Front Page

The Best Tracks in 2012

CD Shop

Book Store

Search Content/Artists

New Releases

Forthcoming Releases

Back Issues

Serious Soul Chart

Quality Time Cream Cuts

Vintage Soul Top 20

Boogie Tunes Top 20

Album of the Month

CD Reviews

Editorial Columns


Readers' Favourites

Top 20 most visited pages


DEEP # 2/2012 (June)

  Due to my other obligations, close to six months have passed since my last column and a lot of records have piled up, so I had to cut some of my reviews shorter this time to keep the length of the whole article bearable.  I also had plans to interview both some upcoming artists, and “come-back” veterans, but, again, that would have been excessive, so I narrowed my interviews down to Mr. Ron Tyson of the Temptations, who has released a new solo CD a few months ago, and Mr. Mickey McGill of the Dells to discuss the early days of the group and a bit of the current situation, too.

  These days there’s actually a drama going on within the Dramatics, and I talked to two leading stars in it, Messrs L.J. Reynolds and Willie Ford.  I also introduce a new member in the group, Mr. Leon Franklin.

  In addition to almost thirty CDs – some of which have been around for quite awhile - there’s also a new DVD by Wilson Meadows.  Let’s start with Mr. Tyson, then move on to retrospect records and further ahead to numerous new Southern and mainstream soul indie releases. 

Content and quick links:

Ron Tyson (The Temptations)
The Dramatics: L.J. Reynolds, Willie Ford
Introducing new Dramatics member Leon Franklin
Mickey McGill of the Dells

New CD reviews:
Ron Tyson: Recipe 4 Love
Vel Omarr: The Greatest Song I Ever Sang
Garland Green: I Should’ve Been the One
Frank-O Johnson: Only Time Will Tell
O.B. Buchana: Let Me Knock the Dust Off
Jaye Hammer: Hammer
Joy: Gotta Find a Good Love
Dave Morris: In & Out Of Love
Mel Waiters: Got No Curfew
Jerry L: Let’s Do It All Over
Lee Fields: Faithful Man
Andre´ Lee: Stories of Life
The Revelations feat. Tre Williams: Concrete Blues
Betty Wright & The Roots: The Movie
Clonda Brittman: A Man in Love with Love
Jesse James: Do Not Disturb

CD soul reissue albums or compilations:
Eddie Holland: It Moves Me/The Complete Recordings 1958-1964
Shorty Long: Here Comes...Shorty Long/The Complete Motown Stereo Masters
Various: Memphis Boys/The Story of American Studios/a>
Various: Hall of Fame – Rare and unreleased gems from the Fame vaults
Various: New Breed R&B, volume 2
Fats Domino: The Imperial Singles, volume 5, 1962-1964
Various: Masterpieces of Modern Soul, vol. 3
Darondo: Listen to my Songs/The Music City Sessions
Bill Doggett: Honky Tonk Popcorn
Martha Bass: I’m So Grateful
The Dells: Time Makes You Change, 1964-1961

DVD Review:
Wilson Meadows: Live at the 15th Annual Old School & Blues Festival DVD


  Musically a most delightful and smooth CD was released earlier this year, entitled Recipe 4 Love.  It’s Ron Tyson’s second solo CD and it was released by LA Bay Entertainment and R & P Global Music.  Ron: “LA Bay is a label out of Los Angeles.  They’re a couple of guys, who used to work with bigger record companies.  R & P Global Music is Preston Glass’ and my label (Ron & Preston).  Preston is my partner, and we’ve known each other for a few years.”  Produced by Preston and Ron, who are also the main writers, the set was recorded in Los Angeles.  The subtle background music is quite skilfully programmed.  “The strings and all of that is pretty much keyboard instruments.  It’s that modern technology, used by Bob Farrell.  He’s a friend of mine since the 60s.  He’s the conductor for the Temptations.”  Preston Glass is for the most part in charge of the rest of the instruments.

  The opening dreamy ballad called All the Good Ones is followed by a very catchy dancer named Got My Swagger Back, which evolved into a small hit for Ron.  “It did pretty good.  We did a video on it (you can watch it both on Ron’s website, and on YouTube).  It’s a cute little song.  A lot of people call me now King Swagger (laughing).  It has that Philly flavour.”  Indeed, you can almost picture Blue Magic or the Stylistics doing this light ditty back in the 70s.

  A soft and sweet serenade called My Sweet Lady was written and produced by Sheldon Reynolds, who is best known as the lead guitarist, first in the Commodores and later with Earth, Wind & Fire.  “I’ve known Sheldon for a long time, and so has Preston.  Actually Preston ran into Sheldon, and Sheldon presented a song and Preston brought it to me.  I was a little hesitant at first, but, once we started working on it, it caught me more and more.”

  Unconditional Love is a nice mid-tempo bouncer written by Vinnie Barrett and Jay King.  “I’ve known Vinnie since the 70s in Philly.  I had a box of cassettes and I saw her name on one cassette, and I played it.  Vinnie had sent me the cassette in the 80s.  I found two songs on there, and I was absolutely crazy about them.  I told Preston that we got to put these songs on the CD.  I called Vinnie and said ‘Vinnie, we’re using two of your songs’.  She said ‘what’!  She had almost forgotten about them.”  Vinnie ( is famous for co-writing such ageless songs as I Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely, Sideshow and Love Won’t Let Me Wait, all together with Bobby Eli.

  No Journey Too Far is a sweet and truly beautiful ballad and elegantly interpreted by Ron.  The Spinners could have cut this song in the 70s.  “That’s a Preston creation.  He’s a great writer and he has a good ear.  I call that ‘my movie theme song’.”  Guessing Game, on the contrary, echoes some of those psychedelic items the Temptations used to cut in the late 60s and early 70s.  “We decided to put a dance song on there.  I got a friend of mine, Caramel – who’s a Belizian – to do a little rap on there.”  Back to ballads, Lonely Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a laid-back, atmospheric song that again has that Philly flavour, whereas the second Vinnie song, Before the Real Hurting Starts, has a jazzy feel to it.  Here Ron sings with Freda Payne.  “I’ve been knowing Freda for a long time.  She’s a great person and she was more than happy to do it.  I just feel that it’s the kind of a song that if jazz stations ever get a hold of it, the song will be big on those stations.”

  The slow You Are, You Are is cut in a more urban style, while the mellow Bluer Shade of Blue is a Philly type of floater.  “Bluer Shade of Blue is a song that we actually did for Preston.  I did the vocal on it, and we put it on his CD, and then we put it on mine, too.  His album is called Colors of Life (on Expansion in 2010), and each song has something to do with certain colours.”  Newfound Treasure is another beautiful, heartfelt slow song.  “That’s the song Preston brought to the table.  His daughter got married and I sang that song at her wedding.”  On this track Eban Brown is playing the guitar solo.

  After a toe-tapper and the third uptempo track on the album, Love of a Woman, we reach the final song on this sophisticated and very recommended CD, a delicate ballad with minimal backing named When I Fall in Love, sort of “chamber soul”, written by Ron and Oji Pierce.  “Oji Pierce is one of my partners that I had the pleasure of writing and producing with.  He passed away.  It’s such a great song that I did it in his honour.  It’s a very touching and moving song.”


  Ronald Tyson Presson was born in Philadelphia on February 8th in 1948, but moved to Monroe, North Carolina, at about six months old.  Ron got drifted into music through his grandfather’s gospel group, Southern Gospel Six.  “The guitar player in that group and my grandfather, Horace Presson, taught me how to sing.  I travelled with them, we went to different churches and they gave me the opportunity to sing some background or they’d teach me how to sing one of the lead songs.”  With that group, at the tender age of seven Ron recorded his first single.  “It was just local stuff in Monroe, North Carolina.  It was called Working for My Jesus.  I had a copy of it years ago, but then I misplaced it.”

