I hope you enjoy
my recent interviews with G.C. Cameron,Otis Clay, Fred Bolton,
Denise LaSalle and Joe Ligon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, as
well as those from the vaults with Jim Bennett, Freddie Scott, Frank
Mendenhall and Jackie Neal.
indie releases the column this time includes some CDs that were released
earlier in 2006, too, but not dealt with on this forum at the time… and, of
course, we must not forget some of the magnificent recent records that we’ve
raved about on our website earlier, such as the Philly/Detroit collaboration, A
Soulful Tale of Two Cities, and impressive newies by Shirley Slaughter and
Mavis Staples: CD We’ll Never Turn Back
Patti Austin: CD Avant Gershwin
Lou Ragland: CD Until I Met You
Robert Peckman: CD Stirrin’ up Bees
The Friends of Distinction: CD Crazin’ & Highly Distinct
The Original Orlons: Soothe & Groove
George Curtis’ career, both as a solo act, and during his stints with the
Spinners (in profound in our # 3/2002 printed mag) and with the
Temptations (# 4/2005), and now he has faced another twist in his career.
G.C.: “I’ve left the Temptations about two weeks ago (the interview took place
on June the 6th). There was a situation, where they refused to pay me my
money, and so they let me go. They sort of terminated me.”
“They never told
me they were going to release me. They just let me go, refused to pay me and
got this other guy, after five years. They put him in the movie they were
shooting last month. The new guy is already in the show. I’m out completely.
It was just a strange kind of a situation. It wasn’t the way I would have done
“It’s a great
group and it was really a great thing being in that group – just like in the
Spinners – and to be able to sing songs for the people. The most important
thing is to be able to play soul music for those, who come to hear it – that’s
my driving force.”
“We’re going to
re-release Shadows (G.C.’s solo CD) and I’ve finished another album, Enticed
Ecstasy. We’re going to release that in July on DagaJacc Records. Now I
want to do my solo thing for awhile and just kind of take it easy for a minute,
and hopefully I can musically serve the people to the best of my ability for
the coming years.”
Although a more
appropriate place for Otis’ latest CD, Walk a Mile in My Shoes (Echo,
ECCD 357; 2007), would be in our gospel section, I let it lead the way, since
for me it is the best of the lot this time.
completely produced and arranged by Otis and recorded for the most part in Chicago, many real live players still add to the listening pleasure. Otis’ roots lie deep
in gospel – he was a member of at least seven gospel groups before going
secular – so it’s no wonder that time after time he goes back to inspirational
music on record, too.
Otis starts with
a startling mid-tempo cover of Johnnie Taylor’s God Is Standing By.
“I have sung with Johnnie Taylor, who was a good friend of mine, and with the
Soul Stirrers. I was always close to the Crume brothers – Leroy,
Arthur, Dillard (members of the Soul Stirrers at different times) – and we
stay in contact with each other. I recorded that song probably three or four
years ago. These are some of my favourite songs, and I felt it was just time
for another gospel album. The last one I did is still very popular.”
Joe South had
a pop hit in early 1970 with his catchy tune called Walk a Mile in My Shoes,
which Otis stretches here into an over 6-minute long plea. “I recorded
this version last year. I recorded another version early on, on a Joe South
Tribute Album (in 2005). Normally we wouldn’t call that a gospel song, but
it was working in a church. The song had been a hit on the college circuit,
and they were afraid that if we’re going to put it on my gospel album we’re
going to miss two audiences, the gospel audience and a high percentage of the
black audience. That’s why they didn’t want to put the song on a gospel album,
so I went back and re-recorded the song. I brought in Tom Tom Washington (co-producer
and arranger, as “Tom Tom 84” again). We kind of grew up in this music thing
together. We got together and slowed the song down a bit.”
On drums there’s
one Vern Allison, Jr., the son of a member of the Dells, but
first and foremost your attention is drawn to the powerful horn section.
“Those are my regular horns. We have Darryl Thompson on trumpet, and
he’s in my band, the Platinum Band, who was a band that was with Tyrone
Davis for 26 years. We have Fred Johnson on trombone, and Gene
Barge is doing solo on tenor saxophone. We’ve got Willie Henderson,
who did all those early great records on Tyrone Davis, the Chi-Lites and
everybody like that. He’s on baritone. Darryl, Fred and Willie travel with me
all the time.”
I Adore You
Lord is a slow prayer type of a song. “It was recently recorded. A friend
of mine named Joe Roberson, who wrote the song, lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He came to my studio, did a great version of it, but never finished
the song. I said ‘hey, let me do it’, and that’s how we came about doing that
swayer called His Love was recorded in Tokyo, Japan, and produced by Hiroshi
Asada. “That was in ’83. We recorded that with the Hi rhythm section” (Teenie
Hodges, Leroy Hodges, Charles Hodges and Howard Grimes). Under the
name of His Precious Love the song has appeared later on other Otis’ compilations,
too; e.g. When the Gates Swing Open on Echo 2001 in 1990).
Another song by
Leroy Crume, a slow and touching hymn named Love of God, has a 5-piece
choir on the background. “That’s the band. Not only do they play, but they
are great singers. We put that track down here in my studio.”
beat ballad titled Heaven Is My Home is Leroy’s third melody on the
set. “This album really started out being a Soul Stirrers album, and that’s
why we did the medley (Nearer to Thee, Touch The Hem of His Garment, Jesus
Build A Fence Around Me and Last Mile of The Way – all by Sam
Cooke), because we were doing that on tour, and everybody was asking for
the medley. So that’s why we came back and recorded it.”
