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DEEP # 3/2012 (July)

  Bundino Siggalucci aka Walter Sigler aka Bunny Sigler aka “Mr. Emotion” is the leading star in this column.  Three months ago he released a fabulous album, which just craves for more attention and which is the main topic in our discussion.  Also Mr. Chazz Dixon has come up with a new CD, which takes him slightly in a new direction.  With Chazz we also have a short look at his back career.

  Besides interviews there are the regular reviews, which also take us back in time first, but after the compilations section there are a few new indie CDs, too.  The two books at the end cover the careers of Messrs Sidney Barnes and “Beans” Bowles.

Content and quick links:

Interviews:
Bunny Sigler
Chazz Dixon

New CD reviews:
Bunny Sigler: From Bunny with Love & a Little Soul
Tasha Taylor: Taylormade
Chazz Dixon: Emotional Therapy
Sweet Angel: Mr. Wrong Gonna Get This Love Tonight
Lenny Williams: Still in the Game
Willie West: Can’t Help Myself

CD soul reissue albums or compilations:
The Spinners: Truly Yours/Their First Motown album with Bonus Tracks 1963-1967
Clarence Carter: The Fame Singles Volume 1 1966-70
Etta James: Queen of Soul with Bonus Tracks
Herb Hardesty & his Band: The Domino Effect
Various: Behind Closed Doors
Various: Lost Soul Gems from Sounds of Memphis
Various: The Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender 1993-2012
Various: The Detroit Funk Vaults
Various: Have Mercy! The Songs of Don Covay

Book Reviews:
Standing on Solid Ground by Sidney Barnes and Tom Wright
Dr. Beans Bowles – “Fingertips”, the Untold Story




BUNNY SIGLER *

  Bunny’s previous album, The Lord’s Prayer, came out already four years ago.  Bunny: “I didn’t actually stop recording after that.  I was trying to promote the album, which isn’t easy with the business being so bad as it is and money being tight.”  Bunny’s attorney, Lloyd Remick, persuaded him back to recording, and the result is entitled From Bunny with Love & a Little Soul (Bun Z Music & Records LLC).  “He said ‘let’s do a love album’.” 

  If you wish to watch Bunny singing The Lord’s Prayer, please go to YouTube and type ‘Bunny Sigler’ and ‘Praise the Lord interview’, and he’ll sing it at the end of the clip.  “I was on that show with Regina Belle on May 29.  She did five songs and I did one.  I’m going back there next month.”

  Produced and most of the songs co-written by Bunny, the tracks on the new CD were cut in Philadelphia and there’s a live rhythm section playing on them.  A beautiful country-tinged ballad called Sweet Lorraine is written and co-produced by Carmen Tomasetti.  “He books bands for weddings, birthday parties and all kind of different affairs.”  The equally touching and melodic Unspoken Words is also penned by Carmen (or Carmine, as it’s written in the sleeve-notes).  “We put a video out on that for Father’s Day.  I met a lot of people, who didn’t have good relationships with their fathers, and I never knew it.  We got a good response on that.”  The song is available on YouTube.

  A tender ballad named To Love Again was co-written by Alfie Pollitt.  “He’s a jazz musician, who played with Teddy Pendergrass and many different artists around town.  He has a jazz trio.  The song has a jazz overtone to it.  I was really trying to sing like Sinatra.”  A tuneful, mid-tempo toe-tapper called Nobody Else for Me was co-produced and co-written by David Ivory and it features Paul Shaffer on keyboards.  “David is a guy that I work with sometimes.  Paul Shaffer is the musical director for the David Letterman show.  After he found out I was the guy, who did Let the Good Times Roll (on Parkway in ’67), he came in and did the session with me.”  On this track the strings were arranged and the section conducted by Louis deLise.

  David Ivory co-wrote and co-produced also You Never Know, which is available on YouTube and which surprisingly features autotune.  “David did it.  Some people don’t like it, but young people and hip-hop people, who are used to it, love it.”  We go back to normal on How Bad Do U Want It, which is a Marvin Gaye type of a romantic floater.  “I turned it around.  Usually a woman says ‘how bad do you want my love’, but here it’s the man.  Some women are drawn to men, especially if you’re popular.”  Co-written and co-produced by Noisette John St Jean Jr., In a Minute is a funky and loud stormer.  “Noisette is Haitian.  There’s autotune on that song too, but you can’t hear it until the end.  Noisette wrote three songs with me for my gospel album.”

  Next four songs were all written by Bunny along with his band members, Eugene Curry (keyboards), Ralph Carthan (drums), Kim L. Miller (guitar) and Raymond Earl (bass).  Super Guy “is the son of Superfly”, a fast Curtis Mayfield inspired song.  “We went with the musicians into the studio, and somebody said ‘let’s do this groove, let’s do a little Superfly by Curtis Mayfield’... We were just having fun.”


  I Wish is a pretty, philanthropic ballad.  “I was working in New York and we did the whole string of Gamble & Huff songs with the Philly sound, and at the end of the show they put the video up of I Wish.  I told the people that we’ve been funking for ninety minutes, but now we’re gonna get serious and talk about the things I wish for the world.”

  Too Sexy leads us to James Brown.  “I wrote the song for the O’Jays called When the World’s at Peace, and we took it from there.  Again, we were just having fun.”  She’s My Lady is a sweet mid-tempo song.  “One of the guys that wrote the song with me, Randy Bowland, used to play with Gerald Levert and now plays for Jill Scott.”

  The concluding song, Face the Music, is a slow and wistful, doowopish number.  “Patti LaBelle’s musical director, “Crocket”, wrote the song and he died before we could finish it.  All I had was two tracks of the music, so I took my musicians, we played around it and I did the background.” Crocket’s real name is Nathaniel Wilkie.

