Front Page

The Best Tracks in 2013

CD Shop

Book Store

Search Content/Artists

New Releases

Forthcoming Releases

Back Issues

Serious Soul Chart

Quality Time Cream Cuts

Vintage Soul Top 20

Boogie Tunes Top 20

Album of the Month

CD Reviews

Editorial Columns

Discographies

Readers' Favourites

Top 20 most visited pages

Links








DEEP # 7/2015 (October)

I was more than happy to talk with the delightful Toni Green again.  This beautiful lady out of Memphis has just released a new CD with Malted Milk, a soul-blues group out of France.  How did this uncommon collaboration come about?  Toni explains it all below.

  There’s also the regular dose of new, independent Southern Soul CDs and retrospect compilations – actually, all quite good this time – and a book on Otis Redding, Stax Records and Southern Soul, again.

Content and quick links:

Interviews:
Toni Green

New CD release reviews:
Malted Milk & Toni Green: Milk & Green
Willie Clayton: Heart and Soul
Andre´ Lee: The Truth

Reissue/Compilation CD reviews:
Various: Reaching Out/Chess Records at Fame Studios
Various: Masterpieces of Modern Soul, vol. 4
Jimmy Helms: Gonna Make You an Offer..., subtitled The Complete Cube Recordings 1972-1975

Book review:
Mark Ribowsky: Dreams to Remember – Otis Redding, Stax Records and the Transformation of Southern Soul


TONI GREEN *

  I still fondly remember my meeting with the lovely Ms. Toni Green at the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy two years ago, which resulted in my in-depth feature on her, at http://www.soulexpress.net/tonigreen.htm.  Already then she mentioned her upcoming recording project with a French, blues/soul/funk orientated group called Malted Milk, and now the finished product is ready to be released at the end of October 2015.

  Toni: “The project came about 2013, going into 2014.  I met a gentleman by the name of Sebastian Danchin.  He was someone that had followed me and my career and he said he had been trying to find something that was possible for me to do in France.  For fifteen years he had been trying to get me, and finally there came the opportunity with Malted Milk to do Southern soul, blues and r&b, so he put it together.” 

  Sebastian produced the brand new Milk & Green CD (Nueva Onda Records, NOR002; www.nuevaonda.fr), and he also co-wrote four songs together with Toni and members of Malted Milk.  The group is based in Nantes, France, and it was formed in the late 90s.  In the sleeve notes to Milk & Green - their 7th album - they list the following musicians: Arnaud Fradin (voc, g), Éric Chambouleyron (g), Timothée Bakoglu (p), Igor Pichon (b-g), Richard Housset (d, perc), Pierre-Marie Humeau (tpt, flgn), Vincent Aubert (tb, btb) and Sylvain “Sly” Fetis (ts, bar, fl).  Still Laurence Le Baccon and Julie Dumoulin are on background vocals, and they also have violin & viola players on three tracks – Manuel Decocq and Jenny-Marlène Galvao.  Toni: “I got to have strings.  I’m a Southern girl” (laughing).


Toni with Memphis Horns

JUST CALL ME

  “They had sent me some CDs for me to listen to, some cover songs, and of course I brought my own songs, my own material.  I chose out of that bunch maybe about fifteen songs, and they took it down to twelve songs.  I came over, we rehearsed, we put it all together and we went out in the country to a very nice studio and we recorded the songs.  It didn’t take very long, but the mastering and mixing took a little longer.”  The recording studio is located in Puceul, in the north-west of France, just over 30 km from Nantes, and the mixing studio is situated in Besse, France.

  Among the twelve tracks, there are seven “in-house” compositions.  “For the new songs I already had ideas in my head before I left the United States.  So when I got there, I just gave them what was in my thoughts and we just came up with the musical rhythms and whatever we could put around the lyrics and the melodies that I had given to them.  The music is mostly from them.  And the same goes the other way round.  They gave me things that they had written and I kind of helped co-write some of the things, put my melodies and change some things.”

  One of these songs is the opener, a punchy and funky mid-tempo number called Just Call Me, which according to Toni is a strong candidate for a single release.


