deals once again
with the accustomed mixture of recent Southern soul cd’s, retrospective compilations,
some gospel, literature and two Detroit-bound DVD’s. This time fresh comments
come from William Bell, Willie Walker, Ms. Jody, Michael Walker and L.J.
Reynolds. Interviews from the vaults were conducted with Patrick Green,
Sterling Williamsand Billy Price.
It’s been six years since the last new William Bell album, but finally a few
months back he
delivered us New Lease on Life(Wilbe Records,
Wil2010-2). William: “I’ve been writing and producing other artists. The
label, Wilbe, is mine, and Jeff Floyd is one of our artists, and we just
signed a couple of new acts, a young lady by the name of Lola and a
young man by the name of Fred Bolton. It’s soul music. It’s similar to
the stuff that we do. Yes, it has been a while, so I figured I’d come back
with a new CD on myself.”
William Bell and Reginald “Wizard” Jones and also the songs for the most
part written by the twosome, the CD was recorded at Wilbe Recording Studios in College Park , Georgia. “College Park is a suburb of Atlanta. It’s actually about ten
miles south from Atlanta. We have a great rhythm section. We mix new
technology with old technology sometimes, and sometimes we do a whole track
with live instruments.”
The set kicks
off with the title song, a simply and laid-back mid-pacer. It’s also the first
single release. “ It is doing very well. We’ve got number one markets on it. It’s
close to my heart, because I’ve had a loooong career.” A slowly swaying beat
ballad titled Playaz Only Love You (When they’re Playing) is followed by
another hooky beat ballad, Part Time Lover (Full Time Friend), a duet
with Jeff Floyd. “This is the second duet that I’ve done with Jeff. We had
one on his Power Is Still On album, and there had been so many requests
to do another duet, so we decided to put one on my CD also.”
A very slow moan
with rumbling machine sounds and a rock guitar called My Body Don’t Know comes
up next. “We’re trying to reach all kinds of new markets, so we put one song
on there that’s kind of urban-rockish and tried to broaden our perspective a
little bit, because over in the U.S. they think soul music and everything is blues
now. We’re trying to say ‘no, we’re not really in a blues category, because
we’re a little bit broader than that’.”
Honey from the Bee is a gentle bouncer and a dance-floor attraction.
“We felt we
needed a good dance club type song on the CD as well.” You Get a Hold on Me
is another relaxed beat ballad. “That’s more of the tried and true William
Bell type song, like from the old school.”
Keep a Light
in the Window, a ballad with a heavy beat, carries a topical message.
“When I was with Stax many years ago, I did a song Lonely Soldier and Marching
off to War, and it looks like every generation presents its own war, so I’m
just trying to honour the fallen heroes and the live heroes participating in
this modern war. That’s why we came up with Keep a Light in the Window,
which is a little more of a positive message of soldiers returning home.”
Got an Island
Feelin’ is a light, uptempo bouncer with a slight Caribbean touch. “We
have a lot of friends all over the Islands, and we visit there quite often for
vacation and relaxation. We’ve also done a lot of concerts over that way. I
haven’t had a vacation for about five years, so I had and Island feeling… it’s
time to get away” (laughing).
Right (Like a Lady) is a gutsy beater with energetic vocalizing. “It’s
geared towards r&b and soul, but it’s also beach music. As a matter of
fact, I’ve had three or four songs that were like beach music classics – like Tryin’
to Love Two, Private Number and Easy Comin’ Out. This is a beach
music dance club song that we put in there.”
pretty ballad called Up Close and Personal is followed by a mid-tempo
beater with a social message titled Save Us. “That is a remix of an
older song that I had a few years ago. I figured that track was still so
relevant today that we just remixed it and put it into this new CD.” The set
closes with a nostalgic and sweet ballad named Every Sunday Morning.
“It’s about going back to family values and the easier way of life.” The song
is also William’s own favourite on the CD alongside New Lease on Life and
My Body Don’t Know.
faith in the future of Southern soul music. “We’re trying to keep the music
alive, and I think we have some great new acts coming along in the Southern
soul scene. They’re kind of taking up the torch, so I think it’s gonna be
alright, because I’ve done quite a few concerts with brand new acts and they’re
just tremendous.” Also William’s own future looks bright. “We’re working on a
new CD, and of course the label is off and running, so we’re gonna do some
professional tours, and next year there’s going to be a world-wide concert that
you’ll be hearing about.”
On July 17,
William turned sixty-seven. “I forgot about that (laughing), because I was in
the studio working on my birthday, but that keeps me young. As long as I’m in
good health and enjoy what I do… that’s why I have this new lease.” (www.williambell.com).
Soul (Across The Board
Records) is “The PG Man’s” fifth CD, and right after the release of his second
one, Here I Am, The P.G. Man, in 2000 I had a short chat with Patrick.
Please read it here.
Produced by Bishop Burrell with some help from Jeff Jones, Allen Hunter,
Rue Davis and
Patrick himself and written for the most part by PG, Bishop and Rue, the set
consists of two mellow mid-tempo bouncers (I Can’t Trust You, Got Me On Lock
Down), two slowies (Let It Do What It Do and a serenade to a beloved
called You’re The Best Thing) and four dancers – a beater titled I
Need A Do Right Woman, the rollicking Door Knob and two swinging
movers, Tune It Up and I Can’t Dance, which are still repeated as
club mixes. Nothing spectacular, but if you’re into Patrick’s music you won’t
be disappointed (www.thepgman.com).
Omar is one of the best young singers around with a voice not unlike Willie Clayton.
Well, relatively young anyway … he’s thirty-seven. On his third CD, Worth
The Wait (EndZone, EZR 2080-2;
the main writers are Omar himself and Courtney Garrard and there are
quite a few live instruments backing him up.
dancer (Party Have A Good Time) aside, the rest of the repertoire is
comprised of either slowies, or mid-pacers. Willie Clayton’s beaty Made My
Move, a catchy ditty called I’m in Love with a Married Woman and a
spiritual bouncer titled Over Yonder belong to the latter group.
There are as many
as seven ballads, which I wholeheartedly welcome, especially when they are as
varied and soulful as on this set and don’t fall into the current trap of
merely meandering without going anywhere. Something’s Gotta Give is a
beautiful, hurting song, The Only One and I’m Sorry (featuring Sonji
Mickey) are both powerhouse ballads, Give Me A Chance is a lilting, Sam
Cooke type of a tune and Better Days is a gloomy testimony,
featuring Jess Wright. A duet with Willie Clayton named Shysters and
Wannabes appears again on this set, and the closing number is a subtle
slowie called Have Faith, which is a good reminder of Omar’s first love,
Worth The Wait
is a challenging and exciting CD, far from being a standard southern soul set.
The music is mostly down-tempo and the singing is impressive.
Charles (www.charleswilsonlive.com) drops
an album almost every year, and now after a blues CD on Delmark in 2004 and a
r&b one on Delta last year he’s come up with Sexual Healing on
Hitmakers USA Records (HMU 39), a subsidiary of his own Wilson Records
imprint. With a running time of mere 36 minutes and only four new tracks, to
an avid Charles Wilson fan this “newie” must come as a disappointment.