On Jesus Program is performed in a more traditional gospel setting. “A
friend of mine, who had a group that he was managing, wanted to bring the group
to my studio to record them. That is not really the key that I would sing the
song in, because it’s kind of low. I brought the group in, but the lead singer
never could sing the song, so I had to try it. When I was finishing up this album,
I just went in and put the background and the lead vocal on that. This was
Love’s In Need of Love Today is an over 11-minute live recording, again
from Japan. “That was 1979.” The concluding song, If I Could Reach out and
Help, derives from Otis’ early 70s Hi recording period, but here it gets a
terrific, almost overwhelming live treatment with Carla Thomas (and Barbara
Acklin still on background vocals). “That was recorded here at Chicago
Gospel Festival. In fact, we’re doing the gospel festival this year, too.”
and stunning set was released on his own Echo label. “I’ve always had the
label. The label is 32 years old. I formed this label in 1975, after I left
Hi Records. Mainly I was using it for production. I would produce an album
and maybe lease it to someone else. The original version, 12” of When the
Gates Swing Open, was on Echo Records. Early on in 1975 I released Turn
Back the Hands of Time on Echo Records, and then I leased it to another
“The new CD is
doing very well, because it sells on the gospel audience and secular audience.
There are three songs on there that can play on a secular format – Walk A Mile
In My Shoes, Love’s In Need of Love Today and If I Could Reach Out.”
“We do have a
secular album that we’re going to release probably later this year. It is very
strong. I have Darryl Carter, who wrote Woman’s Got to Have It and
More Than I Can Stand for Bobby Womack, who works for me. We
started working at Hi Records together.”
It Must Be Love (LenTom Entertainment) is produced by Lenny together with some of
his friends, mainly Charles Leonard and Lionell Holiman. They
also did most of the writing. The fact that the music for the most part is
synthesized – although not in an irritating way – is not my main complaint, but
the inclusion of as many as four songs from Lenny’s previous album, My Way (on
Thump in 2004). Mind you, all four are nice, downtempo numbers, so, if you
don’t have that CD and you like Lenny’s high-pitched voice, I see no reason not
to purchase this new one.
single, Tuesday, is a pretty slow-to-mid-tempo ditty and it’s followed
by the title tune, a slightly repetitious beat ballad. Lenny almost becomes breathless
with his busy vocal delivery on I Be Missing You, although tempo-wise
we’re talking about a slowie here. It gets even more experimental on Somebody
Else, which, besides an original rhythm, introduces some light jazzy
elements. You’re My Everything takes the fusion still one step further
by weaving and rotating instrumental sounds around and taking human voices
along in this spin. Also I’m in Love Again may remind you of the days
of early psychedelia.
have been a decent inspirational sing-along mid-pacer, if not for the rap
passage in the middle. Piano leads into a beautiful serenade called I Will
Never Leave You, which for me is the highlight of the CD. Both intimate
and experimental, it’ll be interesting to see which direction Lenny will be
heading in on his next record (www.lennywilliams.com).
professional career began in the 1940s, and his recording history spans amazing
sixty years (www.pineybrown.com). One
of These Days is his second CD for Bonedog Records (BDRCD-20; www.mojoboneyard.com), and, of the
twelve tracks on display here, eleven are remakes of his own compositions. A
blues romp titled Strange Things Are Happening was penned by Percy
Mayfield. Piney accepts only real live players, including a horn section,
to back him up. His voice sounds a bit tired, but it’s only natural
considering he’s 85 years old. Arrangement-wise in most cases he offers a new
and different angle to his old songs.
The title tune
is my all-time Piney favourite, an intense soul deepie that was released on SS7
in 1969. Here his rework is more intimate, with a more plain backing. Besides
other blues songs deriving from the 50s (In the Evening, My Love), Piney
specializes in hooky and driving 50s r&b numbers, such as Just a Little
Bit (a ’60 hit for Rosco Gordon, which allegedly came from Piney’s
pen), Talkin’ ‘Bout You, Walk a Block and fall and Cream in My
As you can judge from the title, She’s
Super Bad is a fairly new song from the late 80s, and a mid-tempo
boogie-woogie called Ain’t It a Shame comes from the same decade. Kokomoand Rosalee (cut for Duke in the late 50s as half of the duo, Brooks
& Brown) are slow r&b sawyers.
Tonight Girl (Arrow Heart Records 855; out of Jackson, MS) is J.T.’s fourth CD in ten years (his first single came out already in 1991). The
tracks are arranged by Harrison Calloway, who also takes care of most of
the “instruments” and sings background with Thomasine Anderson.
The title song,
a soul slowie, inevitably draws a comparison with Jimmy Hughes’ 67 hit, Why
Not Tonight, especially on the melody side. It is one of those old school
soul songs, alongside two toe-tappers, I Need to See You (by McKinley
Mitchell) and Find Yourself another Girl (by Jerry Butler &
Curtis Mayfield). Your Love Is like a Brick Wall sounds like Higher
& Higher composed all over again.
Half of the
repertoire is dedicated to blues, and one of those five songs is I Won’t Be
Back for More, another McKinley Mitchell composition. Actually J.T.’s
seasoned and ripe voice bears a slight resemblance to the late McKinley.
RIC E BLUEZ
Soul (Betty Lowe Records; out of Houston, Texas) all songs were produced
and written (except two) by Ric, who opted to have live rhythm and horn
sections playing with him. Unfortunately, it also includes Gerald Jackson’s
rock guitar. As a vocalist, Ric possesses a boyish tenor, not a very strong
one, which has a tinge of Robert Tillman or Wilson Meadows to it.
On the set there
are three blues numbers, three standard dancers and as many as six ballads, of
which the poignant If I Were You is the most traditional one, in a For
Your Precious Love vein. That’s Why I Still Love You and Angel
are both nice slow sawyers, and the latter one could actually come from Johnnie
Taylor’s song book. There is one thing I especially like in this young
man: he was born on November 28, in 1969. We share the same birthday. Only he
comes nineteen years behind.
INTRODUCING… FRED BOLTON
Git Mine (Wilbe, Wil
2011-2; www.williambell.com) was
produced by Fred Bolton and Kennedy Atkinson, and also arranged by the
twosome together with Reginald “Wizard” Jones. Fred: “Kennedy Atkinson
is my guitar player and my long-time friend.” Fred wrote or co-wrote nine out
of the twelve songs on the set, and he has a live rhythm section behind him.
The title tune,
a thumping beater, is also the first single. “I come from the time, when I was
struggling about ten years ago, going through a couple of changes in jobs. I
was trying to figure out, which direction I was trying to go in – would it be
music, would it be working in the industry… I had to make a decision, so I just
made up my mind ‘hey, I have to get mine’, and the song just matured from
songs follow: a light and easy bouncer titled I Can’t Lose (With the Stuff
You Use) and another pleasant mover called Baby It’s you.Must
Be Jelly is an effortless dancer.
