belote on drums.  Also the two horn specialists – Mic Gillette (Tower of Power founder, on trumpets and trombones) and Johnnie Bamont (on all saxes) – played on these albums.  There are also many renowned visitors, and we’ll meet them as we proceed.


Will Porter and Dr. John

  The opening song is a feel-good, midtempo floater called Tick Tock Tick (I Thought the Change Would Do You Good), written by Mac Rebennack aka Dr. John, who also sings and plays keyboards on the track.  Will: “When I got the track, it was a demo by Clydie King, produced by Delanye Bramlett with some L.A. guys.  It was a rock ‘n’ roll song.  I gave the track to Wardell.  He laughed and said ‘you know, there’s a good song under this’.  He arranged it almost immediately in his head.  When Dr. John came to the studio, he asked ‘where the hell did you get this?  I cut this but didn’t finish it.  When we cut this in England, with Mick Jagger and others, it was called Burnin’ Burnin’.  Mac was very happy to hear it.  I told him that the Womack Brothers will be doing the Burnin’ Burnin’ part, but the copyright title – I Thought the Change Would Do You Good – was too long.  Tick Tock Tick means the same thing all over the world, and he said ‘we’ll call the motherfu**er Tick Tock Tick’.  I cut it, because I was cutting it with a man, who wrote it.  It’s a pop record, and Wardell really wanted Mac to have a funk/pop hit again.”


THE WOMACK BROTHERS

  Indeed, the Womacks provide background vocals on this track.  “I was a musical director for Mary Wells from 1981 until her death.  She was married to Cecil Womack, who became a Womack & Womack (with Linda Cooke).  When they broke up, Mary was with Curtis Womack.  Curtis was the original lead singer of the Valentinos, when they first started.  So he’s a great singer, and when we toured together Curtis and I were the background singers for Mary, while I was leading the band.  Friendly Womack, Jr. has been in and out of the Valentinos and the Womacks from the beginning, and so he occasionally would join us on the road.  They were anxious to get back into the studio.  Bobby was around for a little while at the beginning, but he was very, very sick.  He got to hear the rough tracks right before he died.  It was a nice little gift that he gave to his brother before he dies to say that ‘now everybody knows Curtis is the best singer in the Womack Brothers’.”

  “Actually we’re rehearsing with the Womack Brothers again with Curtis’ oldest son, Binky Womack.  They want to come to England and Europe with me.  Barbara Lewis wants to come, too.  In her whole career – with all her Grammys and nominations – she’s only been to England one day and Belgium one day.”

  Why Do We Get Blue? is a soft and poignant ballad with a delightful string arrangement.  “I wrote it, and it has Wardell’s deep arrangement.  My favourite thing is southern soul with strings; like Bobby “Blue” Bland, James Brown, Al Green and Johnny Adams with strings.”

  Jimmy Haslip plays bass on the track.  He is one of the founding members of a L.A. jazz fusion band the Yellowjackets.  “Jimmy is an old friend.  You may know his work with Anita Baker and Chaka Khan, and so many more... twenty Grammy nominations!  He actually was working in my band way, way back.  He’s soloing around the Womack Brothers towards the end.”

  “One of my favourite singers right now, Tad Robinson, heard that and said right away ‘I want to record that’, and I said ‘please let me have a chance to do it first’.  I’m very proud of that.  It may be my favourite track on the album.”

  Dr. John is on keyboards again and Leo Nocentelli of the Meters fame plays guitar on the funky When the Battle Is Over, written by Mac Rebennack and Jessie Hill.  “Mac wrote it for Aretha Franklin.  Aretha didn’t release it at first, and Mac was friends with Delanye & Bonnie.  He recorded with them in Los Angeles, and they had the Aretha version as a demo.  When they signed with the Elektra Records here and Apple in England, they released it and that’s when I first heard it.”  Delanye & Bonnie’s track came out on their album entitled The Original Delanye & Bonnie & Friends (Accept No Substitute) in 1969, and Aretha’s cut was released a year later on her Spirit in the Dark album.  “Mac said that it bothers him that a lot of those, who have been cutting When the Battle Is Over, don’t get the words right.  This is the first time he’s cut his own song, and he sings on it.”