  Ron returned to Philadelphia at the age of twelve, where he even took opera classes.  “Actually I went to Granoff School of Music in Philly, and Billy Paul went there also.  It was about three years, and it was very good training for me.  I’m glad I had that opportunity.”

  Ron formed his first more widely known group, the Ethics, in 1967.  “The Ethics came from school, so that was pretty much the early days in high school.  Before the Ethics I was just singing with the guys, who sang in the neighbourhood.  It wasn’t really a group.”

  Besides Ron, the other members of the Ethics were Carl Enlow, Andrew Collins and Joe Freeman.  “Joe is still one of my best friends.  He’s a minister now.  Carl and Andrew – I haven’t seen or talked to them in probably 30 years, maybe even more.  I haven’t talked to them since we actually disbanded.”

  A gentleman by the name of Thaddeus Wales became their manager.  “He kind of found me.  He knew Norman Harris, and we became acquainted through him.  That’s when I was getting the Ethics started.  We met and we went on to record.”  The first single – That’s the Way Love Goes/There’s Still a Sweet Tomorrow, produced by Thaddeus – was released on Wale in 1967.  The other group on the label was The Springers.

  The next five singles in ’68 and ’69 came out on Vent Records, and of them Farewell (# 32) and Tell Me (# 43) became small hits.  More importantly the group had a chance to work with such producers and arrangers as Thom Bell, Bobby Martin and Vince Montana at that point.  “I was a pioneer back then (laughing).  They were young guys, and everybody in Philly was hungry, so everybody was willing to help each other hoping that somebody would take off, which would pave the path for everybody else.  A few acts came along and their breaks happened quicker than mine.  We never had that breakout record.  I had all the Philly musicians and producers around me, like Norman Harris.  He was my best friend.  Thom Bell was the first guy to take me, when I was 17, to a lawyer and told him to sign me up as a client, because I was going to be a pretty good songwriter.  Thom gave me a lot of advice, and I learned a lot from guys like Bobby Martin.  Then Gamble & Huff were friends of mine, and they still are today.”

  The Ethics never got to the point of releasing an album in the late 60s or early 70s, but nine years ago a compilation CD titled Best of the Ethics was released.  “Some people can take on management and can go no farther than the city they live in.  Then you have people that have wordly connections and know how to do the management.  Mr. Wales wasn’t one of those people.”

  “There were so many groups back in those days, but now the groups have almost disappeared.  It’s almost a solo society of singers.  There was a lot of competition.  There were groups in every city, and you were known for that city - The Temptations from Detroit, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes from Philly, the Chi-Lites from Chicago, the Mad Lads from Memphis... Every city had its groups, but you don’t have that today.”


  In 1973 the group had to change its name to Love Committee, because Thaddeus Wales owned the name ‘the Ethics’ and Ron cut ties with him.  There was one more Ethics single released still in 1974 on Golden Fleece (Good Luck/Who in the World, produced by Gamble & Huff), but already the next Golden Fleece single (One Day of Peace/One Dozen Roses, produced by the late Weldon McDougal) carried the name Love Committee.

  Also the line-up changed.  “Carl and Andrew didn’t quit.  I kind of disbanded the group, because the chemistry wasn’t working.”  The new members were Norman Frazier and Larry Richardson, who, however, passed in the late 70s and was replaced by Michael Bell.

  Between 1973 and ’80 the group released two albums – Law and Order on Gold Mind in 1978 and Love Committee on MCA in 1980 – and as many as 9 singles on Golden Fleece, TSOP, Ariola, Gold Mind and T-Electric.  The charted ones were Heaven Only Knows (# 32), Cheaters Never Win (# 57) and Law and Order (# 97).  Those days there was also a possibility for the group to sign with Casablanca, but Ron was too hesitant at the time.  “I kicked myself in the butt later on, because it was an opportunity that I kind of missed.”

  Ron is a prolific songwriter, and throughout the years he has written lots of songs for a number of artists, like the O’Jays, Blue Magic, the Four Tops, Eddie Kendricks, Gloria Gaynor, Loleatta Holloway, the Dells, Joe Simon etc.  You can check out the list of those songs on Ron’s website at -> Ron’s discography.  Later his work has been sampled at least by Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Madonna and Mariah Carey.  Ron also wrote some songs for the Temptations’ Atlantic album in ‘77, Here to Tempt You.


  Finally Ron himself joined the Temptations in 1983, replacing Glenn Leonard, who today is fronting Glenn Leonard’s Temptations Revue (  Prior to that, Glenn spent many years in the ministry.  Ron’s close to 30-year period in the Temptations covers 15 new albums, excluding compilations (see, starting from Back to Basics through to Still Here two years ago.

  Ron also found their current lead singer, Bruce Williamson.  “He’s been around me, since he was about seventeen.  He would be singing in Vegas, and he was brought to my house one day and we listened to him.  At the time he had a group that I was more interested in.  He just hung around and developed himself as a singer.”  Once the Temptations thought he was ready - and toying with the idea that “the songs were bigger than the people” - they took Bruce in.

  Prior to Recipe 4 Love, Ron had released one solo CD eight years earlier, Christmas...My Favourite Holiday.  “I figured, while I’m still alive, I’ll do a Christmas album, because that’ll be something that will always be around forever, although your regular CD might come and go.  Holiday albums seem to for some reason hang around.  ‘Let me do one now, and get it out of the way’.  It’s still doing fairly decently.  I didn’t have a major distribution.  It was pretty much Internet, but every year we’re doing good profit on it.”

  Still a while ago Ron was in charge of the uniforms for the Temptations.  “I don’t do it anymore.  Otis does it again now.”  A new Temptations CD is in the pipeline, perhaps already this year.  “Gigs we will probably be doing 35-40 weeks a year, so we’re still pretty active.  I’m probably going to do another CD, maybe starting later this year.  Music is just a big part of my life, something I enjoy doing.”  (Interview conducted on June 12; acknowledgements to Marva Nelson).



  It Moves Me/The Complete Recordings 1958-1964 (Ace, CDTOP2 1331; 56 tracks, 2 h 24 min.; is a double-CD, which is put together from Eddie’s sixteen singles and tracks from his sole album (Motown 604 in ’62) plus “18 unissued masters from the Motown vaults.”  Besides Tamla and Motown, the compilation draws from the Mercury, Kudo and U.A. labels.  For the liners, an interview with Eddie is conducted by Keith Hughes, and he also wrote the profound annotations.

  Eddie is mostly compared to Jackie Wilson, which becomes evident if you listen to an uptempo ’59 ditty here called Everybody’s Going.  On certain tracks, however, there’s a resemblance in voices with Clyde McPhatter (Magic Mirror), Roy Hamilton (Will You Love Me) and Sam Cooke (Just a Few More Days), too.  Berry Gordy produced and wrote some of Eddie’s early efforts, such as a rocking pop song titled Little Miss Ruby (in ’58), a big ballad named Merry-Go-Round (’59) and a “r&b styled rock-a-cha” called Why Do You Want To Let Me Go (’61).

  Only four singles charted.  The first and biggest hit was Jamie in ’61, which was originally meant for Barrett Strong.  The rest three were the storming Leaving Here (’63), the mid-paced Just Ain’t Enough Love (’64) and the hand-clapping Candy to Me (’64), but by now Eddie was already deeply involved in writing and producing for other artists and putting his singing career aside. 

  Almost all the rest of Eddie’s uptempo single sides in the early 60s are bubbly and fully orchestrated (You Deserve What You Got, If Cleopatra Took a Chance, If It’s Love, Baby Shake) until the more pounding beat becomes a dominant element (I’m on the Outside Looking In) around 1963.  Take a Chance On Me (’61) is the personal favourite among Eddie’s big beat-ballads those days.

