My autumn column concentrates on recent
compilations, as there are not only some real Southern soul gems, but also
other quite noteworthy retrospective CDs among them this time. I was fortunate
enough to be able to talk to George Jackson and Jimmy Hughes, two
remarkable artists with previously unreleased material now readily available.
Ridley writes in his liner notes “this is the third collection of masters
and demos George Jackson recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound during the
1970s – and all but two of these vintage tracks are previously unreleased.”
Demos or not, on most of these tracks there’s a full rhythm section playing and
some are embellished even with sweetening. All Because Of Your Love (Soulscape,
SSCD 7024; www.garryjcape.com; 62 min.)
has twenty songs on it, and George co-wrote all of them. His main writing
partner those days was Thomas Earl Jones III, and he’s credited on ten
The opening cut,
Sweet Surrender, is a melodic beat-ballad with horns and choir giving it
an extra boost. George: “It was supposed to be coming out on me, but it was
also recorded by Bobby Bland.” Bobby cut it for his Members Only album
on Malaco in ’85.
Won’t Let Me Forget is again a melodic and slowish, laid-back swayer. “I
demoed it, but it wasn’t recorded by anybody else, as far as I know. I kind of
had Dobie Gray in mind.”
is best known for his ballads and blues songs, he has written a lot of funk
numbers, too, such as There’s So Much More Where This Came From and Can’t
Break The Habit. The latter appeared on The Muscle Shoals Horns album
titled Doin’ It To The Bone (on Ariola in ’77). Equally funky are Your
Love Is Working On Me – “I think I had in mind Wilson Pickett” – and
Let The Funk Flow, which James Brown released as a single on
Polydor in ’79.
Also those two
previously released tracks by George – Fast Young Lady and Funky
Disco Music – invite us to the dance floor. “Muscle Shoals Sound put that
single out (in ’79) but with no promotion behind. It sort of fell apart.” Ollie
Nightingale recorded Disco Granny in ’78.
Something Pretty is a haunting and indeed “pretty” ballad. “The original
version I did first, then Johnnie Taylor heard it and recorded it” (in
’79). Back Track is a mid-to-fast, sharp number with seemingly a lot of
hit potential, at least to these ears - “I kind of had in mind Bobby Womack”
- and I Get A Rockin’ Good Feeling falls in the same bag, although in
style it’s closer to southern swamp rock.
Replay is an achingly beautiful, poignant ballad and one of the highlights
on this CD. “That was a real good song. I might have the Staple Singers in
mind for that.” The title song, All Because Of Your Love, is a
mid-tempo toe-tapper that Otis Clay cut in 1977 – “that was the original
demo that Otis Clay heard” – and tempo-wise the one to go along with that song
is another jogger called You Gave The Best Performance Of Your Life.
I Can’t Make
It Without You is a slowly rocking, bluesy song. “That was put down for Millie
Jackson, but she never recorded it.” A gentle beat-ballad titled Can I
Take You Home was co-written by Larry Chambers, the promotion wizard
at Ecko Records in Memphis today. George: “It was a song I wanted to record
myself.” Those days George wrote a lot of songs with Raymond Moore, too,
and today Raymond happens to work for Ecko as well, as one of their main
gem on this CD is a pretty ballad with a touch of country to it named Hey
Miss Lady. “That’s one of my favourites. I kind of had Kenny Rogers in
mind or somebody like him to do a song like that.”
As late as in
1988 Little Milton cut the slow I Was Trying Not To Break Down,
but the most money-making song on this CD is Old Time Rock And Roll, which
Bob Seger took to the pop charts twice, both in 1979 (# 28) and in 1983
(# 48). “I put that original version down for Ike and Tina Turner.
During that time, when I first played it for them, they broke up, and Tina
didn’t have any label. I wanted to put it on her. When Tina Turner wanted to
record the song, Jimmy Johnson presented Bob Seger the song. So I
dropped the Tina Turner thing and went on to the Bob Seger thing. After he got
a hold of it, we changed the whole thing around.”
fine CD is the third George Jackson “demo collection”, it may be far from the
last one. “I recorded a lot of songs in Muscle Shoals. I used to record like
twenty some songs a week, when I went down there. They have a lot more that
haven’t been released yet.” (Interviews conducted on August 20 and September
Singles A’s & B’s, vol.2 – 1967-68 (Shout 67; www.shoutrecords.co.uk; 22 tracks, 65
min., liners by Clive Richardson) continues Joe’s Dial saga by
presenting his next eleven singles, all self-written (except C.C. Rider),
cut in Tennessee and produced by Buddy Killen.