BETTYE LAVETTE

  Bob Dylan’s interpretation of his own song, Make You Feel My Love, was released in 1997, and since then this sentimental ballad has been covered numerous times.  Now Will and Bettye LaVette give it an extra emotional and soulful touch.  On top of that, Wardell made a special arrangement to increase the romantic feel of it.  “Bettye was coming around the Bay area before everything happened for her, when only a few people knew who she was.  I told her it was all going to happen for her, and she knew that I was in her corner.  Later I was backstage at a show just to say hello, and she asked ‘what’s going on?’  I said ‘I’m going back into the studio with Wardell and we have some people coming in, and she said ‘oh, I’m going to put my voice on it, I’m going to sing with you’.  I said ‘what!’  I opened the dressing room door and made the road manager to come back in and said ‘okay, Bettye, say it again’.  I needed a witness (laughing).  I would have never asked her.  I’m kind of shy that way.”

  “We started looking for songs.  I tried to write something, Dan Penn gave us some songs and then I had a demo of this Dylan song.  Wardell loved the song, but he said ‘I want to do it right, with big strings and one oboe’.  Wardell did an extraordinary arrangement.  Bettye was pleased – and she’s a hard girl to please.”

  In early 1962 the Ikettes had a # 3 r&b hit (# 19-pop) with Ike Turner’s punchy I’m Blue.  Here the horn-heavy arrangement is as funky as expected, but Will’s singing is paradoxically quite relaxed.  “I’m not a shouter.  I can shout, but my favourite is to have the band real strong and a funky groove and me singing relaxed on top of the track.  I like the singing to sound like a conversation.”

  “Wardell didn’t remember the Ikettes version, and I knew the Sweet Inspirations version.  So I sat down at the piano, sang it and Wardell got the arrangement from that.  Maybe I can relate it to some favourite singers from the past.  I like Bobby Bland, who sings real smooth.  When I was a little kid, I was in love with Rita Coolidge, the Memphis singer who would sing really cool – actually we sing a lot alike.  I saw her with the Dixie Flyers, who played loud as hell, with her singing soft and smooth in front.  My favourite background singers are Rhodes, Chalmers & Rhodes, also from Memphis, of course... Ann Peebles, Lonnie Mack – who also sings a lot like me – and Lou Rawls, who sang smooth over funky tracks.  There are critics, who say that I sing stronger live.”


THIS CALIFORNIA SUN

  Not only a smooth and skilful singer with a distinctive voice, Will also writes beautiful and melodic songs.  One example on this CD is his country-tinged ballad named This California Sun.  “I sang it live for years in clubs with me playing on the piano.  Wardell did an extraordinary arrangement and the Womacks are doing one little thing that’s like the Soul Stirrers through the whole song – and it’s so perfect; like when they were touring with Sam Cooke.”

  I Can Do Bad by Myself is another one of Will’s slow songs, but this time more bluesy.  “I have a blues voice, but Wardell called me a soul singer.  He made some of the biggest soul records in the world.  He made Mr. Big Stuff, he made Groove Me, Misty Blue and all of that.  He said ‘you’re a soul singer.  You’re telling the truth.  Some of those other singers are just showing off, but they have nothing to say’.  He was my fan, my supporter and he always liked what I sang.”

  “I Can Do Bad by Myself is a big blues, and he made it very grandiose.  Maybe the arrangements are a little bigger than I would have wanted it, but - if you listen to it, Wardell’s arrangement – some of it is like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On... like the way the strings come in.  It’s a very complicated arrangement, and I’m very proud of the lyrics.  I think it’s the best lyric I’ve written.”