  The driving Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While) from 1964 is a full demo and, although among those unissued tracks there are a couple of “guideline” demos, too, for the most part they are finished.  They are either nice and pulsating, poppy songs - Bashful Kind, Love Is What You Make It, Day Dreamer, Happy Go Lucky – or pretty ballads (It’s Best To Be Sure, Action Speaks Louder Than Words).  There’s also a slowed-down ’64 version of (Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need.  This is a very worthwhile compilation by a soulful but underrated singer, who returned to recording only in the 70s and 80s.


  Here Comes...Shorty Long/The Complete Motown Stereo Masters (Kent, CDTOP 369; 26 tracks, 71 min.; liners by Keith Hughes and Tony Rounce) pairs Frederick Long’s two albums on the Soul label from the late 60s.  Squeezed in between there are the two bonus tracks, a somewhat messy funk number called Mobile Lil the Dancing Witch and a cheerful and popular old piece named Chantilly Lace.

  The two albums differ a lot from each other.  Here Comes the Judge (1968) is full of funky, hammering beaters.  Some of them charted – Here Comes the Judge, Function at the Junction (in ’66), Devil with the Blue Dress (bubbling under already in ’64) and Night Fo’ Last.  Two scorchers were familiar songs from the past, Stranded in the Jungle by the Jayhawks and Titus Turner’s People Sure Act Funny.  Frederick himself wrote and produced some of his material and one example was the only slow song on the album, Another Hurt like This.

  The arrangements on many tracks on the second album, The Prime of Shorty Long (1969), were created by Paul Riser, and altogether this is a smoother LP, with a lot of cover songs.  Three tunes were tested as singles - a fascinating new ballad with a social message called I Had a Dream, co-written and produced by Shorty, a gentle remake of A Whiter Shade of Pale, with Shorty’s trumpet solo at the end, and a melodic ballad named When You Are Available.

  Two Dave Bartholomew’s tunes, I’m Walkin’ and Blue Monday, are both laid-back toe-tappers, as well as the mid-tempo Memories Are Made Of This. Cross My Heart is a sentimental ballad, produced by Clarence Paul.  Towards the end of the decade Shorty was showing more and more creativity, but that came to an abrupt end, when he drowned in 1969 at the age of only 29.


   Memphis Boys/The Story of American Studios (Ace, CDCHD 1330; 24 tracks, 66 min.; liners by John Broven, Roben Jones and Tony Rounce) is a various artists CD that goes together with a fine book by the same title.  You can read my two-year old review of the book at  The tracks derive from the latter half of the 60s and early 70s, and any Memphis music fan knows most of them by heart.  Sixteen of them represent soul music and eight belong to the pop and country categories.  Among such big pop hits as The Letter by the Box Tops, Born a Woman by Sandy Posey, Angel of the Morning by Merrilee Rush and Keep on Dancing by the Gentrys – sounding a lot like the Beach Boys - there are such interesting items as the original Suspicious Minds by Mark James.

  Also on the soul side a lot of roof-raisers are included (Memphis Soul Stew, Shake a Tail Feather, Funky Street, Skinny Legs and All), but my focus is on many magnificent deep soul tracks.  The list of these immortal gems speaks for itself: You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up by James Carr, Nine Pound Steel by Joe Simon, I’m in Love by Wilson Pickett, For Your Precious Love by Oscar Toney Jr., Shame on Me by Solomon Burke, Let’s Do It Over by L.C. Cooke, The Power of a Woman by Spencer Wiggins and I Don’t Know What You’ve Got by Percy Milem.  Should there be readers, who for some reason are not acquainted with the music of this area and era, then I urge you to purchase this CD.


  Moving from Memphis, Tennessee, about 220 km to the east, we reach Muscle Shoals and the Fame Studios.  Our able detectives at Kent Records have unearthed there on the spot piles of unreleased material and compiled the first volume of Hall of Fame – Rare and unreleased gems from the Fame vaults (CDKEND 371; 24 tracks, 20 prev. unreleased; 62 min.).

  Most songs written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn, there are many well-known artists featured on this set, such as Jimmy Hughes with the waltz-time I Worship the Ground you walk on and another version of Steal Away, or Clarence Carter with early, unfinished takes of Tell Daddy and Too Weak to FightJoe Simon hurries through a hand-clapper called When It Comes to Dancing, Prince Phillips (Mitchell) still increases the drive on Keep on Talking, whereas Otis Clay brings it down a bit to the stomping I’m Qualified.  His strong, soulful singing comes better through, though, on a deep ballad titled Your Helping Hand.

  Equally impressive are certain tracks by more obscure artists, viz. an energetic cover of You’re So Fine by James Barnett, and June Conquest’s easy beater named I Do, which has a Motown feel to it as Tony Rounce aptly writes in his detailed sleeve-notes.  Little Milton could have cut the infectious Tell It like It Is in the 60s, but here Big Ben Atkins sings it.  Moving on to ballads, George Byrd & the Dominoes perform a pleading bluesoul number called It Ain’t No Harm.

  Blind Can’t See by Richard Earl & the Corvettes is a gem of a deep ballad, while the driving Hand Shakin’ by Ben (Moore) & Spence (James) is a gem of a mover with truly inspired singing.  I began losing interest in this set only at the very end with such acts as O.B. McClinton, Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces and Travis Wammack emerging, and even George Jackson’s primitive, homemade demo of For You couldn’t excite me anymore.  But now we’re talking about the last few tracks only, and they weigh little in comparison with the overall program.


  All the lovers of vintage jungle music must be happy with the release of King New Breed R&B, volume 2 (Kent, CDKEND 373; 24 tracks, 60 min., liners by Ady Croasdell).  To be more precise, the CD is a compilation of driving “jump” rhythm & blues numbers from the King/Federal/DeLuxe/Hollywood group of labels, covering the period of 1955 – ’67. 

  Alongside obscurities there are a few hit records too.  Freddy King storms through I’m Tore Down and Little Willie John rocks All around the World.  There are a lot of other familiar names, but they are presented by non-charted records.  Lee “Shot” Williams’s fiery r&b scorcher is called When You Move, You Lose (’64), whereas the “5” Royales’ mover titled It Hurts Inside (’59) is less significant and inspiring.  Johnny Watson’s mid-tempo Gangster of Love derives from 1963, and shoutress Lula Reed’s throaty Say Hey Pretty Lady came out a year earlier.  Donnie Elbert sings Wild Child (’57) with his recognizable high-pitched “Little Johnny” voice.

  Those days it was only natural that some of the artists had been listening very closely to Ray Charles (Guitar Crusher and Teddy Humphries), and doowop, of course, was still among dominating genres (the Hi Tones, the King Pins, El Pauling & the Royalton and Lee Williams & the Moonrays).  In the early 60s we could avoid neither pop sound (the Five Fabulous Demons and Billy Conn), nor dance novelties (Bobby & the Expressions and James Duncan).

  For me the number of poor tracks on this comp was surprisingly small... and I openly admit that I was prejudiced.  I was quite happy to hear such new songs for me as Mel Williams’ rock-a-cha number Send Me a Picture, Baby – with merry whistling and all - and a fascinating fast scorcher with a big orchestra backing called Your Letter by Willie Wright & his Sparklers.  No doubt, the followers of the 50s and early 60s rhythm & blues will latch onto this CD.


  The Imperial Singles, volume 5, 1962-1964 by Fats Domino (Ace, CDCHD 1323; 26 tracks, 54 min.) gives us the both sides of Antoine Domino’s twelve singles plus two album tracks.  Five songs reached Billboard’s Hot-100 (I Hear You Knocking, Ida Jane, My Real Name, Dance with Mr. Domino and Nothing New) and five remained bubbling under (Stop the Clock, Hum Diddy Doo, You Always Hurt the One You Love, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love and Your Cheatin’ Heart).