A Change Is
Gonna Come is always a tough one to cover, and here the song has an
especially slow arrangement. Actually it’s a medley with What the World Needs
Now and What’s Going On, and in the end it turns into gospel with a
contemporary touch. “Me and Kennedy Atkinson were sitting down and talking.
We were doing just the regular A Change Is Gonna Come song, and then all of a
sudden he said ‘why don’t you mix Marvin Gaye in it’. We did,
and then I came up with the idea of trying to mix the song What the World Needs
Now. So that’s how that one came about.”
The title of Junk
in da Trunk says it all, and it is followed by two more dancers, I’ll
Never Let Go of Your Hand and Ooh Wee Kind of Lover. “Actually that
(uptempo songs) was William Bell’s idea. We had many songs that we had
written, but those were basically the songs William chose.” (You can read my
last-year interview with William at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep206.htm#williambell).
For old school students
the absolute highlight is a deep and magnificent, over 7-minute long cover of
William’s ’67 song, Everyday Will Be like a Holiday, with William
himself joining in. “It was my idea. William allowed me to change it the way
that I wanted it to fit my format. He gave me his support, and everything
worked out real good.”
Forget the Love is a tender, smooth ballad. “For that one I give credit to
Kennedy Atkinson. We were on the road travelling and playing around one day.
We were sitting in a room with a guitar. He’s a guitar player, and I’m a
guitar player also. He was playing that music, and I asked him ‘can I have
beater, The Shadow Knows, another mellow ballad, You Are My Desire,
follows. “I wrote that song for my wife. All these songs that I wrote I wrote
years ago, actually back in 1994. I had recorded them, and they were recorded
in a different version. They were recorded more to a pop sound. We changed it
up, got Kennedy into it and he rewrote the music to these songs.”
Henry Bolton was born on September 20, in 1968, in Talladega, Alabama, east of Birmingham (www.myspace.com/fredbolton1
“I came from a musical family on both sides, on my father and my mother side.
My mother, Vera Mae Woods Bolton, played the piano and the organ. My
father, Rev. A.C. Bolton, played the guitar, and both sing.” Fred
started out singing in his father’s church and also in the family gospel group
called the Boltonettes. When asked about influences, Fred came up with an
impressive list of artists: Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, the O’Jays, the
Temptations, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.
“My very first
recording was way back in 1992. It was a group of my own. It was called Brother
to Brother. The name of the song was I’m giving you All My Love. It
was on the Highland Records out of Ashland, Alabama.”
“Next I recorded
with the Gospel Angelics an album, I Must Tell Jesus, for Victron
Records in 1994. I was a keyboard player for the group and I led a couple of
songs on the album.”
album that I did independently was by Fred Bolton and the Anointed Ones,
and the title was Looks Can Be Deceiving. That was the single, too. It
was distributed by Highland Records, and the label was going under the name of
New Day Presentation. This was in 1999, I think. I had three other guys.
They were all my first cousins out of Jacksonville, Florida. There were Kenneth
Woods, Sr., Tyrone and Jerome Woods.”
“I did a song, Anticipating,
with the Chocolate Buttermilk Band for CBM Records out of North Carolina in 2003 or 2004. I was in quite a bit secular groups before going solo. I
would say at least in ten. I had formed several groups of my own, but then I
started playing around with few bands, and actually one of those bands – the
Chocolate Buttermilk Band – was backing up William Bell one night and there
William had a chance to hear me sing. That was in 2005. We sat down with him
and we discussed everything and he told me I was the kind of artist they were
looking for. I look up to William like a father, because he’s a pioneer in the
moves in a territory between old school and more contemporary singing. “My
direct aim is to please everybody. I do have a wide depth of range, when it
comes to different styles of music. I guess I’m just an artist with so many
different styles, and I can make any style of music flow.”
JIM BENNETT and LADY MARY
My first contact
with Jim took place after the release of his Still LovinCD in 1999, and
you can read that interview with information on his past activities here.
Since then he and Lady Mary have released at least four albums before this
latest one, Double or Nothing(Ja Ben and LM Productions,
Jim and Mary
still have Unique Creation Band with them, and their sound still remains
soft and laid-back, sort of “after hours music” in a simple and stripped-down
music setting. Jim himself wrote four songs, two mid-tempo ditties (It’s so
Real, What’s good for the Goose) and two relaxed ballads (Just One
Chance, Going once Going twice). Of the rest four familiar songs, two
awaken pleasant associations: Facts of Life recorded an impressive soul
version of a country song called Sometimes and one of Willie Clayton’s
finest moments is his recording of Lee Fields’ deepie, Meet Me
Tonight. Here the singing, of course, isn’t that intense; actually quite the
Ronnie Scott’s (RTR CD002; 19 tracks, 132 min.) is a two-CD set,
offering a cavalcade of Ruby’s hits and earlier recordings from two concerts.
She’s backed by a five-piece rhythm section, and the first show at Ronnie
Scott’s was recorded in October of 2006.
favourites include a haunting slowie titled Ain’t Cried in a Long Time
(if you’re lucky, you’ll also get a 4-minute DVD of this song), a beat ballad
called So Amazing and an ultimate deepie, Stay With Me Baby. I Will
Hold On is another haunting ballad, I’d Rather Go Blind is the
show-stopper in Ruby’s concerts (here almost eleven minutes long) and finally If
you’re Ready (Come Go With Me) is a hooky dancer, which became her first U.S. charted single in 1986.
As a singer I
rate Ruby very high and enjoy her music, but there’s one grumble. Call me old-fashioned,
but for me wild rock guitar is and has always been an alien element in basic
soul music, and here the devil attacks you on many songs.