DON’T GO TO STRANGERS

  The Orioles had released in March 1954 a soft and dreamy ballad called Don’t Go to Strangers, and it was later a big hit for Etta Jones in late 1960 (# 5–r&b / # 36-pop).  “I had never heard the Etta Jones version.  I had heard about it, but I didn’t want to be influenced by it.  I heard a not-very-good singer with a not-very-good band at a concert, and she did the song in the middle of the set, and I thought ‘I want to sing that’.  The lyric is just so damn deep.  When I gave it to Wardell, he didn’t remember it as a standard, either.  Most people had cut it as a jazz thing, like a middle-of-the-road song and I hear it as a deep soul ballad.  Wardell came with the strings and that arrangement.  It’s not an easy song to sing the way I want to sing it, but people seem to like it a lot, and Jimmy Haslip, who’s really soloing on this one, and Wardell were very proud of it.  Wardell said ‘forget the other versions’.  Since Johnny Adams cut it also, that’s saying something.”

  Treadin’ Water is an upbeat number with peppy sax and organ solos in it.  “That’s mine, and it’s kind of a Stax thing.  You know, Wardell’s Mr Big Stuff is the biggest track ever released on Stax – three million copies, before digital.  It’s a southern soul thing I wrote a long time ago.  I like it.”

  Exactly sixty years ago Johnny Burnette and the Rock’n Roll Trio cut a rockabilly song called Tear it up, and now Wardell and Will have turned it into a funk number, with sax and horns again.  “We were in the studio and Wardell said ‘what else you got?’.  I said that ‘live, I sometimes do a song called Tear it up’.  I sang it, and he laughed and said ‘oh, the white people are going to like that’.  I said ‘it’s more like a Little Richard thing, like rave-up, rock ‘n’ roll’.  He was quiet for a minute and said ‘no, it’s not.  It’s going to be a funk tune with a big horn part and you’re going to sing it real smooth on top, sing almost like a ballad.  The background singers are going to tear it up, and the band is going to be burnin’.”

  “The players were in the studio, and he started dictating.  He was blind at that point.  We watched him create the arrangement in front of us.  It was very emotional.  That one probably is more Wardell than it is Will Porter, and I don’t mind at all.  The Womacks are not shouting, either.  There are so many people screaming on records, and I think he liked the smoothness.  Doc, the founder of Tower of Power, was listening to it in his car and called me to compliment that rack... the whole album, actually.  He offered to release it on their label; very flattering.”


EVERYTHING’S GONNA BE ALRIGHT

  In 1969 the Detroit-based Bill Moss & the Celestials released on Bilesse a gospel number called Everything Is Going to Be Alright, and now Will revives this rolling, inspirational mid-tempo song.  “The Temptations used to sing it live.  I used to be a gospel DJ, when I was a kid.  I had a gospel radio show, and that was my opener and closer.  I gave it to Wardell and he laughed, because he hated the arrangement, the way the Celestials played their instruments, the bells – very primitive sounding.”

  “But he liked the song very much, and he was a very religious man.  He never said even ‘damn’, and his best friend was Dr. John, who used to say ‘mf this, mf that...’ (laughing).  The Womacks loved the record, too.  They had it in their house.  You hear at the end of the song, how Curtis is singing his butt off.  I like the way they sing around me.  The Womack Brothers want that track to be aimed to the gospel radio stations.”

  There is, however, a gap of over eleven years between Will’s first and second albums.  “I was in no hurry.  I was busy, on the road.  Also, the studio engineer was preparing new equipment and wanted a shot at the masters with the new setup.  Dr. John and Bettye LaVette were both between album deals and I didn’t want to interfere.  Wardell and “Bunchy” Johnson, the drummer, kept calling me to come back, and in 2011 we cut the basic tracks.  Then Bunchy died.  Then Wardell died (on September the 6th, in 2011), but he had heard the final recordings.  Several labels came around and wanted the album, but after negotiations it always turned out that they wanted the masters, which is what I promised Wardell wouldn’t happen.  So I just talked to people, and waited.  I’m pleased that I waited, because Ace is my favourite label and their offer was just what I wanted.  Ace was first interested in leasing them and then they said ‘put it on your own label, and we’ll distribute it’.  It was very generous, and I signed with them for Europe, Japan and Australia.  It has a later release in the USA, but has already made a couple important ‘Ten best CDs released in 2015’ lists.”