As many as eight
singles charted, and with the exception of two instrumental and two blues
tracks the music mostly runs according to the tried and tested pattern – either
slow and philosophical songs with a message (A Woman Sees A Hard Time, A
Woman’s Hands, I’ll Make Everyday Christmas, Don’t Give Up, I’ll Never Do You
Wrong, Sweet Sweet Woman) or good-time scorchers (I’m Going And Get It,
You’re Gonna Thank Me Woman, Go Home And Do It, That’s Your Baby).
The biggest hits
this time include a shuffle called Show Me, fooling on the stage titled Skinny
Legs And All and Men Are Gettin’ Scarce and a slow swayer named Keep
The One You Got. Joe’s melodic, soulful and energetic music always leaves
you in a good mood.
Soon it’ll be
close to fifty years since Chubby and the Turnpikes were formed. They
signed with Capitol in 1967 and under the name of Tavares churned out a
hit after hit from ’73 till the early 80s. This group of five brothers then
switched over to RCA, where they released two albums, and New Directions is
the first of them(www.bigbreakrecords.co.uk,
CDBBR 0008; 12 tracks, 55 min.; liners by Hayden Jones). This
re-release offers four bonus tracks – one dance mix and three single versions
of the songs on the album. The original LP peaked at # 30-black and # 137-pop.
I just checked
my vinyl collection and noticed that this is the only Tavares album I’m
missing. I can’t remember anymore why I skipped it in the first place, but it certainly
wasn’t because of poor quality. Actually all four tracks on the slow A-side
are enjoyable. Produced and mainly written by Kenny Nolan and Jay
Senter, the haunting A Penny For Your Thoughts became a small single
hit (# 16-black, # 33-pop), and both Mystery Lady and Abra-Ca-Dabra
Love You Too are caressing, tender ballads.
Jr. produced and co-wrote the other charted single, a melodic disco dancer
called Got To Find My Way Back To You (# 24-black). René &
Angela produced and wrote the concluding funky chugger, Wanna Be Close
To You, which they had cut a year earlier for their own Wall To Wall album.
It was nice to finally get this album after 28 years (www.tavaresbrothers.com).
predecessor This Is Niecy, Deniece Williams’ second album in ’77
was co-produced by Maurice White, but the magic wasn’t there anymore. Reasons
for this you can either read in Wayne A. Dickson’s liner notes to the
CD, Song Bird (CDBBR 0009; 9 tracks, 38 min.; # 23-soul, # 66-pop),
or you can go to my feature at http://www.soulexpress.net/deniecewilliams_part2.htm
(please scroll down a bit).
The album kicks
off with the funkiest cut, Time, before settling down to more poppy
movers, The Boy I Left Behind and We Have Love For You. The
highlights on this set are two Deniece’s own songs, a beautiful and melodic
inspirational ballad called God Is Amazing and a slightly jazzy and
experimental The Paper, which could pass for a show tune with
sax-colouring and vocal gymnastics.
Baby, Baby My
Love’s All For You, a haunting floater, evolved into a soul hit (# 13), and
Season, a melodic mid-tempo swayer, was chosen for a single release in
the U.K. (www.myspace.com/deniecewilliams).
Jive album in 1986 was a sort of musical hotchpotch with many production units
and styles involved, although in most cases she was made to sing light and
poppy ditties those days. Women Hold Up Half The Sky (Cherry Pop
Records, CRPOP 62; www.cherryred.co.uk;
17 tracks, 71 min.!) offers in the sleeve notes an interesting interview with
Ruby about her career and this album in particular.
track was also her first hit, a Jamaican style of an interpretation of If
You’re Ready (Come Go With Me). This cover was produced by Billy Ocean,
Ruby sang it with Jonathan Butler and in the U.S.A. it reached #
58-black. In the U.K. they still released as singles another reggae-beat
track, Bye Baby, a melodic mid-paced bouncer titled I’m In Love and
Ruby’s absolute show-stopper on stage, I’d Rather Go Blind, which on
record here clocks in at 6:30.
Janis Joplin gave
a big boost to Dan Penn’s and Spooner Oldham’s ballad A Woman
Left Lonely and Alice Kooper co-wrote and recorded the passionate Only
Women Bleed, and Ruby handles creditably both songs. The latter can be
counted as one of her tributes to Etta James. Still On My Mind and
He’s Mine are both poppy, melodic ballads, and the album closes with Womack
& Womack’s “silent pain” slowie named Hurting Inside.