  The music is either joyous “walk-a-rhythm” and sing-along type of ditties, or more “fiesta” rolling boogie-woogie numbers - with some MOR, blues and even waltz thrown in.  Brian Nevill’s interesting liners tell, among other things, about eventful European tours and gambling in Las Vegas.


  Masterpieces of Modern Soul, vol. 3 (Kent, CDKEND 364; 23 tracks, 74 min., liners by Ady Croasdell) is in terms of quality of music a strange mix of indifferent, even poor tracks (one third of the repertoire) and fascinating goodies or pleasant floaters.  There are only six downtempo songs on display, which should please devoted NS fans.  Twelve tracks were officially released in the late 60s and the 70s, the rest were released from the can.

  On the uptempo front there are quite a few interesting items, such as the unreleased at the time Go Away by the Hesitations, the bouncy Any Fool Can Feel It by Marshall McQueen Jr., the mid-paced If You Got to Love Somebody by Tommy Tate, the Philly-sounding It Ain’t Easy by Charles Russell and One More Hurt by Candi Staton.

  On the slow side we can enjoy The Feeling Is Gone by Rose Batiste, the melodic I Am So Thankful by Eddie Hill and the impassioned This Man’s Arms by Loleatta Holloway.  Instead of obvious choices, they’ve picked up more obscure and rare tracks for this comp, which makes it all the more interesting.


  Listen to my Songs/The Music City Sessions by Darondo (BGP Records, CDBGPD 233; 16 tracks, 61 min.) introduces us to a Bay Area artist, who had only three singles released in the early 70s but whose lost album, cut in 1973 and ’74, they’ve now unearthed for this CD.  In the liners Alec Palao tells the whole story in detail.  Some of Darondo’s music was already earlier available on a ’06 CD titled Let My People Go (on Lun N’ Haight).

  A small cult figure, this Al Green sounding singer was born in 1946 and is still performing.  I admit that the music is of acquired taste, varying from funk (Luscious Lady) to melodic pop (Saving My Love), to jazzy floaters (Do You Really Love Me) and to ethereal slowies (Listen to my Song).  One of his ballads, Qualified, was already featured on the above Masterpieces of Modern Soul CD. 


  This organ wizard was born in Philadelphia in 1916, and he started performing in combos and recording already in the 1930s.  His golden hit, Honky Tonk, was released on King in 1956, and he remained active till his passing in 1996, at 80.

  Honky Tonk Popcorn (CDBGPD 249; 18 tracks, 51 min.; liners by Dean Rudland) features Bill’s 1969 King album by the same name plus six bonus tracks.  Mainly uptempo instrumental tracks, Bill wrote most of the songs, but there are a few outside ones, too, such as Twenty Five Miles, Mr. Pitiful and For Once in My LifeJames Brown wrote and produced the title track.  Some funky, some sax-driven, some slightly jazzy and even one slowie (Cozy Corner), for me this sound hasn’t really stood the test of time, but, of course, some of you Doggett fans may disagree.


  I’m So Grateful (Righteous Records Psalm 23:61;; 22 tracks, 65 min.) was Martha’s breakthrough gospel album on Checker in 1966.  Produced by Gene Barge and cut in Chicago, the eleven tracks are offered here both in stereo and mono mixes. 

  The most rousing songs among the four fast hand-clappers, “holy ghost hops”, are Everybody Will Be Happy and What Manner of Man is this, whereas among the five slow sermons the most intense ones are There’s a Fountain and I’m So Grateful.  There are even two mid-tempo sing-along type of pop songs called Jesus Gave Me and Be Still

  Contralto and almost like a gospel shoutress, Martha has a traditional church-type, organ-led rhythm section backing her up... and a loud choir.  She cut two more albums for Checker in the 60s, and still in 1991 she sang together with her daughter, Fontella Bass, and her son, the late David Peaston, on an album titled Promises, a Family Portrait of Faith on Selah Records.


  Time Makes You Change, 1964-1961 (JASCD 186;; 2-CD, 44 tracks, 114 min.) takes you to a nostalgic trip back to the 50s, when the premier soul group, the Dells, cut its first sides for the Chicago label, Vee-Jay.  Fourteen of these tracks were not released at the time, but some of them became available later on various compilations and bootleg records.  Now we have all of them officially released.

  We talked about many of these songs with different members of the group in my 16-page Dells story (in our printed magazines:, but with the release of this double-CD I decided to discuss some of them once more with Mr. Michael McGill.  The liner-notes to the CD were written by David Yeats.  Mickey: “This man has done so much for the Dells.  Behind the scenes, he’s working so hard for the Dells.  He’s a great guy.  If David Yeats had been in our lives at the height of our career, we would have gone to the moon.  We really appreciate him.”  Incidentally, one worthwhile CD that is overlooked in all the Dells features and discographies is Open up My Heart – the 9/11 Suite on Devine Records in 2002.


  In the line-up of Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale, Johnny Funches, Marvin Junior, Lucius McGill and Mickey McGill, the group cut its very first single as the El Rays for Checker in early 1954, Darling I Know b/w Christine.  On the jump side, Christine, we can hear some inconsolable crying.  “That was Johnny Funches.  He’s deceased.  He was one of the lead singers with the Dells, along with Marvin Junior.”  On this CD we can also listen to the faster, unreleased cut of Darling I Know.

  After that one flop of a single, the group changed its name into the Dells and went over to Vee-Jay for the next twelve singles between 1955 and ’60.  At that point also Mickey’s brother, Lucius, quit.  “Lucius is doing fine these days.  He’ll be 77 years old on July 20th.  He really didn’t want to sing.  He got out and joined the Marine Corps in ’55.  After that he worked in the post office for about 37-38 years, and he’s retired now.  He lives in Chicago, and he’s doing well.”

  The group had its first taste of success with a tender ballad called Dreams of Contentment in ’55.  “It was a territorial hit.  Vee-Jay never really promoted it, but it did pretty well in Chicago, Milwaukee, South Haven, Michigan...”  The first really big hit, Oh What a Night (# 4-r&b), arrived a year later.

  One of the unreleased songs those days was a slow swayer named She’s Just an Angel.  “It was really a copy of Goodnite Sweetheart (# 5-r&b on Vee-Jay in ’54).  The Spaniels were so popular.  When we were young, Johnny Funches was always trying to imitate Pookie Hudson.  Pookie was his idol.”  Teddy Twiggs wrote the fast Jo-Jo.  “He also wrote (the powerful) Someone to Call Me Darling.  He was a songwriter that hung around Vee-Jay and Calvin Carter, who was the A&R man over there, let him come in and write a couple of songs.  Jo-Jo, which was on the flip side of the original Oh What a Night, was sort of taken off from Priscilla Bowman’s Hands Off.”  Priscilla was the vocalist in Jay McShann’s Orchestra, who scored that # 1 r&b hit in 1955 on Vee-Jay.

  Baby Do is another fast, fun song, which remained in the can.  “These were Verne Allison’s creations.  He also wrote Dreams of Contentment and (the slow) I Can’t Help MyselfBaby Do was sort of one of those Hank Ballard and the Midnighters songs.  A pleading ballad called Pain in My Heart was actually released in 1957.  “That was written by Marvin Junior and Johnny Funches.  I love it.  It’s one of my favourites – a beautiful song.”


  What You Say Baby is a ’58 fast shuffle.  “Chuck Barksdale is leading on that one.  The writer was our guitar player.  His first name was Kirk.  I can’t remember his last name.  We met him in New York.  He was kind of down on his luck, and we took him with us.”  I’m Calling is a ballad that Mickey wrote. “When I heard Been So Long by the Pastels (# 4-r&b in ’58), it sounded so much like the Dells to me, so I wrote I’m Calling, and Marvin did it.  I wrote a lot of things for Marvin, because I knew how Marvin likes to sing and rest.  Marvin doesn’t like too many words, so you have to let him sing and rest and then sing again.  That song didn’t get promoted.  Vee-Jay didn’t promote the Dells.”