Helen Washington

TOMMY TATE

  I’d Really like to Know is Tommy Tate’s poignant, slow-to-mid-tempo song, which was first released as his demo on a Japanese album in 1979 ( www.soulexpress.net/tommytate_discography.htm).  “Tommy Tate was a wonderful guy.  As a matter of fact, I just visited Helen Washington, who’s in a nursing home, and we talked about Tommy Tate, and the tears just rolled off her eyes.  We talked about one of the greatest voices ever to be heard - that of Tommy Tate.” Helen was a dancer, who performed with Isaac Hayes Movement in the 70s.

  “I first met Tommy, when I was very, very young.  He took a liking to my voice.  For some reason, he liked how I sounded, and I adored how he sounded, and we did a few things out there, a few gigs around the city and around Mississippi.  He was such a nice guy and I was honoured to be with him, so when this song came about I was elated.  I wanted to make sure that we were going to do something in his honour.  This was a little scary for me at first, because the song was written so long ago and I was trying to imagine how it would be received today.  I was a little nervous about the black and white situation.  I didn’t know, was I sticking myself into something or not, but as I began to sing the song and get involved with it, I looked never back, because underneath we’re all the same.”

On Monday, October 26, Toni still contacted the nursing home, where they are taking care of Tommy. "I am happy to announce that he is alive and doing fine. I also talked to Tommy's son, Kevin Tate, who also said that his father is doing very good. I asked Kevin to tell Tommy that we all miss his wonderful voice and that he is truly loved by all."


Toni Green with Ann Peebles

THE WEATHER IS STILL FINE

  Alongside Just Call Me, another song that Toni and the band put together is a string-sweetened, emotional and touching ballad named The Weather Is Still Fine.  “It put me in that solemn mood of no matter what you’re going through you have to come out of it and say ‘I’m going to be okay’.  It probably has underlying things that have been very emotional for me – the relationships that I endured, and even losing my mom.  In spite of the rain and having to still cry, I still kept on imagining that it’s got to be sunshine.”

  Ann Peebles enjoyed a small hit on Hi Records in 1971 with a George Jackson song called Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love, and now Toni does her gritty and funky version of it.  “I have met Ann several times, because I have been at the Hi Studios, where I met her and her husband Don Bryant.  Recently she was celebrated at the Jus’ Blues Music Awards last year.  She couldn’t say much and I went over and hugged her, and when she realised it was me she just beamed up and wanted to know, why I wasn’t singing that night.”  Besides Ann, some of the other honourees at that event on July 31, 2014, were Blue Lovett and Gerald Alston of the Manhattans, G.C. Cameron and Cash McCall.

  A memorable tune with a laid-back and rather light arrangement called Wake up to Your Love is followed by a Mary J. Blige song from six years back named I Can Do Bad all by Myself.  On this track Toni has added some extra power and energy to her delivery.  “This is my favourite.  I love this song.  It reminds me of my friends, who are being abused.  That’s one of the songs that really took me to another place and hopefully still takes somebody to that same place and let them know ‘you can do better’.”  Already on her Strong Enough CD in 2002, Toni had covered two Mary J. Blige songs, Round and Round and The Love I Never Had.  “I’ve met Mary several times.”  I Can Do Bad all by Myself is also a possible single release, along with Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love, which is a favourite among Brits.


JUST AIN’T WORKING OUT

  Deep Inside is a pulsating mid-tempo number, even a bit ominous.  “That’s another one of my favourites.  I love it.  We all put it together.”  As Long As I Have You is another familiar song from the past, as it was the title tune of Garnet Mimms’ 1964 album on United Artists.  On this rolling, uptempo track Arnaud Fradin is sharing the vocals with Toni, as well as on Hold Back This Feeling, a slow song with a heavy beat.  “As Long As I Have You was Sebastian Danchin’s suggestion.  He gave it to me among a lot of other songs, and that was the one that I chose.”  On the cover of That Wiggle, Syl Johnson’s 1977 stomper on Hi Records (www.soulexpress.net/syljohnson_discography.htm), Arnaud is the sole vocalist.

