DEEP # 3/2014 (June)
I’m aware that
my column is quite long this time, but the contents are also special. It’s
summer, a slow season, so take it easy and – if interested - read the article
little by little, in passages. There are two extraordinary ladies featured.
New Orleans’ Irma Thomas talks about her early 70s shelved Atlantic album, which
has now been exposed, and also about her other recent activities, while Atlanta’s
Candi Staton has just released one of the best soul CDs this year. She’s
very excited about it.
Rue Davis out
of Houston, Texas, has so far released 12 albums, but he’s still better known
as a prolific songwriter. His whole 35-year career is featured below. Besides
a lot of CDs, there are also two interesting books reviewed towards the end of
the column, one on Bert Berns and the other one on Bill Medley of
the Righteous Brothers.
On a sad note,
with a heavy heart I wrote a short tribute to the late Ralph Pruitt of the
Fantastic Four. Still at the very end three of our old friends say hello.
Content and quick links:
New CD release, CD reissue & compilation reviews:
Irma Thomas: Full Time Woman/The Lost Cotillion Sides
Will Downing: Euphoria
Lostsessions: Audio Photograph
Dionne Warwick: Presenting Dionne Warwick / Anyone Who Had A Heart / Make Way / The Sensitive Sound
Dionne Warwick: Here I Am & Live In Paris & Here Where There Is Love & On Stage And In Movies
Dionne Warwick: Windows Of The World & In The Valley Of The Dolls & Promises & Soulful
Dionne Warwick: I'll Never Fall In Love / Very Dionne / Dionne / Just Being Myself
Various Artists: Doré L.A. Soul Sides
Candi Staton: Life Happens
Carl Sims: Are You Serious
Rue Davis: Shake It Loose
O.B. Buchana: Pop-Yo’-Bottle
The Revelations: The Cost of Living
Joe Selvin: Here Comes the Night
Mike Marino & Bill Medley: The Time of My Life/A Righteous Brother’s Memoir
IRMA THOMAS *
In Memphis Irma
was recently celebrated as the winner in the category “Soul Blues Female
Artist” at the 35th Blues Music Awards. You may have also seen her
in two episodes of the TV series Treme last year. Irma: “I did a couple
of those. I played poker and also in another scene I’m doing a song for the
guy, who’s making a special opera.”
If you read my
interview with her, conducted twenty years back, at http://www.soulexpress.net/irmathomas.htm,
you’ll find out that she wasn’t very pleased with the tracks that Atlantic/Cotillion
cut on her in 1971, but eventually left in the can. She openly stated that “I
hope it never comes out. They wanted me to sound like Diana Ross, but I
wouldn’t do it... They had me singing in keys that were not comfortable for
me. I thought it was a very awful session.” (please scroll down midway
through, till the heading Atlantic).
Now that shelved
material has been exposed on Full Time Woman/The Lost Cotillion Sides (Real
Gone Music, RGM-0224/OPCD 8818; notes by David Nathan), featuring 13
previously unreleased tracks cut in 1971 and ’72. “I found out through a
record store. I didn’t even know it was out. There’s a local record store
here called The Music Factory and they keep up with a lot of the local
entertainers here in New Orleans and in the state of Louisiana. Evidently
somebody sent them a copy, and they gave me that copy. They’re not bad songs.
They’re pretty decent songs. They’re just in such keys that I sound like I’m
screaming. They really tried to make me sound like Diana Ross, and you know
how that goes.”
Irma Thomas photos courtesy of Rick Oliver
FULL TIME WOMAN
single was released from that period. In 1971 Cotillion put out a gorgeous
country-soul ballad titled Full Time Woman. It was cut at Malaco,
produced by Wardell Quezergue and backed with a pulsating dancer called She’s
Taken My Part. They are both included on this CD, but for some strange
reason Full Time Woman didn’t chart. Even Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler admits
that it’s one of his favourites. Irma: “Isn’t that ironic! That was in a good
key. I have sung that a couple of times. I had already recorded Full Time
Woman before. They released me right after that. I don’t think I was with
that company for more than a year.”
The third song
Wardell produced, but which stayed in the can, was an intense and slowly
swaying soul ballad named All I Wanna Do Is Save You. “I have to listen
to the CD again. I don’t remember the titles and how they go, because – as I
said – I’ve tried to forget that session (laughing). I have to go through a
learning process all over again.”
Eight of the
songs that were meant for the upcoming album were cut in Detroit and produced
by Joe Hinton - not the Back Beat singer, but a writer for Motown and
also a recording artist in his own right under such names as Jay Lewis and
Little Joe Hinton. They were for the most part pop and show songs, such
as the gentle Shadow of the Sun, the mid-tempo Waiting for Someone and
Try to Be Thankful and Bobbie Gentry’s sequel to Ode to Billie
Joe titled this time Fancy.
The big-voiced standard
Time after Time really reaches too high for Irma, and a melodic and
easily flowing mid-tempo song called Turn around and Love Me is indeed
tailor-made for Diana Ross. Our Love Don’t Come That Easy is funky,
whereas Try to Be Thankful is a tuneful country-soul ballad.
produced still two songs in Miami in 1972 together with Arif Mardin, a
catchy and poppy dancer titled It’s Eleven O’clock (Do You Know Where Your
Love Is) and a slower poppy swayer called Could It Be Differently.
“Joe and Arif were the ones, who told Atlantic Records that I don’t have it
anymore. Since that time I’ve won a Grammy. I’ve got introduced into the
Blues Hall of Fame. I have at least nine or ten Blues Music Awards, so – for
somebody, who doesn’t have it anymore – I ain’t doing too bad, am I?
(laughing). Now I don’t hear from any of those people.”
“I did hear from
Jerry before he died. I saw him, when I got my first Grammy nomination. The
last time they held the Grammys in New York, I spoke with him, and he just
smiled. After that I spoke with him a couple of times on the phone, before he
passed away. We were on good terms, before he died. I wasn’t on bad terms
with him at the time, because he was only doing what somebody else told him and
he believed them, so I’m not blaming him. He was putting his trust in people,
who he thought knew what they were doing.”
The final two
tracks were cut at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia and produced by the
Young Professionals, consisting of LeBaron Taylor, Phil Hurtt and Bunny
Sigler. A Song with No Name aka Song for Jim is a bouncy Philly
tune and Adam and Eve a faster and airy dancer. “They were sending me
all over the place. Back then you did what the record company told you to do.
I was following the instructions. In Philadelphia they were doing something
that I guess they had left over.”