  From Bunny with Love & a Little Soul is a treasure for classic soul music fans with its timeless, tuneful melodies and genuine background music.  “You wouldn’t believe it, but somebody in Japan is buying this CD every day... also in London, the Netherlands, Iceland, Korea, all over Germany, down in South America, and I Wish is selling in South Africa.  We don’t have a big company promoting us.  There are a lot of write-ups on the internet, and one thing people were glad was that I did more than funk.  Right now we’re talking about doing a Christmas album, already for this Christmas.” (www.bunnysigler.net; interview conducted on July 17, 2012).

 

COMP-ART-ment

THE SPINNERS *

  Truly Yours/Their First Motown album with Bonus Tracks 1963-1967 (Kent, CDTOP 371; www.acerecords.com; 26 tracks, 72 min.) is the CD I’ve been secretly hoping for to be released for a long time now, and I assume that there’s a follow-up in the pipeline still.  Keith Hughes interviewed the Spinners’ lead singer, Bobbie Smith, for the liner-notes, and – as far as I know - Bobbie was extremely happy with this release, too.  This CD is assembled from the 12-track Motown album, The Original Spinners (’67), and fourteen canned tracks, and as many as ten of them appear here for the first time.

  The album kicks off with their first-ever single and a summer hit in ’61 on Tri-Phi, That’s what Girls are made for, a sweet and innocent, doowopish ballad.  Pervis Jackson, the group’s late bass singer, told ten years ago for my 5-part Spinners story (http://shop.soulexpress.net/) that “Harvey Fuqua came to us with that song and we liked it.  We all got together one night and recorded it the next day.”  Bobbie Smith: “By Harvey Fuqua being well-known, on that first record he got a lot of support and a lot of help from a lot of disc-jockeys around the country.”  The late Billy Henderson (second tenor): “The record came out in the summertime, and we started hitting the theatre circuit to promote the record.  First we went to Cleveland and then to New York to play the Apollo.”  The single landed at # 5-r&b and # 27-pop.

  After two years Harvey’s Tri-Phi label was swallowed up by Motown, but the Spinners had to wait till the end of 1964 for their first single, Sweet Thing/How Can I, to be released, and unfortunately it missed the charts.  Billy: “We didn’t get the push for it to end up in top-100.  We didn’t have a crossover record.  We kinda stayed r&b.”

  With the next single in the summer of ‘65, a melodic toe-tapper called I’ll Always Love You, the group was at least heading in the right direction - # 8-r&b, # 35-pop.  Henry Fambrough (baritone): “It didn’t change things that much at all.  During that time at Motown we didn’t have a producer other than Ivy Hunter that concentrated on the Spinners sound.  That’s why a lot of times you didn’t hear from us.  Pervis worked in the stock room and I did a lot of chauffeur work for them.  We did that in between records.”  Bobbie: “We survived about a year or two off of I’ll Always Love You.  We would travel all over the country.  We were known all over basically for That’s what Girls are made for and Sweet Thing, but they just weren’t big hits...”

  Their second and actually the last charted single on Motown in the 60s was a pleasant mid-tempo floater called Truly Yours, released in March 1966 and produced and written by Ivy Jo Hunter and William Stevenson (# 16-r&b, # 111-pop).  Bobbie: “Most of the hits and most of the songs we had after we went to Motown were produced either by Ivy Hunter of Harvey Fuqua.”

  For All We Know, an old standard turned into Motown by Ivy Hunter, flopped as the 4th single in 1967.  Actually as many as ten out of the twelve tracks on the debut album were released as single sides.  The two album-only tracks were Berry Gordy’s ’64 hand-clapper, It Hurts to Be in Love, and Smokey Robinson’s ’64 catchy and poppy Like a Good Man Should

  To my ears some of those unreleased tracks had hit potential to them, but, as we know, especially in the 60s the Spinners remained a second division group at Motown, their releases were few and far between, they were not properly promoted and many cuts were buried in the vaults.  Still in 1963 and ’64 Harvey Fuqua was the force behind the group, and some of his tracks – Darling, Words can’t describe, 12 O’clock – are strongly doowop-based, even echoing That’s what Girls are made for.   From 1965 onwards Ivy Hunter and William Stevenson took control.

  Personal favourites among those unissued tracks derive from Ivy’s and William’s stint.  You can’t keep still to the driving and rolling This Feeling in My Heart and Memories of Her Love (Keep Haunting Me) - co-written by James Dean -  which, I’d guess, was considered as the follow-up to I’ll Always Love You.

   Equally infectious are What More Could I Boy Ask For and Head Over Heels in Love with You Baby - both of which we’ve been able to enjoy on earlier compilations – and I’m also fascinated by the fast and compelling We’re Gonna Be More Than Friends (by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol) from 1967.  Co-written by George Kerr, the tender Just another Guy and a slow beater called Tea House in China Town - also cut by the Four Tops – represent the mellower side.  Truly Yours, if any, is a worthwhile release.  Miss it at your peril!

CLARENCE CARTER

  Released first on Fame and then on Atlantic, the both sides of Clarence’s first twelve solo singles cut in Muscle Shoals are now compiled on The Fame Singles Volume 1 1966-70 (CDKEND 376; 24 tracks, 64 min.; liners by Dean Rudland).  Produced by Rick Hall, those days Clarence mostly wrote his own material with some help from Spooner Oldham, Chips Moman and Dan Penn, George Jackson, Rick Hall and a few others.

