Recent Southern soul indie issues dominate
the column this time, and also most of the reissue releases point in that
direction. Fresh interviews were conducted with David Sea, Wilson Meadows and
Lady Audrey, and from the vaults we dug out Jerry L, Pree
and Oscar Toney, Jr.
A soul singer
extraordinaire, David Sea, has finally come up with a new CD,
Love Makes the World Go Round (Park Place, PPD 4001), and on my
list it rose to the very top among the 2006 releases. There was talk about
this record being in the pipeline already a few years ago. David: “I was ready
to do it then, but then it started to drag on and I got engaged in some other
work, things just started moving in different directions. Finally we just decided
to go ahead and work on it. I’m very excited about it now, so I guess it’s the
The CD was
produced by Frederick Knight and also arranged by him together with Vick
Allen and Eugene Bates. “Those are two Bates brothers that have a
recording studio in Hueytown, my home town, about 8-to-10 miles from Birmingham, Alabama (to the southwest). They collaborated with three or four songs on
the album. We also cut those songs at their studio, at Bates Brothers. Other
vocals I did in Jackson, Mississippi.” Drums, horns and strings are created by
machines – quite skilfully, though – but organ, bass, guitar, sax and flute are
live ones. Love… is David’s fifth solo album, and we ran an in-depth
feature on him in our # 2/97 printed issue. David is included also on a Birmingham compilation CD below.
The first three
tracks on the set are all laid-back, hooky mid-pacers, which at first may not
hit you as gems you’d expect from David, but they’ll grow on you. True, on
those three tracks the machines are most present, but I can guarantee that from
the track # 4 onwards you are treated to some magnificent music.
The opener, One
Love, was written by Tommy Tate, and it first appeared on his
limited ’92 P-Vine album called All or Nothing out of Japan. Frederick Knight wrote the title track, and it was released also as a single. Another
Knight composition, Stay in My Arms, is David’s own favourite on the
Good Being with You, a slow and atmospheric ballad, was written by
Frederick and Carson Whitsett and cut by Jerry Butler for his ’92
Time & Faith album. A beautiful and touching Larry Addison ballad
called Just Because was first recorded by Johnnie Taylor for the ’85
Malaco album, Wall to Wall. “I always loved that song. Johnnie Taylor
was one of my favourite singers. I sang that song in the past doing my own
Love (by Charles Richard Cason and Frederick) is an uptempo
toe-tapper… the only one of its kind on the set, in fact. “That’s on original
song. I just wanted to change up the pace a little bit to have an uptempo beat
to it. The whole album is about love, and I wanted to do something that’s
different from the music today.”
Still Love Me Tomorrow was a big hit for the Shirelles in 1961, and
here David comes up with a very slow, strongly improvised interpretation.
“That was one of the songs that Frederick went through at the Bates Brothers
studio. He had the idea about all these songs, and the only thing I did was
sing them.” That song as well as the next one, a truly beautiful and classy
ballad called Turn out the Stars (co-written by Jim Weatherly), was
earlier cut by David’s fellow member in Dennis Edwards’ Temptations Review today,
Ali Ollie Woodson, for his 2001 Right Here All Along CD. Also Gerald
Alston does an impressive version of the song on the Manhattans’ Even
Now album. But no way does David fall behind those two. “I didn’t know
Ali Ollie had recorded them. I heard them only afterwards on some Internet
stations. I talked about those songs later with him.”
melodic country song called Please Remember Me was cut by its co-writer Rodney
Crowell in ‘95 and it evolved into a big hit by Tim McGraw five
years later, but David’s cover is the first country & soul version I’ve
heard so far. A catchy mid-pacer titled Hooked up from the Heart was
composed by Preston Glass. “We picked out this song from the
song list he sent us. We were supposed to do more things with Preston.”
song, a soft and sentimental ballad called Waiting for You - from the
pen of Tim Truman - was earlier cut, among others, by Patti Austin. “I
didn’t know anything about that song until I first heard it. It was a
wonderful song. I call it ‘a wedding song’. I enjoyed recording it.”
excited about this album. I think it’s got a lot of potential. It’s probably
the best album I’ve ever done. I think it’s scheduled to go on full promotion
the first of the year. I think they slowed the promotion down because of the
Christmas season. They don’t want to lose the album with all the Christmas
carols and everything going on.” One positive commercial aspect is that the CD
has now a good distribution through Malaco Records.
Besides solo CD,
David is busy touring with Dennis Edwards’ group. “We perform every week.
Most of it is about four times a week, but basically on weekends.” David was
also one of the vocalists on the recent gospel CD, Look What the Lord Has
Done, by the Temptation Review, but – just like this scribe – David
wasn’t very impressed with the results. “It was done by various people in California,
and they just had an idea about those songs.”
“I hope people
enjoy listening to my new album, and find it as lovable as I do. I hope it
shows them another form of music compared to what today’s music is.”
There was an
extensive two-part feature on Solomon in our # 4/2000 and # 1/2001 printed
issues – please find his discography at www.soulexpress.net/burkedg.htm
- and also after that I’ve talked to him each time there was a new release
hitting the streets. Unfortunately, this time he wasn’t available, so we just
have to do without his colourful track-by-track annotations.
Nashville(Snapper, SMACD 942; www.snappermusic.com)
was produced by Buddy Miller and recorded at his house in Nashville in eight days. Solomon, of course, has recorded country tunes earlier in his
career, but this is the first time he does a number of duets on an album.
The CD gets off
to a good start with That’s How I Got to Memphis, a slow song with
minimal backing and restricted but emotional vocal delivery. The song was
written by Tom T. Hall, who has also cut it alongside many other
artists, including Bobby Bare in 1970. A storming and rocky speeder
called Seems like You’re Gonna Take Me Back was written and recorded (in
’96) by Jim Lauderdale. Dolly Parton duets with Solomon on her own ’69
pretty, slow swayer titled Tomorrow Is Forever.
Bruce Springsteen’s Ain’t Got You (on Tunnel of
Love in ’87) is performed in a fast, almost breathtaking tempo, but the
tempo comes back down again on Valley Of Tears, a duet with an almost
40-year-old “bluegrass youngster” by the name of Gillian Welch.Honey
Where’s The Money Gone (by Paul Kennerley from the U.K. and Barry
Tashian, a folk veteran) is another punchy rocker (cut by Kenny Rogers,
too), whereas Don Williams’ ’73 ballad, Atta Way To Go, keeps
building up towards the end and is one of the most soulful moments on the set.