  Just Ain’t Working Out is Toni’s highly emotive, deep soul ballad, which she first cut for her Southern Soul Music CD in 2003.  It’s also the cream cut for this reviewer on the CD.  “I love that song, too.  It’s one of my greatest favourites, and that’s why I wanted to redo it.”

  A lively and melodically a bit angular dance track titled Party Girl introduces piano and trumpet solos in the middle.  “This is a new song.  In our live show, Party Girl is phenomenal.  Everybody’s up and everybody’s dancing.  It’s such a fun song.  That’s one of our most requested songs on our tours.”  They also added fake live audience to the track. “I told them that they need to have a sound on the top like there’s a party going on.”

  One hidden track with a steady mid-tempo beat called D.J. Jam closes the CD.  “It’s actually called Sexy Love Machine.  It’s also a studio cut.”


Toni with Malted Milk

  Toni and Malted Milk have shows scheduled at the end of November, both in France, and the U.K.  “We’re preparing for more television and more of everything next year.  We would just like to give everybody a taste of this CD... and we also ask everybody to let us know, if they like it or not.  We’re hopefully going to try for another CD.”  In the future a home-turf record is not excluded either.  “I think to me honestly that would be something to look forward to, because my roots are here in Memphis.  I would love to be back at the Hi Recording Studios, because I think it would give the flavour that’s needed for me as an artist.”

  “I want everybody to know that I’m going to always try to give you the best of music.  We’re going to keep trying till we get to hopefully please the majority of the people, who really want to hear our kind of music.  We’re going to keep on working on it, till we get better and better at this thing.”

(www.milk-green.com; interview conducted on October 23, 2015; acknowledgements to Toni Green, Jean-Hervé Michel and Jean-Claude Morlot).


Southern SOUL STEW

WILLIE CLAYTON *

  I still remember how thrilled I was after hearing Tony Troutman’s Your Man Is Home Tonight on the T.Main label in 1982.  That made me seek his other recordings on Swagger, Gram-o-phon, Note, Coastal, and later on Jerri and Solid Gold (I still haven’t found them all), but that one single and Tony’s similarly titled follow-up album made him a firm favourite in this corner.  Unfortunately he has now passed away.  Later also Buckwheat Zydeco, Artie “Blues Boy” White and J. Blackfoot have released creditable versions of Your Man Is Home Tonight, and now Willie Clayton opens his new CD with this great song.  Although Tony’s original is still unsurpassable for me, I also like Willie’s cover a lot.  As always, Willie’s singing is superb and the mid-tempo arrangement leaves enough room for him to burst into an emotional delivery.

  The rest of the songs on Heart and Soul (Endzone Entertainment, www.willieclayton.net) were for the most part written and produced by Willie and Darnell “Showcase” Taylor, a guitarist out of North Carolina.  Darnell also handles all the other instruments on nine tracks, with the exception of Marcus Anderson’s saxophone.

  Two singles - Come on Rock Me and Let’s Dance - are also light and easy toe-tappers, and especially the latter one bears a resemblance to the merry and catchy 70s Miami sound.  Your Love Is Wonderful is a mid-tempo stepper, which grows towards the end, and the laid-back Mend Your Broken Heart trespasses on Al Green’s territory.  Bringing the tempo still down, Amazing Lady is a beautiful, soothing serenade, whereas the melancholic and melodic Please Don’t Leave Me is the cream cut and the killer ballad on the CD.

  Three songs – Ain’t No Party, Leave My Woman Alone and the remixed Boom Boom Boom – derive from Willie’s earlier albums, but I’m really glad that finally we’re getting closer to an ideal Willie Clayton CD.  Avoiding passing fads and trendy sonic tricks, we can now concentrate on Willie’s extremely soulful singing on memorable melodies and tolerate even partial programming.  Heart and Soul is the best Willie Clayton CD in a long, long time. 


