DEEP # 2/2011 (June)
There are some magnificent reissue
compilations featured in the latter part of this column, including finely
packaged Motown retrospect CDs. The highlight, however, for me is Candi
Staton’s double-CD of “the complete Fame records masters”, and I was
fortunate enough to get Candi’s own comments on some of that thrilling music. Bobby
Jones/Jonz is an old acquaintance and - besides including my earlier
in-depth interview with him in this column - we had a nice chat about his new
Southern soul CD, too.
Content and quick links:
New CD reviews:
The Butanes & Willie Walker: Long Time Thing
Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud: One Drop Is Plenty
Bobby Jones: You Ain’t Got No Proof
Various Artists: Ol’ School Party, vol.1
CD soul reissue albums or compilations:
The Originals: California Sunset
Dennis Edwards: Don’t Look Any Further
Ashford & Simpson: Street Opera
Candy Staton: Evidence/The Complete Fame Records Masters
O.C. Tolbert: Black Diamond
The Monitors: Say You!/The Motown Anthology 1963-1968
Patrice Holloway: Love & Desire/The Patrice Holloway Anthology
Marv Johnson: I’ll Pick a Rose for my Rose
THE BUTANES & WILLIE WALKER
Thing (Haute Records, HTE 1111; liners by Mike Elias) is
Willie’s third CD with the Butanes, and it’s produced, arranged and mixed by Curtis
Obeda, who also wrote all sixteen songs. The 5-piece rhythm section is
amplified by two ladies on vocals and on five tracks by as many as ten horns,
co-arranged by Michael B. Nelson. The set was cut in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Willie’s and the
Butanes’ first joint effort in 2004 was called Right Where I Belong, and
you can read Willie’s comments on it, as well as some information on his back
career, at http://www.soulexpress.net/williewalker.htm.
The second album two years later was titled Memphisapolis, and again
Willie’s own comments are available at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep206.htm#williewalker.
For their third record they have chosen to enter the blues soil, although I’d
rather put such labels as “bluesoul” and “swinging rhythm & blues” on this
some of those horn-heavy big band tracks Ray Charles is the first name
to come to your mind (Long Time Thing, I Just Don’t Believe), whereas on
certain slow, tuneful and blues-bound cuts Bobby Bland is the obvious
parallel (Drift to Sleep, I Want to Be the One, Dirty Deeds, If You Expect
to See Another Day, I’m OK). Along with the horns, Curtis’ bluesy guitar
licks are dominant on Let’s Fall in Love.
and seasoned voice easily adjusts itself to chugging or funky numbers, too,
such as the driving Betrayed. On another stormer, Crawl inside a
Bottle, Big George Jackson plays harp. For those yearning for light
and poppy, old-time ditties there are You’ve Never Had a Love like Mine
and She Lifts Me, and on the latter one I could even hear echoes of the
late Johnnie Taylor.
In this age of
synthesized and formulaic music with false facade talents, it’s always a
pleasure to hear strong singing backed by real live musicians, and that’s why
this “real thing” CD is worth supporting (www.thebutanes.com;
acknowledgements to Curtis Obeda and David Cole).
MIGHTY SAM McCLAIN
& KNUT REIERSRUD
One Drop Is
Plenty (KKV, FXCD 369; www.kkv.no) also has
a five-piece live rhythm section backing Sam up, but although Sam is one of my
all-time heroes I can’t praise this newie as much as some of its predecessors.
Produced by Knut Reiersrud and Erik Hillestad from our
neighbouring Norway, four songs were written by Knut and Jeff Wasserman,
four came from Sam’s pen and three are outside tunes. Sam’s previous
blues/r&b set, Betcha Didn’t Know, was released a while back – you
can read Sam’s own comments on it in 2006 at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep106.htm
- and since then he has cut a CD called Love Duets across Civilizations with
an Iranian songstress Mahsa Vadhat.
Knut is a
renowned Norwegian guitarist (www.knutreiersrud.no),
who has played and released records for about thirty years in different fields
of music, including blues. In the liner notes it says that Sam and Knut
“agreed on making a soul record with the sound of the early 70s”, but this
certainly isn’t it. Here I have the same problem as with Solomon Burke’s
recent CD, Hold on Tight, with the Dutch group, De Dijk.
