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DEEP # 4/2009 (August)

  This mini-Deep comes in close proximity to my previous column in July, but since there’s been another change in the line-up of the group I try to keep track of, the Spinners, I decided to go ahead with this one along with a few reviews, too.  Marvin Taylor is the new member, and I had a few words with Bobbie Smith as well.  An ex-Spinner, G.C. Cameron, is releasing a new solo CD, which prompted me to have a long chat with him also.


Content and quick links:

Interviews:
Marvin Taylor and Bobby Smith of the Spinners
G.C. Cameron

CD reviews:
Lee Fields: My World
Chuck Roberson: For Real This Time
Calvin Richardson: Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack
Various Artists: Memphis 60
Various Artists: The Real Thing/The Songs of Ashford, Simpson & Armstead
The Exciters: Soul Motion/The Complete Bang, Shout and RCA Recordings 1966-1969
G.C. Cameron: Enticed Ecstasy


MARVIN TAYLOR of THE SPINNERS

  About two months ago Harold Bonhart aka Spike DeLeon of the Spinners stepped down and was replaced by a new member, so today the group performs in the line-up of Bobbie Smith, Henry Fambrough, Charlton Washington, Jessie Peck and… Marvin Taylor.

  Bobbie Smith: “It just wasn’t working out.  We like to run a smooth operation and Spike just wasn’t a team player.  To be an organizational group one person doesn’t run the show or make things happen.  It’s the whole unit as a group to cooperate and make things happen.  If we got one person pulling against the system, it’s a problem and eventually it’s not going to turn out good.  When you deal with it for quite a few years and it just isn’t changing or the people are not listening or trying to understand what’s going on, then you have to do something different.” 

  You can read my interview with Jessie Peck, the previous addition to the group, at http://www.soulexpress.net/spinners09.htm, and there you’ll find links to some earlier interviews with other members of the group, too.

  Marvin Taylor: “I think it was in May, when I heard that there’s an opening in the Spinners.  Jessie Peck told me about it.”  Bobbie: “We auditioned more than one person.  Marvin’s winning qualities are his talent, his personality and it appears that he’s a team player.”  Marvin: “My first performance with the group was, when we opened up for the Temptations in San Bernardino at the California Theatre of the Performing Arts on June 13th.  I started rehearsing about a month and a half before that.  I know it all now.  I’m pretty adjusted to their movements.”

  Marvin Louis Taylor was born on August 28 in 1962.  “I was born here in Flint, Michigan.  Basically I got into music through travel.  We used to travel from Michigan to Arkansas down to my grandparents’ house, and there was nothing to do in the car.  I used to sing to the music that was played on the radio, and fortunately enough my mother and father didn’t tell me to shut up.  They let me sing.”

  “My earliest influences were the Jackson 5, James Brown and the Temptations.  The Spinners are my idols today, and forever will be.  There’s a different kind of sound out there today, and I really don’t have any other idol today.  I’ve always been into singing groups, since I was in the 6th grade.  We always got together and sang.  My first professional experience was with Simeo Overall.  He formed a band and we cut a couple of records that never did anything.  This was in ’84.  Some of the songs were Thinking About You, Forever and Let’s Get Involved.”

  Simuel Overall aka Simeo has performed not only solo or with his group but with numerous other artists, too, and this year he has released a CD of his own entitled Southern Soul Pimpin.  Simeo: “Marvin sang back-up vocals with my group in the early eighties.  We were the opening act for René and Angela, Bobby Womack and Full Force with Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam.  I went on to become a member of the hit group Cameo and Ca$hflow, earning two American music awards for my writing with Cameo in 1987.  In the 90s and 2000s I’ve produced songs that featured Jada Kiss, Mariah, MC Breed and Carvin Winans.  I one time played drums for the Spinners and I’m very happy to see Marvin get a chance to sing with the Motown legends.”  Simeo has written songs also for Miki Howard, Arsenio Hall and Grace Jones.