ANDRE´ LEE

  The Truth (Coday Records, AC 849; www.codayrecords.net) was produced, recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by Andrew Lee Caples, who also wrote or co-wrote all ten songs on it.  I picture Andre´ as “Will Downing of Southern Soul”, since they both have smooth tenor voices and their style is dominated by elegance and intimacy.

  Although known as “the balladeer of Southern soul”, on this CD there are as many as six light and laid-back dancers.  As a continuation of his stepping theme (earlier Stepping with You and Gonna Go Stepping), Andre´ kicks off his 6th CD with the soft and sensuous Let’s Go Stepping, whereas both the single You Went and Did It, and Tell Me What I Gotta Do are charged with more power.  On the quick-tempo Right Kind of Woman Andre´ has his wife, Miz Goldie, on background vocals.  The balladeer comes out best on the sweet Tell Me What You Need, while Anytime Anywhere is a song best suited for romantic, late-night moments (www.andrelee.net).

My place to purchase these SS indie CDs is www.intodeepmusic.com.


COMP-ART-ment

CHESS AT FAME *

  Reaching Out/Chess Records at Fame Studios (CDKEND 436; www.acerecords.com; 24 tracks, 65 min.; notes by Tony Rounce) has been available for a few months by now, but – unless you have most of these tracks already – I can’t think of any excuse for a late 60s Southern soul fan not to purchase this marvellous compilation.  Produced by “Rick Hall and Staff”, there’s music from eight acts assigned to Fame by Chess, and four tracks appear here for the first time.

  The lovely and ever-soulful Laura Lee has as many as five tracks, including three deep soul ballads (It’s All Wrong, But It’s Alright, Hang It Up and Sure As Sin) and two funky and sharp uptempo cuts (Wanted: Lover, No Experience Necessary and It’s How You Make It Good).

  Irma Thomas delivers three impressive slow songs, such as Otis Redding’s Good to Me, a cover of Joe Simon’s Let’s Do It Over and the touching A Woman Will Do Wrong, one that you’ll never get tired of.  From Etta James’ Fame catalogue they have chosen two toe-tappers (The Same Rope and her hit, Security) and one solid soul ballad, Don’t Lose Your Good Thing.  Sticking still to the ladies, for the first time they have unearthed Mitty Collier’s two intense and powerful ballads: Too Soon to Know is country-soul of the highest order and You’re Living a Lie is closer to blues but equally magnificent.

  Those four ladies above are the stars of the show here, while the gentlemen are more or less in supporting roles.  They mostly increase the tempo and bring more diversity to the program.  Maurice & Mac, of course, make an exception with their deep soul renditions of So Much Love (Latimore’s version is the closest that comes to my mind) and Lean on Me.  The duo’s third track, however, is a stomper called Run to Me.  In terms of swaying mid-tempo numbers and hypnotic dancers Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces won’t let us down (Reaching Out, I Wanna Be Your Man and Come Back Baby), and the raspy-voiced Lee Webber does a punchy cover of Good Day Sunshine and tries to imitate Wilson Pickett on Party TimeCharles Chalmers, the sax man, is featured on two mid-tempo instrumentals (The Sidewinder and Two in the Morning) and one slowie (Take Me Just as I Am).  A highly recommended CD!


MODERN MASTERPIECES

  Masterpieces of Modern Soul, vol. 4 (CDKEND 437; 23 tracks, 79 min.; notes by Ady Croasdell) offers floaters mostly from the 70s, and issue-wise the CD can be divided into three parts: 7 tracks were normally issued at the time, 8 tracks are previously unissued and 8 tracks were shelved and released only on later compilations.

  Among the most interesting ones there’s Garland Green’s bouncy mid-tempo song called Just Loving You with an opening monologue.  Don’t Matter to Me by Billy Cee & the Freedom Express has a mid-tempo Memphis groove to it, while Toussaint McCall’s I’ll Laugh Till I Cry is a mellow dancer.  Obrey Wilson’s intense delivery on a message song named Daddy Please Stay Home makes you either think, or dance... or both (if that’s even possible).