There are still three
single sides among the five bonus tracks. Won’t Cry No More is a
catchy, mid-tempo toe-tapper, I’m Livin’ A Life Of Love a mediocre
beater and Smokey’s Ooo Baby Baby is a mesmerizing floater in
high sonic spheres (www.rubyturner.com).
Sheen Anthology 1958-1975 (Ace, CDCHD 1257; www.acerecords.com; 24 tracks, 2 prev.
unreleased, 62 min.) covers Robert Joseph Sheen’s career on ten
different labels either as a member of a group, or as a solo act. The CD is
accompanied by a booklet with Dennis Garvey’s exhaustive liner notes.
leads as a member of the Robins between 1958 and ’61 are all fast doowop
& pop songs – sometimes á la the Coasters or the Monotones –
with the exception of one teeny pop ballad, Magic Of A Dream. Bobby
often sounds like his idol, Clyde McPhatter, or on A Little Bird Told
Me more like Dee Clark. How Many More Times alreadyhas
marks of fledgling soul to it, but Ding Dong (Saw Wood Mountain) is as
silly as the title suggest. This time the group was called – of course – the
The following Phil
Spector spell in 1962 and ’63 is represented by three cuts – the trotting How
Many Nights (How Many Days) and two Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans songs,
Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah and The Bells Of St Mary.
Bobby’s solo career
got musically off to a good start with his ’65 Dimension single, I Want You
For My Sweetheart/My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You. The Vibrations’ My
Girl Sloopy or the McCoys’ cover Hang On Sloopy must have
been a model for the stomping and loud A-side, but the beautiful and utterly
soulful Shoes – country-soul goes gospel – is a revelation and the
personal highlight on this set.
that a dancer called Dr Love is big in northern soul circles – I guess
that’s why it opens this CD – but purely from the musical point of view I
prefer the Spector-sounding mid-tempo flip, Sweet, Sweet Love. Among
Bobby’s other Capitol recordings between 1966 and ’68, those that stand out
include the uptown The Shelter Of Your Arms and the slow raycharlesian Don’t
Pass Me By.
For his 70s
singles on Warner Brothers and Chelsea in 1973 and ’75 Bobby went to Muscle
Shoals, and the two Phillip Mitchell songs, the fast Something New To
Do and the mid-tempo I May Not Be What You Want (earlier by Mel
and Tim), made a strong single. Although co-written by Frank Johnson,
unfortunately Bobby’s ensuing disco and funk efforts were mediocre, except a
southern soul cheating ballad titled Love Stealing, which Frank himself
was to record later on. Incidentally, Bobby’s early 70s material is issued on
another new compilation (Too Many To Fight on Soulscape) with as many as
nine canned tracks now released.
This Ace anthology
is quite fascinating, and certainly covers many subgenres of our music. Bobby
passed in 2000 at the age of 59.
successful spell at Fame with such hits as Steal Away, Neighbor Neighbor and
Why Not Tonight, Jimmy Hughes switched over to Stax/Volt in 1968,
where he had one album, Something Special (Volt 6003 in ’69), and five singles released before his retirement in 1971. Now all those cuts together
with as many as fourteen unreleased tracks from that period are available on Something
Extra Special/The Complete Volt Recordings 1968-1971 (CDKEND 341; 27
tracks, 79 min!; notes by Tony Rounce).
The first single was a pretty and sunshiny
ballad called I Like Everything About You, Jimmy’s only charted Volt
single in Billboard (# 21-r&b). Jimmy: “I think Al Jackson produced
that. We cut it at Stax.” This slow song was a cover of Ty Hunter’s
single on Anna in 1960, and it was backed by a blues romp titled What Side
Of The Door.
The second Volt
single coupled the funky Sweet Things You Do with the slow and bluesy Let
‘Em Down Baby, but it didn’t score anymore. “At that particular time there
were so many top artists over me, when I got in there, like Isaac Hayes,
Booker T. & the MG’s, the Staple Singers... I just never got in that
flow up, climbing that stairs. They were going to stay with their top dogs
that were selling the most records. I never did make it up that high with
them, although Al Bell told me to put me on top, but he never did.”
On the third
single - and on the flipside of a stomper named Chains Of Love - they
placed a personal favourite, a haunting and smooth mid-pacer called I’m Not
Ashamed To Beg Or Plead, which was cut at Ardent Studios and produced by Al
Bell this time. “I think it was a very good record, but it didn’t do big
either. They just weren’t pushing me at the time.”
