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DEEP # 4/2017 (July)

  Contrary to popular belief, thrilling soul music is created and released still today.  This column features with interviews two artists that have come up with new and convincing material – Latimore and Sweet Angel.  In addition to two more CDs, there’s also a new book on Otis Redding reviewed.  As a last-minute delivery I received a delightful musical present from the Memphis guitar virtuoso, Bobby Manuel.

Content and quick links:

Interviews:
Latimore
Sweet Angel

New music:
Latimore: A Taste of Me: Great American Songs
Willie Clayton: Crossroads of the Blue
Sweet Angel: Can’t Walk Away
Bobby Manuel: Saulsauce

Compilation/Reissue CD reviews:
Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised ...plus

Book reviews:
Jonathan Gould: Otis Redding – An Unfinished Life



LATIMORE


  After Latimore had released six albums on his and Henry Stone’s joint Latstone label between 2007 and 2013, Henry passed away in August 2014.  Latimore: “This new CD is on Essential Media Group that’s based in Miami and the CEO of the company is Paul Klein.  They approached me with this idea to see if I like it and I said ‘okay, we’ve got nothing to lose, let’s try it’.  Ish Ledesma and Steve Alaimo, who are two of the producers, knew that I liked some of the older, smooth songs that I’ve performed in clubs years ago.  They gave me a long list of songs and I gave them mine, and they put it on me to pick the ones I wanted to do.  I picked these out, and there are a couple of more that didn’t make it on this CD, but in case we’ll do something else, a follow-up, we’ll use them.  I tried to keep the integrity of the songs and still put my little touch to it.”

  “We got some good players together and we kind of collaborated on the arrangements.  We didn’t want to have a whole lot of strings and horns but keep it nice and simple... and it came out pretty good.”  A Taste of Me: Great American Songs (www.essentialmediagroupllc.com; 942 326 635-2) features such musicians as Ish Ledesma on guitar, Dorian Reyes on drums, Eric England on bass, Douglas Carter on keyboards and Vincent Brookfield on saxophone.

  Ish Ledesma was born in Cuba in 1952, moved to Miami and became a guitarist at TK in the 1970s.  “That’s when I met him.  With Steve Alaimo we’ve been knowing each other for many, many, many years.  I played behind him quite a few times, when he was singing.”  Between 1962 and ’66 Steve had six charted singles – and a couple bubbling under - on Checker, Imperial and ABC, including Every Day I Have to Cry.  In spite of some small hits still later on, Steve, however, concentrated on running record labels, composing and producing after that.  Ron and Howard Albert are credited as co-producers on this CD.  “I met them in the late 60s.  They were engineers at the Criteria Studios in Miami, and we’ve been friends for all these years.”


  The opening track is a slow, tender and romantic song, which derives from Mexico in the late 1950s.  “Sabor A Mi – that was a big Spanish song and Ish wanted me to do that.  We translated it into English – A Taste of Me – and after we had done the song I said ‘you know, that might be a good title for the whole CD’, because people get to see a little different side of me.  It also shows that I can still sing at this old age (laughing).  This CD has a little jazzy overtone, and that was something we wanted to try.”

  There are many standards on display and the most jazzy ones in arrangements and instrumentation are Cry Me a River, The Very Thought of You, What a Difference a Day Makes and to a degree Since I Fell for YouAt Last and Smile are both smooth and soft, almost tranquilizing numbers.  Al Kooper’s I Love You More than You’ll Ever Know is one of the slow, sax-spiced songs on the set, but this is not the first time Latimore covers Al’s song, because both Jolie and (Be Yourself) Be Real were released on Glades in 1973.  “Al Kooper, who is a good friend of Steve Alaimo, was pretty pleased that we’re going to do I Love You More than You’ll Ever Know, and I think he’s satisfied with the outcome.”

DIG A LITTLE DEEPER

  The CD contains also two Latimore’s own songs.  “Paul Klein wanted me to do Let’s Straighten It Out.  He wanted that real bad, because that song is my calling card, my identity.  We did a bit smoother version of it but still not departing very much from the entity of the song itself.”  Naturally on this track Benny himself plays the piano.