The second CD,
so called “bonus album”, offers a 2003 concert, Live at the M.A.C.,
which is Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham, Ruby’s hometown in the U.K. Three songs (Restless Moods, I Will Hold On and Breath I Need) were
performed on both venues, but on this second disc we still get to hear five
“new” songs, including a dramatic version of the oft-recorded Mann &
Weil song, Nobody but You. There’s one side still that we tend to
forget in Ruby’s music: she’s a prolific song-writer. She co-wrote nine out of
the sixteen songs on this set
I think Take a Lil’ Risk (Nlightn Rec.; 32 min.) is Loraine Estell’s fourth
CD. Released already last summer, it was produced by Raine and Christopher
Estell, and the latter one also wrote all the music. Among the 5-piece
live band there are still to more Estells.
title track is a strong and energetic uptempo beater and features highly
inspired singing from Raine. Find out What She Likes is a punchy
mid-pacer, again hefty, but a ballad titled I Ain’t Miss U is ruined by
a gurgling machine sound. Stop Listen is an effortless and
easy-on-the-ear dancer, while What Grown Folks Do is a slow swayer but,
alas, with poorly mixed background vocals (by Raine).
fifteen minutes are quite ok, but then comes the Step’n section, and I
step off. I’m not a fan of aggressive, contemporary beat and the two funky
items among all those Step’n mixes (of them Brick House
immediately reminds you of the Commodores) don’t make the last fifteen
minutes any more listenable for me. Raine has a good voice, though, which
bears a slight resemblance to Stephanie Mills.
(Bedroom Offer) (Fi-Rea Records, FRCD 7900) has been around for almost
a year now. Produced, arranged and mainly written by Melvin Kimmons,
Bertha has a girl duo called SweetBabi and a live Darnell Smith Combo
backing her up, but on some tracks the horn programming is sloppily done.
is a lady out of Memphis, and her cousin is one KoKo Taylor, and,
although they share the same music territory, Bertha’s vocal skill is a far cry
from her famous relative.
inevitable blues, we are offered four mediocre dancers, one gentle mid-tempo
mover (Whatever It Takes) and finally Sweet Talk, on which – as
the title suggests – Bertha softly and seductively talks over a mid-tempo
You Pump (ECD 1091)is Denise’s third CD for Ecko Records
(www.eckorecords.com) and again
Denise and John Ward split the production duties (Denise six and John
four songs) and again Denise goes for real instruments.
The CD, which
has become a hit and the biggest success for Denise in years, kicks off with
the title song, an easy and catchy dancer, which has Mr. Ward written all over
it. Hell Sent Me You belongs to the same category, whereas I Tried is
a poignant ballad with a full backing. The fourth song John produced is Mississippi
Woman, a hammering beater written by Floyd Hamberlin and cut by Charles
Wilson earlier (as Mississippi Boy). Denise: “It’s the single. I
heard the record, I liked it and John Ward asked me to redo that Mississippi
Woman, and I said ‘right down my alley, because I’m from Mississippi and I love
Denise’s songs is a blues romp called It’s Goin’ Down. “It’s a song
that I had written a long time ago, but had written the words about two years
ago. All of a sudden I kind of ran across the words and did some fine tuning
on them. There was a rap group called Yung Doc and one of their songs
is saying ‘it’s going down’, so I kind of borrowed from Yung Doc. Rap groups
are always using the blues stuff, so I decided to borrow a couple of lines from
I Need a
Working Man is another uptempo song. “It’s one of those songs that I
thought that women would really appreciate. I started writing that song about
five-six years ago, so I decided to go ahead and finish it for this album. I
usually go back to my notes that have been laying around for years… sometimes
it’s just a title that I’ve written down to remember it.”
Song # 5, Hold
on Tight, is the first slow one on the set. “When I first wrote that, I
thought that this sounds like something Teddy Pendergrass would sing.”
Beale Street and Crying is a blues song performed – yes! – at a walking
pace, and the first thing to come to your mind is Little Milton and his
version of Walking the Back Streets and Crying (cut also by Albert
King, Otis Rush and others). “I don’t know where I came up with that
idea. I frequent Memphis’ Beale Street all the time. When I started writing
the song, all of a sudden I thought that I have to include all those places and
clubs in there… and it worked.”
On is a mid-to-uptempo toe-tapper. “It’s a very new song. I remember Johnnie
Taylor had a record out years ago called Toe Hold (in 1967), and that song
always stayed in my head, and it just came out when I was writing the song.”
A beat ballad
called You Don’t Live Here No More closes Denise’s share on this CD.
“Actually, my brother-in-law, Gary Wolfe, wrote the lyrics. He also did
a lot of the keyboard work on the album, the background arrangements and so on…
He’s a very talented young man, but he hasn’t been recognized as yet. He’s
been in gospel music for all of his life, and he just started an r&b band
now.” Karen Wolfe and Gary have divorced awhile ago.
performed in Belgium at a jazz festival in May, and the next time she’s coming
over to Europe is in September, to Italy. But do you still remember what NAPOB
is? “The new southern soul music may be around for awhile, but I think
personally the old rhythm & blues, as we did it years ago, is the most
stable music. I think it will always be here. Southern soul is a take-off
from there, and the sound is much thinner. I don’t think southern soul is
going to be as durable as the original r&b music – Tyrone Davis, Johnnie
Taylor, Denise LaSalle...”
“Somebody got a
brilliant idea to bring jazz singers back into the business and call them
r&b singers, like Anita Baker, and they pushed these r&b singers
out into the field called ‘blues’. Then the blues people like KoKo Taylor and
Muddy Waters said ‘you’re not one of us. We don’t like you. You’re not
doing our music. You’re doing more soul music’! So we ended up with no name,
no nothing. I started an organization called ‘The National Association for
Preservation of Blues’ (NAPOB, in 1986) that put up a big campaign asking ‘who
are we, give us a title, give us a name and stop discriminating against our
music’, and we ended up with the title ‘soul blues’.”
This is reminder
that you can purchase most of the Southern soul indies reviewed above at www.intodeepmusic.com.