Kevin Welch (from 2002) is a sing-along type of a beat ballad, and a
duet with a folk & country starlet, Patty Griffin, on her Up The
Mountain is another slowie, only more dramatic and embraced by a beautiful
string score. Does My Ring Burn Your Finger rocks things up again (by Julie
& Buddy Miller, cut by Buddy in ’99), while Vicious Circle is a
more relaxed, mid-tempo jogger (by Shawn Amos, in 2000).
jogger is We’re Gonna Hold On, a duet with Emmylou Harris, but
it’s back to full speed again on You’re the Kind Of Trouble, this time
with Patty Loveless. The final song, ‘Til I Get It Right (Tammy
Wynette in ’72), is an intimate and touching slowie and one of the highlights
of this Nashville CD. For Solomon fans this is a must, but for serious soul
lovers the music may be a wee too much on the country side (www.thekingsolomonburke.com).
For me Willie is
simply one of the most soulful singers around… and has been for a long time.
He’s also a prolific recording artist, and Gifted is actually his
23rd album. Produced for the most part by Willie and Vick Allen,
the new EndZone EntertainmentCD appears now under the Malaco banner
(MCD 7529; www.malaco.com), which in terms
of distribution is only good news.
You can watch
the first single, Boom Boom Boom, an Isley Brothers type of a
seducing slowie, on Willie’s website at www.willieclayton.com.
Dreams is another slow song produced and co-written by Mike Snoddy,
but, alas, dominated by machines.
Willie does a
deliberate Tyrone Davis emulation – a tribute, in fact – on Can I
Change My Mind, a song he first cut for his Kirsteelabel (1021) in
mid-80s and which then appeared on his 1988 Forever album. Sweet
Lady is another fast and catchy “Tyrone” item.
Of the dancers, A
Little Bit More is an uptempo beater, She’s Holding Back is a
mid-paced toe-tapper (written by George Jackson and Jerry Strickland)
and My Miss America is a catchy mover, produced by Willie’s Chicago buddy, Paul Richmond.
Willie excels on
deep soul ballads, and his own Beautiful is just what the title says. Muscle
Shoals Horns, arranged by Harrison Calloway, provide part of the
background on this, as well as on some other tracks on the set. Almost on a
par is his other song (co-written by Ramont Bell), My Lover My Friend.
When I Think about Cheating is another gem, co-written and earlier
recorded by Gretchen Wilson, and the slightly bluesy and powerfully
interpreted Running out Of Lies we first heard on Johnnie Taylor’s
’76 Eargasm album. Missing You, deriving from Willie’s Ichibandays, is here rearranged into a mid-tempo opus. The closing song, Trust,
is the highlight of the CD - alongside Beautiful, Cheating and My
Lover My Friend. It’s an impressive duet with Shirley Brown on a
ballad, which its co-writer, George Soule, included also on his latest CD,
Take a Ride. Gifted is another knockout soul CD from Willie.
The 63-year-old James
McClelland aka Jesse James has been recording for about 45 years by
now. His latest CD, It’s Not So Bad After All (64 min.), came
out this year on his Gunsmoke Records, and it was co-produced (together with
Jesse and his brother, Stan McClelland), arranged and engineered by Felton
Pilate, a member of Con Funk Shun and Jesse’s music partner ever
since the eighties. Songs for the most part written by Jesse, the set is
dedicated to his son, Sean James McClelland, who was murdered last
year. You can read more about the artist and the label at www.gunsmokejessejames.com.
The title song
is an answer to I Can Do Bad by Myself, and musically it’s quite similar
to that minor mid-tempo hit on TTED (in 1987). The whole album delicately
reflects the lost of a son, but the tracks to address that tragic shooting
incident directly are a slow rap song titled High Speed in the Ambulance and
What Happen to the Dream, which includes extracts from Dr. Martin
Luther King’s speech and which has appeared earlier on Jesse’s two previous
albums. Jesse revisits also some other songs, such as You Want Everything
But Me, a slow ballad with a heavy beat, First Day Of The Rest Of My
Life, a fast and joyous uptempo item and I Get A Rise, a mellow
dancer. They all derive from his ’97 album, It Just Don’t Feel The Same, whereas
the origins of a swaying beat ballad called Operator Please Put Me Through
and a dancer named Forever lie in his ’93 Operator CD.
You’re All in
My Dreams is a pretty “dedication” ballad, and the slow and atmospheric I
Rather Eat Soup with You than Steak with Somebody Else (co-written by Bobby
Patterson) follows the same, positive pattern. I’m Not Going Nowhere is
actually a sequence to the latter song.
You Got To
Pay (If You Wanna Play) is a mid-pacer with a never-ending, hammering beat,
while Let Me Be Your Pacifier, another mid-tempo bouncer, we know at
least from Tyrone Davis’ Oceanfront album in 1983. When Are You
Coming Home is an infectious toe-tapper. With an obvious sad undercurrent,
musically, however, I find this CD quite inspiring.
gravelly-voiced Frankie Lee Jones started out in gospel, cut his first
r&b single for Peacockin 1963, recorded his best-known album, The
Ladies and the Babies, in 1984 for Hightone, and now his latest CD, Standing
At The Crossroads (61 min.), is his second one for the Blues Expresslabel (www.bluesexpress.com). You
can read more about Frankie’s career in Lee Hildebrand’s liner notes.
Produced by Dennis
Walker and for the most part written by him and the guitarist, Alan
Mirikitani, we are treated to a live rhythm section with horns. Seven
songs out of the thirteen on display can be classified as “straight blues”, and
among them you can find Johnnie Taylor’s early 60s tune, I Need Lots
of Love, Frankie’s own Standing at the Crossroads and Bobby
Warren’s I Really Got the Blues.
In a more soul and r&b vein are a powerful mover called Where You Been All My Life,
a sad soul slowie titled Better Than That, a pulsating mid-pacer named Let’s
Think Twice – background vocals provided by the current Sweet
Inspirations – and a deepie called Think What It’s Doing to Me.