GOSPEL, JAZZ, BLUES AND ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IN WEST VIRGINIA

  Will was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, in 1959, and he moved to the Bay area at about twenty years old.  “My mother was a jazz collector.  She was listening primarily to the West Coast jazz – Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck...  As a kid I was surrounded by gospel and blues, Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong and the best of jazz singers, primarily Joe Williams – who I met and talked to – Sarah Vaughan and people of that sort.  The first album that I ever owned as a child was Mahalia Jackson’s Newport 1958.  My mother didn’t like rock ‘n’ roll, but in the attic of my home there was a stack of rock ‘n’ roll records – LaVern Baker, the Coasters, the Drifters, Frankie Ford, Fats Domino, who I all, later, either met, or worked with.”

  “I’m mixed race, from my unknown father.  We weren’t quite sure till fairly recently, thanks to a DNA test.  I grew up in a white family with white privilege.  It was always a suspicion.  My siblings are blonde and blue-eyed.  The first person to really recognize it was Mary Wells, who had a white father she had never met.  She called me on it soon after we met.  It was great news to me, and made sense.”

  “I started in rock ‘n’ roll bands, when I was around fourteen.  I was playing saxophone and singing background in cover bands.  At 17 I got married.  I was singing kind of acoustic folk/blues/gospel with this girl from West Virginia.  We moved to New York City and sang in clubs for two years.  Then we broke up and I ended up in San Francisco and started playing piano and singing in small clubs.”

MARY WELLS

  “I went to a Mary Wells show – maybe in 1980 – and she was still with Cecil Womack with a pick-up band, but she sounded real good and she looked great.  Then she came back to town by herself, with a terrible band and a terrible show.  I had a birthday concert coming up in a club and I hired her to be my guest artist.  She and Curtis Womack drove up from Los Angeles, and it was a very successful show.  Within a week she called me and asked me to help her with some shows that were coming up.  So we went to Sacramento, and on the concert there were Chuck Berry, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Coasters, the Shirelles and Mary.  They all saw the difference in her show and they all started calling me, and the next twenty years we were working the rock ‘n’ roll and soul oldies circuit, from huge concerts to tiny halls.”

  Since those days Will has worked as a musical director for Mary Wells, Percy Sledge, Sam Moore, Billy Preston, Barbara Lewis and Bobby Sheen, and has led bands for such guest artists as Chuck Berry, Del Shannon, the Drifters, the Coasters, Al Wilson, Brian Hyland, Little Eva, the Chantels, the Chiffons...  “It was a career I hadn’t looked for, but Mary kind of put it in my lap.  It continued all the way through to the release of my first album.  The acts started dying, and I didn’t want to start going with the acts that I didn’t like.  I worked with Percy Sledge almost through to his death, and I still work some with Barbara Lewis, who is in wonderful full voice.”

  “Mary Wells was very easy to work, but she tended to just run her hits.  She charted 25 or so records here in the States.  It wasn’t very creative, but some days I would have to put the whole show together with an unknown band in just one afternoon.  Have I been on stage with a genius?  Billy Preston!  He had some incredible concerts, and we were buddies.  While he was touring with Eric Clapton, toward the end, he would be doing huge venues with Eric.  Then he and I would be in some small town doing a firemen’s benefit or in the Bahamas playing a convention.  I was the headliner at the San Francisco Blues Festival twice - once with Billy as my guest, and once with Percy Sledge as my guest.”

  “Al Wilson was very tough on bands, but we were good friends.  I went to his funeral with Fanita James, the founder and leader of the Blossoms, who cut The Snake with him.  It was very sad, because he passed away very suddenly” (in April 2008).

  “With the band leading and musical directing, I was able to buy a home.  I never stopped singing, but I would usually be an opening act for whoever the headliner was fronting my band.  In certain markets I would have a following.  People knew who I was.”