  My Best Girl is another pleading ballad.  “It’s a song that Marvin wrote.  He told me that when he was young, he had a dream that his mother had passed and he wrote ‘my best girl is gone’.  Then we took it and turned it into a love song so that it wouldn’t be so morbid.  Marvin is a good songwriter – I Wanna Go Home and Oh What a Night – and he could write quickly.  The Dells were very, very good songwriters.  At that time we wrote all of our own material.  Of course, at Vee-Jay they put their names on some of our songs, especially on Verne Allison’s songs.  This was the way they did things back then.”

  “Also when Calvin Carter found out that the Dells could sing vocal background, he decided that he was really going to make us his background vocal group.  When Calvin would go to New York to these publishing houses and get these great songs for Jerry Butler, Betty Everett and Dee Clark, he wasn’t shopping for the Dells.  He wanted us to do a lot of vocal background at Vee-Jay.  The Opals that we trained was the girl group that he used.”

  The Coasters type of Swingin’ Teens was released as late as in 1961.  “Vern and Chuck wrote it, and I think Calvin Carter may have put his name on it.  Calvin really wasn’t a songwriter.  Vern, Chuck, Dallas Taylor and Lawrence Brown sang it.  I was recuperating at home (after a serious auto accident in 1958) and Marvin and Johnny were working at the factory.”

  Among the unreleased cuts there was My Dreams.  “Verne wrote it.  It was really like Oh What a Night.”  The mid-tempo Come on Baby bears a resemblance to the Twist.  “Verne was writing like for Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.  We used to hear Sexy Ways and Work with Me Annie, and we were imitating the Midnighters there.  Until you find yourself, you’re shooting in the breeze.  The Moonglows taught us how to sing.  When we had gone over to Chess Records (in 1962), Leonard Chess told Harvey Fuqua to ‘take these guys and make them a group’.  Harvey and Bobby Lester actually taught us how to sing.”

  A strong, mid-tempo song called Restless Days Sleepless Nights also went unreleased.  “I wrote it, but when Carl Davis was with Columbia he took the Opals and produced that on them.”  The tender Rain has those familiar drip-drop effects.  “It was written by Verne and arranged by Riley Hampton, who was our arranger at Vee-Jay.  He probably did later Dee Clark’s Raindrops (# 2-pop and # 3-r&b in 1961 on Vee-Jay).  He used strings back then.”  A pretty song named You’re Still in My Heart was composed by all the members of the group.


  The so-called bonus tracks are lifted from Dinah Washington’s 1961 Mercury album Tears & Laughter, with the group joining her on such jazzy standards as Am I Blue, Mood Indigo and Wake the Town and Tell the People.  “Dinah Washington came here and we auditioned for her.  We all had day jobs.  We worked at the Regal Theater.  One guy out of the group the Four Steps got us to audition for Dinah.  At that time there was a guy named Kirk Stewart (aka Curt Stuart), who was a keyboard player and a musical director.  Kirk was – what we called – into modern harmony then.  He was crazy about the Hi-Lo’s and the Four Freshmen.  He took us and taught us, so when we went to audition for Dinah she fell in love with the Dells, because we could sing.”

  Two days before going on tour with Dinah, Johnny Funches announced he wouldn’t go and was leaving the group, but fortunately he was quickly replaced by Johnny Carter.  “Dinah was tough, but she was nice too.  One day she’s good and the next day she’s bad.  She’d buy us all kinds of diamond rings, new uniforms and things, and then she’d tell us we’re fired... and the whole bit.  But she was more good to the Dells than bad.  We learned a lot from her.  She also taught us the other side of show business.  She knew all the movie stars, and all the gangsters.  We met everybody.  But we knew in case we wanted to get out there and become stars ourselves, we’d have to leave Dinah – which we did.  He wouldn’t let us record.  She didn’t want us to leave her.  We had become an integral part of her show.”

  What about today?  A couple of months ago there was still talk about the Dells doing one more farewell concert in June.  “There will be no more tours for the Dells.  I’m 75 and I’m the youngest.  Verne and Marvin are 76, Chuck is 77 and Johnny has passed.  Father Time has stepped in, and he is never defeated.  We were supposed to officially retire at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in June, but we couldn’t make it.  Chuck and Marvin are sick.  I and Verne are still fairly healthy.”

  “We started sixty years ago, in 1952.  I’m very happy that people love the Dells and have supported us all these years, and we love our fans.  I’m also very proud of the type of music that we put out there.  We tried to uplift everybody with our songs.” (Interview conducted on June 14;



  Special Soul Music is a new subsidiary of CDS Records (, and on their CD covers it says “100 % Organic, Real Musicians, Real Instruments, Real Soul.”  And indeed, on Vel Omarr’s The Greatest Song I Ever Sang (SPSO 2) they present a real live rhythm section and even a 4-piece horn section.  Produced by Carl Marshall, he’s also the main writer with some help from Dylann DeAnna and Robert Conerly.

  Vel’s idol is Sam Cooke, and there’s a strong vocal resemblance, too.  He’s perhaps closest to Sam of all the artists I’ve heard in recent years.  Vel is also an industry veteran having sung in the latter-day’s Robins and Olympics, and - as far as I know - The Greatest Song is Vel’s fourth solo album so far (

  The opening song, Everybody’s Dancin’, is like Sam’s Having a Party introduced to us all over again after fifty years with its laid-back beat and infectious melody.  Happy People is another merry melody along the lines of Another Saturday Night

  I Love you and A Woman’s Love Is Greater are both mid-tempo beaters, whereas Don’t Give More Than You Feel and Joanna could almost be categorized as novelties.  The former is somewhere between a circus tune and a nursery rhyme with accordion and everything, and the latter one is built on a Caribbean beat.  Lonesome Joe, on the contrary, is closest to the funk you’ll get on this set.

  As harmless, joyous and light-hearted as all those mid- and up-tempo tracks are I still prefer the five slow songs on this CD.  Still My Love Grows is a tender love serenade, and The Greatest Song I Ever Sang is charged with a lot of passion in Vel’s delivery.  I’ll Be There for Ya and Everybody Needs Somebody Sometime are both melodic and wistful beat-ballads, while the very slow Give Me Your Love has a pleading Marvin Gaye feel on it.  Although nothing earth-shattering, I thoroughly enjoyed and keep enjoying this Vel’s CD.  It’ll certainly find its way into my top-ten this year.


    I’m not as overly excited about the latest CD by another long-standing soul hero, Garland Green, who recently turned seventy.  Again, produced by Carl Marshall and featuring mostly the same musicians as on Vel’s CD, for these ears the mixing between back-up musicians and Garland isn’t balanced in the best possible way.  Garland still is in a good voice, but - once we have authentic instrumentation - its role could have been emphasized more, brought more to the front.  This, of course, isn’t a very serious problem, but that thinness of the sound – plus dominating drums on some tracks - was just something that kept bothering me throughout the CD.

  I Should’ve Been the One (Special Soul, SPSO 1) actually is Garland’s first full-length album for almost thirty years, after his Ocean-Front LP in 1983.  It kicks off with a touching, poignant soul ballad named I’m the One that Should’ve Been, written by Dylann DeAnna and peppered with Gary Brown’s saxophone solo.  There are altogether seven slow songs on this eleven-tracker.  Alongside that opener the most noteworthy ones are a beat-ballad called When You Got It Home, co-written by Harvey Scales - Garland first cut this song for a maxi-single in 1990 on his own Love L.A. Music label (T 101) - and a slowed-down remake of Garland’s biggest hit in 1969, Jealous Kind of Fella, which leaves a lot of room for vocal improvisation.  Also I Wake up Crying is dramatic enough, although this song, as a rule, calls for a richer orchestration.