  As many as eleven of the twenty-four songs on the CD appeared on Billboard’s charts.  Slip Away with its irresistible guitar lick and Too Weak to Fight even received the gold status.  Other top-ten r&b hits were Snatching It Back, The Feeling Is Right, Doin’ Our Thing and I Can’t Leave Your Love Alone.  Sometimes laced with humour – Looking for a Fox, Back Door Santa, I Smell a Rat – Clarence cut many down-to-earth and funky tracks, but his slow southern soul songs are memorable, too, wiz. the country-flavoured I Stayed Away Too Long and Don’t Make My Baby Cry, I Can’t See Myself (Crying About You), Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street), The Few Troubles I’ve Had – the last two with long opening monologues.

  The faithful followers of Fame music and CC fans already know these tracks by heart, but for the recently converted this and the forthcoming volume 2 come in handy (www.clarencecarter.net).

ETTA JAMES

  Queen of Soul with Bonus Tracks (CDKEND 377; 23 tracks, 68 min.; liners by Garth Cartwright) presents Etta’s 1964 ten-track album on Argo, Queen of Soul, and thirteen bonus tracks from 1962-65. 

  Produced for the most part by Billy Davis, on her album Etta quite flexibly moves about in different styles.  Early sixties in a way was a transition period from post-r&b to fledgling soul and sweet teeny pop to tougher rock sounds.  The tender Bobby Is His Name, the sweet Somewhere Out and the string-laden I Worry about You (# 118-hot) represent the innocent teeny side, while a cover of Irma Thomas’ I Wish Someone Would Care, the tuneful Flight 101 and the slightly bluesy Loving You More Every Day (# 65-hot) could be included in the fledgling soul category.  All of them were slow songs, whereas the swinging That Man Belongs Back Here with Me, the big-voiced Breaking Point, the sax-pepped Do Right and the horn-driven, fierce Mello Fellow are meant to make you move.

  Among the bonus tracks there are four dancers and three of them charted, the hooky and still quite popular Pushover (# 7-r&b, # 25-hot), the poppy Two Sides (to Every Story) (# 63-hot) and Pay Back (# 78-hot).  Biggest personal favourites can be found among downtempo songs - the soulful Only Time Will Tell, the melancholy You Can’t Talk to a Fool, the lush How Do You Speak to an Angel (# 109-hot) and the big hit, Stop the Wedding (# 6-r&b, # 34-hot). 

  Those days Etta’s recording sessions were held either in Chicago, or in New York, but on this CD there are four country songs that were cut in Nashville in 1962 and were arranged by Cliff Parman.  In addition to the one mentioned above (I Worry about You) there are Would It Make Any Difference to You (# 64-hot), Be Honest With Me and I Can’t Hold It In Anymore – quite a versatility within the early 60s music boundaries.

HERB HARDESTY

  For the average music consumer the name Herb Hardesty may not say much, but if we add that he has been Fats Domino’s sideman, touring with him since May 1955 for over fifty years and playing sax solos on most of his recordings, perhaps that’ll light the bulb.

  Herb Hardesty & his Band: The Domino Effect (CDTOP 1333; 20 tracks, 48 min.), besides music, gives us also a detailed history on the man, written by George Korval.  Born in 1925 in New Orleans, Herb first learned to play trumpet, then alto, baritone and tenor sax.  His first recording session occurred in early 1949, and already in December 1949 he was in the studio cutting The Fat Man with Fats.

  His album for Wing Records, cut in early 1958 at Cosimo’s Studio in New Orleans, was shelved and now those unearthed twelve tracks form the first part of this CD.  All written by Herb, there are only three slow songs on display.  Among those fast and quite tuneful instrumental cuts the hookiest ones are Sassy, Goldie, Rumba Rockin’ with Coleman, Herb in the Doghouse and Bouncing BallFeelin’ Good and Jammin’ are jazzier and more improvised, although otherwise Herb’s music is mostly mellow and melodic, less wild and burning.

  The rest eight tracks are from his two later sessions in ’59 in New York and ’61 in Cincinnati, and those single sides were released on Paoli and Federal labels.  On two songs Herb even had a vocalist, Walter “Papoose” Nelson, who sounded like a cross between Fats Domino and Ray Charles (www.herbert-hardesty.com).

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS *

  Soul and country music make a good symbiosis, and I for one am a big fan.  There’s just something in the combination of a memorable melody, a good story and a soulful interpretation that penetrates beyond the normal listening pleasure and touches your inner feelings.  Behind Closed Doors, Where Country Meets Soul (CDKEND 375; 23 tracks, 77 min.; liners by Tony Rounce) gives us some of the most remarkable examples of the genre along with more obscure ones.  This is the first volume, and - should it sell enough - we’re promised to get more.  The only problem with compilations like this is that soul aficionados already have most of these tracks and they’re not likely to purchase this compilation for the few missing ones.  That’s why we can only hope that this CD will cross over and that it’ll attract mainstream music followers, too.

  The charted songs on this compilation are Aaron Neville’s The Grand Tour, Solomon Burke’s He’ll Have to Go, Percy Sledge’s Take Time to Know Her, Ann Peebles’ Hangin’ On, Candi Staton’s He Called Me Baby, Z.Z. Hill’s Chokin’ Kind, Joe Simon’s Yours, Love, Bettye Swann’s Don’t Touch Me, Little Milton’s Behind Closed Doors – for me, however, the insurmountable soul version is by the Originals – and Millie Jackson’s If You’re Not Back in Love by Monday – quite an impressive list, isn’t it?

  Other personal favourites include Esther Phillips’ vulnerable I Saw Me and Bobby Sheen’s overpowering and thrilling My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You.  With uptempo songs in minority – actually only the Moses & Joshua Dillard, Cookie Jackson and Joe Tex tracksthe softest and slowest ones here are Wings upon Your Horns by Tami Lynn and She Even Woke Me up to Say Goodbye by Brook Benton.  It really felt good to hear all these gems on one disc.