  “I didn’t want to record in the Bay area, because I don’t feel the recording style here.  It’s still kind of a rock ‘n’ roll town and I was kind of an outsider.  How can I say this without offending?  It’s a very white town with a lot of ‘culture’, but usually other people’s cultures. You know, ‘New Orleans’ bands who have never been to New Orleans, and bluegrass/oldtime/hillbilly music played well by college educated urban people... blues societies with 95 % white membership.  If you’re actually from a culture, it’s surprising to people.  There are great musicians in the Bay area, but I knew, somehow, that I wouldn’t record there properly.  I went to New Orleans with an r&b package, met Wardell and he asked to record me.  He really heard what I did.  He really understood where I was coming from.  It was, for me, a miracle.”


HAPPY!

  The opening song on Will’s debut album, Happy! (GS 1001; in 2004), is a self-penned fast dancer titled I Thought You Were the Right One, featuring Leo Nocentelli on three guitar tracks and Barbara Lewis sharing the vocals at the end.  It’s followed by a beautiful ballad called Don’t Pass Me By, which Big Maybelle recorded in 1966.  “I had that RoJac single as a little boy and I carried it from house to house, to New York, to California and always thought it was a great record.  When Wardell wanted to cut me, I made him a cassette.  He liked to listen to cassettes.  He said ‘your version is going to be fancier’.  Truthfully I sing it a lot better now than the way I recorded it.  I may take the backing tracks and re-cut the record.”

  Jesse Fuller released in 1955 an almost hillbilly type of a song named San Francisco Bay Blues, and now Wardell and Will funked it up in a New Orleans style.  Interestingly, it’s followed by Will’s own The Blues Aren’t the Songs We Sing, a very slow and poignant song.  “I think that’s my favourite on the album.  Some fans in Spain picked it as their ‘Deep Soul’ track.  I like the opening, where Wardell just put the strings behind me and I’m singing a cappella the first verse.”

  In the 50s Johnny Mercer co-wrote a slow and jazzy song called Easy Street.  “Johnny Mercer was a white southerner, but at one point – when there were 78 RPM records – he was picked the favourite Negro entertainer of the year by the Association of Black Colleges, because they thought he was a black guy and 78s didn’t have pictures.”

  Will’s Sweet Maybe is a catchy stomper, almost like a novelty number.  “It sounds to me like Chris Kenner, who was around Wardell, and it’s a very New Orleans sound.  I’m hoping that Dr. John will record that.”  Monongahela (I Remember) is a slow and atmospheric song, again written by Will and again Barbara on background vocals.  “It’s a river that goes through West Virginia, where I was born.  It’s an Indian word.”

  The jazzy and joyous I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (and Write Myself a Letter) was actually written eighty years ago.  “Judy Henske, who was a big influence of mine in the 70s, said ‘that’s the best song in the world’.  It has been a hit in almost every decade.  I think it was the first song I learned as a child that wasn’t a church song.  When I mentioned it to Wardell, he said ‘oh, I’ve always loved that song.  It has a great lyric’.  Wardell put a parade beat to it, which is so wild.  Strangely, Paul McCartney used it as the title cut – from the lyric Kisses on the Bottom – for his album of covers that won ‘Album of the year’ in the USA.”


VAYA CON DIOS

  Will also wrote the next two songs, the bluesy - in a raycharlesian way - Like a Circle (Around the Sun) and a pretty, melancholic ballad named Adios.  “Both songs have traditional lyrics taken from public domain sources.  Like a Circle is from an Elizabethan ballad, I believe.  Adios comes from Spanish is a Loving Tongue.  I hold the copyrights.  My intent is - if this new CD gets some notice – to get Happy! re-mastered and re-release it.  It won ‘Best Produced CD of the Year’ from NY Blues & Jazz Society and great notices.  I also have five more Wardell recordings in the can, including a wonderful duet with Barbara Lewis on My Darling (Vaya Con Dios).  There’s a song of mine called Early Morning Ocean.  I intend to release it as a single in Hawaii with some famous Hawaiian guys singing in the background.”