The first gospel
song is a slow and intense interpretation of the Dixie Hummingbirds’ Prayer
for Peace, and the second one is the lightly galloping Mary Don’t You
Weep by Claude Jeter of the Swan Silverstones. As you can
conclude, this is a blues CD with a fair amount of r&b/soul and gospel
I guess the
mid-tempo Meat Man with openly risqué lyrics from Lee’s recent album (Starts
With a “P”) became so popular that they had to rush-release a CD called –
yes! – Meat Man (Ecko 1086;
and fill it with some songs from the past, too.
The speedy I
Got What I Wanted but I Lost What I Had and the bluesy Midnight Love come
from the She Made a Freak out of Me album. Times Are Tough, George
Jackson’s social comment (originally on Washataw 1001 in 1984), was covered by Lee for his Hot “Shot” CD and there’s also a so called “live
version” of Ease On Down The Bed, a song thatfirst appeared on
the Nibble Man album.
covered I Found a Love for United Artists in ’72, and here he comes up
with an intense, almost 7-minute version of the Falcons/Wilson Pickett gem.
A bluesy slowie called I’ve Got a Problem Lee cut for O’ona 201 in the
mid-80s (first recorded by Jesse Anderson in 1970).
That leaves us
with a nice mid-tempo bouncer titled Secret Love Affair, a swaying cover
of Make Me Yours and the personal favourite, I Ate Too Much over the
Holidays, an easily flowing, intriguing beat ballad. Please read Lee’s bio
Love Bomb is
Wilson’s fifth CD with new material on Bob Grady Records (BGR/M&M 9525).
Produced by Buzz Amato together with Wilson and Lebron Scott, the
instrumentation is programmed with the exception of guitar, bass and keys. Wilson wrote seven songs out of the ten on the set.
The title song
is one of the many toe-tapping dancers on display. Wilson: “Since we put the CD
out, Love Bomb seems to be getting a lot of response.” A swaying ballad
called I Wanna See You appeared first on The Meadows CD (on Radio
in 1981), but Wilson liked the song so much he decided to cover it here. Step
goes funky. “It has an old feel to it, kind of reminds you a little of Curtis
Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.”
the One I Love was released as the first single off the CD. “It was my
idea to record it. I always loved that song, when I was a kid, by the “5” Royales (King 5098 in ’57). It’s been over twenty years since anybody did it. I think the
Temprees were the last to do it (in ’72). The Shirelles did it (in
’59 and ’61) and the Mamas & the Papas did it” (in ’67).
I Got the
Right One is an effortless dancer. “I wrote that one about six months
before we recorded it.” Similar Explain It appeared already on the Dealing
Real CD. “A couple of stations played that quite a bit, and it got a good
response. I thought it was a song that needed to be reintroduced, because it
had some potential about it.” She’s Gone is another ballad that derives
from the Meadows album. “Again, we got good response from that one. It’s been
so long ago that many, especially younger people, haven’t heard it before.”
Girl was first included on Oscar Toney Jr’s CD (see below), but now
it gets a rerun here. “That’s always been a very favourite song of mine… done
by Eddie Floyd.” Everybody Needs Help is lifted from Wilson’s first CD, Memories. “I think the timing is right for the song… with the
homelessness and all of these problems growing.” The 35-minute set is closed
by a funk item called Body Power.
Shout! Records recently
re-released Wilson’s first CD (Memories) under the title of Go on
and Cry (Shout 32). I talked with Wilson right then in 1995 about the CD,
and you can read his comments here. “I’m really elated about that
release. Anytime you can get your product exposed, it’s always a good thing.
Sometimes you do better the second time around.”
Last time I
chatted with Wilson he was thinking about giving up recording and switching
over to the production side and developing younger talent. “I’m kind of
thinking along these lines, but I thought I’d try one more CD, try to get the
stuff out there that I’ve written, before I retire.”
I first talked
to Jerry Lewis Minnis for our # 2/2001 magazine after the release of his
fine Last Word in Lonesome CD, and
that interview is reprinted here.
After two less impressive records Jerry has now released Daily Love (Mi-Jay
Productions; 2006), but I’m afraid there’s still a long way to go to reach the
level of that Lonesome CD.
written by Jerry and recorded in his hometown, Memphis, a couple of live
instruments intrude on programming. Of the uptempo songs the most pleasing
ones are Girls In Tha Hood, a gentle bouncer, Steps Behind, an
effortless jogger and a duet with J. Michael Davis, the fast In The
Middle Again, the mid-tempo In The Backstreets and finally Ol
School Party, a toe-tapper with a nostalgic touch to it.
The title tune
is a hurried beat ballad, Show Me finds Jerry in a pleading mood and the
most intense slowie, Lil Willie, bears a slight resemblance to Bobby
Womack’s Harry Hippie. On a negative side there is a thumping and
monotonous mid-pacer called Let Me See U Work It with some unbearable
machine noises in a presumable pursuit of a more contemporary sound, and Do
the Nasty is almost as awful. Daily Love leaves you with an
impression of a routine job, instead of using the undisputable potential to the
Boy was recorded in Mobile, Alabama, and produced by Sylvester
Parsons and David Brinston himself (please read my ten-year-old “Hit
& Run” interview with David at
As in most cases on indie records these days, guitar and bass are the only real
instruments I can detect.
The title tune
is an energetic and catchy dancer, and along with a big-voiced pulsator called The
Bus Stop they make the top league among the uptempo items. Of the
mid-pacers, I’m sure many of you remember the swaying It just Don’t Pay to
Get Up in the Morning from Johnnie Taylor’s Super Taylor album
(on Stax in 1974), and Trap Set is another easy pleaser.
There are four
ballads among the ten songs on display, two bluesy ones and one in the new wave
of war-inspired songs, Soldier Boy, with intense singing but poor
backing. Again, a routine job, I’m afraid.
the Right Spot (Hitmakers USA Records, HMUSA 40) I was prepared for a
substandard CD and another routine job, but I was clearly too prejudiced. Mystery
Man and Jimmy Barnett produced and arranged the set, Mystery Man
wrote all the songs, except one (the rap-spoiled Party House) and Charles
Wilson oversaw the project (Hitmakers is a subsidiary of Wilson Records).