LOST IN MEMPHIS

  The Ace/Kent boys have found so many boxes of unreleased material in the Sounds of Memphis archives that also in this series there are more volumes to come after this first one.  Only four songs on Lost Soul Gems from Sounds of Memphis (CDKEND 378; 22 tracks, 66 min.; liners by Dean Rudland) were released as single sides at the time, and one of them, Carl Sims’ big soul ballad called Pity a Fool opens this set.  Otis Wheat’s Tennessee Waltz is an Otis Redding type of a fast scorcher, Carroll Lloyd’s I Can’t Fight It No Longer is a typical stomper from 1967 and finally there’s George Jackson’s slow Chess side, Things Are Gettin’ Better.

  As usually on compilations like this there are tracks that belong to the category “lost and unfortunately found”, but there are also some cuts that could have been tested as singles.  Dan Greer’s I Don’t Want No One Way Love has a lot of vigour to it, Rudolph Taylor’s What’s That You Got is a steady dancer with a nice sax solo, the Jacksonians’ (later Lanier & Co) Vehicle is a pop song produced by George Jackson and both Erma Shaw and Takelia Kelly try to sound like Deniece Williams on their melodic floaters.  The final track is a demo of a soft ballad called It’s Hard to Say No by George Jackson and Linda Lucchesi.  They are also two of the main producers on these tracks alongside Dan Greer and Charles Chalmers. 

CLEETHORPES

  The Cleethorpes Northern Soul Weekender 1993-2012 (CDKEND 374; 25 tracks, 63 min.) is dedicated to the bronze celebration of the venue and its loyal NS visitors.  The concept of the CD is to reintroduce the artists that have performed there during the past twenty years by including one of their 60s songs, and - because of the NS connection, they must be uptempo tracks – this compilation has turned into a non-stop cavalcade of dancers and stompers.  There are only two slower songs on display.

  Consequently, for my taste here are some of the least interesting tracks from many artists’ career, even from such normally reliable singers as Tommy Hunt (The Pretty Part of You), Doris Troy (Face up to the Truth), Bettye LaVette (I Feel Good All Over), Spencer Wiggins (Walking out on You) and Bettye Swann (Lonely Love).

  The ones that attracted any positive attention were the fast The Stars by Barbara Lewis, the Drifters-influenced I’m a Man by H.B. Barnum, The Next in Line by Hoagy Lands, Drifting by Tony Middleton – both with some strong singing – and the mid-paced I’m Only a Man by Willie Tee.

  To really appreciate this CD, you should have attended those weekenders, and that’s why I assume that all the active Cleethorpers-goers have latched onto this compilation.  There’s also that strong nostalgia factor prevailing.  I’m reviewing this record only from the listening point of view and based on, what I consider, pure musical values - without any nostalgia affecting one’s opinion.  For me by far the most interesting part of this package was the booklet, where Ady Croasdell goes through the history year-by-year and artist-by-artist (http://www.6ts.info/home.asp).

DAVE HAMILTON’S FUNK

  Subtitled Funk and Soul from Dave Hamilton 1968-1979, The Detroit Funk Vaults (CDBGPD 251; 22 tracks, 70 min.; liners by Dean Rudland) includes only four sides that were actually released about forty years ago and as many as thirteen tracks that appear here on the record for the very first time.

  I’ve never been a big fan of Dave Hamilton’s production, which I often find lacking in instrumentation, arrangements and material... and that special something – gimmick or whatever – to stimulate you.  Also sometimes his recording techniques tend to lead to somewhat stuffy sound.  Although on some of these funk tracks you can occasionally hear Dave’s jazz background, however, there’s a lot of surprisingly primitive and messy music on display.  Probably some of these tracks were never meant to be released.

  The artists are obscure with the possible exceptions of the Barrino Brothers, Little Ann and O.C. Tolbert.  Four instrumental tracks are included.  If you’ve liked the previous Dave Hamilton-related compilations, no doubt you’ll purchase this one, too.

DON COVAY’S SONGS

  In their songwriters series Ace Records have now opened Donald Randolph’s catalogue on Have Mercy! The Songs of Don Covay (CDTOP 1341; 26 tracks, 72 min.), but Donald himself isn’t featured as a vocalist on any of these tracks.  Foreword by Jon Tiven and history plus track-by-track annotations by Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick, most of these songs derive from the 60s, with one from the 50s and four from the 70s.

  The uptempo hits include the gritty Three Time Loser by Wilson Pickett and Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin, the softer You Can Run (But You Can’t Hide) by Jerry Butler and the dancer Pony Time, which Chubby Checker customarily covered and deprived Don a hit.  There’s also the mid-tempo The Continental Walk by one of Al Wilson’s early groups, the Rollers.

  Among the beautiful and soulful slow songs there are You’re Good for Me by Solomon Burke, the surprisingly intense I Don’t Know What You’ve Got but It’s Got Me by Little Richard, the “raycharlesian” Give by Mary Ann Fisher and again softer Shoes by Brook Benton.

  For variety, there are four covers by British pop acts – and to be frank, three of them quite awful – and as many as six American pop versions by such artists as the rocking Wanda Jackson (There’s a Party Going On), the twisting Connie Francis (Mr. Twister), the “peggyleeing” Lena Horne (Love Bug), the hopping Dee Clark (Kangaroo Hop), again the rocking Gene Vincent (A Big Fat Saturday Night) and the teeny Arlene Smith (Mon Cherie Au Revoir).

  From soul music’s point of view I’d like to highlight still Ben E. King’s uptown Don’t Drive Me Away, Gladys Knight & the Pips’ sensitive Come See about Me, Etta James’ big-voiced I’m Gonna Take What He’s Got, Joe Tex’ slow She Said Yeah and Millie Jackson’s funky Watch the One Who Brings You the News.