  Marvin: “The group broke up, but we were still kind of together with Simeo.  We did a tour with L.J. Reynolds.  After he split up with the Dramatics, he did a Key to the World tour.  I had a chance to sing tenor.  We did a lot of Dramatics songs, and that was a really good experience, because Ron Banks has always been one of my idols when growing up.”  Simeo: “I was the drummer and MD for L.J. Reynolds and I got Marvin the gig singing back-up with L.J. Reynolds on our tour with Enchantment and the Dramatics.”

  Marvin: “After L.J., I got with a group called Unique.  We did our first show in Flint, Michigan, at the Downtown Riverfront.  Jessie was with us.  It was more like a talent show.  We went first place.  We met a lady by the name of Norma Fairhurst.  We didn’t know who she was at first, and we came to find out that she had sung with the Velvelettes.  She was very interested in us.  She took us to Detroit, where we did a couple of shows.  She was a mentor to us for a little while.”

  “Unique made one CD called It Feels So Good.  It didn’t do well, either.  That album was released in 1995.  Simeo produced it and wrote songs for it.  The record label was Rizin Sun Records.  We recorded something else, too, but we never put it out.”

  “I was with Unique till 2000.  After that I was a little bit reluctant to go with anyone else at that time.  I had been with Unique for so long.  I struggled for a few years with a couple of bands… can’t even remember their names anymore (laughing).  Then I got with a guy named Scotty.  We were just a 3-piece thing with a young lady called Lady Val, and we did some shows in the Detroit area.  They just weren’t professional enough for me and I had to get out of that situation.  After that I was trying to do a play in 2006, but it threw me away from entertainment a little bit more.  Then I did an animated thing with a young lady, and it was called Aunty K N ‘em in Piggstown.  The next step is the Spinners, but I’m still doing my property maintenance, too.  As of now, my whole world has changed.  It’s like a very good dream for me right now.”


Bobbie Smith, photo David Edelstein

  With Bobbie we’ve talked about a possible new Spinners CD before.  Bobbie: “It’s on hold for the moment.  We have some material, but we want to record some new material to go with that.  For a group like the Spinners, a record company is not the only avenue or the way to go.  We just wait until we get everything together and then concentrate on completing the CD.”

(Interviews conducted on July 16.  Acknowledgements also to Jessie Peck, Simeo and David Edelstein. Marvin Taylor photo courtesy of Jessie Peck).


LEE FIELDS

  James Brown!  When the name “Lee Fields” comes up, you can’t avoid comparisons with the late master, so I spelled it out right in the beginning.  Lee has always been an underground soul hero, who gets nods from both funk and deep soul aficionados but who has only one charted single (Stop Watch on BDA in ’86; # 91-r&b) under his belt and, yet, whose My World (TSCD-007; www.truthandsoulrecords.com), I think, is his 13th album during his forty-year-long recording career.

  Backed by the Expressions and produced by two Expressions members, Jeff Silverman and Leon Michels, the CD was cut in Brooklyn, New York, and it features real live musicians, including horn and string sections and background vocals by the Del-Larks.

  Music is very down-to-earth and rootsy.  Lee has put the funk aside and concentrates on basic, big-voiced soul ballads – some not unlike what James used to cut in the early 60s – and mid-tempo grooves, such as Money I$ King and the jazzy My World, which both carry a social message.  Among the impressive and soulful beat ballads (Honey Dove, Love Comes and Goes, to name two) there are two that have become personal favourites: Lee’s slow reading of My World Is Empty, and, although also other artists have come up with the idea to approach this song from a new angle, there’s simply something fascinating in Lee’s pleading singing and the “monastery” background voices.  The other gem, The Last One Loving You, is a melodic and intense deepie.  Without a doubt, this is Lee’s best album so far and is a must for the lovers of wailing, gut-wrenching music taking you back to the 60s (www.myspace.com/leefields).  Both this and the next CD can be easily purchased at www.intodeepmusic.com.


CHUCK ROBERSON

  On the cover of For Real This Time (CDC1014; www.cdsrecords.com) it reads “100 % organic!! Real musicians, real soul”, and, indeed, props to the live rhythm section, horns and background singers.  Produced by Clarence Dobbins, Chuck himself wrote or co-wrote seven of the eleven songs on display.