  “I want to say thanks to Alec Palao from UK Ace Records.  He is their USA guy, who took my record to Ace, my favourite label.  Other recording companies were interested, but they wanted to own the masters.  Wardell had given everything away in his career.  He died penniless.  He said ‘Will, don’t make a mistake.  I’m doing this for you.  You own the masters and please don’t give them away.  You need to own it’.  And I do.”

(Interview conducted on December 15, 2015).


JOOLS HOLLAND & RUBY TURNER *

  Jools & Ruby and the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra (East West Records 0825646862993; 22 tracks, 73 min.) is an inspiring collection of both old and new.  Produced by Laurie Latham, there are four completely new tracks alongside eighteen older ones that were picked up from Jool’s nine earlier albums between 2001 and 2014, and the ever-wonderful Ruby is the lead singer on all of them.

  One of those new recordings opens the set, when Ruby lets loose on a powerful interpretation of Thomas Dorsey’s Peace in the Valley.  Another uptempo and strong inspirational song, Pray Have Mercy, is written by Jools and Ruby, and similarly to every track on this CD it is richly orchestrated.  In the sleeve-notes they have 18 players listed in The Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and 33 additional musicians, mostly on strings, horns and background vocals on different tracks.  So you may rest assured that the sound is full and authentic.

  Christmas Song is a slow holiday tune, which Jools wrote on Wendy Cope’s poem, and finally – as the fourth one - there’s a mid-tempo number titled Same Old Heart, again written by Jools.  Practically all the songs deriving from the 2000s and 2010s were written or co-written by Jools, but some familiar rhythm & blues names from the past are also credited – Lou Turner (in reality, her husband, Big Joe Turner) on Honey Hush, the very Mr. Turner himself on Jumpin’ at the Jubilee, Sister Rosetta Tharpe on This Train, William McDade on Get Away Jordan and Ray Charles on Jumpin’ in the Morning.

  It goes without saying that Ruby excels on five inspirational songs but she also knows how to rock on Jool’s speciality, driving boogie-woogie and jump numbers, such as Roll out of this Hole (co-written by Ruby), the Fats Domino type of Remember Me and the fierce My Country Man.  I must still praise the mid-tempo Count Me In and Ruby’s truly soulful delivery of Nobody but You (by Mann-Weil).  I bet you can’t stand or sit still to this powerful, stirring music.  It is vivid, energetic and full of life (www.joolsholland.com, www.rubyturner.com).


COMP-ART-ment

MOTOWN LADIES LET LOOSE *

  Love & Affection/More Motown Girls (CDTOP 1455; www.acerecords.com; 25 tracks, 69 min., notes by Keith Hughes) is a fascinating compilation of 1960s cuts that have never been available before.  There are numerous irresistible, mostly finished and high-quality tracks that had hit potential, but for some strange reason remained in the can.  I’m sure that some of those business decisions were well-grounded, but strictly in terms of music I can’t help but admire such numbers as Brenda Holloway’s Reassure Me that You Love Me and Lonely Teardrops, Gladys Knight & the PipsAny Girl in Love (Knows what I’m Going through) and The Things I Can’t Erase, LaBrenda Ben’s dramatic Just Go on Sleeping, Oma Heard’s Momma Tried to Warn Me, Barbara McNair’s Come Back Half Way and the Marvelettes’ rolling Girls Need Love and Affection, which actually is Wanda Young on an unfinished track.

  Barbara McNair’s The Good Times are Gone is a big ballad, whereas Chris Clark’s Forgotten is more like a poppy movie theme.  There are as many as seven tracks that were cut, either in California, or New York by the Lewis Sisters, Hattie Littles and some of those mentioned above.    

  In my notes I gave plusses also to the high-voiced Liz Lands, whose Midnight Johnny is an early version, and to Connie Haines and Linda Griner.  Their Mr Pride and Mr Gloom and Envious (respectively) are both highly melodic tunes.  The closing track again is a swinging jazz number by Kim Weston, Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be).  If you have love and affection for Motown music, there’s no way you can ignore this CD.