  In 1978 Latimore released an album called Dig a Little Deeper, and the title song was put out as a single, too.  “I wanted to do Dig a Little Deeper because of the message of the song.  People these days tend to be so shallow.  They don’t take time to look a little further – look beyond the obvious – when you might find what you’re looking for... so, ‘dig a little deeper’!”

  Besides his own songs, Latimore names You Are So Beautiful, The Very Thought of You and What a Difference a Day Makes his favourites.  “We’ve already shot a couple of videos.  And one thing that is different on this CD: on most of the tracks we use an upright bass.  It has a warmer feeling.  We wanted to do a good listening album.  It’s not a dance thing.  It is something you put on and relax.  It is nice to listen to, easy on the ears.”

  In May Latimore was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis, Tennessee.  “I’m going to Jackson, Mississippi, on July the 24th.  They’re giving me the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Then in August I’ll be playing in Detroit and Chicago, so I’m going on and on and on, but trying not to do too much, because I’m not getting any younger (laughing).  But I feel good.  I try to keep myself healthy.  I don’t like travelling all that much, but once I’m on the stage I feel as good as I’ve always felt.”

(Interview conducted on July the 13th in 2017; acknowledgements to Yvonne and Benny Latimore; http://www.soulexpress.net/deep4_2013.htm#latimore).

WILLIE CLAYTON


  I’m a devoted fan of Willie Clayton and his music.  By now I have 35 albums from him, and although I don’t always agree with all of his musical choices I think that he’s one of the greatest male soul vocalists there is.

  Willie has included blues songs on practically all of his CDs, but this time he dedicated an entire album to the blues, in the traditional meaning of the word.  Crossroads of the Blues (Endzone Entertainment; www.willieclayton.net) is in terms of writing and producing for the most part an entity created by Willie himself and Harold Darnell TaylorChristopher Forrest also co-wrote a couple of songs, and – what’s delightful! – on most of the tracks there are actually live rhythm section players and on some tracks even real horns, which enables an authentic, full sound.

  Among the three rolling romps, Sneaking & Creeping is the catchiest and perkiest one and actually the first single off the album.  In the slow walking blues category, Backside of Fifty is strongly influenced by Bobby Bland, while Delta Water Blues reveals some biographical information, as well.

  There are as many as five melancholic slow numbers, which you could file under soul-blues.  Of them, Bartender Blues appeared already over twenty years ago on Ace Records.  For pure soul music lovers there are two tracks, a killer ballad called Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Right and Purple Rain, a convincing tribute to the late Prince.  There’s actually a lot of soul to this blues CD.

INTRODUCING... SWEET ANGEL *


  “Last year we were in Cairo, Illinois, and I was on stage.  All of a sudden one man jumped on stage.  There were no stairs or anything... he just leaped on the stage.  I was playing my saxophone in upper register and my reaction was that with my right hand I just pushed him back, off the stage.  It was kind of scary for a moment, but nothing happened - the band kept playing and I kept playing.”

  On tour anything can happen, but in the studio these days everything is strictly under Sweet Angel’s control.  She has recently released her 6th CD album, Can’t Walk Away (SA Records), and in her 10-year recording career it is indisputably her best so far.  Sweet Angel: “I put everything that I got into this one and I’m hoping it’ll do great for me.  Actually this is my first time of having a full live band in the studio, and this is the band I tour with.”

  The rhythm section consists of Michael O. Cole on keys, Randy Goodlow on drums, Wayne Whitmore on guitar and Donald Taylor on bass.  Wayne is also one of the three background singers along with Jacquelyn Ingram, Briana Dobbins and Mattie Hester.  The latter two are Sweet Angel’s daughters.  “In the early part of my career I did more like track shows, but during the last eight years I perform with my own band and that’s where my comfort zone is.  I really thought I would do my best work with my band in the studio, which turned out to be the right thing for me.  I just felt a better vibe.”  The CD was cut at the Ecko Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.  “Even though I’m no longer with that label, they have a great engineer in their studio, Til Palmer, that I love working with.”