MAINSTREAM MAGIC

TASHA TAYLOR

  Taylormade (Sing Records/Tasha Taylor Music) has been out for about a year now, but nevertheless it’s such a nice CD that I wanted it to be exposed on our site, too.  Tasha is Johnnie Taylor’s daughter, and according to my calculations there are now four recording artists among Johnnie’s offspring, Tasha and three sons... but Tasha is the only one producing organic music.

  As far as I know, the first time we could listen to Tasha’s enchanting voice on record was a duet with her dad on the remake of Ain’t That Loving You (for More Reasons Than One) on Johnnie’s ’96 Malaco album, Good Love.  Then she cut with Steve Harvey a slow jazzy funk called Diggin’ Me in ’98, and her debut album entitled Revival came out in 2005.  Still on that CD she was wandering about pop, rock and folk territories, like a slightly r&b’d Norah Jones, but here on Taylormade she has carved a niche for herself as a very convincing folk-soul lady with occasional leanings to blues and funk.

  In the capacity of the main producer, arranger and writer, Tasha has a live rhythm section and horns backing her up, and she plays guitar and keys on the CD, too.  Her musical director and bass player is Nathan Watts.  The only cover on the set is a funky and storming reading of Johnnie’s ’68 gold hit, Who’s Making Love.  There are still four more funky numbers midway through, but my other toe-tapping favourite is a mid-tempo, big-voiced song named I Got Love.

  The two single releases, Queen and Merry Christmas Baby, are both heartfelt ballads with an impressive vocal rendition from Tasha.  I was also very fond of the rest four slowies - the sweet and melodic Best Friend, the folk-soulful All This Time, the bluesoulful Somebody and the pretty and sentimental Daddy’s Girl.

  According to Tasha, this album was three years in the making, but it was worth the wait.  This talented and beautiful lady is also an actress and you can find more info on her at www.tashataylor.com.

CHAZZ DIXON

  Although not in the mainstream, Chazz is an artist to reckon with.  His beautiful, high tenor voice will always be inevitably compared to that of Smokey Robinson.  He’s a prolific singer-songwriter, whose musical path is paved with such values as consistency and persistence... and, of course, high quality.

  Chazz was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in October 1955.  You can read about his early days, influences and mentors in a fine interview conducted by Kevin Goins in 2009 at http://www.examiner.com/article/a-soulful-conversation-with-chazz-dixon, and now Chazz still adds some details to it.

  After Chazz’ teenage group called the Ezettes, he was signed in the mid-70s as a writer with Gibbs Records out of Milwaukee, a label owned by Bill Gibbs.  Chazz’ first single in 1975 was with a group called First Family on Washington Records 101 out of Detroit, That’s Love/Slow Down.  “I was farmed out to Washington.  Bill Gibbs knew them.  I wrote Slow Down, the b-side of That’s Love.  I remember that the female vocalist in that group was called Kadijah.”

  Already prior to First Family, Chazz had been a member in a group called Courtyard Hustlers from 1971 through ’75, and the fourth group in his career – after the Ezettes, Courtyard Hustlers and First Family - went by the name of United Together.  “I was with them from ’75 to ’80.  The group changed its name to Patrons of the Arts and worked with Barney Perkins, a wonderful engineer, who’s deceased now.  Barney was like a big brother.  He went on to work with ABC Dunhill, and he co-wrote Want Ads for the Honey Cone.  He came in to listen to us and to my surprise he thought I had a remarkable voice.  He was a mentor and big help.  During that period we also worked a lot with the late Byron Gilliam of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in and Playboy After Dark.  Byron - a Beloit, Wisconsin, native - even booked shows for us.  In 1980 I went solo.  I got sick of all the member changes in the groups.”

  In 1980 Chazz cut his first solo single, Ain’t That Peculiar/Cruel Baby, on PoBoy Records.  “Ain’t That Peculiar was actually co-written by Marv Taplin and Smokey Robinson (and released by Marvin Gaye in 1965), and Cruel Baby is sampled in the beginning of Cruel Baby Revisited on my new album.”  Fred Williamson owned Po Boy Productions those days, so the label Chazz was on had to change its name to Quebec Records, where he released his next single, Let Me in Your Life, in 1981.  “I was then managed by Aki Aleong and Bobby Jay and his wife Cynthia.  Aki is also an actor and producer, and he also helped the group Mandrill, Barry White, Norman Connors and Marvin Gaye’s co-writer Ed Townsend.  Bobby is an Emmy Award-winner, radio personality (WCBS) and former vocalist with Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers and the Aladdins.”

  Some of Chazz’ most memorable songs from the 90s – Help Me Tell Her, How I Love You, Are You Lonely (the late Jimmy Castor played sax on it) - are compiled on his debut album, Introducing Chazz Dixon.  “Those days I also did a lot of acting, before Da Soul Recordings.  I’m a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and I’ve done a lot of television, commercials and print modelling.”

On the pic above: from the left Harvey, Carolyn, Kellee and Chazz

  “In the 70s I had the good fortune of being befriended by Harvey Fuqua.  Harvey was like a second father to me.  He was the head of the Artist Development at Motown.  I was one of the acts that he groomed, along with Sylvester and New Birth.  I was just humbled being in that group of people that he thought was worthy of sharing his talent with.  He would also send me out on assignments to research book deals and canvas theatres for performances.  I got a real education.”

  After Smokey left the Miracles for the second time in 1973, Marv Taplin soon followed him and joined Smokey’s entourage.  “Smokey allowed me to travel along with them, and just learn and learn and learn.  And that led to friendship with the likes of Sonny Burke... just so many of them.”