  Neither in groove, nor in instrumentation See You When I Get There is on a par with Lou Rawls’ 1977 hit, but Johnnie Dollar’s sunny and jolly finger-snapper titled Happy Street is easily the most memorable one of the four movers here.  I found five good tracks on this CD, perhaps you’ll discover more.


  Frank-O is one of the unsung heroes of southern soul music... or soul music in general.  Not only has he written countless touching and memorable songs for over forty years by now, but his own albums on Traction, Ace and Phat Sound are highly esteemed among deep soul aficionados.

  I must admit that I’d given up hope of hearing new music from Frank-O anymore, since his last CD was released already ten years ago, but – surprise, surprise! – all of a sudden he appears on CDS Records with a new album.  Only Time Will Tell (CDC 5) is produced by Carl Marshall, arranged by Carl, Frank-O and Harrison Calloway and most of the songs are written by Frank-O and Bob Devore.

  Once more we have real live musicians playing on these sessions, but again on many tracks the sound is strangely thin.  I can’t help comparing these tracks to the rich sound on Frank-O’s earlier albums, and his songs usually require a fuller background, a more dramatic impact.  But that is the only drawback, and Frank’s melodies and song-structures are as fascinating as ever.

  The opening ballad, Only Time Will Tell, is a really beautiful country-soul swayer, written by Frank and Carl.  Other strongly country-tinged songs are a melancholic ballad called I’m Just Laying Here and a poppy mid-pacer named Ruby Red Ring.  Another melodic and happy-go-lucky, poppy ditty is She’s the Right Girl for Me, which even Sam Cooke might have written in his heyday.

  In terms of deeper soul, Frank doesn’t let us down this time either.  Sexy Feeling, Leaving You and H-u-r-t are all timeless quality ballads, and actually the last one slightly reminds me of Johnnie Taylor’s ’72 recording of Stop Doggin’ Me.  The last three songs form an inspirational closing to this CD – the slow Heavenly Father, the uplifting Praise the Lord (Victory) and a stepper called By His Stripes, which Joe Simon could have recorded.  I really am delighted to be able to listen to new material from Frank-O.


  O.B.’s 9th Ecko CD, Let Me Knock the Dust Off (ECD 1137;, concentrates this time on faster material.  Produced by John Ward, for this scribe the most irresistible dancers are the title tune, Mr. Telephone Man and the mid-tempo Mind Your Own Business.  There are two down-tempo songs, the romantic (in a two-timing way) Hurry and a beautiful tribute to Aubles’ father called Moon Over Clarksdale, written by William “Sonny Mack” Norris and O.B., and also known under the title of Moon Over Memphis.  As much as I like O.B., I can’t help looking at this CD as a run-of-the-mill job.


  My first Jay’e Hammer CD was Work It on Me on Blues River Records, and now after a few years I meet Jaye again on Ecko Records.  About thirty years old today, I think, Jeremy George’s name appears as a co-writer on five songs on Hammer (ECD 1138).  Produced by John Ward, again there are only two slower songs, I Can Love You Like That and Party Mood.

  I’m Leaving You - in spite of the message - is a lively and easily rolling dancer, whereas Strawberry Ice Cream Woman is a mellower floater.  Those two plus I Can Love You Like That are actually the only tracks that caught my ear on first listening.  There’s nothing unpleasant in the music, and Jaye’s high-pitched voice suits these tracks fine.  These songs are just more or less forgettable and they have neither instant impact, nor lasting quality.  But I’m in the minority here, since this CD has turned into a small SS hit and one of those “forgettable” songs, Mississippi Slide, has been in heavy rotation.


  I think Ecko is distributing Joy’s sophomore CD, Gotta Find a Good Love (West City Records, WCR 02).  You can read about Joy’s earlier career and debut album at  Similarly to Jaye Hammer, also Joy’s first CD was released on Blues River Records, in 2006.

  Many of Joyce Glaspie’s producers, writers and players on that first album, A Woman Can Feel – viz. Percy T. Friends, Morris J. Williams, John Cummings, Ricky White and Henderson Thigpen – have worked on this follow-up, too.

  The two dancers – Party Till the Break of Dawn and If You Like It – are both mellow and effortless, but I like even more the two soothing, mid-tempo numbers called What Do the Lonely Do (When the Lights Go Out) and Better than That.  Among the ten songs there are four down-tempo ones, and the dreamy and tender I Ain’t Going Nowhere and the bluesoulful I Ain’t Gonna Be Alone are the highlights for me.

  Joy has a refined voice and her occasional gospel-style wailing bears a resemblance to that of her sister, Shirley Brown.  My only complaint concerns sound quality, because at least on my copy there’s distortion on many tracks.


  With his latest protégé, Dave Morris, Mr. William Bell is targeting a younger audience than with the rest of his roster.  Now we hear rapping, lazy and heavy beat – a short sonic description: just like cow shit landing on a shed floor - and I think I can distinguish also autotune here and there.  By all this I’m trying to say that I’m really not the right person to review this CD.

  In & Out Of Love (Wilbe, WIL2017-2; is produced and songs mostly written by William and Dave.  Dave’s “Babyface” tenor and urban style of singing take us through fourteen tracks, mostly downtempo and dreamy material, with the mid-tempo She’s Gone, the tender Lady, the tuneful I’ll Never Love Again and the first single release, Tears of Joy, standing out.  If you wish to read about William Bell’s career and his other protégés, you’ll find the article at


  Hot on the heels of Say What’s on Your Mind comes Mel’s next CD, Got No Curfew (Brittney Records, BR5696;, and I’m glad to report that now we’re back to normal, sharp sound from Mel.  Produced by Mel and for the most part songs written by him and Aaron L Spaulding IV, the two most powerful and hard-hitting cuts are the title tune and My Check Is SpentIt’s Not Yours and Bag of Ice are more mellow and melodic mid-pacers, whereas Your Use to be and Being a Fool for You are the most soulful ballads with a highly emotional delivery.  And don’t worry... the saxophone is there, too.


  Let’s Do It All Over (MI Jay/R. White Records; is Jerry’s 7th album with new music during his 31-year recording career.  Produced by Jerry Minnis, Simeo Overall and Ricky White, there are at least three songs that Jerry has cut earlier - an easy, slow floater called Do Me, a cheating ballad named Backstreet Love Affair and another downtempo number titled She Lied on Me, which remotely reminds me of Ronnie Lovejoy’s hit, Sho Wasn’t Me

  Jerry wrote all the songs on this 14-tracker, except the three that Simeo produced.  The overall programming is quite skilfully done, except – again – on those Simeo tracks.  I think on the mid-tempo opening track, When the Ladies Are Happy, I can even detect autotune.

  It’s Good to See You Again is a lively, quick-tempo dancer, while the pleading Do It all Over is a mellower mid-pacer.  Most of the material, however, is downtempo music, including such touching and melancholy songs as I Still Love You, You Chose Me and Give Me Some More, or – on a still higher emotional level – the desperate She Got Papers on Me and I Can’t Let Go.  On those two tracks Jerry’s delivery bears a slight resemblance to Gerald Levert’s interpretations.  Let’s Do It All Over is a strong SS release with emphasis on good songs and soulful singing.


  This is today’s deep soul to my liking.  After the highly-acclaimed My World CD, Lee sidetracked himself with Treacherous but is now on the right track again with Faithful Man (TS018-CD;  Lee is backed by a real rhythm section, and strings and horns only add to the delightfully rich orchestration.  Produced by the label owners, Jeff Silverman and Leon Michels, and recorded in Brooklyn NY, these new songs were for the most part written by the members of Lee’s band, the Expressions, with the exception of Jagger’s & Richard’s Moonlight Mile.