  Sweet Angel is the writer or co-writer on all fifteen tracks on this set, which begins with a fast introductory song called Take a Look.  It is followed by a rolling blues song titled Hold Back the Booga Bear, which may take your thoughts back to Ollie Nightingale’s ’96 recording, You Got a Booger Bear under There.  “It doesn’t have any connection.  It’s just a common term in the blues world.”  Sweet Angel and her husband Mac Dobbins wrote that song together.  “We had it sitting in the box for awhile.  As a matter of fact, I was thinking of giving it someone else to do, but it’s a really fun song and good to perform on stage.”

  After a smooth and light dancer named I Need a Real Love, we are treated to a sensual and pretty soul ballad, Steps to Love.  “I released it in 2015 as a single, but now it’s remixed with a live band playing on it.”  Action Speaks Louder than Words is a thrilling deep soul ballad.  “It’s one of my favourites along with the title track.”  Juking at the Hole in the Wall is a perky number, which originally was released on Angel’s preceding CD in 2012.  “We released it also as a single, but actually I didn’t do it on stage a lot, because the sequencing was so hard for me, so I remixed it and had a live band to play it.  Now it’s a little more commercial and easier to handle on stage.”

CAN’T WALK AWAY

  A smooth slowie called I Got Your Back is followed by another ballad, the poignant Still Crazy for You, which was originally released as a single four years ago.  “I just wanted to try it a bit differently with a band.  I like the way it turned out, so that’s why we re-released it.  I really didn’t push those singles very hard, because it takes a lot of work distributing them out there and you should have a whole package to go with it.  So a lot of people never did get those singles unless they really followed me, but now that they are re-released on an album they get the attention they didn’t get before.”  One can’t help noticing that there are some similarities to a song titled I Must Be Crazy, which appeared on Angel’s debut CD ten years ago.  “As a matter of fact, on my live performances I often do a medley of those two songs.”

  The title tune, Can’t Walk Away, is a touching soul ballad, whereas I Wanna Ride It is a half-spoken party song.  You can’t help comparing a zydeco ditty named How Low Can You Go? with My Tu Tu.  “As a matter of fact, I did cover My Tu Tu for a long time, because periodically Denise LaSalle and I are on the same show and when she’s not there I do a medley of these songs on stage.”  Thrill Is Real sounds like it was inspired by Roy Hawkins’ 1951 recording of The Thrill Is Gone.  “That’s one of my favourites and one I can showcase my saxophone.  I always try to put one or two of my horn-playing tracks in there.”  Besides blowing her saxophone, in the middle of the song Angel breaks into a Caribbean beat.  This Is My Prayer (if It’s for me) is an emotional and inspirational down-tempo number.  “I put it out as a single also, because that way it’ll be played either on inspirational or gospel channels, more than soul and r&b stations.”

  “On this CD I’m getting good feedback from all the jocks saying it’s one of those you don’t know what you want to play first.  I was trying to capture my feelings to wrap into this project.  I just wanted to make sure that I will put something out that I can continuously work on, and in many areas people say it is my best work so far, which makes me so proud.”


On the pic above: from left to right - Larry Chambers, Cherrie Holden and Heikki Suosalo in Memphis in 2000

MIKE’S CLUB

  Clifetta Colbert aka Sweet Angel was born in Memphis on March the 9th in 1964, and that’s where she still resides today.  She has two daughters, ages fifteen and eighteen.  “Growing up in Memphis wasn’t too hard for me, because I was too young to really know what hard times were.  I was raised by my mother and father, and there were six children and I was next to the baby.  My mom loved the blues and we would listen to it all day on Saturdays.  My dad was not a professional gospel singer but sang in that church where we grew up.  At that time my mom loved Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Rush, Bobby Blue Bland, B.B. King, so these were the voices I heard ringing in my ear.  When I took the turn to get into music professionally, I had a mixture of those artists plus - coming up in your 20s and 30s - the r&b artists you were listening to at that age.  Performance-wise I loved Tina Turner, and at a former amusement park here in Memphis I played with the band and we backed an Elvis impersonator; I soon grew up a big attraction for Elvis’ music.  So when you listen to my music, almost every song has a different direction, because I love all types of music - and I make it my business to do a good show.”

  At Lincoln Elementary, Sweet Angel already started singing and playing xylophone and later in Junior High clarinet.  “I did start with xylophone, but unfortunately I never did take piano lessons, which I wish I really had.  But I did mostly woodwind instruments like clarinet and flute, and finally saxophone.  My preference right now is alto saxophone.”