THE LION’S DEN
Irma has returned home. “I’ve been back since 2007. I’m back in the same
house that was in the flood. We redid it and moved back into it. De decided
not to open our club, The Lion’s Den, because at the time, when we came
back, we couldn’t find good employees. They had moved away and they didn’t
move back, so we decided to let it go. We were leasing that part of the
“If you find me
working in a club, it’ll be owned by somebody else. That’s a hard business to
be in. Your mind is 24/7 in that business, because you have to operate and
make sure everything goes well. You have a lot of paperwork involved – taxes,
employment... – it’s a lot of brainwork as well as physical work involved in
owning a club, if you’re going to operate it properly. So we just decided that
at my age we just leave it alone. I’ll just stick with the singing part
(laughing). We had some wonderful years at The Lion’s Den and there are times,
when I miss having it, but I don’t really want to be a full-time club owner
Irma Thomas photos courtesy of Rick Oliver
CD, Simply Grand, was released on Rounder in 2008 – six years ago! “I’m
not with any record company on a regular basis anymore, and no-one has shown
any great interest in recording me, so I don’t know what the future holds when
it comes to doing another CD, because everybody is doing their own thing
nowadays. I’m still working as much as I’ve ever worked in terms of live
“I speak with
Rounder’s Scott Billington all the time. He lives here in New Orleans now from time to time. He married a local lady. Rounder Records has been
bought out by Concord, and they moved from Massachusetts to Nashville, and part
of it is in California. They still appreciate me vocally, but they haven’t
decided financially what they want to do in terms of recording.”
all over the places, so I’m still a viable working entertainer. I don’t get
many calls for jobs in Europe right now, and most of them want me to come
without my band, and I don’t want to do that. That’s not a good show without
my own band. Today I haven seven pieces. I still do rhythm & blues, and
when you do r&b, I don’t want to cut back and use synthesizers or some kind
of mechanical things to do what horns do. I want live musicians, because that’s
what makes the music what it is.”
“And I’m still
working on my book. Hopefully I’ll have it completed by the end of the year.”
conducted on April 11, 2014).
WILL DOWNING *
‘Elegant’ is the
key word in describing Will Downing’s music. Only eight songs on display and
the running time of mere 36 minutes, the latest CD, Euphoria
(Sophisticated Soul; www.willdowning.com),
is actually Will’s 17th studio album and I for one am a proud owner
of all of them on Island, Mercury, Verve, Motown, Peak Records, Concord and
Sophisticated Soul (www.soulexpress.net/willdowning_discography.htm).
Produced by Will
himself, he writes on the sleeve that “I decided to go back to my roots, a
combination of Jazz and R&B”, and indeed, backed by a skilful combo, Will
creates a relaxed but captivating late-night atmosphere with a subtle jazzy
touch. There are innovative covers of many familiar songs, such as Stevie
Wonder’s Too High and a restrained and sensual version of Gamble
& Huff’s Turn off the Lights, with a sax solo by Gerald
the slow and atmospheric Heaven in Your Eyes, whereas Lush Life is
a well-known “lounge” standard. There’s a soothing Latin touch on Meu Bem
Querer, and Hall & Oates’ She’s Gone is the poppiest
track on the set. The beautiful If I Were a Magician was earlier
recorded at least by Lou Rawls and the co-writer of the song, Billy
Vera, and finally the jazziest cut on the CD, You Can Bring Me Flowers,
was recorded also by its co-writer, an American folk singer by the name of Ray
Lamontagne. I thoroughly enjoyed this ‘elegant’ Euphoria by
promoter and a big Blue Magic fan out of L.A., California, Mr. Edward
D. Turner (www.lostsessions.com),
has released his first CD, Audio Photograph, for which he wrote
all six songs, recorded and mixed them and played guitar, keys and bass,
alongside programming. On vocals this multi-talented musician is aided by Karine
Da Silva, Karon Floyd and Jennifer Hopson.
The opener, Incredulity,
is up-beat, experimental urban music with Eye-Slow’s rap squeezed in,
but I prefer the two next mid-tempo songs with a Latin touch, Mary and Audio
Photograph. The instrumental titled Mary is dedicated to Eddie’s
mother and you’ll find it on YouTube (“Lostsessions MaryC Tribute”). Not
another Love Song is a jazzy ballad, followed by another melodic and
downtempo song, the dreamy Hey Yu. Smooth and atmospheric!
These are happy
but costly times for those Dionne Warwick fans, who want to replace their old
vinyl records with CDs. Soon they’ll re-release her Arista albums, but already
now for a few months we’ve been able to enjoy her first sixteen albums released
between 1963 and ’73, fourteen on Scepter Records and two on Warner. It all
adds up to 9 CDs, 194 tracks – 32 of them are bonus tracks – and almost exactly
ten hours worth of music. The only albums that are not repeated here – besides
Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One and Part 2, Dionne Warwick’s
Greatest Motion Picture Hits and The Dionne Warwicke Story – are her
’68 inspirational set, The Magic of Believing, and her ’72 compilation, From
Dionne Warwick (released
in 1963) / Anyone Who Had a Heart (’64) / Make Way
for Dionne Warwick (’64; # 10 – r&b / # 68 – pop, in Billboard) /
The Sensitive Sound of Dionne Warwick (’65; # - / 107) – Edsel, EDSK
7051; www.demonmusicgroup.co.uk (2
charted singles: Don’t
Make Me Over (*), This Empty Place, Make the Music Play, Anyone Who Had
a Heart (*), Walk On By (*), You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You
Break My Heart), A House Is Not a Home, Reach out for Me, Who Can I Turn to,
You Can Have Him
*) denotes a top-ten r&b hit.
I assume that
everybody is familiar with Dionne’s big hits, so I decided just to list them
and concentrate on other highlights and interesting tracks on these albums. Dionne’s
(http://dionnewarwick.us) music roots go
back to church and gospel, after which on the secular side she became a session
singer until she teamed up with Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Her history is told in detail in Tony Rounce’s annotations.
The fast and
poppy I Smiled Yesterday is the original A-side to Don’t Make Me Over,
and Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah just might be the original 60s take on that song.
Make It Easy on Yourself is the original demo, and other highlights
include a poignant ballad called I Cry Alone and The Love of a Boy, another
pretty downtempo song - plus two-mid-pacers, Put Yourself in My Place and
That’s Not the Answer. Dionne’s (They Long to Be) Close to you is
one of the first recordings of that modern-day standard.
The first Presenting
album concentrated a lot on teeny pop, whereas Make Way became
the first charted album. The Sensitive LP was mostly recorded in London, and it was crammed with lush and sugary or jazzy renditions of standards and
melodies from musicals, which really isn’t my music.
Here I Am (’65; # 3 / 45) / Dionne Warwick in Paris (’66; # 3 / 76) / Here Where There Is Love (’66; # 1 / 18) /
On Stage and in the Movies (’67; # 11 / 169) – EDSK 7052 (2 CDs)
charted singles: Here
I Am, Looking With My Eyes, Are You There (with Another Girl), Message to
Michael (*), Trains and Boats and Planes, I Just Don’t Know What to Do
with Myself, Alfie (*)
The Here I Am
album contains as many as nine Bacharach-David compositions, and the music
veers strongly to the middle-of-the-road. Most notably exceptions are two
tracks. One is like a reminder of Dionne’s 50s days, a pure gospel rendition
of This Little Light of Mine, and the second one – Long Day, Short
Night – is close to joyous Caribbean rhythms.
Being a jazzy
big-band recording, In Paris, faired surprisingly well on the charts.
There’s even one duet with Sacha Distel, Oh Yeah Yeah Yeah,
although music-wise it’s inferior. Still on the big minus side, What’d I
Say is embarrassingly poor.
There Is Love was certified gold, and it really is quite strong r&b
album, with a couple of MOR tracks thrown in. Besides three hit songs (Alfie,
Trains... and I Just Don’t Know...), there’s the melodic title
ballad and a nice version of What the World Needs Now Is Love.