Solomon’s singing style and rock-inclined background just don’t mingle. Also
on this set the lightweight and at times experimental arrangements and
pop-flavoured instrumentation don’t inspire Sam to such volcanic vocal fervour
as in the past. Luckily, as far as I know, we can still count on one gospel CD
from Solomon as his farewell record, and Sam’s next set, Too Much Jesus (Not
Enough Whisky), is finished and waiting for a release soon.
Two songs from
this set are available on YouTube. Can You Stand the Test of Love (originally
on Sam’s Audio Quest album Keep On Movin’) is a beat-ballad with
soulful singing to a non-soulful, jazzy rock arrangement, and One Drop Is
Plenty is a nice melodic ballad, but it’s not soul, nor blues, but lightweight
Kisses in the Rain and Long Time Running are both mid-tempo
numbers. The former chugger is an unrestricted showcase for the band with a
lot of improvisation and the latter mover is a mix of pop and rock.
I still think
that Sam should cut an unashamedly old-fashioned country-soul album, close to
the style of Sweet Dreams and other songs from that period, but not
record a straight country waltz like Learn, How to Love you again on
this set (earlier on his Sweet Dreams CD on Telarc). A spiritual song
titled Open up Heaven’s Door is also a country-tinged slowie, which
derives from Sam’s One More Bridge to Cross album on Mighty Music, and
the initial rendition of the funky Love One Another was available on the
Telarc CD, Blues for the Soul.
A very slow and
intense, 6-minute-long reading of Jerry Ragovoy’s magnificent song, You
Don’t Know Nothing about Love – remember Carl Hall and Lorraine
Ellison – is more blues than soul, and a quite light interpretation of James
Cleveland’s I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired is closer to country than
gospel. Only towards the end they let loose. Bendik Hofset’s Proceed,
a slow and melodic pop tune, appeared first on Bendik’s ’91 album, IX.
As I stated
above, I have mixed feelings about this CD. Besides Sam himself, the music has
little to do with rootsy black music. You could call it modern folk-blues.
It’s all very nice, laid-back and intimate, but it lacks the passion and
intensity that’s usually an integral part of Sam’s music (www.mightysam.com).
BOBBY JONES (JONZ)
In Southern soul
circles our Bobby is probably still known best as Bobby Jonz, a name he chose
in the early 80s, because there was a gospel recording artist working in the
same area also known by the name of Bobby Jones. However, our Bobby reverted
back to his real family name, Jones, about five years ago. Bobby: “Dr.
Bobby Jones is kind of an icon now, so people know that he’s a gospel
Born in Louisiana in 1936, Bobby has so far recorded for close to twenty labels. You can read
about his earlier career in my in-depth feature on Bobby Jonz seven
years ago. Since then he switched over to straight blues, recorded with the
Mannish Boys and toured with them, not only in the USA and Canada, but also extensively in Europe, including Finland in 2008. He appeared as a
vocalist on three Mannish Boys CDs on Delta Groove Records, Big Plans (’07),
Lowdown Feelin’ (’08) and Shake for Me (’09) and also cut a solo
album for Delta Groove in 2009 titled Comin’ Back Hard. In 2010 Living
Blues awarded Bobby as the “Most Outstanding Blues Singer.”
contract with the Mannish Boys is up, but we haven’t resolved our
relationship. Randy Chortkoff and I are very good friends. Randy did
lots of things on Delta Groove Records. I could do the blues stuff, but I was
doing it on a minute scale. Delta Groove and Randy launched me into the real
big time world of music.”
“I like blues
and I like Southern soul... and I like country. I like the Southern soul and
the blues probably about the same. I came up singing the blues. I was the
little fellow looking up Muddy Waters’ nose, whenever he would sing... and
Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy. We all came out of that same mould
there in Chicago, the 43rd street, Pepper’s Lounge and Theresa’s Lounge. Being
a country boy, I learned to love all kinds of music. Being a farmer, if you
like music, all you have is blues and country... and there was John R out
of Nashville, Tennessee. They played the rhythm and the blues back then, so I
was listening to country at daytime and blues at night. I love music, and -
what makes me feel so good - I can sing any of it - except opera.”
CD, You Ain’t Got No Proof (Desert Sound Records), takes him back
to Southern soul. “Desert Sound Records out of Albany, Georgia, belongs to Pete Peterson. He used to live here in Las Vegas. He’s been in the
music business for 25 – 30 years, so I’ve been knowing Pete for at least twenty
years.” Prior to this they worked together on the Lee Shot Stole My Freak CD
and Pete, Eric Smith and Mistey Lundy are the co-producers.