  After graduating in the early 1980s, Sweet Angel didn’t enter the music business right away but chose non-artistic real estate and banking businesses instead.  “I chose a career path that I can lean on, where I can make a living (laughing).  I did not even think about music as a profession, until I met my husband, Mike Dobbins.  We formed a club and I started singing there – even started hosting karaoke as a DJ – then moving on into the studio... and the rest is history.  At that point Mike gave me my disc-jockey handle, Sweet Angel.  When you’re married and stable, at that point you can make an investment into something that is like a hobby at first, because you’re not making money out of it.  I just didn’t have any clue that I would be recognized as an artist in any form of music.”

  Sweet Angel met Mac “Mike” Dobbins in 2004 and two years later they were already running Mike’s Club, but they soon sold it.  “Probably it was in 2008, when we decided that we had to make a choice on whether we’re going to be in the music business or the club, because trying to manage both of them was very difficult.  Being on the road during the weekend and other people managing the club in the meantime, some numbers didn’t add up in the club, so it was just not financially beneficial to us.”


ANOTHER MAN’S MEAT ON MY PLATE

  “Another Man’s Meat on My Plate - that was my first recording, first time in the studio, first time everything.”  Mike knew Ecko Records’ promotion director, Larry Chambers, which led to Sweet Angel and Mike using John Ward’s Ecko studios to record their debut album.  Mike was credited as a producer and writer on six songs.

  Released on the couple’s Mac Records in 2007, there were – alongside a couple of dancers – some fascinating ballads on the CD.  “My favourite is I Must Be Crazy and I love Another Man’s Meat on My Plate, too.”  The only outside contribution is a mid-tempo, mellow and slightly jazzy number called Easy Loving You, which was produced and written by the late Morris J. Williams.  “He said ‘I’ve got this song and I’d love you two to check it out’.  That is a beautiful song, but I’ve never performed it anywhere on my circuit.”  Right Street, Wrong Way is one of the four classy soul ballads on the set.  “That was another one that was nice, and in fact it’s still getting airplay today.”

  For the holiday season in 2007 they released the bluesy Merry Christmas My Baby.  “It was only on single, and I’ve been really planning on bringing it back and doing a full Christmas CD.”


HANDLE YOUR BUSINESS

  Sweet Angel’s sophomore album, Handle Your Business, was this time released on Ecko Records in 2008, and actually that debut album was re-released with two additional tracks on it also on Ecko in 2009.  “I had already started my next project, Handle Your Business, so those two albums - Meat and Handle - were practically taken over by Ecko Records and re-released under that label.”

  Produced by Angel and Mac, this time Mac wrote seven out of the eleven songs on display.  “He used to have a band many, many years ago.  He tried to do some writing and - what he had initially started - a lot of that stuff is what came on to my albums.  These days Mac really doesn’t write too much.”  As her latest CD proves, Sweet Angel nowadays writes almost all of her own material.  “Now that I’ve been in the business this long, I know something about life; what matters to people, affects their feelings, has longevity.  Now I play a bigger role in what I want to say, the feeling that I want to convey and the sound I want to present.  I have to feel it, when I’m performing on stage.”

  On the CD, besides party songs on toe-tappers there are three ballads (I Love My Man, Hard Times Were the Good Times and You Gotta Make Love).  “I love the album.  It was a little more laid-back.  I think people loved the title cut.  It was telling a little story, which was more or less something that anybody in a relationship can relate to.”


BOLD BITCH

  Again on Ecko Records in 2009 Bold Bitch! concentrates on more up-tempo material, and it kicks off with an infectious dancer titled Butt Up!  Among the more mellow mid-pacers there are such numbers as I’m Movin’ Up and Outside Tail.  The saxophone track this time is called Blow that Thang Sweet Angel and for older gentlemen there’s a down-tempo song titled The Tongue Don’t Need No Viagra.

  Betty Wright’s Clean up Woman is the first thing to cross your mind when listening to Don’t Let the Clean up Woman Pick up Your Man.  “Clean up Woman has always been a crowd-pleaser, a big favourite.  I’ve performed that song in my career possibly one or two times on stage.  If we go to soul-blues events, most times a female singer will be singing Clean up Woman on stage, so I had to turn it around and make something that is more of my own.  That got a lot of attention and I’ve performed it a lot at the time it was released.  It had a good groove.”