Records such as Powerized
(Powerized Records) make this music hobby worthwhile. A group that had
a fleeting impact twenty-five years ago, when they released an album on Malaco,
still exists and, furthermore, it seems they’re stronger than ever. This male
quartet, Power (www.powerizedproductions.com),
comes from Minneapolis, but the CD was for the most part recorded in Detroit. Let’s still see, what the sleeve-notes say: “Power is a Vocal Group with an Old & New School feel… Power’s distinguished vocals range from top to bottom with each
member sharing the Lead Vocals on this CD. R&B, FUNK, JAZZ & POP
selections, take your choice of what you’ll find on this CD, it has it all.”
Indeed, first we are hit with Power, an EW&F – or even
Tower of Power– kind of a jazzy groover, a dance sound that
is revisited later on It’s
Tyme. Let Me Be Your Man is a hotchpotch of reggae, rock and rap,
but Started All Over Again, on the other hand, is a mellow
slow-to-mid-tempo, jazzy number. Get Your Love invites you to dance.
Of the six slow
songs, Listen to Your Heart is a sweet Main Ingredient type of a
ballad, while the sophisticated I Want to Know Your Name brings Blue
Magic to your mind. Playroom is atmospheric and I want you simply
pretty. These talented boys write a lot of their own material, but based
purely on their vocal skills they really deserve a fuller recognition.
Demand (Shout 33; www.shoutrecords.co.uk;
18 tracks, 66 min.) is compiled from Barbara’s four CDs, released earlier this
decade on Big Blue Records. Produced by Tony Braunagel together with
Barbara (www.barbarablue.com), they
were cut in California with a 4-piece Phantom Blues Band strengthened by
a horn section and background singers. (Two last tracks derive from Pittsburgh, PA).
Barbara has been
residing and performing in Memphis for the last ten year, and she was voted
Contemporary Female Artist of the Year at the 2007 Blues Music Awards. And
blues this is! Barbara belongs to the league of modern-day shoutresses, and -
as in this case, too - I find their music too pushy… nuance-free and mostly
clichéd. Ironically Barbara is compared to Janis Joplin and Etta
James, and I’m not a big fan of either of those artists. This certainly
works in clubs, but it doesn’t move me on record.
blues romps and even four downtempo moans, the best tracks for me are two
slowies penned by Nancy Apple – a Memphis writer and recording artists
in her own right – called Don’t Lead Me On (actually a soul ballad) and Moonlight
Over Memphis. Drunken Angel by a country & folk artist called Lucinda
Williams and If I Had You by a blues man named Bobby Boyd also
let you calm down for a minute.
the Summit Club (Stax, STXCD-8628-2; 10 tracks, 64 min., www.concordmusicgroup.com) was
recorded in September 1972 in L.A. Produced by Al Bell, the CD offers
six previously unreleased tracks. Lee Hildebrand tells in the liners
about the circumstances around this and the simultaneous Wattstax concerts and
the problems Johnnie had with his band that night.
introduction by Rufus Thomas, Johnnie hits it off with Take Care of
Your Homework, and later on other funky hits follow (Who’s Making Love and,
as a closing number, Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone). He stretches two
blues numbers, Little Bluebird and Hello Sundown, over 7- and
9-minute marks respectively, and Steal Away is performed in two
versions. Soul gems include I Don’t Wanna Lose You and Stop Doggin’ Me.
Can a Man Take (Sundazed, SC 11121; www.sundazed.com;
18 tracks, 48 min.) presents sides from John Lee Hamilton’s seven
Minaret singles (1967-’70) – excluding his two duets singles with Doris Allen
– one SSS International single (1971) plus two unreleased tracks from the
Minaret era. Recorded under the guidance of Finley Duncan out of Florida, these were Big John’s first solo recordings in spite of the fact that his career -
first as a guitarist - was launched already ten years earlier. Liners with
comments from Big John himself were written by Jeff Jarema.
Among the few
mediocre stompers typical to those days, If You’re Looking for a Fool is
the catchiest one, and I Finally Caught up with Jody – an answer song to
Johnnie Taylor – comes closest to the Stax sound, which was prevailing
on almost all of Big John’s records. Ironically, about one of the unreleased
tracks called Go Ahead On (’69) Big John says “that was just the Four
Tops”, but I’d say vocally it’s closer to Otis Redding (and
otherwise close to Rescue Me).
highlights is Big John’s signature song, an “Otis” ballad called How Much
Can a Man Take. I Have No One is a similarly pleading soul ballad, while Before
the Next Teardrop Falls trespasses on the country territory. Big John’s
biggest idol was Ray Charles, which is evident on a country swayer
titled Breaking up Is Hard to Do and on two slow songs that could derive
from Ray’s 50s Atlantic period, Love Comes and Goes and Take a Chance
with Me. Vocally the other unreleased track, I’m getting it from her
(68), could be described as “Otis meets Ray.” Take This Hurt off Me is
a Chicago style beat ballad, and Big John’s debut, The Train, offers
straight blues. There are more Big John tracks on the compilation right below.
Place (Castle Music, CMQCD 1350; 23 tracks, 71 min.; www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.co.uk)
incorporates all of Lee’s recorded output between 1965 and ’72, including his
’71 album and seven singles on five different labels. Liners were written by Simon
White and also our friend, Colin Dilnot (http://indangerousrhythm.blogspot.com),
was heavily involved. For one thing, in lack of original masters he lent his
vinyl singles for the project.
- a singer, writer and guitarist - was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1941 (passed away in 1997), and he’s one the more enigmatic figures in the history of
soul. His raw and throaty singing style suited many deep sides, and although
he was capable of cutting some inferior, messy beaters, too, the good
outnumbers the bad. His version of My Adorable One is deeper and
rougher than Joe Simon’s well-known interpretation. California
Dreaming comes out far from being pretty (in a positive meaning), and Hey
Joe passes for an example of Lee’s connection with Jimi Hendrix at
one point of his career. On The Dark End of the Street Lee uses Clarence
Carter’s monologue and song structure as such, but I like his growling
style a lot on this song.
self-penned songs the ones that impressed the most were a screamer called Bad
Girl, a simple ballad titled Every Boy and Girl and I’m Sad About
It, a deepie in Johnny Copeland’s 60sstyle. This
compilation was a lot better than I expected.