  There are as many as six mid-tempo songs and one of them, the opening We’re Gonna Have a Party, is loosely based on Sam Cooke’s Having a Party.  The obligatory “Tyrone Davis” track this time is called Temporary Sugar Daddy, but for an easy and pleasant melody you can turn to Tired of WaitingThe Lollypop Man Can (Revenge of the Lollipop Man) is a nice, soft dancer and a sequence to Chuck’s signature song.

  A personal favourite among the three slowies is the emotive Love Me or Leave Me AloneCome Back Kind of Lovin’ is the obligatory blues dose on the set and as the finale Chuck does a passable, 6-minute version of A Change Is Gonna Come.

  Although there are no complaints about the background this time, I started thinking about two other aspects.  It wouldn’t hurt to have some variety and imagination in melodies, so that you don’t get a feeling of having heard it all thousands of times before.  Also, are the lyrics centred round privates so popular year-after-year that you can’t come up with something more original? 


CALVIN RICHARDSON

  Within one month Calvin’s fourth CD, Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack (www.shanachie.com), will see its official release, but already now it has aroused a lot of interest.  Produced by Tres Gilbert and cut in the Atlanta region, the set features live musicians, honouring classic soul music also in the way of recording.

  Calvin brings a breath of contemporary r&b into eleven immortal Bobby Womack songs, and now it’s all up to you, whether you prefer the gruff and gritty Bobby to more suave tenor or not.  True, Calvin comes occasionally close to Bobby in his vocalizing, but I guess that’s intentional and part of the tribute.  I’m for Bobby, but, then again, I’ve grown up with Bobby’s music. 

  But at the same time I like these Calvin’s versions a lot, too.  They’re not too far deviated from originals.  And how can you go wrong with such songs as Across 110th Street, Harry Hippie, I’m Through Trying to Prove My Love to You, That’s the Way I Feel About You and Love Has Finally Come At Last, and here Ann Nesby is doing the duet with Calvin this time (www.myspace.com/calvinrichardson).  (Acknowledgements to Mike Ward).


COMP-ART-ment

MEMPHIS MOVERS

  Memphis 60 (BGP, CDBGPD 201; www.acerecords.co.uk; 20 tracks, 54 min., 2 prev. unissued; liners by Dean Rudland) is a collection of Memphis-based recordings deriving from the 60s and from such labels as Stax, Volt, Satellite, Chalice, Goldwax, Hollywood, XL, Ruler and Philwood.  There’s a three-track-long downtempo oasis in the middle, but the rest of the material is upbeat.  Among those dancers and stompers there are a few quite insignificant ones - as a listening experience at least (such as the two cuts by two different Wee Willie Walkers, one by Junior Kimbell and the unreleased Barbara & the Browns and Willie Bollinger tracks).

  The set kicks off with Eddie Kirk’s robust instrumental called The Hawg (pt.1), and the two other instrumentals on the CD come from the Stax/Volt stable, too – Sir Isaac & the Do-Dads’ slow swayer titled Blue Groove (one of Isaac Hayes’ early recordings in ‘65) and the Cobras’ fast Restless.  Other movers draw their inspiration from a number of sources.  Eddie Purrell’s The Spoiler is funky, while LH & the Memphis Sounds and Ann Hodge lean more on pop approach.  Incidentally, one thing that should interest today’s Ecko Records fans out there is the fact that Ann’s ’67 XL outing Nothing but the Truth was written by Larry Chambers and Raymond Moore.

  The driving You Don’t Love Me by Willie Cobbs (Ruler in ’61) is a blues romp, whereas a speedy novelty titled The Side Wind by the Lyrics with the Top Notes (Goldwax, ’64) relies on the older doowop sound.  Ollie Hoskins leads on the Nightingales’ gospel beater named I Don’t Know, and his rendition on the slow and dark Assassination (Chalice in ’65) is almost scary.  Ruby Johnson’s When My Love Comes Down is a slow blues number, Percy Milem does a wild cover of She’s about a Mover, but the cream cut must be Spencer Wiggins’ dynamic Soul City USA.  However, I don’t think it’s necessary to push at full speed ahead throughout the whole CD without more breathers in between. 