All the six
tracks above were included on the Something Special album, as well as
the single, which was released right after it and which paired two mid-tempo
groovers, I’m So Glad and Lay It On The Line. “They let Charlie
(Chalmers) produce that. He was a nice dude. He recorded many songs on
me. I had known him for a long time, but he just couldn’t get that Stax
flavour in there some kind of way. All studios do have a sound of their own
and Stax had a sound of their own, but I don’t know why he couldn’t get that
The rest three
tracks on the album were all uptempo ones – the pumping It’s All Up To You,
the poppy Lock Me Up and the loud Peeped Around Yonder’s Bend. Before we proceed to those fourteen unreleased tracks, let’s have a look at
Jimmy’s last single in 1971, a scorcher titled (Just Ain’t As Strong As I
Used To Be) You Done Fed Me Sumpin’ and a “Hi-sounding” mid-pacer called Did
You Forget. They were recorded at Royal Studios, produced by Al Jackson
and Jimmy himself co-wrote the Sumpin’ song. “I came up with the idea
for it. Willie Mitchell had a very good studio, and all the musicians
were very nice. At that particular time they had hot stuff out there with Al
Green. Did You Forget has that Al Green flavour in there. I really
enjoyed recording over there.”
Most of those
unissued songs were meant for Jimmy’s second Stax/Volt album, which never
materialized. “No, it never did. Soon they went out of business, and there’s
a lot of stuff they have on the shelf that never came out by a lot of
artists.” Three production units and studios were involved. First Charles
Chalmers cut in ’69 songs that he had written either with Sandra or Donna
Rhodes. “The music was laid down over at Sam Phillips’ Sun studios,
where Elvis recorded all his stuff when he started out down there.”
There are many delightful and surprisingly soulful gems among these songs. No
Easy Way is a nice and smooth mid-tempo floater, I Was Closest At Hand is
a tender and string-heavy, poignant ballad and both Never Grow Old and Leave
Us Alone are beautiful, waltz-time country-soul ballads. You Got The
Power is a light and mellow stepper, while the cover of Tell Him Tonight
takes us back to pleading soul balladry again. “I really did like that.”
recorded Jimmy next at Stax in 1970, and the cream cut is I Want You So
Bad, a mid-tempo mellow George Jackson song. Jimmy himself co-wrote the
funky It Just Ain’t Enough. “I remember we did it in a motel one night,
and there were so many different people.” Possibly a slow blues number named I
Worry About You was cut at the same session, but Jimmy doesn’t remember
this song by heart.
Jackson took Jimmy to the Royal Studios, where – besides that farewell single –
they cut four more songs: a Syl Johnson type of a bluesy moan called Don’t
You Know I’m All Alone, a chunky George Jackson funk named Your Love
Made A U Turn, a slow weeper titled Too Old To Play and a restrained
Al Green type of a ballad called Your Love Is Important To Me.
Stax/Volt Jimmy left the music business, has he ever considered a comeback?
“At that time I did, but now I do not. I’m an old man now, 72 years old. It
wouldn’t make any sense for me to get back out there with these youngsters. I
don’t think I would enjoy it now. It would be too much on my body and my
mind. I just want to relax and take it easy now.” Jimmy only sings
congregational songs in his church these days.
Jimmy is still
living in Leighton, Alabama. “That’s where I was born. The population is down
to about 600 now. Everybody’s moving out. But it’s very nice, peaceful and
quiet over there - no trouble. Everybody lives like a family there. Just
about everybody knows one another. That’s a very good life. I don’t have a
thing to worry about. I’m just happy.”
Extra Special is a rare case, when the unreleased tracks are superior
to the released ones; for this listener, anyway. I actually prefer Jimmy’s
second, non-materialized album to his first one. Of course, it’s up to your
taste, whether you warm to rawer Stax sound or appreciate softer soul material
more, but – whatever your leaning – this is a highly recommended CD. (Interview
conducted on August 26; acknowledgements to Suzanne Bolton and Rodney
MOTOWN’S VAST VAULTS
For A Cellarful Of Motown, vol. 4 (Universal
Music Operations Ltd. 8824009; 2-CD, 141 min.) they have dug out and dusted
again as many as fifty shelved tracks from the period between 1962 and 1971. Paul
Nixon and Keith Hughes are in charge of the research, annotations
and notes, and this package is sold at a reasonable price, to say the least.