A GIRL LIKE ME

  Mrs. Clifetta Dobbins’ aka Sweet Angel’s fourth and last Ecko CD in 2010, A Girl like Me, was for the most part written and produced by Sweet Angel and Mac with John Ward credited as a co-producer.  Among steppers and mid-tempo floaters there are as many as six strong ballads, such as Mrs. Number Two, The Comfort of My Man, I’d Rather Be by Myself and the country-tinged I’m Workin’ on My JobDon’t Be Lonely, Be Loved was written by Sweet Angel’s sister in dedication to her deceased husband.

  The bluesy I’ve Got to Get Paid bears a slight resemblance to Drown in My Own Tears, whereas a bluesy roller titled I like the Money, but I don’t like the Job must have been inspired by Barrett Strong’s Money.  “That is a very fun song that a lot of people really love.”  In terms of variety and soulfulness, A Girl like Me was Sweet Angel’s strongest album thus far.  “That took me to the next level actually.  It got a lot of attention and airplay and there are songs on there that I’m still singing today.”

MR. WRONG GONNA GET THIS LOVE TONIGHT


  Recorded at Ecko studios, Sweet Angel’s next CD in 2012, however, appeared not on Ecko Records, but on her own SA Records.  “I was writing the majority of the music that was put on the Ecko label.  When you’re writing and they’re publishing, you really don’t reap the benefits.  So as I got more seasoned and learned a little bit more about the processes, I started doing what was more beneficial on my behalf.”

  For the CD, Mr. Wrong Gonna Get This Love Tonight, Sweet Angel wrote eight songs out of ten and she plays alto saxophone on four tracks.  The title track is a smooth soul ballad.  “It got a lot of airplay and I’ve performed it on stage up until this year, when I started to refresh my show a little bit and add some of my new material.”  Zydeco Funk is just what the title says.  “People love the zydeco song and it’s one of those that I keep on my shows.”

  Touch Me represents fine, pleading soul balladry, whereas the first of outside tunes, a cover of Nappy Brown’s 1958 recording on Savoy called Don’t Hurt Me No More, is a traditional down-tempo rhythm & blues moan.  The other cover is Prince’s Purple Rain.  “I added Purple Rain, because it’s a part of my show that’ll never go away.  I close the show out with it.  I don’t like to perform stuff, if my version of it can’t be in my fan’s ear even when I’m off stage.”

JUS’ BLUES AWARD WINNER

  It took five years for Sweet Angel to finally come up with her new CD, Can’t Walk Away.  “A lot of people say you don’t stay relevant if you don’t release constantly, but there’s no point for you to spend the money and record year after year stuff, if it doesn’t have any substance.  If I can’t get my hands on something that I really want to record and do on my shows, then I don’t record it.  I had on my shows songs that were keepers like Good Girls Do Bad Things, which was released in 2009 and audience still asks for it.  Now I thought it was time for me to freshen up my show and create with a live band a new full and fresh sound.”

  A two-time Jus’ Blues Award Winner (http://www.jusblues.org/jus-blues-awards1.html) – in 2008 and 2013 – is very proud of her latest CD.  “This new CD is a big part of my new show, but along with the old stuff, because a lot of people love my older music, too.  I try to include as much as I can into my 45-60-minute show, but I really work hard to make sure that I keep my old fans staying with me, alongside new ones.  Each year we take The Boogie Bus to various places and this year we’ll take it back to the Delta Blues & Heritage Festival in Greenville, Mississippi, on September the 16th.  I enjoy the music and I love what I do.”

(www.sweetangel.org; Interview conducted on July the 9th in 2017; acknowledgements to Sweet Angel, David Whiteis and Anders Lillsunde).