Charles and all instruments handled by Jimmy Burnett, the composers are
Charles and Floyd Hamberlin, with a former Stax writer Henderson
Thigpen submitting one relaxed mid-pacer, Just Enough Love. Charles’
own Sexual Healing is another mellow, mid-tempo song, whereas All
Caught Up is a smooth and hooky dancer. The hit potential of a hammering
beater called Mississippi Boy is tested once again, and the title track
of the previous CD, If It Ain’t Broke (Don’t Fix It), belongs to the same
Three of the
four soothing ballads give advice. The swaying Check Yourself is a
warning from Charles to men, and the melodic If You Can Do It and Back
and Forth are warnings from wife to Charles. I Love You Too Much is
a soulful duet with Shara Scott.
The rock world
knows at least six other acts by the name of Spring, but I think our guy with a
new CD called Spring Is Here (Sounds of Spring Music 2006) is
closest to our genre. New Orleans has always produced talent with versatility
and showmanship - even at the expense of a singing voice, as often was the case
– and Spring (www.soundsofspringent.com)
is no exception. Although after Katrina now residing in Florida, on this new
CD – his fourth, I think – he carries on where he left off on Bourbon Street a little over a year ago.
Spring plays piano, organ, synthesizer, bass, percussion, tenor and alto sax,
and he’s backed by real live musicians, including drummers. He also wrote or
co-wrote the five new songs on the set. Hey Sexy Lady is a jazzy
swinger, The Party Song is a mid-pacer with a Caribbean touch to it,
whereas Angel is a rather complex serenade. I’m Gonna Tell Yo Mama and
Outta Yo Mind are both funky.
Of the old
songs, Hold on I’m Coming lacks the drive of the original. Both Eric
Clapton’s ballad, Wonderful Tonight, and Al Green’s stormer, Love
& Happiness, are treated with respect and with different arrangements,
while Try A Little Tenderness always leaves a lot of space for
improvisation, and Spring uses it well.
Billy (www.billyprice.com) has come up with his
11th album, but it’s his first studio recording since 1999, when he
cut a CD with Swamp Dogg titled Can I Change My Mind. At that
point I talked with Billy not only about the new CD, but also his career in
general, and, if you wish, you can go back to that article here.
East End Avenue (Bonedog Records 18) features the Billy Price Band with a
4-piece rhythm and a 3-piece horn sections. Produced by Billy and Jeff
Ingersoll, the main writers on the set are Billy with Jon and Sally
Tiven (six songs) and a Pittsburgh songwriter by the name of Mike
Sweeney (another six new songs).
blue-eyed soul man has lost none of his vigour, as he storms through a driving
honky-tonk song (Keep It to Yourself), another good-humoured ragtime
swinger (If You Cook Like You Walk, penned by Jimmy Britton)
and a few mid-tempo beaters (East End Avenue, Only Two Lovers and two
bluesy ones, Push Me To My Limit and She Left Me With These Blues). On
Sweet Mistreatin’ Love Billy even trespasses the rock territory, which
he has been avoiding thus far, and on Funky like Dyke, Part 2 the title
says it all.
enjoyed the three hypnotic and melodic mid-pacers (Soul Sailin’, The Big
Show and The Hard Hours) as well as the three ballads - The Other
Side of You with a touch of blues to it, The Price I Paid for Loving You,
an intense testimony, and finally the only song from the past, Faithful and
True, co-written by Dan Penn and best remember by Z.Z. Hill.
Although lacking real killer cuts, East End Avenue is another solid set from
Mr. Pollak, featuring as many as thirteen new songs.
I had a short
but nice chat with Willie in early 2004 about his career and previous album, Right
Where I Belong, and those, who possibly are still unfamiliar with Willie’s
past, can start by reading it here first.
In June a
follow-up titled Memphisapolis by Willie Walker and the
Butanes (www.thebutanes.com) hit
the market on Haute Records out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Again, all thirteen
songs are written, produced and arranged by Curtis Obeda, and in the sleeve-notes,
besides Willie’s life-lines, he shortly describes the birth of each song. With
a 4-piece rhythm section, three on horns and two on background vocals, Curt and
Willie have once more come up with an impressive rootsy record.
Willie: “The previous CD did very well for us, and this new one seems to be moving very
well. It’s getting a lot more attention than the other one did. And we’re already
working on the next one. We don’t have a date or goal set, but we want to have
The photographer came up with the title, Memphisapolis. “It was a connection between Memphis,
Tennessee, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was recorded right here in Minnesota in Curtis Obeda’s
house. The original vocals I did with all the guys, and after
finishing that I went back and redid the vocals again.”
The opener, What’s It Take?, is a mid-tempo funkster, whereas the second song,
I Won’t Be Lonely, is a truly beautiful country & soul ballad in the style of Ray
Charles’ Crying Time. “I fell in love with that, when I first heard it.
We hadn’t any idea, where I was going with it, but we like the way it turned
out.” Song # 4, The Dream for Me, is equally haunting country &
soul beauty. “I love that one as well.”
There are many songs that should put a party in full swing and fill dance floors. Sweet
(The Yeah, Yeah Song) is a driving toe-tapper, The Last Time is the
funkiest cut on the set, Opposites Attract is a steady beater and I’ll
get to that is a mid-tempo stormer that was written with Bettye LaVette in
My Baby Drives Me Crazy is also an irresistible dancer, which could have been from Sam
& Dave’s catalogue, and a mid-tempo floater called Thanks for Being
There was written for Tyrone Davis, and there’s really no mistaking
The softly bouncing Real Love was meant for Al Green, and on this song Willie even
sounds like Al. “Oh, really? That’s a compliment. It was just the way the
music was going. It doesn’t matter who the music was written for, because if
you follow the pattern it’s coming out like it did on this one.” Willie and Al
used to work together in the 60s and 70s.
Exactly like Me is an infectious and gentle mid-pacer. “That one I really think is
self-descriptive. It’s a human based song of reflections.” Just Wait til I
Get Home is a scorcher with Willie giving it a big-voiced rendition. “I
did this one strictly the way Curt wanted it.” At his most soulful, however,
Willie is on a swaying slowie named Cry, Cry, Cry. “They’re playing it
a lot around here. It seems to be getting more radio time than anything else.
I guess lyrically that song is touching a lot of people.”
“Otherwise I’ve been pretty busy. Not leaving the state very much, but as a group we’re
very busy around here. I’m also working on some material with friends in Louisiana.