For those, who
are attracted to the basic Motown sound, this series is a must. Only two sophisticated
and jazzy slow jams by Barbara McNair and Brenda Holloway at the
end of each disc bring some variety to the pattern. Also the opening song, an
infectious fast dancer called Kidnapped by the Blackberries, is
intriguing. It was cut around 1970 or ’71 for their Motown album that was
readied but not released. Sherlie Matthews and Deke Richards wrote
and produced the song - led by Venetta Fields - and today Sherlie is
still active. She just released a self-penned single called We Are All The
into details on the rest of the songs, most of these tracks are uptempo
scorchers or thumping stompers with only nine mid-pacers and five slowies. Purely
personal notes indicate that there are nine very good tracks, fifteen OK and
nine poor ones. The rest are passable or so-so. I’m sure that you either
have, or will come up with different figures.
checked my long-time favourites first and am glad to report that the pleading Keep
On Tryin’ (‘Til You Find Love) and the fast Take Him Back If It Makes
You Happy by the Fantastic Four and the infectious Head Over
Heels In Love With You Baby by the Spinners belong to the first
class. On the contrary, the Originals let me down with their somewhat
messy Just Let Me Thank You For Loving Me. The two energetic Gladys
Knight & the Pips stormers belong to the “ok” category.
Holland, the Vandellas, Debbie Dean, Chuck Jackson and Dennis Edwards
came up with pleasant musical surprises, too, and in addition to some
lesser-known acts (the Vows, Robert Dobyne, the Versatones, Oma Heard, the
Utopians, the Lollipops and the Agents) they are still able to find
canned material from such big-timers as Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Stevie
Wonder, the Miracles and the Temptations.
CURRENT SOUTHERN SOUL
Dobbins aka Sweet Angel wrote with her hub, Mac Dobbins, most
of the material for A Girl Like Me (ECD 1126; www.eckorecords.com), her fourth Ecko CD,
which the couple also produced with John Ward. The sound throughout the
CD is quite full, notwithstanding faux horns and strings.
The title song
opens the set and it’s a mostly spoken, novelty type of a funky stormer with a
story linked to Bobby Rush. What I Want, What I Need is a
laid-back stepper, while a bluesy roller titled I Like The Money But I Don’t
Like The Job actually bears a resemblance to Barrett Strong’s Money.
Similarly, while playing a rock & roller called Do You Feel Alright?,
one can’t help thinking of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say.
Was Your Last Night is a nice and mellow mid-tempo floater – co-written by Sherrie
Thomas - but the real gems can be found among the six slow songs. I’d
Rather Be By Myself, Than To Be Unhappy is a big-voiced ballad interpreted
in a determined style, and I’ve Got To Get Paid is a slightly bluesy
number, which again echoes Ray and Drown In My Own Tears. A longing
plodder named Don’t Be Lonely, Be Loved is cut in memory of Sweet
Angel’s deceased niece.
The most soulful
sides are a strong slowie called Mrs. Number Two, a touching swayer
titled The Comfort Of My Man and a country-soul ballad named I’m
Workin’ On My Job. On this CD Sweet Angel portrays a strong-willed lady,
and it seems to pay off, because music-wise this is her strongest album so far.
I really enjoyed this one, especially the ballads (www.sweetangel.org).
Slap It Slap It Tap It Tap It Tap It (AVI 05; www.aviaramusic.com) is not only the
title of Jim Bennett’s new CD, but also his latest hit single, and – as
far as I could comprehend – this mellow dancer has no dirty connotations in its
lyrics this time. Jim wrote all the songs and produced them (Carl Marshall created
the remix of the title song) and he uses some real instruments on the
background, with the exception of the horn sound. Jim’s singing range is
limited and suits only certain type of music, but I’ve always had a liking for
his husky, pleading voice. You can read about Jim’s early career at http://www.soulexpress.net/jimbennett.htm.
Slap & Tap CD is actually a compilation of Jim’s earlier
recordings. Besides the title song, there are only two tracks that I didn’t
find on Jim’s previous albums, but Jim’s been such a frequent visitor to studios
that I just may have missed them.
All the songs
are either smooth mid-tempo jams, or wistful and emotive ballads. The slow That
Girl Is Mine is a duet with Roy C, and the humorous Goldilucks was
strongly inspired by Roy, too. Lady Mary and Jim’s Unique Creation
Band join him on another mid-pacer called All Night After A Party. East
Coast West Coast Jam is a nice floater, and I Can’t Walk Away is a
poignant, soulful slowie. In case you’re not familiar with Jim Bennett’s
music, this CD is a perfect short-cut to his work (www.jimbennettproductions.com).