“Mistey is a singer, producer and writer. She’s from Albany, and she’s singing
all the backgrounds.” Besides Bobby, Mistey and guitar players, the rest of
the music – horns, strings, drums - is programmed by one of the guitarists, Eric
Smith, so there’s a big difference, say, compared to those authentic Delta
Groove albums. “There’s definitely a difference, but programming is
commonplace in Southern soul. That’s a sort of norm for Southern soul music.
I was doing Southern soul and rhythm & blues, when I met Randy Chortkoff,
but I decided I wanted to dive off to Southern soul again. It’s so much easier
for me, compared to those long hours travelling to foreign countries... not
that I won’t do it again, but I just needed a break.”
Southern soul’s crooner. One of his influences is Brook Benton, and you
can hear it on such songs as the soft and romantic You Be Lovin Me and
the laid-back and poignant Cheating on Me, two of Bobby’s favourites on
this CD. “Cheating on Me is a very good song and it’s our next single.”
Listening to This Is Your Night, Johnnie Taylor may come to your
mind, and another ballad called Wife and Sister revives the Bill story
all over again, only on the other sex this time.
written by the producers, You Ain’t Got No Proof is a light and catchy
dancer, but – according to Bobby - the most feedback so far has been on the two
blues songs on the set, Stick a Fork in Me and Little Sally Walker (Syl
Johnson cut a similarly titled song on Federal in ’62). “I came up with
those song titles, and we all pitched in and wrote them. We scratched out
here, and filled in there. We all collaborated. I’m on my way to Albany again, getting ready to do another album. I think we might lean a little bit more
toward the more bluesy stuff.” (Interview conducted on June 20, 2011;
acknowledgements to Peggy Eldridge-Love).
ALFRED BROWN’s SOA
If there ever
was a flawed title for a CD, then Ol’ School Party, vol.1 (www.soamusic.com) is the one. All you
traditional soul music fans, don’t be misled. Produced by Alfred Brown in
Memphis, SOA logically means “Sounds of Alfred.”
On the positive
side, the almost fifty years old gold hit Green Onions is here revived
in a style quite true to the original by such musicians as Alfred, John
Ward, Morris J. Williams and Curtis Steele. The bluesy Last Two
Dollars, originally cut by Johnnie Taylor, also has a live band on the
background, except horns, and finally on a ballad called Show Me there’s
our old acquaintance Ruby Wilson on vocals - actually the only real
singer on this set - although for most of the time she’s drowned by Alfred’s
monologue. Barry White’s bedroom music is given artificial respiration
on Love’s Delight and on a lush, big instrumental titled New Age
Symphony, which brings this CD to an end in a grandiose way.
As for the rest
of the tracks, if you’re taken on a ride in a flying saucer I guess this is the
kind of music those little green men make you listen to. As a young man,
perhaps you could still pretend and say that all this hallucination is
excitingly experimental art, but with the years pseudo layers wear off, and you’re
able to put these futuristic cosmic jams, boring fusion tracks with strange
noises and heard-before wah-wah Shaft licks into their right place
(acknowledgements to Mike Ward).
Sunset (CDBBR 0044; www.bigbreakrecords.co.uk,
11 tracks, 1 bonus, 48 min., liners with interviews by Justin Cober-Lake)
was produced by Lamont Dozier, who had been friends with some of the
members of the Originals ever since the late 50s. Lamont actually put the first
incarnation of the group (Freddie Gorman, Walter Gaines, C.P. Spencer and
Tyrone Hunter) together in 1964, but then Ty couldn’t rid himself of his
Chess contract and he was replaced by Hank Dixon, who just got out of
Lamont also wrote
all ten songs for this set, and luxuriant and lively instrumentation was
arranged by McKinley Jackson (rhythm) and Paul Riser, Jimmy Haskell or
Larry Fallon (horns & strings). Main characteristics on this
coherent album are big orchestration and hooky passages in melodies... not to
forget vocals, of course. Hank and Ty are the main leads, but Freddie
and Walter are equally important pieces in overall harmony.
Released in 1975, California Sunset is
the Originals’ 6th Motown/Soul album (see http://www.soulexpress.net/original.htm).