  Lee’s pleading and rasping voice – inevitably compared to James Brown – and his gutsy, loud singing style are as soulful as it gets, in an old-fashioned, rootsy way.  With only two mid-tempo cuts on display – the rolling You’re the Kinda Girl and the plain and simple dancer, Who Do You Love – this is a cavalcade of impressive and strong soul ballads, such as the overwhelming Faithful Man, the poignant and haunting Still Hanging On, the big-voiced and deep Wish You Were Here and the grandiose finale, Walk on Thru That Door.  The two beat-ballads, I Still Got It and It’s All Over (but the Crying), also deserve a mention.

  This album could have been released in the 60s or 70s and now it would be hailed as a masterpiece.  But it’s 2012, and for me this CD represents the best new music so far this year.


  André’s 4th solo CD is released on Coday Records ( out of Memphis, Tennessee.  Karen Wolfe and James Smith are the other artists on the label, which initially started out as B&J Records and was co-founded by the late Bill Coday.  Today the CEO of the company is Anna Coday.  In the sleeve-notes to Stories of Life (AC848) it says that “all the tracks produced, recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by Andrew Lee Caples”, and he’s also the main writer with some help from three other co-writers.  His voice is as soft, soothing and intimate as always, with an occasional resemblance to Jeffrey Osborne and also Will Downing.  The only element that here and there breaks the harmonious sound is too sharply programmed horns.

  André’s music is more dancefloor-orientated than usual.  I guess the main attraction is the opener, a light and easy bouncer called Half Loving Me, but the two quick-tempo cuts – the “Tyronish” Man in the Drawer and the party-booster Back in the Day Café – are very close in style, as well as the brisk Tell Me What I’ve Got to Do and Shake What You Got, where the title really says it all.

  The two mid-tempo steppers are the slightly melancholy 4 Way Love Affair and, emotionally at the opposite end, the positive Stepping with You.  André’s ballads are usually smooth and sentimental, and the three examples here make no exception.  Never Been Hurt is a quite delicate song, Shoes off First is a slow plodder and finally I Wanna Be Loved Forever is a romantic and sweet duet with Miz Goldie aka Trina Caples, André’s wife.  André has come up with another enjoyable set, only with a heavier dose of party music.


  I definitely am late with this one, because Concrete Blues (Decision Records/NIA Music, NIM-CD-2) was released already last year, but I’ll have a brief look at it anyway.  Produced by Bob Perry and Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and cut for the most part at the Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, this 13-tracker offers eight new songs by the group.  Personal favourites are a “repenting” ballad called Behind These Bars, cut in New York and a convincing vocal performance by Tre’ Williams, and a mid-tempo jogger titled I Gotta Have It, co-written and co-led by Vick Allen.

  Also the two outside tunes are covered in a convincing way, although in both cases I still prefer the original recordings.  Until You Get Enough of Me is the haunting title tune to the great, late Ronnie Lovejoy’s 4th album in 1998 on Avanti and Don’t Wait, here turned into a big ballad, derives from Johnnie Taylor’s ’82 Beverly Glen album.

  The three impressive downtempo bonus tracks – Everybody Knows, Let’s Straighten It Out and I Don’t Want To Know – are lifted from the group’s preceding, debut album, The Bleeding Edge, in 2009 (

  A convenient site to purchase all the indie CDs above is



  Also Betty’s latest CD is a 2011 release, but it’s such an interesting set that I just couldn’t ignore it.  Her preceding album, Fit for a King, came out as far back as ten years earlier, and now she has joined forces with the Roots for a CD entitled The Movie (S-Curve Rec. 0731519012), which means that we are treated to real instruments... and the total playing time of this 14-tracker is 78 minutes!  Produced by Ahmir Thompson, Betty and Angelo Morris, Betty and Angelo are the main writers, which isn’t surprising considering how far they go back together.

  With guests like Lil Wayne on a rock-infused slow beater called Grapes on a Vine, Snoop Dogg on a mid-tempo shuffle titled Real Woman and Robert Bozeman on the dragging Hollywould, we can naturally expect some rapping.  I, however, rather tilt my ear on the fast and storming In the Middle of the Game (Don’t Change the Play) or on the laid-back, mid-tempo Old Songs or on another relaxed floater, Tonight Again.  On the ballad front, the tender and mellow The One and the jazzy Go! (Live) make an impression.  Especially the latter one is a thought-provoking number about domestic violence.  It runs close to ten minutes and turns into quite a hurricane towards the end.

  Whisper in the Wind is a duet with Joss Stone, and this enjoyable and melodic mover owes a lot to the classic Philly sound.  Baby Come Back, a duet with Lenny Williams, is also a tuneful, mid-tempo song, but this time Marvin Gaye is the closest comparison.  The Movie is an ambitious project with mainly mid-tempo, melodic songs with messages and stories and strong singing from Betty.


  Clonda is an up-and-coming young talent, who originally hails from Chicago but who now resides in Las Vegas ( Having earlier fronted a band called Up from the Bottom, he has now gone solo and released his debut CD, A Man in Love with Love, with nine new songs on it.  His tenor voice is well suited for the current urban r&b style, but he’s able to occasionally switch over to classic soul singing, too.  Actually Clonda reminds me of Calvin Richardson.  Produced by Pierre Jovan and James Dockery, they also wrote most of the songs on display; especially Pierre has been active.

  The opener, By Your Side, is a Peabo Bryson type of ballad, whereas another slowie, Take My Breath Away, almost does just that towards the thunderous end.  The “steviewonderish” I’m in Love experiments with a jazzy arrangement. 

  Floating in Heaven, co-written by Clonda, is a rolling, mid-tempo number along with Steppin Out, which features a full choir.  Of the four dance tracks, Love Ain’t Supposed to Hurt is the most tuneful and compelling one.  Mellow but ambitious music, the future looks bright ahead for Clonda.


  Millie Jackson is the leading lady on James McClelland’s latest CD, Do Not Disturb (Gunsmoke, GUN-6427), as she’s Jesse’s duet partner on three tracks.  The mid-tempo hit song, Let’s Get a Room Somewhere, has an irresistible groove, and Millie, Jesse and Harvey Scales really let loose on the humorous, 7:28-long “live xxxx” version of the song.  Millie is also quite convincing and even sturdy when arguing on Jesse’s cover of It Just Don’t Feel the Same.

  Produced by Jesse’s long-time partner, Felton Pilate, Jesse himself, Harvey Scales and Kevin Ross, my quick research showed that out of the eleven songs on display Jesse has cut at least seven earlier.  His latest version of At Last is a tribute to the late Etta James, and this time Jesse’s intense and improvised delivery stretches the song over the 6-minute mark.  Synethia is the co-lead on I Can Do Bad by Myself – You Were Doing Bad When I Met You, and here the two records are glued together in a rather sloppy way.  Synethia’s answer single on Gold Key in 1981 was produced by Harvey and Felate, and this “medley” was first released over twenty years ago.

  The anguished, big-voiced Jesse asks once more Are You Gonna Leave Me, and another dramatic ballad with a big orchestration that is recycled here is called I Never Meant to Love HerIf He Can’t Hold His Pants up, How Can He Hold You up is lifted from the preceding CD, whereas Can You Picture Us came out already fifteen years ago.

  Harvey Scales’ God Got Your Back is an easy inspirational jogger, whereas “Wild Wild Forest” Nelson’s Where Do Lonely Lovers Go is a melodic pop ditty from eight years back.  On many tracks on this CD there are real instruments backing Jesse up, but on this particular track artificial sounds dominate.  The same applies to A Change Is Gonna Come, too, where Jesse’s passionate singing is intertwined with Martin Luther King’s speech.  The concluding track is an 8-minute interview with Jessie, conducted, I guess, three years ago.