In an accustomed
way, a laid-back, catchy mid-pacer, That’s the Kind of Love, is chosen
to open the CD, and Annie’s Night Club is an ok beater, too, provided we
turn a deaf ear to another rap passage.
me most was the rather high quality of downtempo songs - also vocally. In
fact, occasionally the Mystery Man faintly reminds me of Jesse James. If I
Had One Wish is a tear-jerker, Can’t Even Trust Myself a 60s type of
a beat ballad, My Cheating Days Are Over a soulful swayer and finally Kick
It With You is a strong duet with Shara Scott. Programmed, of
course, but still I guess I have to stop ignoring the Mystery Man.
Out Of The
Shadows (Coffeehouse Records, CHR-001; www.coffeehouserecordings.com)
features a live rhythm section with such renowned players as Greg Smith on
drums, Jack Hall on bass, Mike Lowry and Tim Kreider on
guitars and the producer, Rick Phillips, on piano… but also on brass,
percussion and strings programming. Jimmy Hall is on sax, and Margaret
Young handles the background vocals.
Rosenberg has been a recording artist ever since the sixties, and you can
read his bio at
many ways he reminds me of another blue-eyed soul man, Billy Price,
although in Billy’s case his music is more horn-heavy (with a real horn
section) and usually more uptempo. On Phil’s set the new dancers include the
captivating Get over Yourself – with Theodis Ealey on guitar -and the autobiographical White Boy.
A brave attack
on I Found a Love comes off surprisingly well, but how can you challenge
the original recordings of Don’t Fight It (Wilson Pickett) and When
Something Is Wrong with My Baby (Sam & Dave)? You can’t help
making comparisons and in these two cases Phil just aims too high. The two O.B.
Bryant compositions, the funky Blues Party and a bluesy mid-pacer
called Take the Bitter with the Sweet, sound convincing enough, as well
as a fast blues number titled Tore Up, Hank Ballard’s Federal
song from 1956. One track, however, rises above others and has become a
personal favourite - an impressive deep soul song called She’s My Baby.
Here Phil is vocally at his best.
Patterson Twins are back. This project with Hense Powell is a new
release. We just did one deal with Hense Powell.” This is the answer I
received from Mr. Estus Patterson to my question about a new, unexpected
release titled If I Could Live My Life Again (H P Music
from Estus and Lester Patterson.
Hense and for the most part written by him together with the twins and Phil
Wilkes, in the rhythm section you can spot such names as James Gadson on
drums, James Jamerson Jr. and Nathan Watts on bass, David
Williams and Arthur Adams on guitar, plus three members of the
Waters Family (Oren, Maxine and Julia) on background vocals.
incorporates mainly easily flowing, melodic dancers. Some floaters are
actually quite poppy (Aim High, When You Need Love), some are more funky
(New Wave, Jack in the Box and Let It All Hang Out – of the Richard
“Dimples” Fields fame) and some remind you of the golden Philly era (I
Saw My Used To Be, Dear Love), although the tracks were cut in California.
There’s only one
slowie on the set, the fascinating I Love you so with a rather complex
arrangement, which is strange considering the twins’ earlier career with some
deep soul and gospel releases (you can read their bio at
Estus: “We have another release for 2007 on Kon-Kord Records. My brother
Lester and I are working on it, as we speak.”
McMurray out of Detroit, Michigan, is truly an all-round music man. He has
worked as a producer, arranger, writer, engineer and director at different
stages and during his career has created music for dozens and dozens of
highly-respected artists, for such groups as Gladys Knight & the Pips,
the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Supremes, the Originals, the Spinners, the
Fantastic Four and individual artists like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson,
Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Spyder Turner, David Ruffin, George Clinton,
Stephanie Mills, Chuck Jackson , Laura Lee, Ali Ollie Woodson and Latimore.
Clay’s label, My Town Records (www.musicfromdetroit.com), has
become active again this year, and the most impressive CD to come out of there
so far is Have a Heart by the Different Shades of Brown. This
Tamla/Motown recording group from the early 70s has reunited into a quartet
with Clay’s lovely wife, Pree, becoming the fifth member of the group. There
are still two original members in the line-up, Nate Newsome (first
tenor) and Stevie Warfield (bass). The second tenor, Mike Harris,
unfortunately passed away, but his vocals can posthumously heard on four tracks
on the CD (please read their bio at
engineered by Clay and arranged by Adrian Lawrence, all tunes except
three were written or co-written by Clay. Those three outside songs were
almost a Philly-like uptempo cover of Never Gonna Give You Up (the
second part in this medley was called Girl, We Ought To Be Together and
it was composed by Blair McMurray, Clay’s talented daughter), a dancer
from the Radiants’ song book titled Voice Your Choice and Ellsworth
Senior’s exhilarating remake of Dee Clark’s ’61 hit, Raindrops.
All fourteen songs are new recordings with
the exception of three re-cuts with Pree. In 1975 Clay recorded in L.A. a group called the LoveMakers on two toe-tappers (Island 039), which are
repeated here – When you’re Next To Me and My Girl Is Dynamite. A
gorgeous ballad with rich orchestration and my own absolute favourite, When
the Hurt Is Put Back on You, came out first in 1973 (Motown 1241) by the
DSOB. Here Nate Newsome’s sweet tenor comes to full bloom, and in many ways
the track reminds me of Little Anthony & the Imperials at their
The music is
like a throwback to the group era and harmony sound of the 70s, and there are
only a couple of uptempo tracks on display. One of them, Down & Out,
brings Norman Whitfield and his psychedelic sound with the Temptations
to your mind, while the mid-tempo I’m Still Falling gives room for
leads a pretty ballad called Farewell Love, and Close, Close bears
a resemblance to Ray, Goodman & Brown’s ballad repertoire. The
melodic Girl Would I Lie to You has a similar feel to it, whereas an
intense and soulful slowie titled Then Again Maybe features Nate
Alexander’s impressive David Ruffin type of a baritone. Pree closes the
set with a haunting, melancholy slowie named Love Vibrations. Have A
Heart is one of the true delights of 2006 and comes highly recommended.
line-up has been in existence for three years. There’s a story as to how the name of
the group came about (courtesy of Pat Cosby, Corporate Administrator of
MyTown Records, Inc.). “While sitting in a night club called Strivers in
Springfield, Ohio, initial group members - Nate Newsome, Ronald Logan
and Jimbo (he soon quit to get married and was replaced by Marvin
Sutton) – were trying to come up with a name for the group, and someone
said ‘why not call ourselves the Different Shades of Black’. Nate Newsome told
them there was a group at Central State College with that name, but why not
call ourselves the Different Shades of Brown. They took that name to their
rehearsal with bass singer, Stevie Warfield, and he agreed that it was a clever
Recorded at the
Roostertail on the River, in Detroit, and produced by Clay McMurray, The
Miracles Live! (MyTown Records 687677528121) features the line-up of Bobby
Rogers, Dave Finley, Tee Turner and Marc Scott, who is the new
replacement for Smokey Robinson and the previous lead singer, Sidney
Justice. Bobby, who is the last original Miracle, brought in Tee Turner,
who was a former bass player with the group, and Tee introduced Marc Scott.