It kicks off with the fast and melodic Why’d You Lie, and in the same
vein Let Me in Your Life and Financial Affair are equally
pulsating. A toe-tapper named Good Lovin’ Is Just a Dime away was
chosen for the first single, but it didn’t set the charts on fire (peaked only
at # 53-soul). A very slow, string-laden serenade titled Fifty Years was
scheduled for a follow-up but was apparently withdrawn at the last minute.
Other downtempo highlights
still include the plodding Don’t Turn the Lights off, the sunny and
laid-back California Sunset, the positive and atmospheric Sweet
Rhapsody and the lush and infectious It Could Never Happen.
Actually, every track is a winner. Lamont’s music was clever. He used a lot
of different elements, unexpected rhythm breaks and frequent instrumental runs
and weaved a hooky melody around it all to hold it together.
commercially this album was a failure (# 51-soul). The late Freddie Gorman:
“They never promoted it. As a matter of fact, the album was stopped right
after it was released. It started receiving airplay, because one of the songs,
Good Lovin’ Is Just a Dime away, had begun to show up, and then they
stopped it. One of the reasons that I understand was that they thought Eddie
Holland might sue, because he had a contract with Lamont Dozier. It was a
very good album, but they sat on it.”
Lambert was the mastermind behind Don’t Look Any Further (CDBBR
0040; 13 tracks, 4 bonuses, 57 min.; liners with interviews by Shelley
Nicole). He was the main producer, co-arranger and co-writer. Other
arrangers on the album were Paul M. Jackson, Jr., Robbie Buchanan and Larry
Any Further was released on Gordy in 1984, but it wasn’t the first solo
album Dennis had cut. After his first stint with the Temptations (1968-76)
he went solo and was replaced by Louis Price. Dennis: “Me and Teddy
Pendergrass had decided to do a solo album. At the time Teddy was very
resentful at Harold Melvin, because Harold would get all the money. So
we went to our record companies and said ‘look, we know we have the voice, we
wanna do an album. We wanna million dollars and we’ll do the album. Teddy’s
record company, PIR, did the album, and he got a million. I did an album,
which is still in the can. I had an agreement with them to pay me so much, but
when I did the album, they neglected the agreement. We might see the album one
day. It was mainly ballads, right on the same street as Teddy’s first solo
Any Further, however, is the first officially released Dennis Edwards
solo album and it hit the streets right after his second stint with the
Temptations, starting from 1980. Dennis Lambert gathered an impressive array
of musicians - besides himself and co-arrangers, such players as John
Robinson on drums, Nathan East and Freddie Washington on
bass, Paulinho DaCosta on percussion and Jerry Hey and Gary
Grant on trumpet.
The draw of the
LP was the haunting mid-tempo title track, which had preceded the album by one
month and finally as a single peaked at # 2-black and # 72-pop. The very album
reached # 2-black and # 48-pop. Siedah Garrett sang on the demo and she
ended up on the final duet as well, although Dennis’ earlier girlfriend, Aretha
Franklin, and Chaka Khan were also asked.
include the second single, a soothing ballad called (You’re my) Aphrodisiac
(# 15-black), a poignant and melodic big-ballad named Another Place in Time...
and Just like You, a sweet downtempo song and slightly jazzy in a Billy
Paul style. To be frank, the rest five post-disco dancers with their
occasional rock and Prince leanings left me cold (www.myspace.com/thetemptationsreview).
ASHFORD & SIMPSON
I still cherish
the VHS tape of Nick & Val performing on their musically marvellous and
thought-provoking Street Opera. This thrilling opus covered the b-side
of their first Capitol album in ’82, after their decade-long spell with
Warner. All songs written by the couple, Street Opera (CDBBR
0039; 12 tracks, 3 bonuses, 44 min.; liners with interviews by Christian
John Wikane) was also produced by Ashford & Simpson and co-arranged by Leon
Pendarvis (horns & strings) and Ray Chew (rhythm).
side, dealing with unemployment and consequent family crisis, opens with a
dramatic and powerful slow song called Working Man, and it’s followed by
an emotive tear-jerker titled Who Will They Look To. The sharp and
uptempo Street Corner was tested as the first single to satisfactory
results (# 9-soul, # 56-pop). The follow-up singles were picked up from the more
customary a-side of the album - an infectious beat-ballad named Love It Away
and a truly beautiful declaration of love, I’ll take the Whole World on,
but they were less successful. On the Street Corner side of the LP
there’s still one more powerful big-ballad, Times Will Be Good Again.