Resurrection, vol. 1 (SouthernAmericana Records, SAR-1004; 20 tracks,
63 min.) digs deeper in Finley Duncan’s operations. It introduces tracks that
were cut at Finley’s and Shelby Singleton’s Playground studios (www.playgroundrecordingstudio.com)
out of Valparaiso, Florida, during its twenty-year existence starting from
1969. Most of these tracks are released here for the first time. John
Ridley tells about the eight artists on display, and the present owner of
the studios, Mr. Jim Lancaster – “the Chief” and an artist himself –
sheds some light on the history of the location.
Not all the
tracks – say, by Jimmie Nelson, Count Willie and Johnny Soul - have
stood the test of time, but some dancers are still irresistible, such as Bad
Habit Baby by Johnny Adams, No Way to Stop It by Jimmy
Gresham and I’ll Keep on Loving You by Big John Hamilton, a
more pleasant, more country and more restrained version than Doris Allen’s
funk & rock strutter that is also included on this compilation.
there are two bluesy instrumentals by Leroy Lloyd and the Dukes, two
poignant ballads (Everybody’s Clown and the raycharlesian Love Comes
& Goes, which Big John also cut) by Len Wade, the beautiful Just
Call Me Darling by the blue-eyed Reuben Howell and a deepie called How
Can I Prove by Johnny Adams. I find this Playground Series fascinating and
anxiously wait for further volumes.
Music-wise Macon, Georgia, is first and foremost associated with Little Richard, who was born
there, and perhaps with Phil Walden’s Capricorn Records, which first
operated from that city. And, as John Ridley tells in the liner notes, also James
Brown’sand Otis Redding’s careers had links to the city.
Soul Soup (Grapevine, GVCD 3034; www.grapevine-soul.com; 22 tracks, 66
min.) presents two local labels, Jar-Val and Story, which worked in the late
60s and early 70s as an outlet for Southern soul singers.
tracks from Jar-Val cover almost all of their output, except a couple of gospel
singles. Of the five singers, Nancy Butts had most releases, and she
excels at both in gospelly deepies (I Can’t Love But One Man at a Time, Only
One Love), and mid-tempo, big-voice joggers (I’ve been Blind Too Long,
Letter Full of Tears). Matt Brown specializes either in storming,
irresistible movers (Sweet Thing, Every Day), or in poppy, melodic
mid-tempo songs (Baby I’m a Want You, Thank You Baby).
Braswell’s only single offers a nice toe-tapper on one side (This Time
it’s got to be for Real) and a saddish slowie on the other (Time Waits for
No Man). Also the high-voiced Ronnie Miller’s sole single has a
soft ballad (I Owe You Love) and a mid-tempo floater (Listen to the
Music) back-to-back. Jimmy Lee Bryant is in a category of his own.
I don’t remember when was the last time I’ve listened to a singer as lousy as
he is. He’s downright flat, and his “dance song” called My Little Girl
is so poor that it must be “a classic” or “a collector’s item” in freaky
The Stone label
is actually a group called the Flintstones, who released one shoddy
dance single under their own name but who, on the other hand, were backing up
two good vocalists on such basic and simple deepies as I’m Gonna Hold on to
You (by Alice Rozier & Little Joe) and I Need You (by Thomas
Bailey). I was surprised at the amount of basic, thrilling soul music this
Harley in collaboration with Ay’ Ron Lewis produced Movin’ (EMI
Gospel, EGD 67322), and this is already the third time Sanchez produced the
Mighty Clouds of Joy. Joe Ligon: “We decided to let him produce Movin’,
and Movin’ is a little different than the last, In the House of the Lord.
Songs are a little different, except for the song Movin’. The CD’s doing real
good already, although it hasn’t been out for a long time. I’ve been doing
interviews all over America on the radio, and every DJ I’ve talked to like it.”
is the eighth live album in Clouds’ recording career and it features eleven
songs. “All of them are new songs. We didn’t do any remakes this time; like
on the last CD we re-recorded Mighty High.” The concert took place in Dallas, Texas. “It was good reaction. It wasn’t quite as good as on The House of the
Lord, but they went for certain songs. They liked Rain on Me real good,
and Jesus Will Turn It Around and Movin’. On about four of the
songs they acted differently than on the other ones.”
section is on the stage with the group, but horns were added later on in Nashville, Tennessee. “Sanchez took the tape, went in and added stuff to it. He added
some background parts and he added some horns.”
The Clouds sing
in the basic line-up of Joe Ligon, Richard Wallace, Ron Staples and Mike
Cook, but Johnny Valentine and Ervin Williams are also
listed. “Ervin is actually the guitar player. His nickname is ‘big man’,
because he’s 6”5’ and he weighs about 350 pounds. He also sings tenor
sometimes. Richard sings lead, Ron sings lead, Mike sings lead and I’m the
lead singer. Sanchez wanted to try something new, and there’s one song, At
the Foot of the Cross, where all four of us sing. I think it’s the first
time we did it that way. Usually it’s two guys singing on a song. Johnny
Valentine is the drummer, and sometimes he sings a part. At the recording he
didn’t sing any parts.” For an in-depth history of the Mighty Clouds of Joy,
please pick up our # 3/2005 printed magazine. For the latest activities please
The Clouds take
the stage by storm with two fierce opening numbers, Jesus Will Turn It
Around and Movin’. “We wanted to come out, where they would kinda
get into it, and that’s why we chose the kind of songs that had an uptempo
beat. Some people like to clap their hands, to stand up and get into it. We
didn’t want to come out reserved and sing something real slow.”
Rain on Me is
the torch song the CD, a powerful and highly emotional, 6-minute ballad,
written by Marvin Jefferys. “He’s one of the songwriters that Sanchez
uses. I think he lives in Nashville.”
You could file B.Y.O.P.
(Bring Your Own Praise) underFunk-gospel. “We started doing contemporary,
before it was cool, and B.Y.O.P. just sounds like in the 70s, when we did
Mighty High and stuff like that.”