I don’t know exactly, what’s going to happen, but it’s real nice stuff – really
soulful stuff – and we might use it with the Butanes as well.”
released the single, Southern Soul Electric Slide, in late 2004, next
they came up with the album, Team Airplay All-Stars (TAR-1129), last
year, and in June this year we were served with Team Airplay All-Stars
Presents: Best Damn Southern Soul Album – Period!(Team Airplay Records
Southern Soul Electric Slide was produced by General Johnson, and the following
self-titled album was filled with more slides, such as Mississippi
Cha-Cha Slide, Step N Slide and Old School Slide (plus mixes and
instrumentals).Best Damn… is a compilation of already released
tracks and new ones, and I won’t comment that title any more than by just
stating that the contents doesn’t live up to it. This is a hotchpotch of more
contemporary southern soul (Big Daddy Cee’s Mary Hazz),
blues-infused stuff (Ike & Val Wood’s I Remember Niema and Kenny
Edwards’s I Need a Woman with Food Stamps), synthesized rock (Carl
Marshall’s This is for Grown Folks), ordinary dancers (Cupid’s
Swing Around the Roses and Geno’s I Did It Again) and
luckily a few decent southern soul tracks in the orthodox meaning of the term.
The two artists on these particular songs, Omar Cunningham and Lacee’,
are above others on this set. Omar’s songs - Check to Check with a
“Clean Up Woman” beat, a mid-tempo bouncer called Hell at the House and
a slow duet with Sir Charles Jones titled Half - derive from
Omar’s 2003 CD (Hell at the House on On Top Records), whereas Lacee’s
beater, U Gone Make Me, and her Aretha tribute, Dr. Feelgood, appeared
on her recent Songstress CD (please read my interview with her in the
1/2006 column on this site).
With only three slowies on display, this CD has “party music” written all over it.
At first the combination of a seasoned blues man like Sterling and Ecko Records may seem
strange, but after listening to Brand New Man (ECD 1084; www.eckorecords.com) it becomes obvious
that even an old fox can adjust himself to the standard Ecko sound and get away
with it. If this is what Sterling himself wants, is another matter. Sterling had his first CD, One Day at a Time, released about ten years ago and
that’s when I got in touch with him to look over his career - read here.
His follow-up, My Baby’s Love, came out on Bob Grady Records, and it had
three tracks lifted from that preceding album.
Produced by John Ward and songs mostly written by John Cummings and Morris J.
Williams, the beat is up from the very start. Dirty Woman is a
two-rooster bickering between Sterling and Morris J, The Only Habit I Got Is
Loving You and Brand New Man are both freely flowing, fast dancers,
even if another quick-tempoed one, I Can Show You Better Than I Can Tell
You, has the most memorable melody line.
Sterling shows his more traditional side on a blues romp called You Better Know Your
Hole from Mine and two mid-tempo bluesy numbers, Heartache Medicine and
I’m On My Way. Of the two slowies, I still prefer Ollie Nightingale on
You’ve Got a Booger Bear under There, but a soulful swayer titled They
Don’t Know like I Know gets my vote for the cream cut on this set.
In my closing summary of O.B.’s previous CD, I Can’t Stop Drinkin’, I wrote that “a
combination of an impressive, young (then 33) vocalist and good, mostly down-tempo melodies
simply makes this set one of the best Ecko albums ever!”,
and I still won’t go back on my word. On his third Ecko album, I’m Gonna
Sleep (ECD 1082), Aubles makes us move faster but not sweat as much as
on his first Ecko outing, Shake What You Got!.
After Drinkin’ I’m afraid this new CD comes as a disappointment, and the one to
blame is Luther Lackey and his “Lulack Sound.” You may call it experimental, but his weird
instrumentation and out-of-place noises are at times simply unpleasant to an
old-schooler like me. Lulack Sound distracts you from the other elements of
music and doesn’t serve the whole. Of the six songs Luther produced, two
slowies – I’m Going Away and the nostalgic Clarksdale, Mississippi
– are closest to normal music.
After Lulack it was a relief to hear tracks produced by John Ward, such as a catchy mid-tempo
bouncer called I Owe Everybody and two poignant ballads, Just Be a
Man about It and She’s Having a Love Affair (coming from Rick
Lawson’s album, I Wanna Have Some Fun).
Ms. Jody lists O.B.
along with Shirley Brown, Willie Clayton and Peggy Scott-Adams her
favourite artists these days, but for her there’s one above others - Denise
LaSalle. In my previous column I welcomed the many young and talented
ladies, who have recently appeared on the scene and who keep up the tradition
of real southern soul music on their fine new albums. Ms. Jody, whose You’re
My Angel (Ecko 1079) was released four months ago, definitely belongs
to that group.
Delapaz was born in Chicago, Illinois, in Cook County Hospital on November
10, in 1967. “My father used to sing and play the guitar, and his sisters sang
gospel. When I was two, we moved to Mississippi. My parents were originally
from Mississippi. They went to Chicago to work. My father became the Reverend
in a church called Assembly of God in Bay Springs, Mississippi. I took
interest in music, when I was a little kid and when my mother and father used
to play music at home. Then I became a lead singer in a church choir. I guess
I was about fourteen at that time.”
To become a good singer you don’t necessarily have to follow the pattern of singing in
little-known groups or opening up for major artists for years and even
releasing a record or two on obscure labels. Ms. Jody has broken that pattern
by working in private nursing, until one day she decided to become an artist…
just like that! “My brother took me to my first blues show here in Mississippi
on Father’s Day two years ago. I heard Denise LaSalle sing, and she inspired
me. When we left the show to go home, I told my brother Dale ‘I can do that.
I can go on stage and perform like those performers did… and I’m gonna do it’!
He laughed at me, but, well, here I am… and I love it. But Denise LaSalle has
been my inspiration.”
“I went to a CD release party in Meridian, Mississippi, and that’s where I ran into a band by
the name of Total Control. We started talking, and they invited me to
come to Memphis, to introduce me to Ecko Records… and they did. The music
engineer was really impressed with me, and that’s how I got started with Ecko
Produced for the
main part by Ms. Jody herself – Morris J. Williams produced four tracks
out of ten – You’re My Angel was recorded in three studios. “I did
three of the songs at Eric Perkins studios in Montgomery, Alabama, and I did three in
Tupelo, Mississippi. The rest of the recordings were done at Ecko Records.”
Lillie Pickens, Vertie’s sister, wrote the opening song, a soft and catchy bouncer
called none other than Ms. Jody. “When I decided to sing, Lillie wanted
to write a song for me. That was her first song.” Here Vertie also assures
that Ms. Jody is going to remain her stage name. An effortless, hooky dancer
titled Sugar Daddy is the other song Lillie wrote for her sister.
Ms. Jody herself
wrote the title song, a pretty and melodic mid-tempo floater. “I had always
wanted a grand-daughter. I finally got my grand-daughter… and also a special
man in my life, and he’s an angel to me. When I’m sad, he puts a smile on my
face, and I love him dearly.” Quiet Storm, a soft and almost ethereal
slowie, and I Had a Good Time, a soothing ballad, were also penned by
Ms. Jody, and they all suit her subtle, soulful voice. She had a hand in three
other songs, too.
Shake Your Booty is an energetic quick-tempoed mover, co-written by Morris J.
Williams. “When Total Control introduced me to Ecko Records, it was Morris J.
who did the first recording for me.” Get Drunk Party - written by Ms.
Jody’s brother, Dale Pickens – may remind you of Sam Cooke’s ’62 hit,
Having a Party.