  Only in my previous column in January I talked at length with Mr. L.J. Reynolds and introduced two new members of the Dramatics, Donald Albert and Ivory Bell, but because of the recent turbulence in the group I now have to return to its current status.  In April it was reported that “L.J. Reynolds out of the Dramatics, estate of Ron Banks now in charge, Willie Ford takes lead.”

  L.J.: “Willie Ford quit.  He wasn’t put out of the group.  I don’t know why he quit.  He said he had to do his own thing and run the business, but he’s never ran any business.  They said he formed his own group.  I’ve been on the road working, and all I can tell you about is the group I’m in, which is the group that has been together for 39 years.  Significant people are the Dramatics.  Winzell Kelly has been with us for 25 years.  Willie decided to walk away, and we haven’t got a bass singer.”

  “We still got the band, the whole organization.  Everybody is still with me... the musicians, who have been there for 25-30 years.  We will probably need a bass singer eventually, but I don’t think it’s totally necessary right now.  We’ve been working with four since Ron died (in March in 2010).  My thing was to find a replacement for Ron (see later), but right after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (on February 10) Willie left.”  In April we had that surprising announcement.  “The public outcry was ‘no’!  How can you put L.J. Reynolds out of the group?  He’s been singing there for 39 years.” 

  L.J.’s recent solo CD, Get to This, is doing quite well.  “I get the opportunity to do a variety of different things.  I can do my solo stuff.  I haven’t had a big record like this, Come Get to This, in 27 years.  I do my own gospel stuff, too, but my main focus and number one concern is the Dramatics.  I never let anything get in the way of that.  If somebody calls me and says ‘I want the Dramatics or you’, I’ll give them the Dramatics.  ‘You can get me later.  If you get the Dramatics, you get me anyway’.  I have to work with the Dramatics.  It’s a lot of people involved in that.” (; Interview conducted on June 11).


  In order to get a clearer picture I called the other party of this incident, too.  Willie: “Mr. Reynolds and myself just couldn’t see eye to eye.  We had irreconcilable differences.  After Ron Banks passed, he left Mr. Reynolds kind of in charge of the business, and I didn’t agree with the way he was taking care of the business and I just couldn’t continue to work with them.  It turned really bad.  It affected me and my family and the group, and I couldn’t continue like that.  I think he really wants to be a solo artist, because he changed the show to doing his solo stuff.  I’ve been in the group for 42 years, so the common law gives me the right to own the name.  He says he owns the name ‘the Dramatics’.  We’ll go to Federal Court in Detroit and find out what the judge has to say about this.”

  “I have my own group, and we’re looking to performing in the very near future.  Steve Boyd is with me.  All this time he’s been travelling and working with Mr. George Clinton, but he’s back with me.  And I had Michael Brock, who’s doing solo.”  Steve Boyd was in the group for five years between 1989 and ’94, after which he was replaced by Winzell Kelly.  Michael Brock worked with the group for six years between 2005 and 2011, and was replaced last fall by Donald Albert.  My interview with Donald is available at  “I have two young guys from here in Detroit, Robert Carter and Bennie Taylor.  Also I have a young man that I’ve been knowing for years, Harley Brown.”

  “I’m sorry that it happened.  Mr. Reynolds is a great talent and it’s unfortunate that we had this misunderstanding and couldn’t compromise, but it is what it is.”  (Interview conducted on June 15; acknowledgements to Sandra Banks).


  Mr. Ivery Bell, who was introduced in my previous column, didn’t officially become a member of the Dramatics after all.  L.J.: “He couldn’t sound like Ron Banks.  The guy that I got now sounds like Ron Banks.  We just did San Francisco, and that was the first show he did.  He’s stayed with us now for maybe about three months.”  You can watch clips of that San Francisco show on May 23-26 on YouTube by typing in “RRAZZ ROOM, the Dramatics.”

  The “new Ron” is Mr. Leon Franklin.  Leon: “I was born in Detroit in 1959, June 7th.  I tried to emulate Jackie Wilson in our family quartet with my parents and brothers.”  Besides Jackie, Leon names James Brown, Jackson 5 and the Temptations his biggest favourites.  “After that I and my brother and my two nieces developed a group called Four Ounces of Soul.  That was probably in 1972.  We just performed around the city.”

  “After that I formed a group called the Admirations.  It was me, my brother Charles Franklin, Douglas Gaddy and Craig D. White, and we all are residing in Detroit today.  We travelled a lot and we opened for a lot of acts, like the Dramatics, Enchantment, Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, a lot of groups... That was in 1978.  It lasted about ten years, and we made three dance records in 1988.”  Two of those singles – Groove Town/Live Wire and When you and Me Became Lovers/instr., produced by M.Moy & D.Wasson – came out on Great Lakes International and the third one (You Know It) on the DDA label.

  “After that I went with a group called New Anxiety Band.  We travelled locally around Michigan.  I was in that group for about five years.”  This band didn’t cut any records.  “After that I started singing in Al Hudson’s One Way (see  I took Cortez Harris’ place.  He died.  It was me and Al Hudson singing lead.  Al is still performing.  I was with him for about four years.  We didn’t make any new recordings (in the 90s).  We were just singing the hits they had.”

  “After that I went to a group called Serieux.  I joined them in 2000.”  The group released one CD, I Can Give You Love, but only as late as in 2009 ( “We were just doing local stuff, and I kept demanding that we need to put a CD out.  The drummer of Otis Williams’ Temptations, Buster Marbury - who’s now deceased – had a studio and he decided to record us.  There was also G.C. Cameron singing on that CD.”

  “Donald Albert, L.J.’s cousin, called me one night.  I’ve been knowing Donald, since I was 16-17 years old.  He asked me, if I wanted to be a Dramatic.  I said ‘yeah, who wouldn’t want to be a Dramatic’?  Donald gave me the songs L.J. wanted me to do, the Ron Banks stuff, so I studied those songs.  When I went to the audition, he didn’t have me to do any of those songs.  He had me to do a song I’ve never heard in my life (laughing).  He said ‘you sound pretty good’.  That was in April.” 

  The current line-up of the group is L.J. Reynolds, Winzell Kelly, Donald Albert and Leon Franklin,  (Interview conducted on June 12; acknowledgements to Jenice Smith and Iris Smith).



  After talking over the phone with Mr. Wilson Meadows a couple of times I can confirm that he really is “the gentleman of soul.”  He is a very likeable person.  That’s why I was hoping to be able to watch a good and entertaining DVD of his show, but, alas, my wish didn’t come true.

  Live at the 15th Annual Old School & Blues Festival (MUI-DV-10063) took place in Huntsville, Alabama, and on stage Wilson is backed by a four-piece rhythm section and two background singers.  There’s no other info whatsoever in the case, no extras on the disc and the one-camera shooting is amateurish, to say the least.  Pointing at Wilson, then the audience and back to Wilson, even the sound level changes drastically depending on the direction the cameraman is shooting in at that particular moment.

  Starting with Levert’s Casanova, the main body of this 7-song program, however, consists of Wilson’s own hits, such as I Wanna Get Witcha Baby, It Is What It Is, Personal Matter and Still My Love.  With the running time of only 31 minutes, Wilson really deserves better.



  I’m sure that all serious soul music collectors have already purchased the second volume of Bob McGrath’s Soul Discography, covering the letters G-M (ISBN 978-0-9866417-1-8;   This is just a reminder for the rest of the readers that such an inevitable book exists.  Here I can only refer to my review of the first volume at

  Bob tells me that “the third volume is still in the finishing process and it will be a few months before it comes out.  Meanwhile the new second edition of the Blues Discography 1943-1970 is at the printers and will be out in a week or so.”

© Heikki Suosalo

Back to Deep Soul Main Page
Back to our home page