JO, VAL and NICK

  Industrious and enthusiastic but in a larger scale still novices in the business, Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson and Josephine Armstead wrote many songs for a number of artists in mid-60s, and now some of those songs composed between 1964 and ’67 are compiled on The Real Thing/The Songs of Ashford, Simpson & Armstead (Kent, CDKEND 318; 24 tracks, 59 min.).  Mick Patrick wrote the creditable liners, which include many comments from the artists themselves gathered from different sources.

  Already those days the troika had a knack of composing occasionally poppy and hooky uptown melodies, but they also dashed off indifferent and standard material, which didn’t live on and at that point was often placed on the b-side of a single.  Among the ten stormers and stompers on this CD, two tend to rise above others.  The big-voiced La La Brooks excels on the Crystals’ richly orchestrated Are You Trying to Get Rid of Me Baby (UA in ’66), and the Chiffons’ The Real Thing (Laurie in ’65) owes a lot to the Spector sound.

  The six mid-pacers include a heavy boomer called Love Ain’t What It Used to Be by the soulfully singing Diplomats (Wand in ’65), an intense and fool-blooded performance by Betty LaVette on Only Your Love Can Save Me (Calla in ’65) and a melodic slow-to-mid beater titled I’m Satisfied by Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown (Wand in ’66).

  The highlights among the eight slowies are Same Old Feeling, a catchy beat ballad by Jo Ann & Troy (Jo Ann Campbell and Troy Seals on Atlantic in ’65), You’re in Love, an uptown downtempo song by Maxine Brown (Wand in ’65), and the pleading Baby I’ll Come by Mary Love (Modern in ’67).  One of the biggest attractions on this compilation must be the original recording of Let’s Go Get Stoned by the Coasters on Atlantic in ’65.  Another “Ray Charles specialty”, I Don’t Need No Doctor, is here played by drummer Sandy Nelson (on Imperial in ’67). 

  Other artists on the CD are Betty Everett, the Shirelles, Aretha Franklin (Cry like a Baby on Columbia in ’66), Tina Britt, the Apollas, Candy & the Kisses, B.J. Thomas, the Jewels, Marie Knight, Doris Troy, Ronnie Milsap and Vernon Garrett.

THE EXCITERS

 Always known for their Tell Him smash in ’62 or for their original recording of Do-Wah-Diddy the next year, this energetic group consisting of Herb Rooney, Brenda Reid, Carol Johnson and Lillian Walker is favoured by dance music lovers all over the world.  The most distinguishable feature on their records is Brenda’s loud, sharp and passionate singing, and that unmistakable voice combined with a strong, hard-hitting beat became their trademark.

  Soul Motion/The Complete Bang, Shout and RCA Recordings 1966-1969 (CDKEND 319; 21 tracks, 57 min.) consists of four single sides for Bang in ’66, four sides for Shout (’66 – ’67), four sides for RCA (’68 – ’69) and nine tracks from their ‘69 RCA album, Caviar & Chitlins.  Comprehensive liner notes were written by Dennis Garvey.

  The eight Bang and Shout songs were produced by Bert Berns, and the peppy cover of A Little Bit of Soap even turned into a small hit (# 58-pop).  For those two labels they cut mostly rousing, melodic and poppy movers – I’m Gonna Get Him Someday, You Better Come Home, Weddings Make Me Cry, Number One, You Know It Ain’t Right – but there was one dramatic, downtempo song, too, called You Got Love.  The upbeat Soul Motion is of acquired taste.

  Larry Banks was the main producer and co-writer during the RCA era, and the first single – a big ballad in waltz time titled Take One Step (I’ll Take Two) backed with the driving and raucous If You Want My Love – gave the group an encouraging re-start.  But it was only music-wise, since the follow-up, a rocky beater named You Don’t Know What You’re Missing (‘Til It’s Gone), was the first (and only) one that sold some and charted (# 49-r&b).

  The album didn’t quite live up to expectations.  There are some melodic and poppy big ballads (Give It All, Always, If I Could See Into Tomorrow) and some perky mid-tempo and fast pop songs (Herb leads on two, You Got Me and A Year Ago), which are okay if you’re a fan of big-voiced pop sounds, but most of them lack in the kind of excitement the earlier material radiated.