Add to those six
gems above still Make It Work Again, a gentle and simple mid-pacer, and Mighty
Mighty Love, a pulsating dancer, and you’re wrapping up a perfect package. For
me, Street Opera was the creative peak in Nick’s and Val’s
remarkable career (www.myspace.com/ashfordandsimpson
After her first
gospel-recording spell and before she hooked up with Rick Hall and Fame
Records in 1968, Candi had one single released on Unity Records in 1967.
Candi: “That was the only record label at that time interested in me. They
asked me to do a record with them. They were out of Birmingham, Alabama.
Bob Grove saw me at a nightclub I was performing that night and asked me,
would I be interested in making a record. I told him ‘sure’, and we got into
this contract with them, and I made Upperhand. It was played on the
radio... about three times” (laughing).
dancer, however, became a Northern favourite in the U.K. Produced by Bob Grove
and Richard Dingler and cut in Bob’s Birmingham studio named Prestige, Now
You’ve Got the Upperhand (U-7-11) was written by Robert Fowler, and
it was backed with You Can’t Stop Me.
Prior to Fame,
there was still one single released on Shelby Singleton’s Minaret label
(137) out of Nashville, Tennessee, in 1968 called The Judgement (flipped
with XYZ), which Candi recalls under the name of The Soul of a Man
and which was probably cut at the same time as Upperhand. On this
smooth-to-rough slow song Candi’s dueting partner is Billy Walker. You
can read briefly about
Candi’s Station career.
Complete Fame Records Masters (CDKEND 353; a 2-CD, 48 tracks; 2 h 25
min; essay by Dean Rudland) covers Candi’s Fame recording period with
Rick Hall from 1969 till 1974. Those years produced three albums, eight
single-only sides and now with this complete package we are rewarded with
twelve more tracks that stayed in the can at the time.
“I’M JUST A PRISONER”
The first album,
I’m Just a Prisoner (’70), was named after one of Candi’s uptempo and
big-voiced single releases (# 13-soul, # 56-pop), but there were still bigger
hits on the LP – the funky I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than a
Young Man’s Fool) (# 9-soul, # 46-pop) and a mid-tempo beater titled Sweet
Feeling (# 4-soul, # 24-pop).
thought it was a really, really good album. It’s just the essence of soul
music. If you want to hear music that is just the heart of soul and if you
want to really know what soul music is about, you need to pick it up and listen
intently on what we’re doing, because if you want to hear pure soul that’s
exactly what it is.”
For the most
part written by George Jackson, Raymond Moore and Clarence Carter,
among the uptempo and funky cuts there are three gorgeous soul ballads for you
to sit down and enjoy. “I love ballads, but those days the best way to get hit
records was to do uptempo songs. Ballads were good, but if you ever got a
g-o-o-o-o-d ballad, you were set for life, just like Misty Blue. Gladys
Knight was good on ballads, but there were very few people to get a hit
record out of a ballad. So we kind of played it on the safe side and did
uptempo type of songs.”
One of those
Southern soul ballads is Candi’s version of Roosevelt Jamison’s That’s
How Strong My Love Is, earlier cut by O.V. Wright. “It was Rick’s
idea. We were looking for songs to put on the record and Rick thought about Otis
Redding’s That’s How Strong My Love Is. I told him that I didn’t
want to hear it. I just wanted to hear the chord and get the lyrics. I wanted
to create my own. I didn’t want to be persuaded by the way Otis phrased, as
though it was a brand new song for me. Rick did just that, and I really
created it my own way.”
“STAND BY YOUR MAN”
The second album
in 1970 was crammed with “deepies and weepies”, great Southern soul ballads, but
it was titled after a country-soul song with a faster tempo, Tammy Wynette’s
Stand by Your Man, which gave Candi the second biggest hit in her career,
peaking at # 4-soul and # 24-pop (surpassed only by the chart-topping Young
Hearts Run Free in 1976).
“I thought all
of the albums we did during those days were very, very good. We worked real
hard. We put a lot in them. Rick went through the albums over and over and
over again trying to make sure he got the right sweeteners. He put in the
right horn lines - if not, then he changed them, or we do more background...