The title of the
last album on this set (On Stage and in the Movies) really tells it
all. It was strange, how Dionne often followed her entertaining and soulful
album – and usually a good seller - with a Broadway & jazz LP. You’ll
Never Walk Alone, of course, is the well-known “soccer” big ballad and Anything
You Can Do is sort of Mexican fun with Chuck Jackson.
The Windows of the World (’67; #
11 / 22) / In the Valley of the Dolls (’68; # 2 / 6) /
Promises, Promises (’68; # 7 / 18) / Soulful (’69; # 2 /
11) – EDSX-3017 (3 CDs)
charted singles: Another
Night, The Beginning of Loneliness, The Windows of the World, I Say a Little
Prayer (*), (Theme From) Valley of the Dolls, (There’s) Always Something
There to Remind Me, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, Let Me Be Lonely, Who Is
Gonna Love Me?, Promises, Promises, This Girl’s in Love with You (*), The
April Fools, Odds and Ends, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
The first album consisted of six melodic B&D
songs, plus – inevitably - movie themes and jazzy standards. Actually I Say
a Little Prayer evolved into a gold single. The following Dolls set
was Dionne’s second gold album, and, besides five B&D melodies, there were
such thundering Italian big ballads as You’re My World, Silent Voices and
For the Rest of My Life. Valley of the Dolls and Do You Know
the Way to San Jose hit top-ten on the Hot charts, so they were bigger pop
than r&b hits.
After the convincing Dolls album we once
again return to MOR on Promises, Promises. One of the cover songs is Little
Green Apples, better known by O.C. Smith at that point. Yesterday
I Heard the Rain is an impressive big ballad.
For the Soulful album Dionne went to the
American Studios in Memphis, and it really is a nod to real soul music –
notwithstanding We Can Work It Out, A Hard Day’s Night, Hey Jude and People
Got to Be Free – but it also shows that she’s not a convincing southern or
deep soul singer – witness I’m Your Puppet, Do Right Woman – Do Right Man and
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now). Her style is a bit too
light for the genre.
This package contains 3 CDs, because there are as
many as 22 bonus tracks included, most of them Dionne’s own production, and
many of them are available on the ’72 From Within set. There are some
rejected Memphis tracks – The Weight, Loving You Is Sweeter than Ever, The
Love of My Man – and most of them are cover songs. Again there are a
couple of big Italian ballads (Dedicato All’ Amore, La Voce del Silenzio)
a light version of Ronnie Dyson’s hit, If You Let Me Make Love to You
Then Why Can’t I Touch You?, a speeded-up interpretation of Put a Little
Love in Your Heart and gospelly renditions of Reach out and Touch
(Somebody’s Hand) & All kinds of People and To Be Young Gifted and
Black, with Cissy Houston on the background. Now this is powerful
and soulful! More soulful than the album called Soulful!
I’ll Never Fall in Love Again ’70; # 7 / 23) / Very Dionne (’70;
# 8 / 37) / Dionne (’72; # 22 / 54) / Just Being Myself (’73;
# - / 178) – EDSK 7053 (2 CDs)
charted singles: I’ll
Never Fall in Love Again, Let Me Go to Him, Paper Mache, Make It Easy on
Yourself, The Green Grass Starts to Grow, Who Gets the Guy, Amanda, If We Only
Have Love, (I’m) Just Being Myself
Bacharach and David composed seven out of ten songs
on the first of these four albums, and some of them are quite infectious (The
Wine Is Young, Loneliness Remembers, Let Me Go to Him), while others tend
to be too schmaltz. The title song, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,
became a top-ten pop hit, and Dionne recorded Raindrops Keep Falling on My
Head approximately the same time as B.J. Thomas.
Alongside four B&D tunes, Very Dionne is
again packed with familiar songs with quite rosy arrangements. They Don’t
Give Medals (to Yesterday’s Heroes) and Going out of My Head get
big-voiced treatments from Dionne. Among the ten bonus tracks there’s the
melodic He’s Moving On, a fast hillbilly titled California, a
nice duet with B.J. Thomas on Make it Easy on Yourself and a sweet cover
of Gene Pitney’s ’62 hit, Only Love Can Break a Heart.
For Dionne’s first Warner album, Dionne, they
chose seven B&D songs, and actually this was the last time the threesome
worked together. The material is smooth and mainly slow but again slightly too
sophisticated and sweet – soft pop music, in fact. They had a bigger
production budget, and it shows especially on the big ballad called If We
Only Have Love.
Holland-Dozier-Holland was the production
team on Just Being Myself, and they also wrote most of the songs.
Although commercially this album was a flop and the material wasn’t initially
written for Dionne, I think the record is undervalued and is actually much more
soulful than the Soulful album. It includes the punchy and dramatic I
Think You Need Love, the melodic and romantic You Are the Heart of Me,
the touching Don’t Let My Teardrops Bother You, the mid-tempo Come
Back and the powerful Don’t Burn the Bridge (that Took You Across).
Looking now back at all these sixteen albums, I declare this last one to be the
winner. And it was released just two years prior to my all-time favourite
album by Dionne Warwick, Track of the Cat, produced by Thom Bell.
L.A. SOUL FROM DORÉ
Doré label out of Hollywood, California, released over 500 singles between 1958
and ’87. Their first smash was the Teddy Bears’ To Know Him, Is to
Love Him, which was certified gold in ’58, and after that for about five or
six years they concentrated on Jan & Dean and numerous other pop
Sides (CDKEND 415; www.acerecords.com;
24 tracks, 62 min., liners by Ady Croasdell) is a compilation featuring
Doré’s soul catalogue and covering the period from 1962 till ’69 – with the
exception of one nice ballad, Sunshine by Starbright!, which was
released as late as in 1975. Lew himself produced majority of the music.
The Whispers cut
a doowopish ballad called It Only Hurts for a Little While during their
short stay on Doré in 1964 and a year later the primary group on the label, the
Superbs, excelled on a fledgling soul ballad - with strings and all -
titled Baby’s Gone Away. Still one year later a girl trio called the
Vel-Vetts cooed on a soul swayer named You Really Never Know Till It’s
Over, but among the down-tempo songs the cream cut for me is Toussaint
McCall’s laconic and melancholy I Would Rather Have All or Nothing from
1969. Toussaint is still active and in 2010 he put out two CDs, For Lovers
Only and Let This Christmas Bring Love on LaSaint Records. On this
compilation there’s also one shelved track from Toussaint, a toe-tapper called I’ll
Laugh Till I Cry.
Picking up the
tempo, in 1966 the Fidels came up with a fascinating mid-pacer á la the
Drifters, Take away this Loneliness, and Rita & the Tiaras released
Gone with the Wind Is My Love, an easy-going, poppy mover. In the
category of “strongly influenced by” there’s one “Sam Cooke” song (Your
Love Belongs to Me by Tommy & Leon from 1963), one Mother-in-Law
all over again (Family Man by Slim & the Twilites in ’62)
and one Fred Hughes sound-alike (Oh How I Love You by Little
Johnny Hamilton & the Creators in ‘65). Musically L.A.
Soul Sides was a more varied set than I expected.