Live! Is a
50-minute cavalcade of the group’s big hits. The most exciting cuts are Mickey’s
Monkey and an almost 10-minute spree of Tracks of My Tears. Smoother
moments come with More Love, Here I Go Again and Ooh Baby, Baby.
Mark sounds a lot like Smokey, really.
A Little Bit of This ‘N That, vol. 1 (MyTown 1867747) was, of
course, produced again by Clay McMurray. In conjunction with my review of Karen
Pree’s previous CD, A Style of My Own (1999), I also drew up
a small feature on her, which you can read here.
I don’t know if
it’s for nostalgia or some other reason, but there are many disco cuts on the
set that take you back to the days and style of LaBELLE and Donna
Summer – Desire (by T. Colton & J. Roussel), One Look (J.K.
Lightsey), You Danced Into My Life (Pree & L. Brown)
and Disco People (Clay and Pree). Still on the uptempo side there’s one
messy dancer called I’m The Lady (Clay) plus two more melodic movers, You’re
Looking My Way and Love Me (both by Clay, Pree and M. Margerum).
The two familiar songs are a whispery and
soft interpretation of That’s How Heartaches Are Made (Baby
Washington in ’63) and the tender Fallen, a theme from the movie,
Pretty Woman. I Think about You is a pretty ballad composed by Blair
McMurray, Tangle is an atmospheric, “meditating” slowie and If That’s
the Way You Want It was penned by Lambert & Potter and recorded
by Tavares in 1973. I quite enjoyed the first part of this Pree’s CD,
but wasn’t too keen on the ensuing disco blast.
recently at Prestatyn singing lead for the Andantes. She also performs
on a regular basis with Spyder Turner’s STS Singers and is an in-demand
background artist in Detroit’s studios.
Just recently, for
my September # 2/2006 Deep column, I interviewed Vertie Joann Delapaz aka
Ms. Jody about her career and her Ecko debut, You’re My Angel,
and – surprise, surprise! – here she is again with a follow-up, What You Gonna
Do When The Rent Is Due (Ecko 1087), which, I think, must mean that the
previous album was a strong seller.
Ms. Jody shared
the writing credits with Leo Johnson onthe title song, a
mid-tempo bouncer, and three songs she composed alone. Big Daddy Don’t You
Come is a catchy ditty, which melodically reminds you of Elvis’ Little
Sister, whereas I’m in Love with a Younger Man is a solid soul
ballad. To speed things back up, I’m Puttin’ Love on the Shelf, rolls
along smoothly and quickly.
Get up and Move
On is a laid-back, mid-tempo swayer, while We’re Lovin’ on Borrowed Time
is a poppy, almost sing-along type of a mid-pacer. Your Dog’s about to
Kill My Cat and I Don’t Backtrack are both melodic and laid-back
beat ballads, whereas One Way Love, a duet with O.B. Buchana, is
an intense, big-voiced power ballad. Although more poppy, this CD is as
entertaining as Ms. Jody’s first one.
Crystal Haller was born in El Campo, Texas, in 1959, September 5th.
“I first started singing in church. My sister played piano and I sang with my
brothers. We were just known as the Haller Singers.” Gladys Knight is
one of Audrey’s idols, “…and Aretha Franklin, Betty Wright, but probably
my all-time favourite is Shirley Caesar. The lady is just so soulful.”
“I made the
transition to r&b, when I started doing karaoke. That was after I sent my
daughter out to collage, about 1998.” In one of those karaoke bars Audrey met C.J.
(bass guitar) and Paul (keys) Kearney, two brothers, who were
in charge of the Superior Band (
“I myself never thought about doing this until I met them. It’s been a dream
of C.J. and Paul ever since they were in high school. They started forty years
ago, when they were in high school. If anybody deserves to make it, they deserve
it. I met them about six-seven years ago. They kind of gave me a little
fever. I made my first CD with the Superior Band on Kon-Kord Records in 2001.
The name of it was No House, No Home without My Man.” The single release off
that album was Ready To Love You (Baby Come Back), backed with Whole
Lady Audrey fronts
the Superior Band also on their latest CD, Never Get Too Old to Get Your
Groove On (Studio Showtime Music; www.studioshowtime.net,
out of Houston, Texas). Produced by C.J., Paul and Rue Davis and songs
mostly written by
them plus Harrison Calloway, a couple of real instruments grace the
sound. “Rue Davis had been with Studio Showtime, and he got us there, too. He
has been around for a long time. Even before I hooked up with the Superior
Band, Rue Davis had been around them. When I started singing with them, Rue
decided that he wanted to write some songs for me. Some of my vocals were laid
down in Jackson, Mississippi, but most of them were done in Houston at Digital
Services. I myself live now in a little town, probably about 100 miles out of Houston,
called Glen Flora.”
The opener, Work
Me Til’ I Sweat, is a dancer and the second single released from the set.
The first one was the title song, a hooky beater. “Paul Kearney and I wrote
that song for this CD.” Ride the Saddle features the voice box, which –
as many of you know by now – I just can’t stand, but Prescription for My
Love Addiction is an old-fashioned, catchy mover, which brings Sam Cooke
and Wonderful World to your mind.
After a funky
rocker titled You Don’t Get No Honey, we are treated to a ballad called That
Candy, and it has a direct connection to Rue’s own minor hit, Candy.