GO GOSPEL GO!
THE DIXIE HUMMINGBIRDS
Christian Testimonial (Shout 68; www.shoutrecords.co.uk;
26 tracks, 67 min., liners by Clive Richardson) gives us the Dixie
Hummingbirds’ first Peacock album from 1959 plus fourteen single sides
mostly from the late 50s, all produced by Don Robey and orchestrated by Joe
Scott. This gospel quartet was founded in 1928 in South Carolina, and their famous baritone Ira Tucker joined the group ten years
later. Ira passed in 2008 at the age of 83. During the time of the recordings
on this set, the other members included James Davis (tenor), Beachey
Thompson (tenor), James Walker (baritone) and William Bobo (bass).
Allegedly the group was renowned for not only its music, but also its energetic
and extemporized live performances.
hand-clappers and fast jubilee stormers there are The Final Edition, the
popular Christian’s Automobile, the playful Devil Can’t Harm A
Praying Man, the accelerating Just A Little While and two novelty
cuts, Let’s Go Out To The Programs, on which the group emulates other
gospel outfits - on part 2 female groups only. Bobo “the bass” leads
the first half of I Don’t Know Why.
There are as
many as five waltz-time inspirational songs – Walls Of Zion and Make
One Step are the most intense ones – and the most touching slowies are the
traditional Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen, the almost a cappella God
Is Now Speaking, We’ll Meet Again and Live On Forever. Now
listen closely and you too may become a believer (www.myspace.com/thedixiehummingbirds).
John Harrell out
of Miami, Florida, sings in an original style that you could call folk-gospel
or folk-spirituals. He has a distinctive voice, somewhat gruff high tenor, and
he writes and arranges his own music. On King Jesus (C & C
Productions; 9 tracks, 64 min.) he also plays the lead guitar, while S. Kendricks
is on keyboard and James Charry, Joseph Charms and Vernon Devoe are
on bass guitar. Martha Roll and Americus Harrell sing
Prior to this CD
John had one r&b release in the mid-80s – Pretty Lady/Want My Money
– and one gospel single in 2005, Ain’t It Sweet. He’s also a member the
Harrell Singers (www.myspace.com/harrellsingers).
The title song, King
Jesus, is a melodic, laid-back ballad with a catchy chorus; plain and
simple. Talk With Jesus is another soothing and poetic slow song, and
you can watch the video shot around it at www.johnharrellmusic.com. The
swaying He’s A Friend Indeed and the slightly dramatic Just One Way are
similarly arranged and constructed, whereas Got A Race To Run and Weeping
are more rocky beaters. Somewhere To Lay My Head is another uptempo
pop song, true to 60s Greenwich Village spirit. The only outside song, the
traditional Amazing Grace is performed almost a cappella, and there’s a
touch of blues to the concluding slowie, When The Gate Is Open. In its
own way this is quite fascinating, at times even hypnotic music
(acknowledgements to Betty Worley).
MOTOWN’S MIXING MASTER
Motown (ISBN 9781904408703; www.bankhousebooks.com)
was written by his twin brother, Ralph Terrana, whose own autobiography titled
The Road Through Motown was published a couple of years ago. With approximately
one hundred pages – plus 22 with photos – this is a quick and quite light read,
with enough anecdotes to keep you hooked. Jumping back and forth chronologically,
the book covers those eras that matter: childhood & the 50s Detroit, the Sunliners, Golden World, Tera Shirma, 20 years with Motown and beyond.
Such productive and
talented figures as Frank Wilson, Hal Davis, Berry Gordy, Ron Miller, Ed
Wolfrum and Harry Balk are brought into focus, as well as a few performing
luminaries (Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross). Inevitably, by
being twin brothers and working partners for a lengthy period, besides Russ,
also Ralph himself is featured to an extent.
Then in this
review we come to the “however” and “but” parts. Especially after looking at
the list of tens and tens of number one records that Russ engineered and mixed,
I would have loved to learn more about his technique. Even at the risk of getting
too deeply absorbed in technical details, it would have been interesting to
read what the tricks in engineering and mixing were that made a certain disc
stand out. What were Russ’ working methods, and how did he deal with this and
that artist and musician? Naturally the book would have been heavier but at
the same time perhaps more enlightening, especially for Motown fans. But as
such, the book is valuable in finally exposing one of the best-kept secrets in
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