SOUTHERN SOUL STEW
CANDI STATON *
always been easy on Candi Staton, and she’s been bitterly disappointed
with many close people in her life, but her relationship with music keeps on
flourishing and it’s actually growing deeper, as her latest CD, Life
Happens (Beracah, BRI-31340), is one of the best in her career. Candi:
“I enjoyed making it. It’s like my life. Each song has its own story. Each
song tells some of the things that I have been through.”
The album &
production coordinator and one of the background singers is Candi’s own
daughter, Cassandra Hightower. Cassandra: “I’ve been singing since I
was probably fourteen or fifteen years old. I sang on all her gospel albums, then
on Honest Jons Records’ His Hands and Who’s Hurting Now? and on
this new album also.”
There are three
production units on this 15-track album, and especially one of these
collaborations brings back a lot of memories and even creates a tinge of
nostalgia. For three tracks Candi returned to Rick Hall, to the Fame
Studios in Muscle Shoals, where she first recorded forty-five years ago.
Candi: “We actually did four songs together, but we canned one. We didn’t
think it would fit this particular format on this album.” Please read Candi’s
own comments on that first Fame era at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep2_2011.htm#candistaton.
“Rick and I had
talked at least two years about doing something else together and I just kept
putting it off. I thought that we’ve done our things together and I’ve moved
on, and he kept saying ‘Candi, I think we’ve got one more hit’. Finally we set
a date and I and one of my sons drove up to Muscle Shoals and we went through
some songs that we thought would be great for me right now.”
All Candi Staton photos courtesy of Sean Cokes
I AIN’T EASY TO LOVE
three tracks is the first single release, a slow and steady roller set to
southern rock and country called I Ain’t Easy to Love, and here Candi
shares solo with John Paul White and Jason Isbell. The track
features a full sound, including a 4-piece horn section and one David Hood on
bass. “That song touched me in my heart, because it’s so real. Once the
courtship and the honeymoon are over, none of us are easy to love (laughing).
Then you got to learn, who it is you’re married to.”
a melodic, quick-tempo dancer that just keeps on building up. “Rick sent that
to me, when we first started talking, and before our meeting I had almost learned
the song, because I loved it so much.” Never Even Had the Chance is a
slow, tuneful and plaintive ballad, which its co-writer, Brad Crisler,
had cut five years earlier. “I was going through the divorce at the time, and
that song, Never Even Had the Chance to Cry, particularly touched my
heart, and I said ‘we can do this one’.
One wonders if
recording at Fame these days was any different compared to the late 60s and
early 70s. “I was in control. That’s the difference. I’ve always had to
listen to what other people wanted me to do. I never really expressed myself.
I was like ‘I love that song’. ‘But we’re not doing that song’. ‘Why not,
it’s one of my favourites’. ‘It’s not going to fit the format’ – and I’m
frustrated. But this time I had the last word. That’s why you hear the depth
of me in this music. I could sing it as many times as I wanted. Earlier it
was ‘it’s a good cut, let’s not do it again’. ‘But I’m not satisfied with the
way I interpreted the song’. ‘We’re not doing it over’. This time I was able
to say ‘now I’m satisfied. I want the world to hear me what I really feel’.”
CLOSE TO YOU
“With my band Push
- that goes on the road with me – we did Close to You and Where
I’m at. We did those in London. I love those songs. They did the tracks
and I did the lyrics, and – honestly! – those are two of my favourite ones.”
Indeed, a gentle, mid-tempo pop song titled Close to You and a fast
dancer named Where I’m at were cut at Boogie Back Studios in London,
produced by Ernie McKone (bass) and the music composed by Tony Baker (guitar,
keys), Crispin Taylor (drums) and Ernie.
“My son and I
produced the other ones.” Candi’s son, Marcus Williams, also plays
drums on those remaining ten tracks that were cut and mixed at The Cave in Atlanta, Georgia. “That’s my studio. It’s not where I’m living, but in another building.
We’ve had it for years.”
Happens is thematically constructed so that the first third consists
mainly of positive love song, the next section tells about marital problems and
troubled times and at the very end there are songs with a social message, such
as a slow bluesy number called Have You Seen the Children? and a
down-tempo beater titled A Better World Coming. “It’s all about life.
Here in America kids are being killed for no reason at all, like for playing
that music too loud, and I’m like ‘somebody needs to speak on this’. This is
life. Life happens, but it shouldn’t happen to these kids. Then there’s
babies having babies, at 12-15 years old. Mothers don’t have time for
grandkids. They’re too young to be a grandmother. They’re still partying,
they’re still going out, and baby’s in everybody’s way. Some of them don’t
make it. They drown in a bathtub, some of them are slapped on and die. This is
very true, where I live. That’s going on every day. It’s just tragedy.”
those positive songs in the first third of the CD, Candi wrote a beautiful love
serenade named For Eternity. “I wrote it about fifteen years ago for a
couple in my church at the time. They were getting married.” Even the Bad
Times Are Good is a melodic country song, written by Dan Tyler. “He
was someone from Nashville. He presented that song for the Who’s Hurting
Now? CD, but Honest Jons wouldn’t let me do it. I wanted to do it then.
And he wouldn’t let me do any fast songs. He wanted all the songs slow, and
I’m like ‘Mark (Ainley), we need some uptempo songs on this album to
balance it. ‘No, we’re just doing these’. That’s why I now did it myself.”
Your Man and You Treat Me like a Secret are both funky and
horn-heavy numbers and both are based on actual incidents in Candi’s life. My
Heart’s on Empty belongs to the same bag.
We can trace a
soft and touching country & soul song called Where Were You? back to
those Fame sessions. “I got it from Fame. Rick wouldn’t let me do that one.
When we finished those four songs, I said ‘Rick, would it be okay, if I go and
produce Where Were You? myself’? He said ‘sure, go ahead and do it’. So
we went in and it turned out so good. Those were the things I was dealing with
my ex-husband – strip-clubs, drugs and stuff he was on – and I was going
through a lot of pain. That was the question I wanted to ask ‘where were you,
when you knew that you didn’t love me anymore’.”
THREE MINUTES TO A RELAPSE
to a Relapse is like an EW&F type of hard-hitting dancer, with
Candi in an almost aggressive mood. “I was telling him off. I was a MA-A-A-D
woman (laughing). I gave him three minutes to get out of my sight. My
daughter Cassandra came up with the title, so I gave her a little bit of
publishing. One day we were talking and she was so angry at somebody and she
said ‘I’m about three minutes to a relapse’, and I said ‘oh, that’s a song
title. I’m going to write the lyrics’ (laughing).”
Candi, the new CD is doing quite well. “We’re getting a lot of downloads and
great reviews. I’m also going to be back on David Letterman in July for
an entire hour.” Candi performed I Ain’t Easy to Love with John and
Jason first in David Letterman’s Late Show in October 2013.
There’s still a
special message to all Candi’s European followers. “I appreciate my European
fans, because they’ve been so supportive. I don’t know what I would have done,
if it had not been for my European friends that follow me on Facebook,
Instagram... I never dreamed in all my life that my popularity would grow
because of them. I never stop thanking them and appreciating them.”
on the next CD now. We’ve got some songs left over from this CD, and we’re all
ready to put some more songs together.” (Interview conducted on May 30, 2014;
acknowledgements to Candi Staton, Cassandra Hightower, Bill Carpenter and
Sean Cokes). www.candi-staton.com.