It was like a baby, trying to teach the baby how to walk. That’s how he looked
at his music. He didn’t send sloppy music out to the streets. He wanted the
best he could get.”
country-soul hit off the album was He Called Me Baby (# 9-soul, #
52-pop), which was followed by an impressive and bittersweet infidelity ballad,
Mr. and Mrs. Untrue (# 20-soul, # 109-pop). “I love country. I’ve
always wanted to take country and add a little gospel, bluesy type of feeling.
I wanted people to really feel, because country music is a feeling kind of
music. It just has different instrumentation, but if you take out the steel
guitar and some of the chinks and put more keyboard in and maybe a little organ
and maybe some horns in there, you turn country into a soul song.”
wrote a beautiful ballad called To Hear You Say You’re Mine for the
album. “I laugh at it right now, because it was really not structured that
well, and it was just like my first little endeavour. I really appreciate Rick
in helping me put it together and putting it out. That was actually the first
song that I wrote by myself. I introduced myself as an artist with that song.
Rick Hall had done Aretha Franklin and I was doing her song, and Rick asked me
‘do you have something else that you could sing, because I recorded this on
her’, so I came up with that little song I had been playing around with on the
keyboards.” Of the four songs that stayed in the can from that period Candi
especially values the cover of Ann Peebles’ Trouble, Heartaches and
The third album
in 1973 was for the most part a collection of funky dance and pop tracks and
outside songs. In the Ghetto (# 12-soul, # 48-pop) was the first single
release, followed by Barbara Wyrick’s mid-tempo, melodic country-soul
song, Lovin’ You, Lovin’ Me (# 40-soul, # 83-pop). The final single off
the album was a driving and hard-hitting dancer titled Do It in the Name of
Love (# 17-soul, # 63-pop).
There were still
two post-album singles released on Fame, before Rick and Candi switched over to
Warner in 1974. Love Chain (# 31-soul) was George Jackson’s
funky item, while Mac Davis’ Something’s Burning (# 83-soul) had
been a hit for Kenny Rogers & the First Edition three years
earlier. “Mac was in the studio a lot. He was also cutting some stuff on
himself, demos and other things. He was around the studio during the time we
were doing a lot of his music, and that’s why you see so many of his songs on
the album (In the Ghetto, Spread Your Love on Me). He and Rick Hall had
a great relationship at that time. He mentioned that he thought I would do
good doing Something’s Burning, and we went into the studio and we cut
it, and it came out really good.”
The final eight
songs, deriving from 1973 and ’74, are released on this CD for the first time.
Slipping Away is another beautiful country-soul ballad. “I do remember
cutting that. It’s almost like an Aretha Franklin type of song.” George Jackson
co-wrote the fast and melodic One More Hurt, and together with Candi he
wrote a hooky mid-tempo tune titled Are You Just Building Me Up. George
Soule is the writer on I’ll Be Here, a tuneful Southern soul ballad,
and another Candi’s favourite is the mid-tempo, country-infused I Gave a
Little and Lost a Lot.
pop song Jolene is also included. “That was definitely Rick Hall’s
idea, because I didn’t want to do that song (laughing). I don’t like it. He
thought it would be a great song for me, but I said ‘Rick, I don’t think so’. However,
we ended up doing it anyway. I never thought that would be coming out.” Candi
delivers a fine vocal performance on a beautiful country song called We Had
It All, which concludes this excellent double-CD, an essential purchase for
each and every soul music fan.
Candi is happy
about the eventual release of these masters, but she’s busy with new projects,
too. “I’m working with Cliff Richard. We have two duets, Teardrops and
This Time with You, on his upcoming album called Soulicious. We
cut these songs in Memphis, and the album should be coming out around the last
of September, no later than the first of October.” Such soul icons as Percy
Sledge, Freda Payne, Dennis Edwards, Russell Thomkins, Jr., Deniece Williams,
Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., Billy Paul and Lamont Dozier are
also involved in Cliff’s project. “I also talked to Rick Hall the other day.
We’re thinking about doing maybe three or four sides again. I also have some
more things that are cooking right now.”
“Now I just want
to tell my fans that if they ever get any record on me, they should really pick
this one, because it is some of the greatest vocal work that I’ve done. I look
back now, and it was so pure – the voice was so pure, the music was so pure –
and the soul was so prevalent. They should pick it up and have it in their
catalogue at home and tell somebody else about it, and just keep it forever. I
thank all the ones that have bought it or are going to buy it, and I know
you’ll enjoy it. When I’m in a concert over there, bring it by my concert and
I’ll sign it for you” (www.candi-staton.com).
conducted on June 25, 2011; acknowledgements to Bill Carpenter).