SWEET ANGEL ALBUM DISCOGRAPHY

ANOTHER MAN’S MEAT ON MY PLATE (Mac) 2007

I Must Be Crazy (radio version) / Another Man’s Meat On My Plate / I Got Love For You / Easy Loving You / Mike’s Place / Right Street, Wrong Way / Please Come Home / Mike’s Place (instrumental) / I Must Be Crazy (club mix) / Right Street, Wrong Way (extended mix)

NOTE: Re-released in 2009 on Ecko (ECD 1112) with two additional tracks:

I’d Rather Have A Cheatin’ Man / I’m Gonna Give You Good Love

HANDLE YOUR BUSINESS (Ecko, ECD 1102) 2008

I’m Leaving / Guilty As Charged / Back It Up And Slow Roll It / I’m Sharing Your Man / I Love My Man / Handle Your Business / Hard Times Were The Good Times / Oops! / You Gotta Make Love / It’s The Weekend / Rock Me

BOLD BITCH! (Ecko, ECD 1115) 2009

Butt Up! / The Tongue Don’t Need No Viagra / I’m Gonna Give You Good Love / Don’t Let The Clean Up Woman Pick Up Your Man / I’m Movin’ Up / Good Girls Do Bad Things / Let Me Be Your Angel / Blow That Thang Sweet Angel / Outside Tail / Bold Bitch

A GIRL LIKE ME (Ecko, ECD 1126) 2010

A Girl Like Me / I’d Rather Be By Myself Than To Be Unhappy / Mrs. Number Two / I’ve Got To Get Paid / What I Want, What I Need / Last Night Was Your Last Night / Don’t Be Lonely, Be Loved / I Like The Money, But I Don’t Like The Job / I’m Workin’ On My Job / The Comfort Of My Man / Roll / Do You Feel Alright / Butt Up (remix)

MR. WRONG GONNA GET THIS LOVE TONIGHT (SA Records) 2012

Mr. Wrong (Gonna Get This Love Tonight) / Juking (At The Hole In The Wall) / Zydeco Funk / Blow That Thang Again / Soul Stepping / Touch Me / Love Thief / Don’t Hurt No More / Touch Me (instrumental) / Purple Rain

CAN’T WALK AWAY (SA Records) 2017

Take A Look / Hold Back The Booga Near / I Need A Real Love  / Steps To Love (remix) / Action Speaks Louder Than Words / Juking At The Hole In The Wall (remix) / I Got Your Back / Still Crazy For You (remix/radio version) / Can’t Walk Away (From Mr. Good Thang) (radio version) / I Wanna Ride It / How Low Can You Go? / Thrill Is Real / This Is My Prayer (If It’s For Me) / Still Crazy For You (remix/album version) / Can’t Walk Away (From Mr. Good Thang) (album version)

BOBBY MANUEL


On the pic above: Bobby Manuel at his High Stacks Studios in 2000

  More good news from Memphis!  The guitarist extraordinaire, an engineer, a writer, producer and label owner Bobby Manuel has finished a CD entitled Saulsauce (Kudzu Electric, K33001), and the release date is July 20th for all digital outlets.  Bobby: “I never thought that I would do a solo record but I guess this is kind of my legacy album.  It features Memphis royalty as musicians and pure soul vocals.  The late greats, William Brown, J. Blackfoot and Ollie Nightingale give fantastic vocal performances.”

  When Bobby talks about Memphis royalty, you can’t help but agree.  You only need to have a look at the list of participants in the making of this CD.  On different tracks there are as many as 22 musicians backing Bobby up, and among them you can spot such names as Steve Potts and Willie Hall on drums, Lester Snell and Winston Stewart on keys, Charles Hodges on organ, Leroy Hodges and Ronnie Williams on bass, Chad Cromwell on percussion and in the horn section Jim Spake, Andrew Love, Kirk Smithers, Scott Thompson, Tom Clary, Ben Cauley etc.  Engineers at Royal Studio were Boo Mitchell and Kevin Houston, and at Ardent Adam Hill and Robert Jackson.


  Bobby wrote or co-wrote ten songs, and one of the two non-Bobby tunes is a traditional called Deep River, the closing song with only Bobby and his acoustic guitar in a peaceful setting.  The other outside song is a cover of Eddie Floyd’s 1968 hit, I’ve Never Found a Girl.  On this rollicking track William Brown and J. Blackfoot share their soulful vocals.  Ollie Nightingale is the featured vocalist on a fast and hard-edged dancer named Icy Cold Hands.