I Never Take a Day Off is another gentle, mid-tempo floater – in the vein of the title tune - and a personal
favourite. “When I was in the studio recording, John Cummings came into
the studio and said ‘Ms. Jody, I got something for you, but I haven’t finished
it yet and I need you to help me out with it. I would love you to have it, if
you like it’. I read the words and thought ‘God, I love it. It’s so topical,
because I never take off a day from loving my gentleman friend’. We took it from there.”
Another song that Ms. Jody wrote, Love Shop Mechanic, is a jazzy swinger. “That was
done in Tupelo, Mississippi (alongside Quiet Storm and I Had a Good Time). I
like jazz, and I decided just to mess around with it, and I like what I came up
with.” Although on some tracks Leo Johnson plays bass, John Ward guitar
and they have an occasional drummer and keyboard player, on Love Shop Mechanic they
have real instruments throughout.
“I’m in the process of recording my second CD, and I just want to get out there and
perform… and just enjoy life, because that’s my motto: Enjoy life!”
Henry Stone writes in the sleeve-notes: “I have been a music industry pioneer for over five
decades. In the early and mid 50s, I was one of the first people to discover
up and coming greats like Ray Charles and James Brown.” I
already expressed my opinion about that Ray Charles connection in my previous
column when reviewing Ray’s Unreleased 1949 – 1951 CD (on Night Train
Records), but for James Brown let’s have a look at James’ autobiography, The
Godfather of Soul (1986). In this over 300-page, close print book James mentions
Henry Stone in passing two times, first when he cut (Do the) Mashed Potatoes
under the name of Nat Kendrick and the Swans for Dade in late 1959, and
the second time when the Soul Syndrome album was released on TK in 1980.
Although far from being modest, Mr. Stone has masterminded some wonderful soul records
mainly in the 60s and 70s. You can’t take that away from him. A while ago he
came up the idea of cutting Gwen McCrae on some of TK hits, and for that
project they invited, among others, Latimore, George Perry, Little Beaver,
Timmy Thomas, David Hudson and Harry “KC” Wayne to play and perform
on the set. Produced by Henry and George “Chocolate” Perry, Gwen McCrae
Sings TK (HSM 6001-2; 76 min!) features also horn and string sections.
Vocally Gwen is as good as ever, and her # 1 soul single in ’75, Rockin’ Chair, still
sounds extremely catchy with Latimore giving it an extra spice this time. Gwen
was supposed to cut Rock Your Baby in the first place a year earlier,
but then at Steve Alaimo’s suggestion the song was given to George
McCrae, who hit # 1 on both pop, and soul charts with it. Here we can
finally hear Gwen’s interpretation of it.
The moody and airy What You Won’t Do for Love charted for Bobby Caldwell in
1978 (on Clouds Records), and the title of Paulette Reaves’ mini-hit, Jazz
Freak (on Blue Candle in 1978), really says it all. KC’s Please Don’t
Go is a powerful, pleading soul ballad, but the majestic Let’s
Straighten It Out, a great duet with Latimore, manages to top it.
Keep It Comin’ Love, an infectious disco ditty, still grabs you, although KC isn’t
much of a singer; these days, anyway. Why Can’t We Live Together with
Timmy Thomas on organ and vocals and Little Beaver on guitar sounds passable,
even OK. Gwen does a sterile cover of her 90 % of Me Is You, and Clean
up Woman isn’t as hard-hitting as when Betty Wright hit gold with it.
Little Beaver’s Party Down is a slow jam with Gwen almost bursting into
a roar, but Misty Blue is as poignant as ever. Actually, Gwen’s version
of the song is one of the best I’ve heard. I only don’t know what TK’s
involvement in Misty Blue is. As far as I know, only the strings on Dorothy
Moore’s hit version on Malaco were recorded in Miami, at Criteria studios,
but according to Wolf Stephenson – when shopping for a label - “TK
Records didn’t want to put it out.” On the other hand, on Dorothy’s Misty Blue
album they give special thanks, among others, to Henry Stone.
A duet with David Hudson on Honey, Honey is as mellow as David’s original in 1980,
but a “great new song” – as it says in the sleeve - called You Gotta Love Me
(Like I Love Me), written by Clarence Reid and performed with KC, is
an awful, synthesized mid-tempo beater. To give Gwen a hip-hop inspired track
is a lunatic idea. That track aside, I enjoyed this set. It was good to hear
all those songs again, and performed by artists who would know them by heart.
Some of you may
remember Pat from her days with Clarence Carter, when Clarence produced
her first album, Double Talk, in 1987, but this Georgia-born girl had
been on the scene for over ten years prior to that. Her next album, Warm Hug,
came out on Peachtown Records in 1993, and we had to wait this long for the
third one, Real Thing (L & L Records,
Some of the tracks were recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound with such players as David Hood on
bass and Clayton Ivey on keyboards, but my understanding is that only
half of this 12-tracker is actually new material. The rest derives from the
days of her two previous albums. Produced by Pat’s sister, Connie Cooley,
on the new tracks real instruments prevail.
The set begins with a title track, a nice and laid-back slowie, but on it out of the blue a
rock guitar hits you. Same thing happens also on the familiar Money,
which is a forced effort, but the cream cut comes right after the next mover (Prove
Your Love) and it’s a poignant and touching mid-tempo song called Nothing Left to Say.
When compared to a sterile interpretation of A Change Is Gonna Come, a song that
just cries for an emotion-packed delivery, and a lifeless version of Kansas City,
which may work in clubs but not on record, Nothing Left to Say is head and shoulders
above others. Incidentally, Little Willie Littlefield’s K.C. Lovin’ (Kansas City) is
credited to Roger Miller! Among the songs from the past there’s one pretty and
subtle ballad titled Love Ain’t Here No More, but the others are average uptempo dancers.
As in the case of Spring above, also Joy is a much-used artist name in the rock world,
but this particular Joyce happens to be the sister of Shirley Brown,
which makes her of special interest in these corners.
A Woman Can Feel (Blues River Records, BBR-005; 66 min!,
www.ewegroup.com) is produced by Percy
T. Friends – he also takes care of most of the instruments – and the
fourteen songs are written by John Cummings with Percy, with some help from
Morris Williams, Joy herself and the veteran Stax writer, Henderson Thigpen
(co-wrote Woman to Woman, for instance).
After we get over the opening tracks (one blues romp and one machine-dominated beater) we
can enjoy the title song, a pleading and heartfelt ballad. Joy herself
co-wrote two other downtempo songs with a heavy beat, the big-voiced I Got a
Secret, which actually could come from Shirley’s repertoire, and Trying
to Hold On, an impressive duet with Booker Brown. Booker’s Passion
of Love was my number one CD in 2004, and we’ll reprint his interview here
the moment his forthcoming CD is out. The concluding slowie, Too Late to
Say I’m Sorry, is a soft and simple, lilting beauty.
There are three dancers on display - the catchy Same Old Game, I Lied with
some intense singing towards the end and Dead Beat Man, which has even whistling on it.