  Chazz was one of the founders of Da’ Soul Recordings Group  in 2003 (www.dasoulrecordings.com), and since 2004 he has eight full-length CDs released on that label: Back to the Groove, Hitsville...the House that Berry Built (’04), Crackin’ (’05), Surrender (’06), Let Me Be the One (’07), A Time for Crying, Love Notes (’09) and Snagga: the Ol’ School Party (’10).

  “We released eight CDs, and there are at least twenty CDs in the can.  There’s a lot of material.  In fact that was the big question when putting this new album out.  Everybody thought ‘why don’t you just go ahead and release what you’ve already got in the can’, but we had already started to do something new with my producer, DJ Payday... even before the death of Jeff Hegwood, or “J” as we call him, and I just decided to continue in that direction.”  Jeffrey was the president of Da’ Soul, and he passed in early 2011.

  “Da’ Soul Recordings still exists.  In fact, I am now the CEO of the label.  It was my decision to let that label exist as homage to all the works that we did and the wonderful acts that are associated with the label.  My CDs did quite well.  We had much more impact on the European market.  We’ve performed here with many national acts all over the country, and we decided that we could make a difference by making music for the adults, something they like to listen to and still have good music to dance to.”

EMOTIONAL THERAPY

  The latest CD, Emotional Therapy, is released by Time Boy Music & Groove on Entertainment Productions.  “They are independent of Da’ Soul.”  The CD is produced by DJ Payday and all 16 songs are written by Barope Dixon and Chazz.  “DJ Payday is my son.  He’s worked in the Atlanta area with a number of acts.  From the time he was about six months old, I would take him into the studio with me to watch the rehearsals.  I didn’t realise he was watching to the degree that he was.  At 14-15-16 years old he was actually in the studio recording with us, and he showed himself to be an incredible talent at the time.  That was over twenty years ago.  He started going around the country as a producer and DJ himself, and when I got ready to put this particular album together he said ‘I think you need to let me produce your next record, because I need to take you in the direction you’ve always been in but kept always hidden’. “

  The instrumentation is rather sparse, which, on the other hand leaves a lot of room for vocalizing and lets the melody breathe freely.  All the instruments are by DJ Payday, and on some tracks they are quite experimental, avant-garde and even techno.  “I don’t think I’ve ever heard an album that I’ve actually agreed with everything that I’ve heard on it.  At some point you realise you have to embark in different directions.  I could sit back comfortably and do what I’ve always done and what everybody expects, but there’s nothing artistic about that.”

  “Bob “Boogie” Bowles is a guitarist, producer and songwriter that I’ve known for over thirty years.  We went to Canada one day and Boogie told me ‘Chazz, you’re a real artist, because you’ve been making records for a long time and even though you’ve never had a major hit you keep making records for the artistic value of it’.”

  The opening song, Spinning for Love, is a smooth mover, which by musical means in an interesting way describes a constant “spinning” movement, and it’s followed by a party song called Thanks for Coming Over, but here Chazz’ voice is filtered.  “When we recorded it, it was recorded straight, and Payday asked if he would be allowed to play with the vocal some.  So he did some things to give it what the kids are doing today, the rappers, the neo-soul... I said that if you don’t take it too far away from my vocals, I’m okay with it.”

  Give a Man a Chance is a pleading and delicate, almost fragile ballad.  “I always try to talk to people - not at them, not over them, not around them - but to them.  I wanted a song that would enable me to get on stage and literally have a conversation with females in the audience in a way that if you’re sitting there with your significant other and the show is over, you go home and your wife or your significant other will make very happy that you took her to see the show.”

  The funky She Got Me and the sweeping beat-ballad called Can’t Let You Get Away are followed by I’m So Thankful, a simple song, almost like a nursery rhyme with a very primitive backing.  “That was deliberate, because we wanted something in the fashion of Coolio, but at the same time something I learned from Harvey Fuqua – KISS, keep it simple and stupid.  I’m So Thankful - we didn’t want the music take away anything from that simple and primitive message.”

  A dreamy mid-pacer titled Prom Queen and a slow and slightly dragging number named Cause of You precede the “low pressure” ballad called Stop the Rain with Tobias Cainion on sax.  “He’s a wonderful, wonderful saxophonist.  His father was my guitarist in the 80s, Jerome Cainion.  He would bring Tobias to the rehearsals.  He wasn’t more than four or five years old at that time.  He has since matured, grown and become this awesome saxophonist.”

  I Love You, a tender and laid-back serenade, is followed by a group of songs, which is of acquired taste.  Odyssey, Cruel Baby Revisited and Damaged form a section, which made me jokingly call Chazz “A space troubadour” and “The ET of soul’.”  This Sputnik-soul and techno-electro tinkling certainly form a new dimension in Chazz’ music.  “As a musician I don’t ever want to be pigeonholed into thinking that every piece of music has to be from a standpoint of a purist.  I make records to be artistic.  We weren’t afraid to do some things that most r&b singers would never try to do.”  The final track on the CD is a sunny and pretty “good morning” ballad with ocean effects called P.S...Means.

  Chazz is planning to promote this new CD with his standard crew.  “Before my accident it was not uncommon to be out several times a month, but on February 15 in 2009 in an automobile accident my neck was broken in two places and my leg was broken, so since then I’ve been going out on occasion.  I’m finally up and about with the new album, so we’ll see what’s going to happen.  Now my body is ready for it.  For many, many years I’ve been working with a wonderful team of people, and we enjoy working together.  My family on stage is Jeff (PB) Muhammad on drums, Myron Jewell on bass, Sonny Garr on keys, Mary Davis on keys, Robert Mitchell on guitar and Wess Scaggs III, Lisa Vega and Anita Easterling on vocals.”