Serious (Soul Singer Rec., MUI-CD-10084) is my 9th album
from Carl and the first in three years after his Hell on My Hands was
released on CDS Records in 2011. That CD as well as this new one was produced
by Ron and Alex Johnson. You can read about Carl’s early career
in my interview with him almost twenty years ago at http://www.soulexpress.net/carlsims.htm.
The title tune
is an easy-going cover of Tyrone Davis’ hit on Highrise in 1982. It was
written by L.V. Johnson and Roger Miner, but on this new CD some
strange “Ameemann” is credited. Were they thinking about this pop/rock lady
called Aimee Mann, who has also written a song titled Are You
Serious? If so, that’s a completely different song.
Six Pack of
Common Sense is an intense mid-tempo mover, whereas Just Because is
a touching love song, which first appeared on Johnnie Taylor’s Wall
to Wall album on Malaco in 1985. It was written by Larry Addison (here
uncredited), and Carl comes up with an OK version of it. It’s such a strong
melody that you really can’t go wrong with it.
Art Neville recorded
All These Things for Instant Records in New Orleans in 1961, and here
Carl turns it into a speeded-up version, with a rather heavy beat. On the
concluding ballad on this set, I Want to Thank You for Loving Me, Carl
is only playing a cameo role, while a lady singer – Debra Benson or the
co-writer, Faye Payne? – is doing most of the vocal work.
The rest six
songs have been available earlier. Two ballads – Go On and Just One
Night – were included on the previous CDS CD, whereas If I Could I Would
appeared on the Ecko CD, Can’t Stop Me. The more than familiar When
Something Is Wrong with My Baby is a duet with Debra Benson, but Carl had
cut this song already on the Brick House album on Entune Records. Two
of his signature songs – Trapped and 17 Days of Loving – are
released here with a fake live audience. Vocally Carl is in as good and
soulful form as ever, but my humble request is to find more original material
for the next CD.
RUE DAVIS *
Davis is one of the best kept secrets in today’s soul music. Not only an
industrious recording artist himself but also a prolific songwriter and
producer, this award-winning gentleman has sung professionally for 35 years
now. He released three singles in the 80s prior to his breakthrough album, You
Are My Honey Poo on Kon-Kord Records in 1995. You can read about Rue’s
earlier career and his comments on the Honey Poo CD at http://www.soulexpress.net/ruedavis.htm.
interview Rue says that the title of his next album will be You Can’t Have
Your Cake and Eat it Too, but it never came out and only now, after 19
years, it has been remixed and released. The CD is now re-titled Shake
it Loose (KON-8322; www.konkordrecords.com),
the music was produced and arranged by Duane Rusty Jackson and eight
songs out of eleven were written by Estus Patterson, Rusty and Hense
Powell - alongside Rue, of course. They have used a praiseworthy
amount of real instruments in these remixes. It also says on the cover
“Kon-Kord Records – celebrating our 35 years!” and it’s true, since the
Patterson Twins – Estus and Lester – started out in 1979, as well.
SHAKE IT LOOSE
“Rue is no longer signed with Kon-Kord Records. I cut all these tracks 20
years ago but updated the music. I had his vocals transferred to hard drive,
so all these new music tracks are product of Kon-Kord Records.” Why was this
CD canned in the first place? Estus: “Cake was shelved since June
1994... a breach of contract on artist’s behalf. I really can’t get into the
details of it. Rue is a great artist. I discovered him in a small night-club
in Los Angeles on Florence Blvd. His first CD on the label, Honey Poo,
was a winner.”
Rue Davis: “I didn’t get paid for Honey Poo, so I left them and went to another
company. We had already cut the whole Cake album. Now Estus has
released the album, and he’s done a good job on it. He has real horns,
keyboards and everything. Hense Powell was the main music man then.”
suggestion Rue does three familiar cover songs. On the bluesy I’d rather be
Blind, Crippled and Crazy (O.V. Wright) Rue sounds a lot like Z.Z.
Hill and Bring It on Home to Me is almost as swaying and relaxed as Sam
Cooke’s original. The slow and equally swaying Talk to Me (Little
Willie John) completes the hit parade.
track, Shake It Loose, is like an energetic 60s dance record and it was
picked up as the first single earlier this year. Let’s Do the Shag is
aimed at the Carolinas beach scene, I Got a Crazy Woman is a mid-tempo
toe-tapper and the last catchy dancer on the set, Two Way Love Affair, was
also cut by Sterling Harrison on Kon-Kord in 1999.
Cher and Touch Me are tender ballads, and the original title song – You
Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too – is a slow blues belter and again a
Z.Z. sound-alike. The updated Shake It Loose CD is
really an enjoyable and soulful set, and it comes highly recommended.
SOMEBODY WANTS YOU
Rue and Kon-Kord
parted ways in the mid-90s. Rue: “I went to Avanti Records. I did Somebody
Wants You. I met (the label owner) Johnny Vincent through a man
called Harrison Calloway. He was a well-known arranger. He and Frank-O
Johnson introduced me to Johnny. I’ve been knowing Frank for a long time.
He’s a very good person and a great songwriter. I talked to him just the other
Wants You (Avanti 1006; ’97) kicks off with a cheerful mover called Shoopedoo
- “Honey Poo man is back.” Rue: “I was trying to get another Honey Poo.
That was my second hit on that album. Somebody Wants You was my first
hit on Avanti.” Also among his own songs, Somebody Wants You (Guess Who) is
Rue’s personal favourite, alongside another beautiful ballad, Can I Hold on
to Your Hand, which is also included on this album. “It’s like a spiritual
On this CD Rue
is introduced as “the man with the thousand voices”, and indeed on some of the
uptempo floaters here he sounds like Z.Z. Hill, on a lilter named Dreaming
About Someone like Sam Cooke and on a swayer called You Got Me Worried like
Johnnie Taylor. “I have a gift of sounding like anybody I want.”
Affection is a duet with Billy Soul Bonds. “That came out real
good. Billy is such a good writer and he sings really good. He’s on two
tracks with me, on that one and Shoopedoo.” Somebody Wants You is
an uplifting, good-spirited set. Rue composed the music, Harrison Calloway
arranged, they produced it together and on background vocals they had Thomisene
Anderson and Jewel Bass.
SINGS WITH HIS FRIENDS
The liner notes
on Rue Davis Sings with His Friends (Avanti 1014; ’98) say “who
is Rue Davis! He’s a lot of voices in one man. When he was a boy his mother
would ask him to sing a Johnnie Taylor or Sam Cooke or even Z.Z. Hill song...”
So actually there are no duets on this CD. It’s just Rue doing
impersonations. Rue: “I was born with it. I listened to all their records.
Later I got over it, and I was trying to sound like myself and not everybody
Rue produced the
set and wrote most of the fifteen songs, with Harrison helping some. This time
Rue adds to his repertoire Tyrone Davis (the floating Movie Star and
the slow I Can’t Help Myself), Al Green, Ray Charles (the
countrified You Don’t Love Me), Jackie Wilson (Thanks for
Saving Your Love = Doggin’ Around all over again) and Bobby Bland
(That’s Why I Love You).
Rue has two vocal
tracks – Roto Rooter Man and You Haven’t Been Loved by the Man –
on an Avanti compilation titled Beauty & the Beast (Avanti-1022).