The four mid-pacers are similarly infectious. A soulful toe-tapper called
So Good reminds me a bit of Peggy Scott-Adams, and the soothing
Woo Woo Woo – believe it or not – of Lenny Williams. In the Morning
and Do Me Right both are growers.
A rather full sound (in spite of machines), nice melodies and soulful singing make this a
very worthy CD. All of these Southern soul indies above you can purchase,
among other companies,
L.J. released a self-titled, solo gospel set in 1991, and I talked about it with Larry for the
Dramatics Story (part 4, in 2000), and the outcome
you can read here. Now I
became curious about its recent re-release under the title of Through the
Storm (Uni-Global Sports And Entertainment Inc., DPK 34102;
manufactured and distributed by Malaco).
L.J.: “It’s the same CD, but it’s reissued by Malaco. I did that CD on Bellmark Records, and
the producer was Fred Pittman. I did it in 1991, and it was just a
great piece at the time. I had a great time doing the CD, but it didn’t get
the right promotion, because Al Bell was busy on other things.”
There’s one new song, though. The opening cut, My Reverend, is a beautiful and touching
tribute. “That was recorded probably almost a year ago. It’s a new record
that I went to California to record with Fred Pittman. I think the song is
based on Fred Pittman’s life experiences, because I’ve known Fred for a long
time and I know his brother died and his reverend was very close to him at the
time and went through a lot of his trials and tribulations.”
“I’ve been in
the studio working on a brand new gospel album. It should be coming out any
time at the beginning of next year. It’s produced by me, Michael Powell and
Sanchez Harley. I also have my daughter singing on there with me, on a duet,
and I have my whole family singing on a song called Shout. I’m very
excited about this particular gospel album, just like I was with the one that’s
just been released.”
B.W.R.D. comes from “Blessed Words”, which is a gospel quartet and it has a new CD called Command
out on I Am Unlimited Records (www.i-am-unlimited.com;
you can read their bio here, too). Produced by Donald Siler, I guess
there’s a big market for this kind of a contemporary inspirational music with
“Babyface” singing and with machines supporting spiritual message, but it’s not
my cup of tea (or coffee, for that matter).
Mind you, some tunes are soothing and pretty (Command), and at times there’s quite
intense, high-voiced singing (I’d Trade a Lifetime, known by O’Neil
Twins). I also liked a mid-tempo floater called Gonna Wait on the Lord,
but all in all this is meant for a younger audience. The closing slowie, Thank
You Mother, is written by Mary Love Comer and performed by T.R.T.
– The Real Truth.
Dr. Michael L. Walker out of Detroit has released a new gospel CD called Oh, Yes!
(DP 3001)and it’s actually the ninth record in his career. One
interesting detail about Michael is that he is the brother of the late, great Philippe
The CD came out earlier this year on DetroitPearl Music (P.O. Box 02303, Detroit, MI 48202). Michael: “DetroitPearl Music is my own label. My intentions are to record
other Detroit talent on the label – gospel, r&b, jazz, blues, fold etc.” Produced and arranged by Michael, the set was cut in Detroit with real live musicians.
“Oh, Yes! was recorded over a seventeen-year period. I was a college professor with very
little time to continue to pursue my lifelong interest in gospel music. I began this album in 1989 and I just finished it a few months ago. I wrote or
co-wrote all of the songs except one, Peace Is Flowing like a River,
which I arranged. I am playing keyboards on all of the songs as indicated on
the CD cover. I was not concerned over the length of time it took to complete
this CD, because I was constantly writing songs and updating them for this
project. Furthermore, I felt that my music would be more in tune with the
times and not so avant-garde with the passage of some time.”
The opening title song is a gospel mover, and especially on this track Michael sounds a lot
like Philippe. So Much Love and Come Forth are in a similar
vein, although on the latter one Michael is backed by two big-voiced choirs
(Providence Baptist Choir and New Missionary Baptist Choir). A sax-driven (Chris
Collins) swinger called An Angel for the World is a tribute to the
late Rosa Parks, and there’s also another swinger at the end of the CD,
a slightly jazzy one titled Hold Me, on which Michael stretches his
voice up to falsetto.
On the downtempo side, We Made It is an intense duet with Tessie Hill and The
Aftermath: Healing is a plain ballad with only a keyboard backing. Signed
begins as a slow swayer, but soon picks up speed. “The ladies on Signed
and We Made It are the Hot Buttered Soul from Isaac Hayes’
album of the same name. They now call themselves Hot Buttered Soul
Unlimited.Pat Lewis and Diane Davis are the only two, who
were originally Hot Buttered Soul. I found them, when I conversed with a man,
who knew them. After telling him I needed a good backup group for a couple of
songs, he suggested them.” The other two ladies on background vocals are Karen
McMurray and Carolyn Crawford.
Akristiano is like a tribal inspirational party song with strong African elements to it. “Akristiano
came about, when Peninah Gatura and I collaborated on the tune while
we were both students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early
1980’s. When Philippe died in 1984, I returned to Detroit suddenly to arrange
his funeral, but in the process I lost contact with Peninah. Peninah supplied
the basic melody from Kenya in the Kikuyu language and I gave it the
African-American rhythm and additional music. We initially did the song in
Madison Wisconsin shortly before I left in 1984 and there was an outpouring of
the spirit among Peninah’s fellow countrymen and women from Kenya, who heard their language spoken thousands of miles from home. Peninah is, of
The only outside song is the pretty Peace Is Flowing like a River, composed by C.
Landry. “I don’t know C. Landry, but when I was a teacher at Gesu Catholic School in Detroit, we sang a version of this song. I was impressed with it
and arranged the current version on the CD.”
“The response so far has been terrific. I met with around 50 Chicago-area gospel radio
announcers in July, and their response to the CD was gratifying. I also met with around 400 gospel
announcers in Dallas, Texas, in August.”
“I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1942 (Philippe was born in 1941). My mother Annie Wynn had
been married previously to Mr. Henry Hamm, but she was not married to my
father, DeGree Walker, when Philippe was born; hence his birth
certificate gave his surname as Wynn, though he used Walker as his surname
until late in his career. My mother and father were married before I was
“From the beginning of my life, I was exposed to gospel music as well as blues, r&b
and jazz. My grandmother was a church musician, and my mother’s and father’s
fathers were both Baptist preachers. Philippe, my sisters - Annie and Margaret
– and I sang together in church, when we were very young children, and all of
us were steeped in the black gospel tradition of southern Ohio.”
“There was a break-up in the family in the 1950’s. My mother moved to Detroit with another
man, and my father put us in the New Orphanage Asylum for Colored Children in Cincinnati around 1952. Philippe ran away first, and then I did too, when I was fourteen
years old. I decided to move to Detroit to find my mother and I left Philippe
there living with my father after he ran away from the orphanage, and my two sisters
still in the orphanage. I came to Detroit in 1957.”
“Philippe followed me to Detroit in the early sixties and we sang gospel music around
town as the Walker Singers (we had a young lady name Wilma Laird,
who also sang with us). We recorded an album with a man named Mike Hanks (Mah’s
Records), but we could not agree on the terms for release and it was never released.