  The rest of the tracks are all instrumentals and, as expected, Bobby’s guitar playing and his improvisation-filled solos are in the main role.  He moves effortlessly and easily from one mood to another.  There’s a beautiful love ballad called Connie, dedicated to his wife, but before that you can enjoy a Caribbean fiesta song named Memphis in Havana and the funky, quick-tempo number titled Soulsauce # 9.  Right after the dreamy Connie, we are back picking up the speed again with a rolling mid-tempo number named Shuffalo and even switch over to a cha-cha beat on Good News.

  The fast and funky The Royal Strut is followed by the intense and horn-heavy Dr. GrooveSmooth Sailing is a simple mid-tempo number and similarly Soul Slide is a sunshiny, laid-back mid-pacer.  The melodies are quite catchy and – true to best Memphis music traditions – Soulsauce is both easy to dance to, and a pleasure to listen to.

COMP-ART-ment

GIL SCOTT-HERON


  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised ...plus (CDBGPD 305; www.acerecords.com; 20 tracks, 64 min.; notes by Dean Rudland) is a compilation of Gil’s early 1970s tracks on the Flying Dutchman label.  Produced by the label-owner, Bob Thiele, and all songs written by Gil or co-written with Brian Jackson, the tracks represent the first wave of angry black poetry set to music. 

  There are a few spoken-word tracks, and on this set The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is the most widely known of them.  On majority of the tracks, however, Gil is also singing.  He delivers his poems either surprisingly softly and even bluesy - Pieces of a Man, Save the Children, I Think I’ll Call It Morning, The Get out of the Ghetto Blues - or more aggressively, like on Home Is Where the Hatred Is (remember Esther Phillips a year or so later?) and Or Down You Fall.  Some of them lean heavily on jazz: Free Will and Lady Day and John Coltrane.

  Gil is not a very expressive singer, but on the other hand the two main elements in his music are the lyrics and the “jazz combo” playing with such luminaries as Pretty Purdie on drums, Ron Carter on bass, Hubert Laws on flute and David Spinozza on guitar, to name a few.  Although of acquired taste, historically this is an interesting CD.  Right after Flying Dutchman, Gil went on to enjoy his most popular ten-year period on Arista with such single hits as Johannesburg, The Bottle, Angel Dust and Re-Ron.  Gil died in 2011 at the age of 62.

BLACK BOOKCASE

OTIS REDDING


  For his book, Otis Redding – An Unfinished Life (Crown Archetype, ISBN 978-0-307-45394-5; 548 pages, 24 photos; index included), Jonathan Gould has interviewed as many as 87 persons and most importantly many of those, who were close to Otis, namely his widow Zelma Redding and her family and people close to Otis’ manager, Phil Walden.  He has also talked to a lot of musicians, who used to perform with Otis, and people connected with related record labels (Lute/Confederate, Stax, Atlantic etc.).  This fact sets this book apart from earlier biographies on Otis, and especially from Mark Ribowsky’s tome two years ago (http://www.soulexpress.net/deep7_2015.htm#bookreview), which contained many inaccuracies and peculiar conclusions.  Also, if you have a look at the bibliography in Jonathan’s book (books and articles), you become convinced that Jonathan has done a thorough research on this subject.

  In his approach Jonathan has chosen a wider perspective, which means that he writes not only about Otis and his life, but extensively tells about his family, cultural and social changes in southern areas, minstrel shows, racial tension, “Jim Crow” incidents, lynchings, white violence, the great migration, black power, and he also touches such issues as black art, black radio, indie record labels and of course the history of black music generally.  More specifically he writes profound bios on many artists, including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard, Louis Jordan, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin.

  This wider perspective means that especially in the beginning of the book Otis appears on its pages quite irregularly.  He was born on page 45, goes to school on page 80 and attends first talent shows on page 110.  Only on page 207 we get to These Arms of Mine, which actually was written by Jackie Avery.  But it doesn’t bother me, because Jonathan very skilfully places Otis and his activities, his art and his records in the context of the surroundings and historical processes.  He also closely analyses Otis’ music and isn’t afraid to express his own opinions.  Chronologically all the significant events in Otis’ life are included and this time also from the angle of many of those who were close-by.  I highly recommend this book.  It’s the most profound research on Otis.

© Heikki Suosalo

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