G.C. CAMERON

  It’s always a pleasure talking to the courteous Mr. Cameron, and this time there was a very good cause, because George Curtis is releasing his new CD, Enticed Ecstasy (OS001; 15 tracks, 70 min.!).  My in-depth retrospect on GC’s earlier career appeared in our printed # 3/2002 magazine, and since then we’ve done a few updates together.

  The CD is released on GC’s own Old School Records, and of the fifteen songs on display fourteen are penned by GC.  The only familiar song is People Get Ready.  GC: “All of these songs are new.  They’ve never been released before.  I recorded some of them a few years back.  Then I had planned on another CD, but that CD never came out, so I took them and combined them, but eleven of them are completely new.  I recorded most of the songs while on the road with the Temptations, after each show, each night in different cities.  It was a process that was very unique.”

  The set was produced by GC and ArthurBuster” Marbury.  “Buster unfortunately passed away a couple of months ago.  He was the drummer for the Temptations.  He was one of the greatest drummers I’ve ever had the pleasure and been blessed to work with.  He was a most incredible person… production, writing and creativity.  He was a very talented young man and he passed away from cancer.  He was from Detroit and this album has so much of him in it, so I want very much for his family this album to be a success.  He pushed me to do this concept.  We recorded that whole thing with a microphone and a close hanger in hotel rooms with a computer… the whole album.”

MASTERING BY WELDON

  Weldon A. McDougal III is responsible for the mastering.  “Weldon and I go back about 35 years.  He took me on my first promotion tour.  I’m very proud of this album.  It’s the best thing I think I’ve ever done in my career.  I’ve done some good things, but this one is special because it’s filled with my emotions and my feelings.  Only Buster and I were involved in the actual recording, and that was good, because I didn’t want a lot of people get involved, like in the past.  My girlfriend Mona thought of the graphics.  She took the pictures and everything.”

  “Then I realized that I got to a certain point and we still needed certain things.  I called Weldon and asked, if he would help me.  He was a bit reluctant.  He had retired from doing these things.  We talked and I kind of twisted his arm long distance.  I said ‘I think this is something that has to have a professional hand on it’.  I couldn’t think of anyone, who was more professional than Weldon to make something happen… and he decided to come in.  He contributed and he mastered it.  It was mastered in Philly.  Then he began to advise me on many professional things that we needed.”

  Considering that everything was cut in hotel rooms in different parts of the United States, the sound is surprisingly full and “authentic” and only on a couple of tracks you can actually feel computerizing pushing through.  “It’s only about four people on the album.  Everything is computers, except for a couple of guitar players.  I really wanted to do this album live, to use live musicians, but circumstances prevented me from doing that, so we made good of what we had.  Victor Caston, his brother Leonard Caston and Greg Crockett assisted me on recording tracks.  Basically everything else I did myself.  With this CD I’m trying to reach the soul and heart of people.  Nothing is hard or brutal on the album.  Everything is mainly soft and seductive to a point of intellectual seduction.  It’s more calm and peaceful.”

GIVE ME MOMENTS

  A melodic, mid-tempo floater named Give Me Moments is sweetened by rich “orchestration” and background singers.  “Give Me Moments was the first song I wrote for this album concept several years ago.  It’s one of my styles of writing, and I call it ‘the Mississippi feeling’.  I started this album about four years ago, and I recorded Give Me Moments in Las Vegas.  It was right before the show at Stardust with the Temptations.  I went into the studio with Harvey Fuqua, and he produced this song along with me.”

  The opening song, however, is a mid-pacer called Running Back for More, which GC calls “hard r&b” but which also reminds you of some of things Marvin Gaye used to do it the 70s.  “Marvin was so unique and so great.  I find in my recordings that in my musical journey I’ve learned to feel like people more than sound like them.  It is the same spirit.  I have the same spirit as David Ruffin, as Sam Cooke, as Marvin Gaye, and we use those souls to express ourselves.  Therefore it feels like Marvin, because no-one can sound like Marvin.  But I learned so much from him being associated with him and being close to him.  I also learned many things from Jackie Wilson and Michael Jackson, when he was a boy… looking at how he mastered the artistry of these great people.  I think that now people really want to hear and feel old school.  Everybody wants to go back - but they don’t want to turn around.”