Mike A. Hanks died, and years later - after Philippe’s death - I found Mike’s wife and pleaded with her to let me purchase the tape from her.
She was still terrified, because Mike was killed in gangland fashion, and she wouldn’t ever let me in her home.”
“G.C. Cameron lived next door to my mother, and before Phil came to Detroit, and when he
was a little lad, I used to take him to church with me. It was G.C. that told
me he was leaving the Spinners to marry one of Berry Gordy’s
sisters and move to Los Angeles with the Gordys. I told him that my brother
was a singer and he told me to tell Philippe to go over to the place where the
Spinners rehearsed and auditioned.”
“My early gospel influences were Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Professor Alex Bradford, the Roberta
Martin Singers, Clara Ward and Mahalia Jackson, among others. My
sister Annie became an opera singer, singing up with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein
in Dusseldorf in 1967. She recently completed a Masters degree in Vocal Music
Performance at Wayne State University in Detroit, and she has returned to California to sing and teach. I completed a Bachelors degree at Wayne State University in Detroit in History, a Masters degree at the University of Detroit in Education (Reading), and a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree in Reading at Wayne State University.”
“I have had six albums released previously beginning with Reach the Heart on VeeJay
(5036) in 1963. I wrote the songs, directed the choir and assisted in the production of this album with the Northeastern Michigan Church of God in Christ State Choir. Next I produced four albums beginning in 1965 for
Savoy Records with Tessie Hill and the Original Church of God in Christ Radio Choir (My Soul Is Anchored in the Lord in 1965, Have You
Been Washed In His Blood in 1966, Blessed and Brought Up by the Lord in 1967 and God’s Got A Ram in the Bush in 1968). My next album was
released in 1976 on Buddha Records, God Has Blessed Our Hands. That company went bankrupt and the album never reached its potential. Additionally,
I used the recording name of Michael Wynne on that recording. Wynn was my mother’s maiden name, which was the name later used by my brother Philippe.”
“I recorded one r&b single, I got the Notion, You got the Motion (on Thunder 5253 in
1975), but my brother Philippe (who co-produced it with Thom Bell) had a
parting of the ways with Thom Bell during the project and it never reached its
potential. In 2004, in response to the high murder and violence rate in Detroit, I released the single CD, Please Be an Angel for Detroit.”
“Now that I left college teaching and run my own business, The Michigan Academy of Reading
Improvement, I plan to exploit my gospel songwriting and sing to the fullest. I belong to the New Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, where I am the
organist and choir director. My church is located in northwest Detroit in the heart of the African American ghetto in that part of the city. Detroit in its entirety is about 90 % African American. I sing at the church every
Sunday; rarely missing Sunday services, even when I have to go out of town.”
“Let me close by saying that Philippe Escalante Walker was able to sing gospel as well as
r&b, and that at the end of his career he was interested in returning to
gospel music. He died in 1984 in Oakland, California, but he lives through his
After singing lead in Sounds of Blackness and enjoying success with her subsequent solo
albums, Ann now decided “to go back to her roots” (
www.annesby.com). Produced by Tres Gilbert and recorded in Atlanta, Georgia,
Ann is backed by her own “Ann Band” on In the Spirit, which came out in April this year (Shanachie
There are twelve
songs on the set and only two are fast ones - a jubilee type of an opener
called I Can Go to God in Prayer (best known by Albertina Walker) and
Aretha Franklin’s Climbing Higher Mountains. Of
the slow ones, the personal favourite is If I Can’t Say a Word, but the
melodic and often-recorded In the Garden and There’s Something about
That Name come close.
From the soul
side they borrow Stevie Wonder’s Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years
Away and Bill Withers’ Grandma’s Hands, but the rest of the
slowies are PD’s (Public Domain); such as the two hymns, Pass Me Not and
Jesus Paid It All. The big-voiced Ann sings at the top of her voice a lot,
which only increases the intensity of this emotive set.
After the Orlons broke up, their lead singer, Rosetta Hightower, moved almost
penniless to the U.K. in 1968, where she continued recording, performing and doing session work
with local pop stars. This self-titled compilation (RPM 311; 16 tracks, 48 min.;
www.rpmrecords.co.uk) reminds us of some of the
pop & soul material she cut those days.
Her 12-song “Motown” album for Rediffusion in 1971 was produced by her hub, Ian Green,
and there some perky cuts on there. In the sleeve-notes Clive Richardson writes
that they are “just about the most soulful recordings ever made in England”, but
I would give that honourable mention to Oscar Toney Jnr’s ultra-soulful
album, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long to Stop Now…, on Contempo in 1975.
The covers are not necessarily slavish copies of the originals but in some cases bring
something new into the songs. Personal favourites include Abraham Martin
and John (although not strictly a Motown song), River Deep and Mountain High
(with a surprisingly full sound and drive), Stoned Love, Tracks of My Tears,
Remember Me and Every Little Bit Hurts. On the other hand,
Never Can Say Goodbye sounds like a demo.
The four bonus tracks were released as two singles on Vicki Wickham’s Toast label in
1968, and they are treated like fast and loud pop numbers; Eddie Floyd’s
Big Bird has even rock elements to it. Although Rosetta Hightower
isn’t an earth-shattering set, it is entertaining and very easy on the ear.
Ted’s high tenor is one of the most distinctive voices in black music. Born in 1937 in
Oklahoma, after the obvious gospel and doo-wop (the Cadets/the Jacks)
periods he went solo at twenty and had singles on Ebb, Duke, Top Rank, Laurie,
Warwick, Gold Eagle, Soncraft, Dade, Apt and U.A. before hooking up with Okeh
The Ever Wonderful Ted Taylor/The Okeh Years 1962-1966 (Shout 26; 25 tracks, 63
min., www.shoutrecords.co.uk) offers
all of his 14 singles for the label with the exception of three songs (So
Long, Bye Bye Baby, Big Wheel and No One But You), and hooray for Clive
Richardson for keeping them in chronological order.
Ted’s first Okeh single pairs Don’t Lie, a rocker strongly influenced by Barrett
Strong’s Money, with a mid-tempo, melodic ditty called Pretending Love.
According to Michael McGill of the Dells, they recorded
backgrounds with Ted on Don’t Lie and a few other Okeh sides. The first single
was followed by a similar pair, a vigorous mover titled You Must Have Been
Meant for Me and a beat ballad named Time Has a Way. It was, however,
Ted’s next single that started making waves. A beautiful country & soul answer to
Esther Phillips, I’ll Release You, made small bubbles on the pop charts (# 134).
It was followed by an equally fascinating ballad, Be Ever Wonderful (# 123-pop),
a re-recording of his ’59 Duke ballad, which according to Ted he actually wrote himself and
which then became his signature song.
There was another country & soul ballad called Him Instead Of Me on one side
of his next, fifth Okeh single, but the storming plug side, You Give Me Nothing To Go On,
got more attention (# 104-pop). Beautiful country & soul prevailed on I’ll Make It
up To You, and it was followed by one bluesy (So Hard) and one soulful
(Top of the World) ballad. They all had uptempo cuts on the flip.