In the prologue Audrey explains, how she was making love when Rue’s Candy came
on air. You Can Have Him Back is another soulful slowie. Love Don’t
Come Easy is a gentle mid-pacer and a duet with Patrick Green. “We
travel with Patrick. We do a lot of tours, especially in summer, when I can
get out of my regular job. I’m a teacher’s assistant. Renee on
background vocals is one of Patrick’s background singers.”
There are three
gospel bonus tracks at the end of the CD. First one is a heartfelt slowie
named The Storm Is over Now. “That was a song we dedicated to the
hurricane Katrina survivors. In all honesty, that’s my favourite on the CD.” His
Love, His Holy Spirit & Grace is an uptempo “thank you” song, and the
record finishes with a mid-tempo beater called Things Are Gonna Get Better.
On background vocals there’s one Rachel. “Her name is Rachel Jenkins.
She is also one of Patrick Green’s background singers, but Rachel did a lot of
the background on my first CD, also.”
“Now we’re just
hoping that this CD will catch on. Right now I’m in the process of learning a
couple of more songs and go back to the studio.”
With a recording
career running thirty years, this chanteuse is no newcomer to the scene.
Betty’s fifth album, Never Coming Home (Meia Records), was
produced by John Dixon, who relies on machines for instrumentation.
On the uptempo
side I’m not too keen on a couple of rocky beaters, but a mid-tempo mover
called Never Coming Home and the slightly faster Rock Your Boat get
my seal of approval. I also liked a fast jazzy swinger titled Perfect Man
Betty excels at
downtempo material, such as the soulful Sneaking Around, Best Friend
My Lover and I Found a Love. The classiest cut is a very slow and
moody Come on Over. This may not be an earth-shattering CD, but it
shows that with the right production and real instruments backing her up Betty
could come up with a soul gem.
laid-back, mid-tempo floater called Backdoor Love Affair opens a
southern soul indie CD. The record in question is Karen Wolfe’s debut, First
Time Out (B & J Records, kd845;
out of Memphis, Tennessee. Karen, who started out in gospel but has since
worked with Denise LaSalle for over ten years, wrote or co-wrote four
out of the eight songs on the set.
music created by James Jackson, I found five worthwhile tracks here.
Two beaters aside, along with the opener, a poignant soul ballad called Broken
Hearts Don’t Last and the slightly bluesy Confusion stand out.
Equally impressive are covers of the two slowies Denise had cut earlier – Karen
is her sister-in-law – titled Unlovable Habits and What Kind of Man
Robertsis a long-standing musician, who started in the 60s and has
since concentrated on blues and even on some country at one point in his career.
Now his recent “two steps from the blues” are taken in the soul direction on Sicily
Moon (Rock House, RH 00232,
out of Greensboro, North Carolina) which was released early this year and which
has mostly live musicians, including horn players, backing Roy up.
composed by Roy, on this ten-tracker, I guess, Roy deliberately keeps his voice
down, almost at a whispery level, which leaves you with the impression of him
being a weak singer. Only on the most soulful song on the set, I’m Gonna Love
You, and the melodic Let Our Love Last Forever, he lets loose a
bit. Otherwise, this chain of beaty dancers becomes slightly monotonous in the
long run, but the music as such is listenable and not unpleasant, although there
are two blunders at the end of the CD – a Barry White emulation called Baby and
an old man’s rap crap with Dana Dane called Show Me What You Got. Now
matter how these veterans explain about trying to reach a younger audience,
too, such tracks as this simply make them lose their dignity.
I’m aware of Sir
Charles Jones’ immense popularity in the Southern states, and is he or
is he not “the King of Southern Soul” depends, I think, on the age and genre of
the listener. His fifth CD, Thank You for Holding Me (Jumpin
Records, JR 425), came out in early summer this year, and Charles is in total
control of the disc. Almost all by himself he produced an arranged it, wrote
all the songs and to my understanding handles also the machines, including that
horrible vocoder. To meet the current demand in popular r&b music, his
singing is intimate and semi-melismatic, almost lazy; a style, which I call
“Babyface”, although there might be better parallels for it. As a contrast to
Roy Roberts’ record above, this CD is full of down-tempo beaters, with only
three smooth mid-pacers on display. The only dancer, Drop That Thang,
became a hit, of course. The most pleasant songs were the melodic Come to
Me Baby and Don’t Say No Tonight, the slightly grittier What a
and a duet with LaTocha Scott, Thank
You for Holding On.
You do, of
course, remember that one good source to purchase these southern soul indies is
You would think
that Patti’s ecstatic, histrionic singing style would fit gospel music
perfectly, wouldn’t you? I thought so too, and that’s why I was anxious to
listen to her The Gospel According To Patti Labelle (Umbrella
Recordings 0209701092), but I wasn’t thrilled. Actually I felt disappointed. On
the surface, everything seems to be in order: in-demand producers, many famous
guests, lot of new melodies, powerful vocalising, strong choirs and real
instruments on some of the tracks. However, after listening to the CD I felt
exhausted, and after analysing it more I came to the conclusion that the reason
lies in production and arrangements. Instead of starting off quietly and
peacefully and then building up the song little by little to a grand finale,
they blast it to your ears at full power from the very beginning. You can
compare Lorraine Ellison’s interpretation of Walk around
Heaven to Patti’s, and you notice a difference between an emotionally touching
delivery and just a big-voiced version.
units are responsible for the music (Sami McKinney, Troy Taylor, Gordon
Chambers, Nisan Stewart, PAJAM etc.), and Patti has invited many guests. Yolanda
Adams visits on a beat ballad called Where Love Begins, MaryMary is
featured on a mid-tempo beater titled Anything with some truly inspiring
duet singing on it and J Moss appears on a haunting slowie named More
Than (He Loves You).
Seekers let it loose on God Ain’t Through, CeCe Winans improvises
on Walking Away, a mid-tempo beater, and Wynonna Judd joins Patti
on a pretty ballad called My Everything. Kanye West stars on a
different mix of Anything, which just is too contemporary for my taste.
The closing ballad, You Are My Friend, represents the kind of song
structure and vocal approach I was hoping to hear throughout the whole album (www.pattilabelle.com).