“I wrote most of the music on there.” Other featured artists are Reggie P.,
Pat Brown, Ronnie Lovejoy, J.T. Watkins, Toni Green and Tina Diamond.
February 2000 Johnny Vincent died of heart failure at the age of 72. “Johnny
Vincent was a big man. He was just like my daddy. I loved him. Nobody else
treated me like him. He was one that really did me right. He didn’t take my
money. He paid me. Everybody else took my money.” Also those days Rue moved
back home. “I’m in my home town now. I moved from California back to Houston about 2000.”
CANDY SWEET & DAPP DADDY
The next CD, Candy
Sweet, was released on Kenneth Coleman’s Off the Hook Records
out of Houston, Texas, in 2001. It was produced by Rue and Harrison and
recorded in Jackson, Mississippi. “Candy Sweet did real good. It was
the biggest album I had.” The opening toe-tapper is called Tippitaboo, which
is – you guessed it! - a new name for Honey Boo. “Exactly, I was trying
to get a hit.”
This time on
this smooth album there are a lot of slow songs on display, and again you can
make vocal comparisons to Sam Cooke, Johnnie Taylor, Al Green and Bobby Bland.
“On some of the songs I sound like David Ruffin.”
In 2003 Kon-Kord
re-released the Honey Poo CD, but this time under the title of Heaven
Has Sent Me Your Love. The same year William Woodard’s Knock on
Wood Records released new material on Rue, Dapp Daddy (K.O.W.
10011), which introduces seven soothing slow songs but rather indifferent funky
and repetitive beaters towards the end of the record. Among those slowies the
most impressive ones were (We Were) Taylor Made (sic), the
plaintive A Lonely Man, the pleading Just Ask Me and the bluesy Let
Me Lay You Down. Johnny, You Were Our Friend is a touching tribute
to Johnnie Taylor.
Cut in Jackson, Mississippi, the most surprising credit line reads “all written and produced by
William Woodard.” Rue: “All the songs were written by me. I got messed
around. Everything I sang, I wrote it. Woodard can’t write none. He put his
name on there. I’m trying to find a lawyer. They make money out of my music.”
In late 2004 on
Studio Showtime Records out of Houston, Texas, they released Rue’s sweet and
beautiful yuletide song, Let’s Make This a Special Christmas.
Next year on the
same label they put out the For Real album (SSR 01), produced and
all music written by Rue and arranged by Harrison. Among the eight songs and
two remixes there are only two dancers, while the rest of the repertoire takes
us into a more intimate setting. A beat-ballad called Tell Me What U Want is
the first featured single, whereas on Between the Sheets and So Glad
You’re Mine the closest that comes to your mind is Marvin Gaye and
Let’s Get It On. The smoothness of the sound is maintained on the
swaying Treat Her like a Queen, the atmospheric You Haven’t Been
Loved by the Right Man and the soft You Don’t Have to Cry No More.
“Studio Showtime Records was Vernon Webster’s label. He doesn’t have it
anymore. Calloway recorded for them, too. We cut in Houston.”
collaborations are on Little Buck’s two Studio Showtime CDs. “Little
Buck is my best friend. I wrote for him, too. I’ve been knowing Little Buck
ever since he started.” Rue wrote songs and sang at least on thirteen tracks
on Little Buck’s I’mma Stir It Up (SSR-02; ’05) and I’mma a
Blues Man (SSRP; ’06), and you can read my review on those CDs at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep308.htm#ruedavis.
covers also Rue’s next CD, Return of the Legend (Boom Town
Records; ’08), which Rue recorded together with Carl Marshall. “I
hooked up with Carl by some friends of mine. Carl had a stroke, but he’s doing
alright now. He’s a very good friend of mine, and we collaborated on a lot of
songs. The owner of Boom Town Records was a guy by the name of Norris
Hampton out of Houston, Texas.” On this CD there’s a slow jam called I’m
Giving up the Streets, which - Rue says - is his most popular song.
Those days Rue
worked also with Lady Audrey. “I wrote two albums on her.” The first
one was with the Superior Band on Kon-Kord in 2001 titled No House,
No Home without My Man and the other one on Studio Showtime in 2006 called Never
Too Old to Get Your Groove On. Rue wrote or co-wrote most of the songs.
“She’s still around. She’s got a CD out, Swanging Big Girls.” Please
read my interview with Lady Audrey at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep306.htm#ladyaudrey.
After 2008 there
was a lapse of five years, when we didn’t hear almost anything about Rue. “I
got sick. I ran out of money, too. A lot of people took my songs. Now I need
somebody to help me to get my money for the songs that I wrote.”
JUKE JOINT BLUES
album – or 11th, if we include Beauty & the Beast - is a
joint effort with Stan G. and Carl Marshall entitled Juke Joint
Blues (Goldline Records 1002; ’13). “That’s Bobby Powell’s
label. He produced the album. Stan G. was with Bobby Powell.” In this case
Bobby Powell is not the Whit recording artist. Rue sings on six tracks out of
twelve, Stan Gistand on five and Carl Marshall on one. Rue does two dancers
and four slowies, and the cream cut is a pretty ballad named Special.
Rue had a stroke
a couple of months ago. “I’m alright now. I’m taking care of myself. I
already have started performing. I perform sometimes with a 5- or 6-piece band
(the Superior Band), or to tracks. I have a new manager, too, Tina Sanders.”
You can watch many of Rue’s performances on YouTube.
So far Rue has
written about thousand songs. The list of the artists, who have recorded his
material, is very, very long – Shirley Brown, Pat Brown, T.J. Hooker–Taylor,
Calvin Owens, Sammie Relford, Bobby Bland, Stan Mosley, Little Milton, Floyd
Taylor, Sammy O’Banion, Tyrone Davis, Helon Ruth, Ronnie Lovejoy... For Trudy
Lynn he wrote eight songs on the I’m Still Here CD in 2006, for Carl
Sims he co-wrote four songs on M and M Man in 2001 and for Patrick
Green he co-wrote five tunes on Southern Soul in 2005.
“I want to keep
writing and sing some gospel. Now I’m writing gospel songs for myself and for
anybody who’s interested. I’m also writing for Stephanie Pickett, for
her new project, and I’m working on a project with Audrey Turner. She’s
Ike Turner’s last wife and a great singer.”
among contemporary artists is Anthony Hamilton, but “I grew up on
Motown, Johnnie Taylor, Sam Cooke... One of the songs that I’m writing for
Audrey Turner is called Nothing like the Real Soul Music. We really
need to go back, where we came from.” (Interviews conducted on May 15 and 31).
(ECD 1153; www.eckorecords.com)
is Aubles’ 13th album, and his 11th for Ecko Records.
Besides producing, John Ward is also a productive writer of songs on the
set, alongside O.B., William Norris, Henderson Thigpen and a couple of
Among the seven
uptempo tracks, the catchiest feel-good party songs are You’re Welcome to
the Party, Pop Yo Bottle, What’s the Deal? and the mid-tempo Party on
the Weekend. The four slow songs are all heartfelt and convincing.