If It Wasn’t for You is a pretty ballad, and – surprise, surprise! – the tenth single
called I Love You Yes I Do is again a beautiful country & soul
slowie. Recorded in Nashville, I’m So Satisfied finds Ted still
sticking to the same c&s style, although the storming scorcher on the flip,
(Love Is Like A) Rambling Rose, won in popularity (# 132-pop). Stay
Away From My Baby became Ted’s best-know Okeh recording (# 14-r&b, #
99-pop), but strangely this swaying beat ballad was followed by a fast stormer
called Daddy’s Baby (# 124-pop).
Ted was a prolific songwriter. For instance he wrote or co-wrote twelve songs on this
set. He had three albums on Okeh, Be Ever Wonderful, Blues and Soul and
Greatest hits, and after Okeh he continued recording for Epic, Atco, Jewel,
Ronn (where he had most of his hits between 1968 and ’74), Alarm, MCA and finally his own Solbugdits.
He died in a car accident in 1987 at the age of fifty.
A combination of a classically trained voice and early practice in gospel was a fertile breeding
ground for the immense popularity of Roy Hamilton in the 50s. He and his warm
baritone voice have influenced many singers during the years, including Jackie
Wilson, the Righteous Brothers, Elvis and Jerry Butler. His easy listening
ballads were often close to being over-laden with pathos, but there was always a certain
touch of class to his music, no matter how pompous it was.
Roy was born in Georgia in 1929, and the first of his forty plus singles on Epic was
released in 1954. Don’t Let Go (Shout 27; 26 tracks, 66 min.) – subtitled Epic R ‘N’ B from “The Golden Boy” - is a compilation derived
from eleven singles and three albums between 1954 and ’62. On Epic Roy had ten r&b
hits and five more that charted only on the pop side.
At first his trademark was big-voiced, almost operatically sung ballads, such as the very
first one, You’ll Never Walk Alone (# 1-r&b). Other hits in the
same vein followed – Ebb Tide (charted actually twice, # 30-pop in 1954
and # 105-pop in 1959), Hurt, Unchained Melody (# 1-r&b, # 6-pop)
and Forgive This Fool. Next Roy switched over to big-orchestrated,
catchy pop-meets-rock-meets-r&b ditties and instantly scored high with Don’t
Let Go (# 2-r&b, # 13-pop) in early 1958. It was followed by similar Crazy
Feelin’, Jungle Fever and I Need Your Lovin’, but their commercial
appeal wasn’t as efficient anymore. Only in 1961 did Roy repeat the trick with
You Can Have Her (# 6-r&b, # 12-pop), which, on the other hand, was
his next to last appearance in top-100 (You’re Gonna Need Magic climbed
still to # 80-pop in 1961, but it’s not included on this set).
Roy had dozens of albums released, and here we have samples from three of them – 2 songs
from The Golden Boy, four from You Can Have Her and seven from Mr. Rock and Soul, and those seven show the blacker side of Roy’s music. That’s
All Right bears a resemblance to Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman, Blowtop Blues and I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town are both
blues-infused and I’ll Come Running Back To You (# 110-pop in ’62) was,
of course, one of Sam Cooke’s chart-toppers.
From 1963 Roy had releases on MGM, RCA, Capitol and finally surprisingly soulful sides on AGP before
his untimely death in 1969 at the age of forty
This quintet, which was formed in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1957, moved to Chicago in 1960 and
had its first single released two years later. Often compared to the
Olympics, the Contours, the Vibrations and the Coasters, this
“maniac music” group had altogether nine singles listed in the One-derful!
catalogue between 1962 – 66, and Shake A Tail Feather (Shout 28;
22 tracks, 55 min.) includes them all, plus four sides that remained unreleased
at the time but came out later on the Japanese P-Vine label. (The ’96
compilation on the Ring of Stars label is identical but lacks one song, Sweet Lips).
Although at times it sounds like the group had more fervour and drive than skill,
nevertheless some of their raw dancers are attractive in their own peculiar way.
On their first single in trying to create a new dance craze called Flea the
singing fails, and on the ballad flip, Please Change Your Mind, they’ve listened too closely to James Brown. The follow-up, Come Back Baby, combines
Shout with Lonely Teardrops, and the driving Dry Your Eyes has the
Tams stamp on it. (One source claims that this single was released also with an
alternative flip, Fever Epidemic, but I haven’t found any confirmation for this).
With Andrew Butler on lead, their third single, Shake A Tail Feather – a frantic
and an almost chaotic dance song – became a summer hit in 1963 (# 28-r&b, #
51-pop), and since then it has been redone by numerous acts, including Ray
Charles in 1980 in The Blues Brothers movie. A hilarious novelty called Divorce
Court was on the b-side. Follow-ups failed. Neither fast and loony The
Gouster/Monkey See – Monkey Do, nor more melodic Nobody but My Baby (b/w
a bluesy slowie, That’s How I Love You) were distinctive enough. The
sixth single, The Cool Bird, was actually Tail Feather, part 2.
Sweet Lips was inspired by the hit of the day, Dancing in the Street, and a beat
ballad titled Woodbine Twine tries to cash in on the Impressions sound. The
last single, Mountain of Love, was a primitive pop &
soul ballad, but Outside the Record Hop on the flip was a catchy toe-tapper.
Although the Five Du-Tones disbanded in 1967, its members carried on in such outfits as
the Sharpees, the Exciters Band and South Shore Commission.
The last one had three hits on Wand in the mid-70s, with Free Man being the biggest.
The Complete Motown Singles, vol. 5: 1965 (166 tracks, 7 h 20 min) is a
six-CD box set with a 146-page booklet, which contains forewords from Al Abrams,
Berry Gordy’s first employee in 1959, and the author Herb Boyd.
Track-by-track annotations are by Bill Dahl and Keith Hughes, and, as before,
Harry Weinger oversaw the project.
1964 had been a break-through year for the company, and somehow I recollected that in 1965 only
the sky seemed to be the limit. There was a constant stream of big pop and
r&b hits, of course – Stop! In The Name Of Love, Back In My Arms Again,
I Hear A Symphony, My World Is Empty Without You (the Supremes),
I’ll be Doggone, Ain’t That Peculiar (Marvin Gaye), Shotgun(Jr.
Walker & the All Stars), Nowhere to Run (Martha & the Vandellas),
I Can’t Help Myself, It’s The Same Old Song (Four Tops),
Uptight (Stevie Wonder), and Don’t Mess With Bill (the Marvelettes)
– but not the knockout amount I had imagined. It seems that those days were still ahead.
All the A- and B-sides of all the singles on Motown, Soul, Tamla, Gordy, V.I.P. and Mel-O-Dy
(the last three singles on that imprint) in 1965 are included, and some with
second versions and different mixes. The Velvelettes, Brenda Holloway, Marv
Johnson, the Spinners, the Contours, Jimmy Ruffin, the Monitors and the Elgins -
all familiar acts from previous years (some with a name change) - kept on coming with releases,
but also new artists were introduced; such as R. Dean Taylor, Barbara McNair, Chris Clark
and Tammi Terrell. Incidentally, Bobbie Smith of the Spinners has now twice
confirmed me that the group did not sing backup on any of Tammi Terrell’s songs.