  The sound of a light mid-tempo song titled Give You Love I Can and GC’s high-voiced singing bear a slight resemblance to what the Temptations and Eddie Kendricks used to record back in the day, and a soft and soothing ballad named Fix Me could also come from the Temptations repertoire.  “I’m a Motown artist by nature, because of the combination of the Spinners and the sound of the Temptations and being an artist, who has been there all the time.  Buster and I wrote Fix Me.  Buster did the track on it and I heard the track and went ballistic, because it went back to the early 70s.  We recorded it right after the show with the Temptations at a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, and I still had the Temptations in me.  It was being like on the stage with the Tempts.  Fix Me is a kind of ‘transformed-from-the-Temptations-to-Al-Green’ song, and then I really went back to the 60s and 50s at the end of the song.  I tried to go back to the old groups.  I think Fix Me is a marvellous song.  It’s one of my favourite songs on the CD.”

ENTICED ECSTASY

  The title track is a romantic jam and here GC opens the song not unlike Barry White.  “I am a baritone singer.  I never had a chance to sing like I wanted to sing until I started doing my own thing, which is Enticed EcstasyShadows was the beginning of me stretching out as a writer, and this is the next stage.”  Shadows is GC’s first solo album this decade (released in 2001), and it was followed by Truth & Reality.

  Turn Love Around is the kind of a pretty and sophisticated sweet soul ballad they used to make in the early and mid-70s.  “Yes, the Stylistics, the Dramatics, the Temptations… and all of the falsetto singers like Smokey and Curtis.  The song expresses love unfinished, and it’s all about love and hope.”

  People Get Ready is the only outside tune on the CD.  “Curtis has always been one of my teachers also, an influence on playing guitar and writing.  During the course of Obama’s inauguration we did a video on People Get Ready.  I changed the word ‘train’ to ‘change’ – there’s a change a-comin’ – and that was Obama’s thing, ‘change’ and ‘yes we can’.

  On the last four tracks on the CD, GC breaks out of the classic and smooth old-school style and starts even experimenting a little.  Love Survives is an almost funky number, You Should Have Told Me is a loud mid-tempo beater, which introduces a rock guitar solo in the middle, and Love Makes Me High is a mid-beat rocker.  “I recorded Love Makes Me High in the British sound.  I was hoping that some young British rock groups would pick that song up.  I think it has a little Michael Jackson kind of thing in it.  It’s a personal story of ‘love makes me high, love makes me fly’.”

MEET ME BY THE RIVER

  The final song, a joyous mid-pacer titled Meet Me by the River, is supported by a Caribbean beat.  “I just finished a reggae CD with a friend of mine, Frank Caruso.  We recorded It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday and It’s a Shame in reggae.  Meet Me by the River is a concept of Sam Cooke’s Sugar Dumpling and a Mississippi reality, where we were as children going to church down by the river.  It’s an innocent expression of the things I went through.  I went to the junior prom, and even though I was young I remember how pretty the girls were.  I had a good time, and I was singing along with my great friend, the late Frank Williams from the Jackson Southernaires gospel group.  We were in the elementary school together.  That was my first experience as an entertainer singing at the junior prom, when I was eleven years old” (in 1956).

  Other GC’s personal favourites are two ballads, the dreamy Hearts on Fire and the melodic So Close to You.  “I’m really hoping that I can get this CD picked up by a major label.  I want to perform the whole album on stage along with some songs from Shadows and along with a medley from the Temptations and the Spinners.  I’m also putting together a one-man show on Marvin Gaye.  It’s called ‘Gates’, that’s his nick-name given years ago.”

  “I want this music to soften your souls and enlighten your thoughts, make you feel better and bring you something unique and beautiful.  If we can’t physically touch the people, at least spiritually we try to do it.  Love is the nucleus of over existence.”  (www.myspace.com/199498896).

(Interview conducted on July 30.  Acknowledgements also to Mr. Weldon A. McDougal III).

Heikki Suosalo




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