Not only has
Gladys released a critically acclaimed CD, Before Me, paying tribute to
some renowned blues and jazz songstresses from the past, but she has also cut
with the 100-piece Saints Unified Voices (www.suvchoir.org) their second joint album
(after the award-winning One Voice) titled A Christmas Celebration
(Many Roads Records, 4964378). As you can conclude from the title,
this isn’t strictly a gospel set, but it has so many holy elements to it that
we can safely include it in this section of the column. Actually this is
Gladys’ third Christmas album after Bless This House (on Buddah in 1975)
and That Special Time of the Year (on CBS in 1982).
by Gladys, she appears on four tracks: on Introduction/Opening, a
half-spoken pretty hymn, on Silent Night/O Holy Night, on an uptempo
chugger called Jesus, Oh, What A Wonderful Child and finally on the
caressing White Christmas.
The rest of the
repertoire consists mainly of slow songs with different members of the choir
taking the lead: Breath of Heaven (Kenya Jackson, Gladys’
daughter), I Wonder as I Wander (Heather Goedel), We
Three Kings (Jay Young), the slightly jazzy Oh, Come, All Ye
Faithful (Rashida Jordan) and The Lord’s Prayer (Damon
The cover says “Bishop
Joe Simon Addresses the Congregation and Preaches the Sermons “I Made
My Choice” & “What Is Your Choice” (Chicago Plus Records, PERCD080107;
distributed by Parliament Entertainment Records, www.parliamentrecords.com; 68 min.).
Like his 1988
album, Simon Preaches Prayer, this is actually a spoken sermon with Joe
bursting into a song for a minute only on tracks # 3 and 8 & 9 – the latter
ones with strings, arranged by Lester Snell. Music-wise you don’t need
to take any action. You can find my two-year-old interview with Joe at www.soulexpress.net/deep304b.htm.
Blessed by Jimmy Hicks & the Voices of Integrity featuring The
Levites (Worldwide Music, WWG-3041-2) was produced by Marlon Stokes and
recorded in Augusta, Georgia. All songs also written by Jimmy, there are seven
live players creating the background music.
On most of the
five hand-clapping, uptempo numbers Jimmy has a lady to duet with. Of the
slowies, Why? is a big-voiced one, Turn Around treads along
heavily and Christmas – a duet with Tiffany Dunbar – builds up
nicely towards the end. For soul lovers there are two songs: a Marvin Sease
type of a slow swayer called Tears and a sensitive ballad titled Not
My Time. On the whole, this set is neither too contemporary, nor too
traditional… let’s just say that it’s appropriately inspirational (www.jimmyhicks.com).
Louisiana-based singer and lately also a movie actor Steven (www.stevenperrilloux.com) has
released a CD titled Only You (Crosstown South Music), which
commercially has made some waves. Produced and written in Los Angeles by Bernard
Stevenson, “Prophet” is backed by a light but live combo and background
singers. Steve has a high tenor to meet contemporary taste, but you really
can’t call his voice colourful in the traditional meaning of the word.
The opener, Good
Measure, pads along in a jazzy setting, while Do the Right Thing gets
punchier. Dance is an uptempo dancer, again in a jazzy vein, whereas Be
Blessed comes close to the funk frontier. All four ballads (Count It
All Joy, Only You, It Gives Me Joy and Love From The Heart) are
fragile and sophisticated, but the melodies are not very memorable. I suppose
there’s a market for this kind of thin, atmospheric and jazzy inspirational
music, but it leaves me cold. I find it simply dull.
OSCAR TONEY JR
Now I’m going to
blow my horn… and loud! Oscar is my all-time number one artist, and I was the
one who rediscovered him in the nineties after numerous telephone calls around
southern states. I wrote an in-depth, 6-page feature on him for our # 4/1998
issue, and gave that same year his telephone number to Mr. Bob Grady, with whom
we had discussed about Oscar earlier. Bob called, Oscar visited Bob’s house in
Georgia, and that’s how the CD below came about… no matter what explanations
other parties give you.
Right after the
release of Guilty of Loving You (on Bob Grady Records) I visited Oscar’s
house in Opelika, Alabama (now he has moved to another city), where I taped
Oscar’s comments on his new record while listening to it. Now that the CD is
re-released under the title of Guilty (Shout 30; www.shoutrecords.co.uk), we
reprint that 2000 interview here, since there’s really nothing much to add to
it. As a bonus we give you Oscar’s verified discography.
Also this year
they once again re-released Oscar’s Bell album and all his non-album single
sides for Bell in the late 60s on For Your Precious Love (RevOla,
CR REV 155; 18 tracks; www.revola.co.uk;
liners by Tim Tooher), so if you want your soul music at its ultimate
best, please grab this one!
Peggy is a
magnificent singer. Her powerful and gospel-infused voice stands out on any
track, be it Labelle type of rocking dancers (like a couple of songs here), or
downtempo soulful songs like When the Blind Leads the Blind or Bill.
Now we’ve been blessed with previously unreleased cuts from 1978, as She’s
Got It All (Shout 29) introduces twelve songs, of which only four were
put out as singles in the U.K. and Germany.
co-written by Bob McRee and recorded in Jackson, Mississippi, of those single
sides You’ve Got It All is an energetic stormer – not unlike Lover’s
Holiday with Jo Jo Benson ten years earlier – backed with a pretty
mid-tempo tune called Let Me Untie You. Those two songs made a great (UK) Pinnacle single almost thirty years ago. The German disc consisted of a big-voiced,
vigorous mid-pacer titled Your Loving Is Tasty, coupled with a disco
beater named Start My Motor.
In 1978 we were still in the disco era,
which explain four further dancers, whereas a mid-pacer called It Was the
Best starts almost like a show tune, but grows more intense towards the
end. I only wish they had cut at least one ballad those days.
recording in 1952, hit gold with a cover of Kansas City in ’59 and at
the age of forty in ’69 recorded an album for Juggy Murray’s Sue Records
(8801; # 190-pop), which has now been re-released under its original title of Let’s
Work Together (Jamie 4025; 14 tracks, 61 min.) with a new stereo remix
by Tom Moulton.
I don’t consider
Wilbert a great singer, but he is good at feel-good, honky-tonk shuffles, such
as the title tune (# 32-pop in ’69), on which he plays, among others, guitar
and harmonica. On the album he reworks some famous songs of the day and the
past, such as Stagger Lee and Kansas Cityall over again.