KENT’S SOUL BALLADRY

  Lost Without You/The Best of Kent Ballads 2 (CDKEND 439; 24 tracks, 75 min.; notes by Ady Croasdell) offers us material mostly from the 60s, as only five songs derive from later decades.  With ten previously unreleased tracks, among highlights there are such gospel-infused numbers as Jerry Washington’s I Don’t Need Nobody and Julius Wright’s Lonely Girl.

  More goodies can be found among uptown, dramatic beat-ballads, such as Lorraine Chandler’s Lost without You (co-written by Teddy Randazzo), the WanderersAfter He Breaks Your Heart (co-written by Jimmy Radcliffe) and Lou Johnson’s The Last One to Be Loved, written by Bacharach-David

  Southern soul is featured on Peggy GainesEverybody Knows and the fully orchestrated Give This Fool another Chance by Eddie WhiteheadNobody but You by the Exotics goes still deeper, and Ty Karim’s big-voiced interpretation of James Taylor’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight is also filled with a lot of soul.

  Honourable mentions go to Little Johnny Hamilton for Apartment # 9, Alice Clark for Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed), the Turquinettes for Take another Look and, of course, John Edwards for Messing up a Good Thing.


CRAZY CAJUN

  South Texas Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue 2 (CDKEND 441; 24 tracks, 60 min.; notes by Tony Rounce) features Huey P Meaux’s production work from 1962 till the early 70s on his own labels, mostly Jet Stream, Pacemaker and Crazy Cajun.  Three tracks are previously unreleased.

  There are six standard stompers plus one that stands out – Jo Jo Benson’s You’re Losing Me, Barbara Lynn’s song.  There are also two blues tracks (by Jackie Paine and Joe Fritz), one funky number (Spunky Onions by Johnny Adams), two cuts with a New Orleans touch (by Chet McDowell and Big Sam) as well as some prominent slow songs. 

  Two ballads bring Jerry Butler to your mind – Strange Love by Eugene Gamble and The Rains Came by Joe Hughes – while the plaintive I’m Losing You by Henry Moore and the very slow At Your Wedding by Jackie Paine go a few steps deeper.  The melancholic I’ve Got a Right to Lose My Mind by Margo White and the big-voiced T’aint it the Truth by Jean Knight are equally impressive soul interpretations.


DAVE HAMILTON AGAIN

  I must admit that I’ve never been an avid admirer of Dave Hamilton’s production work.  In many cases danceability seems to be main criteria, which sometimes seems to allow more unimaginative, even primitive arrangements and mediocre melodies.  Mind you, Dave always did try to add at least one catch in instrumentation to each track.  Also at times the vocalist is very out front in the mix, which in case of a poor singer – like the Tokays (A State of Mind) and Dave himself (I’m Shooting High) on this comp – leaves you with an embarrassing listening experience.

  Having said that, on Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Soul, volume 2 (CDKEND 440; 24 tracks, 76 min.; notes by Ady Croasdell) there are also delightful moments.  Challenge My Love is a mid-tempo beater with convincing vocalizing from Tobi Lark, and on the ballad front there are such soulful cuts as O.C. Tolbert’s All I Want Is You and Jimmy Scott’s Remember MeIt Takes Two by the Del-Phis is actually the Vandellas on a slow and innocent song from 1961, and Carolyn Franklin’s acoustic Guess I’ll go to Packin’ has a certain charm to it.  As many as sixteen tracks are previously unreleased.

MY TOP-10 in 2015

(full-length, new official releases)

1.        Wee Willie Walker: If Nothing Ever Changes

2.        Reuben James Richards: About Time

3.        Will Downing: Chocolate Drops

4.        Gerald Alston: True Gospel

5.        Bettye LaVette: Worthy

6.        Willie Clayton: Heart And Soul

7.        Will Porter: Tick Tock Tick

8.        Terisa Griffin: Revival Of Soul

9.        Malted Milk & Toni Green

10.     Naturally 7: Hidden In Plain Sight, Vox Maximus, vol.1

Bubbling under Billy Price & Otis Clay, Billy Soul Bonds, Ms. Jody, Bunny Sigler and Bey Paul Band.

© Heikki Suosalo


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