In their series
of “Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Masters”, Kent has now issued Black Diamond by
O.C. Tolbert (CDKEND 352, 22 tracks, 69 min., liners by Ady Croasdell),
which draws mostly unreleased tracks from the periods of 1969 – 74 and late
80s. Arthur Cleveland Tolbert was born in Selma, Alabama, in 1944 and
passed away in Detroit at fifty-two, and these tracks were cut under the
patronage of either Dave Hamilton, or Jack Taylor.
distinctive element throughout this CD is O.C.’s strong and raw voice, ripping
and growling, penetrating to the bone. It’s so overwhelming that it almost
hides other shortcomings in music – such as unbalance between vocals and
background, strange blunders in arrangements and instrumentations,
discontinuities – which must mean that some of these tracks are not finished.
dancers and formulaic funky cuts aside, there are still numerous captivating
stormers and toe-tappers left; all big-voiced, of course, in a “modern-day
shouter” style. I especially enjoyed a mellow bouncer called A Message to
the Black Woman, which was actually released under the pseudonym of King
Diamond, one of O.C.’s aliases.
O.C. came from
gospel and was preparing an inspirational album in the late 80s, but only now
we get a chance to hear six of those impressive cuts, with the slow and intense
Somebody Is Here with Me leading the way. Saving the best for the last,
there are three killer soul ballads on display - the horn-heavy Message to
Mankind, the poignant and pleading Where Were You? and the familiar,
heart-breaking country-soul song, That’s All She Wrote. Under a proper
guidance and in solid recording surroundings O.C. could have evolved into a
name to reckon with on a larger scale. He was a powerful singer, to say the
You!/The Motown Anthology 1963-1968 (Kent, CDTOP 355; 26 tracks, 70
min.) contains the group’s lone ’68 album, two non-album b-sides and twelve
previously unissued tracks. Keith Hughes has written detailed track
annotations and notes, partially based on an interview with Richard Street.
The seeds for the Monitors were planted in such groups as the Majestics and
the Distants (Richard Street). Actually three of those unreleased
tracks on this set derive from the Majestics days in 1963, when the group was
knocking on Thelma Records’ door. Anything is still a quite primitive
ballad – even with out-of-tune singing – but Guilty is already a
powerful and intense, gospelly beat-ballad. The third one, Cry, is an
uptempo pop song in a style not unlike the 4 Seasons those days. The
rest of the tracks on this CD were recorded between 1965 and ’68.
I had forgotten
what a gripping and joyous album Greetings! We’re the Monitors really is.
I actually have it on an old reel-to-reel tape, so logically I haven’t been
listening to it very often. In the established line-up of Richard Street, Sandra
and Maurice Fagin and Warren Harris, the Monitors’ first
V.I.P. single was a mid-tempo, mellow song with a full background named Say
You (# 36-r&b), and it was followed by a perfect and memorable cover of
the Valadiers’ Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam) (# 21-r&b / #
100-pop), their signature song.
The rest three
singles didn’t chart anymore, which is a pity, since at any rate the third one,
Since I Lost You Girl, is a fascinating mover with a big orchestration
created by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol. A toe-tapper titled Bring
Back the Love, which would have suited the Four Tops as well, also
flopped, as did the last single on Soul in ’68, a catchy and almost
inspirational mover, Step by Step (Hand in Hand).
Among the more
familiar songs there are Share a Little Love with Me (Somebody), a
driving scorcher also cut by the Isley Brothers, Baby Make Your Own
Sweet Music, an equally storming cover, and The Further You Look, the
Less You See, a post-doowop cover of the Temptations’ earlier ballad.
On rawer material (Number One in Your Heart) one can hear echoes of the
Contours, whereas on smoother tracks (Serve Yourself a Cup of Happiness)
the Spinners is the closest parallel, as well as on the closing song, Smokey
Robinson’s mellow beat-ballad called You Share the Blame.
and mediocre there, I can very well understand why some of those twelve
unreleased tracks were left in the can. But there are also goodies among them.
Too Busy Thinking about My Baby is a nice version cut before Marvin
Gaye’s hit single and Smokey’s other beat-ballad titled The Letter floats
along effortlessly. However, the cream cut must be a big and powerful ballad
called My Love Grows Stronger, produced by Richard Morris and
co-written by J.J. Barnes. This is a very worthwhile anthology, and Ace/Kent
has done a praiseworthy job on it (www.dftmc.info).