  “We’ve been approached about working with some other acts, some of the old Motown acts, so we’ll see if that actually is going to come alive.  I know the next project will be an album about heartaches, because for me it’s all about stories.  With this album I wanted something that was light and cheery and simple and appeal to people of all demographic background. (www.chazzdixon.com, interview conducted on July 18, 2012).

SOUTHERN SOUL STEW

SWEET ANGEL

  Served in an economic package with a slim box and a CD-R inside, Mr. Wrong Gonna Get This Love Tonight is Sweet Angel’s fifth album after a 4-CD stint with Ecko Records.  Arranged by Clifetta Dobbins aka Sweet Angel and also produced by her together with Mike Dobbins, her husband, the tracks were cut in Memphis and Sweet Angel plays alto saxophone on four of them.  She also wrote eight of the ten songs on display.

  The set opens with the title song, a smooth and pleasant soul ballad, which is followed by an easy, ironically Ecko type of a dancer called Juking (at the Hole in the Wall).  One later track named Soul Stepping belongs to the same category.  On Zydeco Funk the title really says it all, and the honkytonky Blow That Thang Again is a sequel to an old Ecko number, offering live jamming with some talking, singing and honking. 

  The galloping Love Thief is an angry outburst, but Touch Me takes us back to fine, pleading soul balladry.  Nappy Brown’s ’58 song on Savoy, Don’t Hurt Me No More, bears a slight resemblance to Drown in My Own Tears, and the second outside tune and the closing song is Prince’s Purple Rain, which, I believe, is also Sweet Angel’s finale song on her shows these days.  It’s dramatic enough with Sweet Angel blowing her saxophone through the second half of the song and it’s an uplifting ending to a CD that offers a respectably wide range of styles.

LENNY WILLIAMS

  I’ve been a fan of Lenny Williams for almost forty years now, so I don’t like him falling into the same trap as some other classy singers recently by adding urban elements to their music in trying to woo younger listeners.  You may lose both ways: you don’t reach new generations and you lose your old fans.  I was expecting the worst after reading in the liner notes that “all instruments and background vocals by Derek DOA Allen”.  He worked with Lenny already on the previous CD (Unfinished Business in 2009), but fortunately the result here wasn’t as awful as I was anticipating.

  Still in the Game kicks off with the recent hit simply called Still and it’s a nice, relaxed and subtle slow song.  It’s followed by another peaceful ballad named This Is for the One That Got Away, which has that contemporary touch to it and DOA’s so-called background voices, which actually mean mechanized and overpowering “front” vocals.  They’re repeated on a few other tracks, too, viz. a growing slowie titled In My Mind, peppered with a rock guitar solo, and an otherwise pretty ballad called Sunshine.

  There must be at least one long and dramatic downtempo song on each Lenny’s set, and here it is a divorce drama in the courtroom titled Where Did Our Love Go.  We’re talking about Lenny’s this year’s “oh-oh-oh” song in the Cause I Love You vein.  His singing is great and soulful, and the finished product would have been perfect without DOA’s rhythm instrumentation.  On This Day is a beautiful serenade, and here Kirk Whalum is featured on saxophone.

  Of the five mid- and uptempo tracks, Omar Cunningham wrote Good Girl, and here the first bars with familiar guitar riff and the rest of the arrangement made me expect a cover of Wilson Pickett’s I’m in LoveGrown Man is a catchy ditty, whereas a party bouncer named I’m Sorry I Didn’t Know It Was Your Mama was lifted from the previous CD (www.lennywilliams.com).

WILLIE WEST

  Willie is a 70-year-old New Orleans veteran, who was born in Raceland, Mississippi, but who didn’t have the standard church music upbringing but instead was first enchanted by blues masters, Guitar Slim and James “Thunderbird” Davis.  His first single, You Stole My Heart, as Little Willie West and the Sharks was released on RusTone in 1960, and since then in the 60s he recorded for such labels as Frisco, Josie, Deesu and Stang.  In the 70s he was a member of the Meters for two spells, and recently he’s been recording for the Finnish label, Timmion (www.timmion.com).  In addition to three vinyl singles, there’s also an album in the pipeline later this year.  Many times during his career Willie has been on the brink of a breakthrough, but always something unexpected and unfortunate happened that prevented him from crossing over.

  Can’t Help Myself (Aviara, AVI 15; www.cdsrecords.com) is Willie’s 4th solo CD within fifteen last years.  Produced, arranged and all songs (except one) composed by Willie and Carl Marshall, they have a live rhythm section and the 3-piece Smokin’ Minnesota Horns backing them up.  Actually Carl had produced Willie’s first two CDs, too, so this is their third joint effort.

  Willie’s voice isn’t as sharp and clear as it used to be, but even with his weakened pipes he still reaches out to falsetto every now and then.  I skip the obligatory and clichéd blues and party songs in the beginning and start really enjoying the set from the track # 5 onwards - Not as Sweet as You is a pulsating dancer and a few tracks later Where Did I Go Wrong is another brisk toe-tapper.

  The most pleasing tracks and the most suitable songs for Willie’s today’s range are the four peaceful ballads that fill the latter half of the set.  The melancholy I’ll Live, the pleading If You Love Me and the gentle Long Gone are all intimate, “by the fireside” songs, whereas NOLA My Home is a pretty, unhurried praise to New Orleans, Louisiana, written by Willie’s long-time buddy, Bobby Love (www.myspace.com/williewest08).