  On Joe Evans’ Carnival label The Pretenders came up with a disco cover of Lee Williams & the Cymbals original recording of It’s Everything about You That I Love, and our old friend Viola Wills gets fervent on the brassy and busy I’ve Got News for You.  My guess is that the Dramatics’ semi-funky reading of Don’t Lose What You Got (Trying to Get Back What You Had) is one of tracks from the late 60s album that Steve Cropper produced but which was canned, but I’m not sure.

  George Soule’s Midnight Affair is a pulsating mid-tempo number, and almost in an unorthodox way Alvin Robinson lends his masculine voice to another equally light and melodic mid-pacer.  Among the rest of the featured artists there are Greg Perry, the Ovations with Louis Williams and Darrow Fletcher.


JIMMY HELMS

  The one song that made the sun shine brighter for me in the spring of 1973 was Jimmy Helm’s beautiful and impressively interpreted ballad called Gonna Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse.  After 42 years, I’m still enchanted by that single, released first in the U.K.  As a new and eager fan, one by one I started collecting Jimmy’s preceding U.S. recordings on Oracle and Capitol, but his debut on Juggy Murray’s Symbol label in 1963, You’re Mine, You – written by Jimmy Radcliffe – was too tough to find at the time.  Luckily it’s now available on YouTube.

  Written and produced by John Worth and arranged by Mike Moran, Gonna Make You an Offer reached # 8 on the U.K. charts.  It’s also the title track for a new compilation, Gonna Make You an Offer..., subtitled The Complete Cube Recordings 1972-1975 (CDMRED667; www.cherryred.co.uk; 21 tracks, 78 min.; notes by Andy Davis).  The CD comprises of Jimmy’s Cube singles, his one album (also titled Gonna Make You an Offer) and two previously unreleased tracks.  On single releases, John Worth wrote most of the slow A-sides, while Jimmy himself penned the uptempo, almost funky flips. 

  Before this compilation I hadn’t heard their first collaboration, which was released in July 1972, and it was a most pleasant surprise for me.  So Long Love is a powerful song with a rich orchestration by Gerry Shury, and this big ballad is perfect material for Jimmy’s multi-octave range.  Incidentally, remotely as a singer he reminds me of Ronnie DysonGonna Make You an Offer was released next, but unfortunately the crucial follow-up, Jack Horner’s Holiday, wasn’t distinctive enough to hit the charts anymore.  Produced by Wilf Pine and arranged by Andrew Powell, as a rescue they rush-released a fully orchestrated cover of I’ll take good Care of You – remember Garnet Mimms? – but they already had lost their moment.

  The album, which was released as late as in 1975, contains - besides more gritty and funky tracks – covers of such downtempo pop songs as David Gates It Don’t Matter to me and the DriftersLike Sister and Brother.  There’s also a big-voiced version of Stevie Wonder’s I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer, with only a piano accompaniment.

  Not on the ‘75 album but worth mentioning are also a lively and rolling cover of Johnny RiversThe Poor Side of Town, the driving Lady Blue and the almost operatic version of Jimmy Webb’s When Can Brown Begin.  Altogether Jimmy favoured pop-soul and MOR material, even show tunes. 

  After the Cube spell, already in 1975 Jimmy released his next album on Cube’s parent label, Pye Records, entitled Songs I Sing, and later he appeared on soundtracks, performed in musicals, until as a lead singer of Londonbeat he hit gold and big time with I’ve Been Thinking about You in 1991.


BLACK BOOKCASE

OTIS REDDING

  Alongside American sports, Mark Ribowsky has earlier written books about Phil Spector, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations, and now he undertook to research the deeper and gutsier side of soul music for Dreams to Remember – Otis Redding, Stax Records and the Transformation of Southern Soul (Liveright Publishing Corporation, ISBN 978-0-87140-873-0; 400 pages).  There are only eight pages with photos – and many of them are more than familiar – but the ever-important index is included, although no discography of any kind.