Thank God For is a melodic mid-tempo mover, while on Amazing Love the
beat gets still heavier, but they are followed by two intense deepies, It’s
Already Done and God Hears. “It’s Already Done is one of my
favourites on the CD.”
sparkling number called Fire, the music comes down for two soft and
beautiful closing ballads, At the Foot of the Cross and That’s What
I’ll Be Needing God For. “That’s the way Sanchez lined it up. I don’t
know his reasons, but it went well. They’re such beautiful, sacred kind of
songs. I think he wanted to come on with a bang and then go off with something
real smooth and easy. Usually we go off with a fast song.”
trying to line up a big, major tour across America, and we want to try to make
a DVD, too, in the near future.”
FIVE BLIND BOYS OF MISSISSIPPI
Something to Shout About (Shout 34; 23 tracks, 66 min.; liners by Clive
contains two Peacock albums by the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Precious
Memories (PLP-102) from 1960 and Father I Stretch My Hands to Thee
(PLP-113) from 1964. The compilation kicks off with the latter one, when Henry
Johnson became the lead singer (after Roscoe Robinson). Henry is a
powerful, magnificent leader, who in some ways reminds me of the great, late Bob
Washington of the Gospelaires, and if there ever was a
recommendation, that is one!
Shout About is a frantic gospel mover in the best tradition, and Just a
Little While is another spiritual stormer. On that album there are many
intense and deep slowies – Time Is Winding Up, the preaching Father I
Stretch My Hands to Thee, Where There’s a will (There’s a Way), Waiting
at the River, a rolling testimony called Jesus Rose and even one in
waltz time, Leaning on Jesus.Oh Why is a Sam Cooke type
of a poppy slow song.
The first album
incorporates singles from the fifties (1950 – 59), when Archie Brownlee (1925
– 60), a major influence to many later soul singers, was the lead voice. Among
the more restrained hymns (Coming Home, Somebody’s Knocking) there are
rougher slowies, too – Save a Seat for Me, There’s No Need to Cry (country
gospel) – and a couple of ecstatic uptempo numbers (Walk Together Children,
Leaning on the Everlasting Arm). This is a powerful gospel release, and in
spite of Archie’s reputation on this set my preference goes to Henry.
Redemption is a 7-piece, self-contained group, so – yes! – real instruments
are featured. Back Home(2005) was produced and written by Eddie
Fray, one of the members of this Florida-based septet, and the main
vocalist is Kennis Reaves.
Music is similar
to the smoother sound that these modern-day tenor-led “r&b” groups produce
so alongside a couple of decent mid-pacers and not-so-frantic uptempo cuts there
are mainly ballads on display. It’s Going to be Alright, Back Home, Have
Faith and Show Me the Way are the most memorable ones. Rev.
Charles Thomas adds some gruff to the singing on two tracks.
CD for Lavacyka Records (www.lavacyka.com)
is titled S.U.G.A. 2 My Soul (LR 6537), and in this case “suga”
means “Saved under God’s Anointing.” Cynthia (www.cynthiaksmith.com) resides in Houston, Texas, and the CD, which features real instruments, was produced by Bishop Paul
restrained – one of the key players is Lester Sneed Jr. - and the
arrangements are structured around Cynthia’s impressive voice. The first half
of the program consists mainly of tender inspirational ballads (Sugar to My Soul,
When I Am Alone, I Will Rejoice, You Are My Strength), whereas the on the
latter half the sound gets a bit more peppy. Don’t Judge My Praise is
actually a quite catchy mid-pacer. But as a whole, Cynthia has created
beautiful, clear and soothing music for us to enjoy.
Sharrie’s DVD, Live
at Bay-Car Blues Festival (CrossCut Records, CVD 5002; 67 min.; www.crosscut.de) was shot last year in April
in France, and on eight songs Sharrie is backed by a 4-man strong Wiseguys.
always admired Etta James, so it’s only natural that the show kicks off
with Tell Mama. The other cover is the Staples Singers ’72 hit, I’ll
Take You There. Tagged as “The Princess of Rockin’ Gospel Blues” (www.sharriewilliams.com), gospel
seems to be fading, since - besides I’ll Take You There - the only other song
with an inspirational message is a ballad called I’ll Give You Mine.
It’s also one of the two slow songs in the repertoire. The other one is a long
blues moan named How Much Can a Woman Take.
If you specialize in “rockin’ blues”, the wild rock guitar is inevitable…
unfortunately. The CD of the same show (CCD 11093) gives you as a bonus track
a driving rocker titled Just You and Me.
You can read praises and detailed reviews of Mavis Staples’ latest CD, We’ll
Never Turn Back (Anti-, 6830-2), almost on any black music forum on the
Internet, so there’s no use of me analysing it anymore. If you like folk-soul interpretations
of freedom songs set to Ry Cooder’s music, the CD is definitely for you.
Patti Austin gave us For Ella a while ago, and now she delivers Avant
Gershwin (Rendezvous Entertainment, REN 51232), eight songs (64 min.)
by George & Ira Gershwin. Produced by Michael Abene and
Patti and recorded in Germany in 2006 on two venues, the music has “classy”
written all over it. But you have to be into jazz to enjoy this. For me the
most exciting moment was the 17-minute Porgy and Bess Medley. Patti
herself looks slim and beautiful these days (www.pattiaustin.com).
artist in indie circles, Lou Ragland, had his latest album
released last year, but Until I Met You (Great Lakes Rec., CR
20196) is a recent re-release of his 1996 album; produced, arranged, recorded
and mixed by Lou, plus Gene Dozier and Ronnie McNeir play on a
couple of tracks. You can read a good feature on Lou on Hitoshi Takasawa’s
website at www.soul-treasures.com/featurearticles/louragland/louragland.htm.
Some of Lou’s
covers (Since I Fell for You, Never Let Me Go, What A Wonderful World)
may suit supper-club surroundings better than soul arenas, but, on the other
hand, he has been an entertainer in Las Vegas since 1980. The high-voiced Lou
wrote or co-wrote seven of the twelve songs on the set, and among them you can
detect a hypnotic, fast floater called Until I Met You, a melodic mover
titled Whenever and a pretty slowie named I Wrote A Picture Of You;
with poor drum programming, though.