There’s the desolate That’s My Song, the soft and melodic It Should
Have Been Me (written by Lee Gibbs) and two slowly swaying, soulful
numbers, We Just Can’t Leave Each Other Alone and Private Party,
where I learned that BYSB means “bring your sexy body.”
predictable, the music on this yet another solid SS set from O.B. is both
uplifting and emotional.
Revelations is a 4-man-strong, self-contained group with Rell Gaddis on
lead vocals (http://therevelations.bandcamp.com).
Produced by Bob Perry, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and the group itself, The
Cost of Living (Decision, DEL-CD-1401) was cut at Royal Studios in Memphis with some help from Bobby Manuel on guitar, Lester Snell on
keyboards and Charles Hodges on organ. There are eight songs on display
and the total running time is 32 minutes.
For the most
part the sound is closer to rock than r&b, with repeated heavy guitar solos
from Wes Mingus. Actually on some tracks the music reminded me of the
late 60s British rock bands (Money Makes the World Go ‘Round). The
first single off the CD is the rocked-up cover of the Isley Brothers’ 60s
Tamla dancer, Why When Love Is Gone, and Gladys Knight & the Pips’
gold single on Buddah in ’73, I’ve Got to Use My Imagination, gets a
similar rock treatment. Two songs – Mama and the Stevie Wonder-ish Higher
– are actually closer to pop music.
Only on two
tracks you can sense soul music. You can detect the familiar Hi sound on the
gentle The Game of Love and a cover of Los Lobos’ This Time
(in ’99). I liked the Revelations with Tre Williams, but 75 % of the
contents here – 6 out of 8 tracks - is not my music anymore.
Please visit a
good source for Southern soul at www.intodeepmusic.com.
BERT BERNS *
I really enjoyed
reading Joel Selvin’s book, Here Comes the Night
(Counterpoint, ISBN 978-1-61902-302-4; 450 pages, incl. 25 photos). Subtitled
‘the dark soul of Bert Berns and the dirty business of rhythm &
blues’, it includes the ever-important index and the definite Bert Berns
discography, 34 pages by Rob Hughes.
The book is
Bert’s biography, but in a very broad sense. Especially in the beginning it
concentrated on the New York music scene, on the development of different
sounds, the histories of those music-makers, who were to deal with Bert in one
way or another later on. Some of these bypaths take us to the rise of rock ‘n’
roll, 50s vocal groups, payola incidents, the birth of soul, the Brill Building, even Mob connections. Atlantic Records is thoroughly presented with Abramsons,
Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. Incidentally, Joel doesn’t paint a
pretty picture of Mr. Wexler, nor Morris Levy, Juggy Murray or Florence
writing and producing teams as Leiber & Stoller, Pomus & Shuman,
Mann & Weil and Greenwich & Barry are featured in detail, as
well as many other notable music figures of the day – George Goldner, Alan
Freed, Dick Clark, Phil Spector, Luther Dixon... – and besides New York music also Stax and Muscle Shoals.
Bert was born in
November 1929 and at the age of 16 he contracted a rheumatic fever, which
scarred his heart. He produced his first Magic singles in 1949 and ’50, fell
in love with mambo music, spent some freewheeling time in Cuba in 1957 and ’58 and entered “the dirty business of r&b” in early 1960. All the
milestone records of his career are profoundly featured - the history, the
artists, the session, the very music - A Little Bit of Soap by the
Jarmels, Cry to Me by Solomon Burke, Twist and Shout by
the Isley Brothers, Cry Baby by Garnet Mimms, Here
Comes the Night by Them, Are You Lonely for Me by Freddie
Scott and Piece of My Heart by Erma Franklin. Bert died of a
heart attack the last day of 1967.
You have to go
through the whole discography to fully realise the enormous amount of music
Bert has created. Among such big names as Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett, the
Drifters, Gene Pitney, Neil Diamond and Van Morrison, there are many
artists that didn’t have such a big impact but were and are equally treasured among
aficionados – Hoagy Lands, Jimmy Jones, the Exciters, Jimmy
Radcliffe, Betty Harris, Roy Hamilton, Barbara Lewis, Patti Labelle & the
Bluebelles, Lorraine Ellison...
writes about almost all of them. He describes the “dirty” business side of the
scene very colourfully, and actually for me there were many things I wasn’t
aware of before. Joel’s writing style is compelling and, if you still happen
to be a fan of Bert’s music, this book is a must.
Brothers are my heroes. I fell in love with their big sound in the mid-60s
and they actually introduced me to the world of soul music. I probably have
all of their official releases, both as a duo, and solo acts. That’s why it
was with big anticipation that I was waiting for this new book, The Time
of My Life/A Righteous Brother’s Memoir (Da Capo Press, ISBN
978-0-306-82316-9; 240 pages, 16 with photos, incl. index), written by Mike
Marino and Bill Medley. Foreword is by Billy Joel. There’s
no discography, but actually you don’t need one, because on the internet you
can find Peter Richmond’s excellent, detailed pages at www.righteousbrothersdiscography.com.
Bill Medley, a
man with a booming baritone voice, was born in Orange County in California in 1940, and as a teenager he was said to be like Fonzie in the series Happy
Days. At sixteen he dropped out of school, after awhile started singing in
a duo called the Romancers in the late 50s and then joined the
Paramours. A man with a high tenor voice, Bobby Hatfield, left his
group, the Variations, and also joined the Paramours. In 1961 and ’62
the Paramours cut singles for Smash and Moonglow, but unfortunately Bill skips
From those early
days Bill mentions such Righteous Brothers recordings as Little Latin Lupe
Lu (on Moonglow in late ’62), two albums – Right Now (in late ’63)
and Some Blue Eyed Soul (in late ’64) – and in passing a couple of other
songs. This was my first big disappointment. As a big fan of their music I
was especially interested to learn about their choice of material and their
early influences – evidently at least Don & Dewey, Gene & Eunice,
Little Walter, Buster Brown, Roy Hamilton etc. Also only their biggest
hits are mentioned, and I would have loved to read about the rest of the music –
picking up songs, recording sessions, arranging, producing, persons behind the
about such highlights in their mid-60s career as touring with the Beatles in
1964, Shindig shows, meeting with Phil Spector and You’ve Lost
That Lovin’ Feelin’ (in late ’64), and he also mentions that their break-up
with Phil was due to Moonglow’s ultimatum; not because of any other reason. He
also says that Phil tried to break the Righteous Brothers up claiming he wanted
to work only with Bill. Then a little later Phil wanted to record only Bobby. Go
figure! And here we must remember that a couple of years after having lost the
Righteous Brothers, in 1967 Phil started working with a similar act and created
a similar sound for the Checkmates Ltd. I agree with Bill on one thing,
though – Just Once in My Life, Spector’s follow-up to Lovin’ Feelin’,
is a better record with better production.