Desire/The Patrice Holloway Anthology (CDKEND 354; 25 tracks, 64 min.)
combines Patrice’s nine Capitol single sides with one V.I.P. single and
fourteen tracks that were left in the can at the time. An illustrative essay
by Dennis Garvey tells us that Patrice was born in L.A. in 1951 and as a
child prodigy in music she appeared on records at an early age, wrote songs and
did a lot of session work throughout her active career. She retired in the
mid-70s due to schizophrenia and passed away in 2006.
Her lone V.I.P.
single in 1963 couples Stevie, en elementary mid-tempo kiddie song about
her then-boyfriend, Stevie Wonder, with a poppy jogger titled (He Is)
The Boy of My Dreams, about Stevie again. The ensuing Capitol singles
were a let-down. First produced by Billy and Gene Page in 1966
and after that by David Axelrod in 1967, they clearly didn’t know in
which direction to go with Patrice and consequently most of these cuts are
stomping Motown sound copies (Stolen Hours, That’s All You Got To Do and
the Mary Wells influenced Lucky, My Boy). A social statement
named Stay with Your Own Kind has the best verve. The later Capitol
singles in 1972 and ’73 offer a funky and rocky cover of Evidence, which
Candi Staton had released earlier, and two fast and poppy songs, Black
Mother Goose and The Touch of Venus.
tracks are L.A. recordings from 1963 – 65 and for the most part produced by Hal
Davis and Marc Gordon. The one to pick up is Come into My
Palace, a mid-tempo and big-voiced duet with the older sister Brenda.
Mostly average stompers, occasionally they tested different styles and moods,
such as I Got to Change, a r&b scorcher á la Ray Charles, Flippitty
Flop, a pop dancer á la Little Eva or Millie Small and Face
in the Crowd á la Phil Spector.
It’s a pity that
Patrice’s vast talent couldn’t be properly captured in the grooves. She deserved
better material. I just noticed that there isn’t a single downtempo song on
display, so there must be a market for this CD in Northern soul circles.
a Rose for my Rose (Kent, CDTOP 351; 26 tracks, 71 min.; notes and
annotations by Keith Hughes) is subtitled “The Complete Motown Recordings
1964-1971. It contains the U.K. only Rose album from 1969, nine songs
unissued at the time and six mono single mixes.
Johnson was born in 1938 in Detroit and he died in a concert in 1993 in South
Carolina. He started out in the Jr. Serenaders, enjoyed his biggest hits - Come
to Me, You Got What It Takes, I Love the Way You Love, Happy Days - on
United Artists between 1959 and ’61, and since 1964, besides singing and
writing, worked at miscellaneous jobs at Motown until their move to California.
Marv’s high and
somewhat thin tenor was next heard on Gordy Records in 1965, when they released
Berry Gordy’s mid-tempo sing-along song titled Why Do You Want to Let
Me Go, which originally had been cut by Eddie Holland. It was
backed by a nice beat-ballad called I’m Not a Plaything. The only
charted Gordy single for Marv in the US, however, was the next one in 1966, a
loud and hard-hitting stomper named I Miss You Baby (How I Miss You),
which peaked at # 39-r&b. The B-side was Marv’s own pretty floater, Just
the Way You Are, which even had strings and horns on the background.
As the third and
last single they released the delightful I’ll Pick a Rose for My Rose in
1968, but it scored only in the U.K. You Got the Love I Love, a
mid-tempo and hooky toe-tapper, was placed on the flip. The rest of the songs
on the album are covers (Sleep Little One, Bad Girl, Everybody’s Gotta Pay
Some Dues), except a sunny dancer called So Glad You Chose Me and a
fully orchestrated big ballad named I Wish I Liked You (As Much As I Love
among those canned tracks include She’s All I Need (In This World), a
longing beat-ballad written and produced by James Dean and William
Weatherspoon, Another Lonely Night (Completes Another Empty Day), a
freely flowing, string-sweetened and captivating mid-tempo gem produced and
co-written by Henry Cosby and Just Look Through Your Window at the
World, an optimistic and pleasant mover.
a Rose for my Rose is an entertaining and feel-good CD, which proceeds
in a logical and chronological order; another worthwhile Motown comp from Ace/Kent.
© Heikki Suosalo
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