  Mark first takes us to Dawson, Georgia, where Otis Ray Redding Jr. was born in September 1941.  After that he leads us through Otis’ musical awakening and early experiments with choirs and groups in Macon, Georgia, all the way to his first recordings in Los Angeles in 1960.  Otis’ further career is chequered with management disputes between Phil Walden and Bobby Smith, the more or less improvised recording of These Arms of Mine at Stax Records Studios in 1962 and a shootout with Otis himself involved in 1964.  Al Bell’s marketing tricks in the mid-60s – “riding Berry Gordy’s coattails” – contributed to Otis’ gradually increasing popularity.  There were also duets with Carla Thomas, Jotis Records, the breakthrough Monterey festival in 1967 and constant searching for that elusive crossover hit.  There were also assumptions of Otis leaving Stax and signing with Atlantic, but that we’ll never know for sure, because Otis’ plane crashed into the lake Monona, close to Madison, Wisconsin, on December the 10th in 1967.

  Mark’s writing style is descriptive and captivating, but I, for one – as a lover of fact-orientated biographies – am not too keen on over-literary, metaphorical and exaggerating, even blabbering style.  Also at times Mark’s opinions and conclusions are curious.  What do you think about the following generalisations? 

-“Even in pain, his (Otis’) songs are odes to the joy of full-on emotion, something lacking from the grooves of music since his death.”  No joy of full-on emotion in music since 1967?

- Or: “Little Richard pumped out a string of others (like Tutti Frutti) in the same throbbing vein, including Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly, Ready Teddy and Rip It Up.  Two went to number 1 R&B and Sally top 10 pop.  Soul music had arrived.”  Little Richard introduced soul in the mid-50s?

- Or: “...doo-wop, a form of controlled madness, with tight harmonies backed by a riveting bass line and scat-form lyrics, which had arguably begun with the Five SatinsIn the Still of the Night in 1956...”  Really, began in 1956?

  Mark doesn’t avoid writing about Otis’ alleged dubious characteristics, such as quick temper, infidelity or treating his musicians badly.  Actually, all these accusations were brought up already in earlier biographies on Otis by Scott Freeman (Otis! - The Otis Redding Story in 2001) and Geoff Brown (Otis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness in 2003), as well as most of the information in this new book.

  For this book, Mark has done a lot of research and interviewed, among others, Al Bell, Wayne Jackson, Floyd Newman, Dennis Wheeler and Alan Walden, but many key figures for some unexplained reasons were not recorded. The ones that first come to my mind include Zelma Redding, Jim Stewart, Steve Cropper and other musicians, fellow artists and people working in the music business in that area, who were there and who still are among us.

  I give Mark full credit for focusing on music and creation of music and thorough analysis on songs.  That side in these biographies is often ignored.  On the other hand, there are some odd mistakes, which long-standing soul music fans could correct in no time at all and which make the reader question the familiarity of the author with his topic, his perspective.  For instance, Mark writes that

-“James Brown... cut a demo of Try Me, his first recoding.”  Correction: Try Me was cut in 1958, two years after Please, Please, Please

-Another one: “But when the song (Respect) was released in April 1967 as the first single from (Aretha) Franklin’s groundbreaking I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You album...”  Correction: The first single was the title tune b/w Do Right Woman – Do Right Man. 

- More: “... about Percy Sledge, another Atlantic artist scheduled to be on the tour, his leverage and drawing power proven by the certification of When a Man Loves a Woman as Atlantic’s first gold record...”  Correction: Atlantic received many gold records already in the 50s, and still more in the early 60s.

- One more: “Two years later, (Johnny) Baylor produced the cover of the song (If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want to Be Right) by Millie Jackson on Koko, which earned two Grammy nominations.”  Correction: Millie’s cover on Spring Records was produced by Brad Shapiro and Millie herself.

  As the subtitle says, also Stax Records and Southern soul are dealt with, but not very exhaustive.  For the story of Stax Records I can recommend the definite book, Rob Bowman’s Soulsville, U.S.A.  As you can see, I have mixed feelings about this Mark’s book, but if you’re not very familiar with Otis, this is as good a biography as any to start with.

© Heikki Suosalo


Back to Deep Soul Main Page
Back to our home page