Then came Soul
& Inspiration in February 1966, but, again, not a word about some of my
big favourites on MGM after that self-produced huge hit - like Go Ahead and
Cry, On This Side of Goodbye and Melancholy Music Man. Soon the boys
broke up – and stayed apart until 1974 - Bill went solo in ’68, and here we
come to my second big disappointment. I believe I belong to the minority, who
actually in terms of soulful singing prefers Bobby Hatfield (Unchained
Melody, Ebb Tide, White Cliffs of Dover, A Change Is Gonna Come, What’s the
Matter Baby, Stay with Me...). Don’t get me wrong. I like Bill’s recordings,
too. But in this book Bill puts Bobby down, albeit discreetly. I generally
hate such sentences as “he was great, but...” For instance, Bill writes that
“Bobby stayed in his ’63 comfort zone”, meaning that he didn’t want to reach
higher. As an example, he turned down some highly-paid Las Vegas gigs. It may
well be true, but such subtle criticism runs through this whole book, and I
find it uncomfortable, especially when today the other party is no longer able
to speak for himself.
writes about the ladies of his life. He first married Karen in ’63, and she was
brutally killed in ’76; already after their separation. Now Bill’s been
happily married to Paula for over 27 years, but prior to that throughout the
years there have been affairs with Darlene Love, Connie Stevens, Mary Wilson
and others. Then we get to the third big disappointment. Bill tells at
length about the many celebrities he knows - and knew, such as his good friend Elvis.
He praises them and in interviews many of them praise him back. Many of the
stories he tells about these big names may be hilarious to general public, but
for a serious music fan they are only lightweight fillers and belong more or
less to the gossip category.
Bill’s duet with
Jennifer Warnes, (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, was certified
gold in 1987 and Bill and Bobby got back together for real in 1990, when Unchained
Melody scored all over again. The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and soon after that, in November 2003, Bobby
passed away because of a heart attack. Bobby had a coronary disease, and –
according to Bill - his use of cocaine was minimal, so that was not the real
cause of his passing. Today Bill carries on alone.
somebody still writes a profound book concentrating on that fascinating music
and features and interviews as many people as possible among those, who were
creating those unforgettable sounds. The Time of My Life was not
the book I wanted to read about Bill Medley, nor the Righteous Brothers.
A little earlier
this year Bill’s latest CD - Your Heart to Mine, Dedicated to the Blues (Fuel
302 061 987 2; www.billmedley.com)
– was released. Actually this music was originally released as a private
pressing already ten years ago. Produced by Bill and Steve Tyrell,
arranged by Jim Cox and the liner notes written by Bill Dahl, here
Bill Medley pays tribute to some of his favourite artists by covering their
hits, but in most cases disguised in original and inventive arrangements.
There’s one new song, too, a self-written dramatic, big ballad called This
Will Be the Last Time.
Bill sang Drown
in My Own Tears already on the Righteous Brothers’ Go Ahead and Cry album
in 1966, and here his version is equally intense and rough. He also revisits Willie
Dixon’s I Just Want to Make Love to You (originally on the Some
Blue Eyed Soul LP in 1964) and turns it into a loud and blasting
blues. Guitar solos play an important part both on a gentle reading of I’ve
Been Loving you too Long (to Stop Now), and on the slowed-down Hold on,
I’m Comin’. Bobby Bland’s ’61 atmospheric You’re the One (that I
Adore) proceeds here at a walking pace.
favourites include sincere and almost holy interpretations of For Your
Precious Love and Pledging My Love, a restrained and sax-spiced
version of A Change Is Gonna Come – which, incidentally, was
tremendously covered by Bobby Hatfield on the Soul and Inspiration album
in 1966 – and a tender and slowed-down performance of This Magic Moment.
R.I.P. RALPH PRUITT
The sad news
reached me a few days ago. Ralph Pruitt of the Fantastic Four passed
away on June 3rd. During the years I’ve talked to Ralph a few
times, and he always was a most likeable gentleman and always in a positive
Ralph - who sang
top tenor and bass, if needed - was the initiator of the Fantastic Four in
1964. He was born on April 5 in 1940 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but went straight
from the hospital to his home in Detroit. Ralph: “My dad, Alonzo Tucker,
was a writer for music. As a matter of fact, he was a singer with Hank
Ballard and the Midnighters. Him and Jackie Wilson became
writing partners. My father was affiliated with Berry Gordy from the
beginning, but something happened and they didn’t see eye to eye and went
separate ways.” Ralph’s early idols were the Moonglows, the Drifters, the
Dominoes, the Clovers, Jackie Wilson and Little Willie John.
The group came
about, when Ralph became interested in the music he heard across the street.
There were Sweet James Epps singing and William Hunter playing
the guitar. To make a quartet, they added Ralph’s younger brother, Joseph
Pruitt. That was the first line-up of the Fantastic Four. Soon William
was replaced by Wallace “Toby” Childs. They signed with the Golden
World on March 11 in 1964, but their first single, Girl, Have Pity, was
released only in 1966. Altogether they had ten singles released on Ric Tic
till ‘68, including such gems as The Whole World Is a Stage, To Share Your
Love, Goddess of Love, I’ve Got to Have You and I Love You Madly.
Ralph: “The Ric
Tic period was real good for us at the time. We were really ahead of our
time. Ed (Wingate) sold Golden World and, as far as I know, it was due
to illness... My guess is that he wanted to spend more time with his family...
He sold our contract too, because at the time Motown wanted us, too... We were
relatively new, but we were coming out with good, solid hits.”
four impressive singles on Soul between ’68 and ’70, before moving on to
Eastbound in ’73 and Westbound in ’75. But already prior to those Armen
Boladian’s labels Ralph had left. Ralph: “I had got physically ill and I
had to step down for awhile. After that I was travelling around the world. I
went to Chicago for awhile, then to Los Angeles and I also liked to travel
abroad. I had different jobs. At the time I was single, so I didn’t have any
reason to stay at one place.”
The group put
out four albums on Westbound between ’75 and ’78, and in the 80s practically
the group didn’t exist. Paul Scott formed his own group for a minute,
and Sweet James had single releases and he also recorded for Motorcity with his
“Fantastic Four”. They regrouped in 1995 in the line-up of James Epps, Paul
Scott, Cleveland Horne and Wayne Dixon. Ralph rejoined in 2000
after both Cleveland, and Sweet James had passed. In recent years the group
wasn’t active anymore. (Soul Express # 4/2001: The Fantastic Four Story). http://www.soulexpress.net/fantasticfour_discography.htm.
Abraham Smooth Wilson
I don’t normally
review singles, but in this case I decided to briefly pass the information
about a couple of new songs.
year we discussed with Abraham “Smooth” Wilson about his new CD simply
titled Love (New Rising Sun Music), and now it’s finally finished
and available on iTunes and Amazon in late June. For the interview, please
The first single off the CD is called See You in Heaven, which is a
pretty and touching tribute to the many great artists that have gone on.
Together with Russ Terrana they’ve created a video for the song.
vocals, Smooth is performing also all six harmony parts. Abe: “The inspiration
came from the emotion of my mother’s sister passing away recently. The song
came to me late at night in my sleep and I recorded it several days later, on
April 15, 2014.”
Another old friend and a frequent
interviewee, Mr. Bunny Sigler has composed entirely different music for
his latest release. Do the Calypso Dance (BunZ Records) is a care-free,
joyous Caribbean fiesta song and a foretaste from the Island Girl album.
You can watch the video at http://bit.ly/1kGjLXS.
(Acknowledgements to Karen Labuca).
Again, one of
our friends Latimore and his wife Yvonne Lattimore are putting together
a website for this great singer at www.latimoremusic.com.
There are some interesting video clips over there. Please read also my
in-depth feature on this gentleman at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep4_2013.htm#latimore.
© Heikki Suosalo
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