Peckman’s Stirrin’ up Bees (Bonedog Records, BDRCD-22) is peppy
and poppy music from a long-standing r&b blue-eyed singer, musician and
songwriter. All the songs were written by Robert and he’s backed by a 4-piece
rhythm section plus one on sax. The music draws from different sources, as
diverse as ragtime, honky-tonk, goodtime swing and a touch of contemporary,
Mostly on the
fast side, personal favourites, however, include two melodic mid-tempo ditties,
A Man Must Stand for Something and Please Come Home, and one soul
ballad with Johnny Daye on vocals, Let’s Talk It Over.
Friends of Distinction had six albums released altogether, before the
original group broke up in 1975, and Crazin’ & Highly Distinct
(Rev-Ola, CR REV 205; www.revola.co.uk;
21 tracks, 68 min.) are the two first ones from 1969 on RCA. Floyd Butler,
Harry Elston, Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love formed the group
a year earlier, modelled to an extent to another west coast outfit, the 5th
The key elements
are skilful harmony, original arrangements and rich orchestration. Music is
mainly pop and m-o-r, with a dose of jazz thrown in. The hits were Crazing
In The Grass, Going In Circles and Let Yourself Go, but a cover of I’ve
Never Found A Girl and a slow movie song, It’s Just A Game Love, are
worth listening to, too.
Original Orlons today are Stephen Caldwell Sr. with three
ladies, and you can read their history at www.theorlons.com.
Stephen’s tenure with the group goes back to the hit days in the early 60s. Soothe
& Groove (Meatball Fifty One Music) is a single-CD, consisting of
two songs and five tracks (plus one interview footage). Backed by real
instruments, I Been Counted Out is a nostalgic and hooky dance song with
a sax solo in the middle, while I Found You is a pretty and tender love
Luther Thomas Ingram passed away on Monday, March 19 this year,
after a long battle with diabetes and kidney disease. He was born November 30
in 1937 in Jackson, Tennessee, and started performing at the age of five in
local churches (we ran an 11-page Luther Ingram story in our # 2/2004 printed
one influence was Sam Cooke, but he admired also Clyde McPhatter,
Jackie Wilson and, from the spiritual side, Archie Brownlee and the Five
Blind Boys, Pilgrim Travelers, the Soul Stirrers and the Swan
He moved with
his family to Alton, Illinois, in 1947, and became a member of a gospel group
called the Midwest Crusaders two years later with his two brothers and
three family friends. In the line-up of Archie, Richard and Luther Ingram,
Connie Perry and Lawrence Witherspoon the group – now under the
secular name of the Gardenias – landed a recording contract and released
their first single (My Baby’s Tops/Flaming Love) in 1956 on Federal
Records. For the recording session they hooked up with Ike Turner and his
Kings of Rhythm. Luther is the lead singer on these sides.
the Crusaders and the Gardenias those days, Luther also started working as a
solo act. In 1961 he married Jacqueline Langford, and they’ve been
married ever since and have two sons, Kenneth and Eric Luther.
Besides music Luther was also employed at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company in
St. Louis, Missouri in the late 50s/early 60s.
Luther left for New York in 1965. Although he spent a lot of time in the city, he never
there. Through Robert Bateman Luther had his first solo single (You
Never Miss Your Water) released on Decca in 1965.
singles in 1966 included the original cut of I Spy (for the F.B.I.)
on Smash, If It’s All the Same to You on HIB and Run for Your Life (released
on Hurdy-Gurdy five years later, in 1971).
In New York
Luther met an ex-boxing man, Johnny “KoKo” Baylor, for whose KoKo label
he first wrote and then recorded for the next ten plus years. Between 1967 and
1978 they released four magnificent albums and 22 singles, including such gems
as My Honey and Me, Ain’t That Loving You (for More Reasons than One), To
The Other Man, (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, I’ll Be Your
Shelter, Always and Do You Love Somebody.
period Luther wrote much of his own material and he also co-wrote Respect
Yourself, a sizable hit for the Staple Singers. Luther was one of
the performers at Wattstax on August 20 in 1972 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Luther still recorded for Platinum Plus (in 1984), Profile (in 1986),
Urgent/Ichiban (in 1991) and for High Stacks (in 1998). He also produced
singles for other artists.
In 1998 Luther
suffered failure of both kidneys as a result from diabetes. Due to circulation
problems he later lost the vision of his left eye and had his left leg
amputated. All these years Luther was a fighter, had come-back plans but he
finally had to give it up due to a heart attack.
Among the soul
music lovers all over the world he is remembered, not only because of the
classic (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, but also as
one of the most soulful vocalists the world knows.
Eric is raising money to finance the movie about his father, and practically
the script and the soundtrack are ready. You can follow the process at www.lutheringrammusic.net.
Finally I wish
to reprint what Luther said still in 2006: “Music has always kept me feeling
good and it still does… I have still got a song in my heart. I still love to
sing. I sing every day, and the concern of my fans and interest in me gives me
a lot of encouragement to keep on keeping on. Thanks to everybody and love to
all!” R.I.P. Luther.
Another of my
big favourites, Freddie Scott, passed away on June 4 after a massive
heart attack. He, too, had cut his first record in 1956, and was active till
his last days. Please read my
interview about his career for our 2/98 printed
issue here. There’s also a discography
to go with it. After the
feature he still recorded a CD called Brand New Man in 2001 (the
interview based on that record was issued in our # 1/2001 magazine). R.I.P.
I don’t usually
do obituaries, but for me Luther Ingram and Freddie Scott were special. I
really loved their music. But now that I’m at it, I might just as well bring
up two other deceased artists. Frank Mendenhall passed on February 22
this year. He succumbed to cancer. I had quite a long and nice chat with him about
his career for our # 4/1998 printed issue, and you can read it here in
its entirety. (Acknowledgements to www.theboogiereport.net).
Jackie Neal passed
away already on March 10 in 2005, when her ex-boyfriend shot her fatally in Baton Rouge.
Jackie is still fondly reminisced in Southern soul circles, but unfortunately
my only interview with her was way too short. It was conducted after the
release of her CD, Lookin’ for a Sweet Thang (for the # 2/2000 issue),
and it is repeated here.
In my next Deep column, look for an interview
with Ronnie Lovejoy. Heikki Suosalo