He throws in some Caribbean fiesta (Tropical Shakedown) pop and messy
soul. This reissue, which was Murray’s last project before his death, is for Harrison connoisseurs, only.
Home/The Okeh Recordings, vol.2 (Kent, CDKEND 266; www.acerecords.com, 19 tracks, 58 min.)
contains the entire Welcome Home album, which was recorded in Chicago in March 1965 and released three months later on Okeh (to no chart activity). It
was cut under the guidance of Carl Davis and arranged by Riley
Hampton. Tony Rounce wrote the liner notes and compiled this anthology,
which is the second in the series.
On the album
there are many lush and sugary standards and show songs (My Funny Valentine,
Moonlight in Vermont, Let It Be Me, Imagination, Moon River), and, although
they are as MOR and as “supper-club” as they can be, you can’t help but admire
Walter’s majestic baritone. At times he goes uptempo, like on Blowin’ in
the Wind, Where Have All the Flowers gone and the jazzy Fly Me to the
There are three
songs that charted. Van McCoy’s dramatic uptown ballad, Suddenly I’m
All Alone (# 13-r&b, # 96-pop), was actually released before the album.
Chip Taylor’s big-voiced slowie and the title tune reached # 15-r&b
and # 95-pop, whereas the richly orchestrated Deep in the Heart of Harlem (co-written
by Jimmy Radcliffe) hit # 43-r&b and # 110-pop in 1967.
Among the seven
bonus tracks there are three previously unreleased ones. I Think It’s Going
to Rain Today is Randy Newman’s melancholy slowie, but more
impressive is a big ballad titled That’s When I Come To You. The Folks Who
Live on the Hill is on the MOR territory again. If you think this music is
too schmaltzy for you, just wait for the final volume (Speak Her Name),
which covers Walter’s peak period.
Marva is big in
size and voice. After her gospel upbringing, she’s been at r&b for over
twenty years by now (www.marvawright.com).
Her ’93 Skyranch album, which was recorded in New Orleans with real players and
a horn section, has now been re-released under the title of Do Right
Woman/The Soul of New Orleans (Shout 31), and it was mainly produced by
Carlo Ditta. Clive Richardson wrote the liners to the new CD.
Apart from six blues tracks, there’s one
intense soul deepie called It’s Gonna Be All Right, one mid-tempo item
with an Indian beat titled It’s So Nice and one gospelly beater named He’s
On The Way. Of the familiar songs, Willie Mae Thornton’s Hound
Dog is arranged here to a relaxed mid-pacer, Can’t Nobody Love You (Solomon
Burke) is sung only with an acoustic guitar packing, Pray is a
pleading ballad, which Carlo originally recorded with Mighty Sam and,
finally, there’s no way really you can go wrong with Do Right Woman, Do
Right Man with a voice like Marva’s.
are many indifferent dancers and stompers on display, you’re also bound to
discover new gems. Specify by Little Lois Barber is a strong
femme soul ballad, Let Me Be Myself is a nice floater by Roscoe
Robinson, I Thought It Over is a gospelly deepie by Chuck Strong,
You’ve Never Really Lived is a sweet, high-voiced item by Frederick
Knight, You Gonna Reap It is another big-voiced, hurting femme
ballad by Pat Peterman. Roscoe Robinson’s second inclusion is a
weeping deepie called Two Heart Accident, while Ralph “Soul” Jackson’s Take Me Back is a catchy mover. The cream cut, however, is Sam
Dees’ great country & soul ballad, Train To Tampa. There are
also two David Sea recordings with Jerry Weaver from 1971 – an
uptempo item called Believe in Me and a pleading soul ballad titled Let’s
Just Get Together – but, as David himself confirms, they stayed in the can,
so his first released record still is Angel from the early 80s.
of slowies is laden with drama and pathos and I wouldn’t recommend it as a cure
to depression. But if you don’t want to be cheered us, and instead wish to
dive into innermost deep soul, then Confessing is for you. You’ll be impressed
with Betty Harris’ I Can’t Last Much Longer, Zilla Mayes’ I
Love You Still, Eldridge Holmes’ Now That I’ve Lost You, Calvin
Lee’s Love Is Like Fire (I Just Got Burned), the Herculoids’ (who
are Chuck Mitchell and Merle Spears) When Something Is Wrong
With My Baby and other gems by Joe Haywood, C.P. Love, Richard Caiton,
Tony Owens and many, many more.
Of the many Motown retrospective DVD’s
released lately, Get Ready/Definitive Performances 1965 to 1972 (Universal;
appr. 100 min.), must be the most acclaimed. It features 16 songs, all live
except six appearances on the American television between 1965 and ‘67.
Produced by David Peck and Phil Galloway for Reelin’ in the Years
Productions, the informative liner notes are by Rob Bowman.
between the songs are Otis Williams’ reminiscences about the history of
the group and each individual song. As a bonus there’s still a 25-minute
interview with Otis and 15 a cappella versions of the songs by the group (all
except Sorry Is a Sorry Word). On the ten first songs we have what many
fans call “the classic Temptations”, the “original” line-up of Otis, Melvin,
Eddie, Paul and David (The Way You Do The Things You Do, My Girl, My Baby,
Don’t Look Back, Get Ready, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, I’m Losing You, Sorry Is A
Sorry Word, You’re My Everything, I Wish It Would Rain, a personal
From 1968 on Dennis
Edwards was the main lead (Cloud Nine, Runaway Child Running Wild, I
Can’t Get Next To You, Ball of Confusion, Just My Imagination and Papa
Was a Rollin’ Stone). This is an excellent DVD, especially for those, who
grew up with these songs.
Volume 3 of The
R&B Indies has been published (www.eyeballproductions.com) and
it covers about 3 000 labels from M to R (ISBN 0-9686445-5-4; 620 pages).
“An encyclopaedic exploration of African American Music and independent record
labels from 1944 to 1980”, in many cases the listing goes beyond those years.
For instance, the Motown discography is stretched out till 1990 and Malaco till
2000. Bob McGrath lists the label, #, artist, titles, matrix # (where
available) and in many cases also other information such as the owner, the
address, years of existence and the label logos. Although there are question
marks and no doubt some serious collectors might want to add something to it, this,
however, is the most comprehensive work of reference I’ve seen so far in this
field, and next year they’ll publish the final, fourth volume with the vital,
full artist index.