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Soul Express Album Review


LITTLE MILTON

If Walls Could Talk

(Shout 41; www.shoutrecords.co.uk; 2008; 53 min.; liner notes by Clive Richardson)

If Walls Could Talk / Baby I Love You / Let's Get Together / Things I Used To Do / Kansas City / Poor Man's Song / Blues Get Off My Shoulder / I Play Dirty / Good To Me As I Am To You / Your Precious Love / I Don't Know / The Dark End Of The Street / I (Who Have Nothing) / Let Me Down Easy / Driftin' Drifter / Grits Ain't Groceries / I Can't Quit You Baby

Although Milton Campbell (1934 2005; www.littlemilton.com) had been a recording artist ever since the early 50s, he scored his first big hit only in the middle of his ten-year Chess era, when We're Gonna Make It went all the way to # 1 on Billboard's r&b charts in 1965. Milton cut four albums for the Checker subsidiary, and now the last one, If Walls Could Talk (recorded in '69 and released in 70), is reproduced here. (Soul Express' feature on Milton appeared in our # 2/99 printed paper).

As bonus tracks there are six sides from the three singles that preceded the album in '68 and 69, so let's start with those and proceed chronologically. One would think that Milton's cover of The Dark End of the Street would be as magnificent as, say, his cover of Behind Closed Doors on Stax in 1974, but somehow it doesn't quite come off. It lacks depth and intensity, and I guess that's why it also missed the charts. Also the b-side, I (Who Have Nothing), doesn't have enough the kind of drama the song usually calls for. Morris Dollison's slow song, Let Me down Easy (# 27-soul), is a touching deepie, whereas Titus Turner's Grits Ain't Groceries (# 13-soul, # 73-pop) also known as All around the World is a fast r&b number.

The album had as many as five single sides on it. Let's Get Together (# 13-soul) is an energetic mover, again written by Morris Dollison aka Cash McCall, and Poor Man (# 18-soul, # 103-pop) makes you stomp some more. If Walls Could Talk (# 10-soul, # 71-pop) is another rousing scorcher, which, by the way, has always reminded me of Hi-Heel Sneakers. The song was written by Bobby Miller. A cover of Jimmy Holiday's impressive beat ballad, Baby I Love You (# 6-soul, # 82-pop), gave Milton another top-ten hit in a row, and finally it's back to rough and raw with I Play Dirty (# 37-soul), written by Pearl Woods.

Among the other cover songs there's a slow and intense reading of Bobby Parker's Blues Get Off My Shoulder, a swaying soul ballad from the pens of Aretha Franklin and her then-husband Ted White called Good to Me As I Am to You and two melodic and catchy mid-tempo songs, Your Precious Love (by Morris Dollison and Sonny Thompson) and I Don't Know (by Brook Benton and Bobby Stevenson). If Walls Could Talk may not be Milton's best album, but it's a good sample of his work in his heyday.

- Heikki Suosalo

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