Still in 1965 the company insisted on releasing both country (Dee Mullins and Howard
Crockett), and mainstream pop (the Hillsiders – almost like the
Seekers – Billy Eckstine, Richard Anthony, Little Lisa, the Lewis Sisters, the Headliners,
the Dalton Boys; and from the West coast by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon: Danny Day, Dorsey Burnette and Tony Martin).
Among the ’65 releases there were three instrumentals by Earl Van Dyke & The Soul
Brothers - actually the Funk Brothers – but such artists as the
Downbeats, the Hit Pack, the Freeman Brothers and the Vows are all
gone and forgotten these days. Among the oddities there are The Only Time I’m Happy,
“a promotional single to be used in a special giveaway campaign”, two Christmas songs
(Children’s Christmas Song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Me) and one
Phil Spector type of a production, Things Are Changing, a radio promo single
– all by the Supremes.
Personal favourites are Ask the Lonely by the Four Tops, I’m Still
Loving You by Kim Weston, It’s Growing by the Temptations and
You’re Gonna Love My Baby by Barbara McNair… and Frank Wilson’s Do
I Love You is also here.
A DVD titled THE
SPINNERS LIVE (www.pegasus-ent.com)
was recorded and shot at the Casino Rama in Canada on August 19, 2005, and released recently. The group performs in the line-up of Frank Washington (lead),
Bobbie Smith (lead, tenor), Henry Fambrough (lead, baritone),
Pervis Jackson (bass) and Harold Bonhart (tenor), and they are
backed by a full orchestra, with Darrell Smith acting as a musical
director. Ron Smith on guitar is Bobbie’s son.
If you haven’t
seen the group perform lately, it may take some time to get used to listening
to a new voice on many of those Spinners big hits, but after awhile you can’t
help but admire Frank Washington’s showmanship. He’s a genuine mobile on
stage, and with a 50-year experience the other members of the group know their
choreography, too. Also vocally Frank is quite close to Philippe Wynn, and he
sure knows his ad-libs. The other lead, Bobbie Smith, hasn’t gone anywhere,
and his voice is as enchanting and sweet as ever.
For me the
highlights of the show were Funny with the boys joking around about that
last high note (Harold sang it eventually) – incidentally, John Edwards used
to sing this song in his telephone answering service – and the boisterous Mighty
Love with Frank walking in the audience and dancing with the ladies. Cupid
and the ensuing Sam Cooke medley were equally energetic, but if you
grew up with those songs (Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, It’s A Shame,
I’ll Be Around, Working My Way Back To You, Sadie, Love Don’t Love Nobody, Then
Came You, One Of A Kind, Games People Play and The Rubberband Man),
you love every minute of the show.
Besides the 1 h
20 min. concert as a bonus there’s a 35 min. interview with members reminiscing
the old days, clips from rehearsals and the bio with John Edwards singing
simultaneously on stage Put Us Together Again, plus photos and credits.
There’s also a CD, The Best of the Spinners, Live (PEG CD 590), from the same
concert with the same 14 songs, but only shortened (68 min.). Please visit
50th Anniversary Celebration (Image 3056; 101 min.)
was released on CD already last year, but now this concert, which took place in 2004,
is available on DVD, too. The same as with the Spinners above, if you haven’t seen the
Four Tops perform in their current line-up before, it’s difficult to get accustomed to not
hearing Levi Stubbs lead their beloved hit songs. But in this case the new members,
Theo Peoples and Ronnie McNeir, belong to another generation and their
singing style is different, more melismatic and contemporary. It’s not as strong and punchy as
Levi’s. You only have to listen to Baby I Need Your Loving and Ask the Lonely
to tell the difference. Mind you, those boys are competent and fine singers – it goes without
saying – and they fill up nicely… only the sound is different.
After this concert we also lost “Obie” Benson (replaced now by Lawrence Payton Jr),
so Abdul Fakir is the only original member left these days. Of their own performances
I enjoyed the most When She Was My Girl, I Can’t Help Myself and the Four Tops Medley.
Many guests were invited to the Detroit Opera House that night.
Ashford & Simpson hosted and also sang Something About You,
Mary Wilson with the Tops delivered River Deep, Mountain High and
Aretha Franklin did a duet with Theo on I Wanna Make It Up To You.Dennis Edwards with his Temptations Review joined the Tops on an
impressive remake of Indestructible and right after that David Sea
sang lead onI’ll turn To Stone.
A most emotional moment occurred, when Levi entered the stage in a wheelchair and joined Aretha
on I Believe in You and Me, which brought a lot of tears both on stage,
and in the audience. The grand finale was Baby I Need Your Loving with all
the guests participating. Ray Chew was the musical director, George Roundtree
was the Four Tops’ band leader and there were as many as nine horn players… and
one Dennis Coffey on guitar.
Midnight Mover (ISBN 1 84454 148 7; 304 pages) is Bobby
Womack’s autobiography, with some writing help from Robert Ashton, and
it has a modest subtitle of “The True Story of the Greatest Soul Singer in the
Bobby is very outspoken and he writes in the first person honestly about sex, violence,
segregation, discrimination, drugs and death. They are all issues and setbacks
he has encountered in his life. The book is an easy read and at times quite
interesting, too, but the problem is that Bobby’s not a very good writer. He
uses a lot of street language and I for one would have wished that they had
used a professional biographer. Bobby’s life-story is too interesting to be
documented this way.
Born in the ghetto of Cleveland in 1944 to a poor family with four brothers, Bobby writes
about his introduction to music, to gospel first, his guitar playing in the
Womack Brothers, his first record in 1954, meeting with Sam Cooke
and recording for Sam’s Sar label as the Valentinos. He also describes
his stints not only with Sam, but also with Solomon Burke, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix,
Ray Charles and Janis Joplin. He played in Chip Moman’s American
studios for five years for such artists as Elvis, Aretha and the Rolling Stones
and later he worked in Muscle Shoals with Wilson Pickett and also toured with him.
His first solo records came out on Minit/Liberty between 1967 and ’70, and from there he
went to U.A. to enjoy his biggest hits.
My constant complaint about these biographies is that the music and the making of music is
not sufficiently dealt with, and that’s one thing the fans want to read about;
perhaps the most significant part. There’s also no index in this book, and the
discography has gaps that with a little research could easily have been filled.
Bruce Hawes belonged to the remarkable trio of writers, Simmons-Jefferson-Hawes,
that Thom Bell put together in the early 70s to create melodies for the Spinners in the
first place. As an insert to our Spinners Story (part 4) I interviewed Bruce about his past career – about his gospel background, his own gospel choir,
turning to secular etc. – and now Bruce contacted me to correct one recent piece of misinformation.
Bruce: “My death is greatly exaggerated. I can be reached in the States at 215-459 3670 or I
am always available at HawesBruce@aol.com. I am also as creative as ever.”