  You’ll find these indie CDs above in no time at www.intodeepmusic.com

BLACK BOOKCASE

SIDNEY BARNES

  Standing on Solid Ground by Sidney Barnes and Tom Wright (BarVada Books, ISBN: 978-0-9816322-7-8) took me a long time to read.  The reason for that wasn’t the thickness of the book (over 600 pages, eight of which with black & white photos), but the choice of input and priorities, which made me put the book aside every now and then.  In Tommy Hunt’s biography Only Human he pours himself a drink almost on every page, but in Sidney’s case at times I wasn’t sure if I was reading the memoirs of a music maker or a playboy.  There’s nothing wrong in naming the leading ladies of one’s life and numerous girlfriends and describe them shortly, but you don’t have to praise them repeatedly, one page after another and reveal irrelevant details.  My hunch is that this is not the kind of information Sidney Barnes fans are looking for in this book.

  Subtitled My Life and Struggles in the Music Biz, fortunately Sidney concentrates on music, too, which, as we all know, isn’t always self-evident in books of this category.  A singer/songwriter/musician/producer, Sidney Alexander Barnes Jr. was born in West Virginia in 1941 and he tells widely about his childhood, his relatives and such phenomena as religion and segregation those days... and even whiskey-drinking gospel singers. 

  Actually we get more or less into music only on page 87.  Marvin Gaye joined Sidney’s Tear Drops in 1955 and Van McCoy his Dream Tones a bit later.  His later groups included the Embracers, the Serenaders with George Kerr and the Fiestas.  He cut his first solo single, Wait My Love, for Gemini in 1961, and a couple of years later he formed a writing team with J.J. Jackson and a production team with his life-long buddy, George Clinton.  There’s a lot of name-dropping, but I was most surprised at the big amount of spelling mistakes in names, as if somebody had dictated the text to an uninitiated transcriber.

  Sidney wrote songs constantly and offered them in New York to Brill Building crews, to Juggy Murray at Sue and to Jobete Music at Motown – he worked for their New York office in the early 60s - and some of those tunes turned into small hits by other artists.  In the mid-60s Sidney himself cut two of today’s northern soul favourites, I Hurt on the Other Side and You’ll Always Be in Style.

  At Chess in the late 60s, alongside writing songs, he became a member of a psychedelic rock & soul group called Rotary Connection, with Minnie Riperton as a co-lead and Charles Stepney as an arranger.  In the 70s and early 80s he kept on working with Maurice White, Gene Chandler and Deniece Williams, to name a few.  He took a day job in 1982 as a security guard and lobby attendant, until Ian Levine contacted him first for a video and then Sidney was called for his first gig to England in 2001.  After residing mainly in Chicago and LA for the last forty years, Sidney has now settled down in North Carolina.

  Sidney’s life has been eventful.  When sticking to music, this is an interesting book and it could have been even better, had they edited it, cut shorter and used a proofreader.  There’s a new three-track CD by Sidney to go with the book, and it contains a melancholic, melodic mid-tempo song called Silence, a slow-to-midtempo beater named Your Old Lady (Turns Me On) and a dancefloor number titled Feel So Right.  There’s no index in the book, but instead there’s a discography of some of the recorded songs Sidney has written over the years, and you’ll find that info also at www.sidneybarnes.net.

THOMAS “BEANS” BOWLES

  Dr. Beans Bowles – “Fingertips”, the Untold Story is a book that has been available for about two years, but now it’s being re-promoted together with a new CD, Thisisit, by its writer and Beans’ son, Dennis Bowles (www.beansbowlesfingertips.com). Also this book has its fair share of spelling mistakes and there’s no index either, but it’s a true labour of love in the sense that it’s self-published.  With 240 pages, thirty of them are illustrated with black & white photos at the end, but there are many small snap photos along the way, too.

  A baritone sax and flute master & music director and conductor & arranger & tour manager, Mr. Thomas Harold Bowles, Sr. was born on May 7 in 1926 in South Bend, Indiana, and in the book his sister, Erma Bowles, tells – associating quite freely – about their childhood days.  The nick-name “Beans” derives from Thomas’ 6-foot-5 frame.  In 1943 Thomas moved to Detroit, worked at the Flame Bar, played for many years with Maurice King, cut his first record together with Berry Gordy on Marv Johnson (Come to Me) and became Marv’s road manager and musical director.

  Beans organized The Motor Town Special, which later was renamed The Motown Revue, he worked with Al Bryant and others at the I.T.M.I., which stands for International Talent Management Incorporated, at Motown.  He was the first manager for the Temptations, and later worked as the musical conductor for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and the Four Tops.  He was robbed off the writing credits for Stevie Wonder’s first hit, Fingertips (in 1963), and this unjust and apparently deliberate act is described in detail in the book.  Beans himself cut at least eleven tracks at the Hitsville studio, which were scheduled for the Workshop Jazz release (WSJ 215), but were never issued.

  The book contains chapters that concentrate on certain episodes in Beans’ life.  There’s his official, 24-pages long statement in Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in the bribery case, which led to the mob putting pressure on Berry Gordy and making him eventually sack Beans.  After that Earl Van Dyke saved him by hiring him to perform at the Twenty Grand.  There’s also Don Davis reminiscing, there’s a description of Paul Williams’ (of the Temptations) last days and his death and a short article on prostate cancer, which was the cause of Beans’ passing on January 29 in 2000 at the age of 73.

  Dennis also tells about his own duo called the Other Brothers, which he formed with his brother Harold, who passed away a year ago.  In the beginning of the book there are tributes to Beans by twenty-five artists – almost all of them Motowners – which only made me wish that I could have read more about Beans’ actual work at the I.T.M.I. and his days with the Temptations, Miracles, Four Tops and others; if not from the files and recollections of the late Beans himself, then perhaps from those acts directly.  After all, music and the making of music are the most important elements we’re usually looking for in these books.

© Heikki Suosalo





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