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From Soul Express 4/1995


Carl has been one of the underground soul heroes ever since his Seventeen Days Of Loving from the late 80's, and finally this year his `debut' CD, House Of Love (Paula Rec.), is here with us. The running time closes 76 minutes, but there are four alternate and shorter versions at the end of the record, but, anyway, almost one hour's worth of new, good soul music. Vocally the closest I can think of to Carl is Tommy Tate, and that, if any, is a recommendation. Carl has also co-written five of the ten tunes here, including three openers.

The set starts with an easy-going, uptempo dasher, Shot To The Curb. “Shot is a song that I came up with and had wanted to do it for a long time, and finally now got a chance to put it together.” It is followed by the catchy and effortless uptempo title tune, which has also been released as a single and which, according to Carl, has “done real, real good.”

I'm Trapped is a pleading and captivating, utterly soulful beat ballad of a two-women situation, and it's also Carl's own favourite on the set. “That song is getting a lot of, lot of airplay around the country. It's making the CD go real fast.”

Next we dive into authentic blues with I'm A Blues Man. “It is a tribute to Z.Z. Hill. We were friends for a long time. I met him probably back in the sixties. I tried to take this CD and make it where everybody can like it, and that's why I put up a variety of songs on it.”

What about Sam Cooke's ever-beautiful A Change Is Gonna Come? “Stan Lewis, the president of Paula Records, asked me to do it, and it turned out to be a great song.”

Clever Girl is a driving and extremely intensive beat ballad. “That was written by me, Gladys Faye Crawford, Willie Polk and Wanda Lowe, we were like a team. It's a good ballad. They say it's a sleeper.”

A hazy and sleepy ballad, You Keep Me Dreaming, has been available earlier as a b-side to House Of Love. “I needed a flip-side to House, so the keyboard player put some music together, and I just wrote it.”

The initiator of it all, of course, is Seventeen Days Of Loving, a laid-back, soulful floater. “I did a re-make on that, and it' s getting a lot of play. The first label it came out on was Labro (in '88), and then we got a deal with Edge Records with it. Labro was really a guy I got with, Wylie Brown. He just came up with a label, and he just put the song `Seventeen Days' on it. That's the only single on that label. The writers were Wylie, Martha Jones and Oscar Smith.”

All These Things is a subtle and beautiful Allen Toussaint ballad originally done by Art Neville (on Instant in '62), and later covered by The Uniques who made a micro-pop-hit out of it (on Paula in '66; pop-97). Here the song is uptempoed almost unrecognizable. “The record company told me to do it any way you wanna do it. I took it and rearranged it, put a little Frankie Beverly, a little jazz in it.”

And finally the magnificent McKinley Mitchell ballad, End Of The Rainbow. “I'd been wanting to sing that song for a long time, and when I got a chance I went and did it. I knew McKinley Mitchell, we were friends.”

Carl's CD sits firmly in my top-ten this year, and according to Carl I'm not the only one who is attracted to it. “The whole CD is just getting a tremendous response, and everybody just loves it. It's going to be around for a long time.”

Time to introduce. Carl was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 18.10. 1949, but is now living in Texas. In the family of four sisters and three brothers only Carl got carried away by music, mainly due to his band teacher, Mr. Harry Winfield, in Porter Junior High School. “We had a little group called The Mustangs, just a school group, in which I started singing when I was about twelve.”

In those days, however, Carl got a chance to perform before an out of ordinary audience. “I did Elvis' birthday party at a dj lounge in Memphis, Tennessee, me and Ronnie Milsap, who wasn't a big star then. He was singing Stevie Wonder stuff then. I'd met Elvis several times, but it was no big deal.

Then I got with The Bar-Kays. I was the lead singer for them, and I would travel with them at that time. When they cut `Soul Finger' (in '67), Otis Redding picked us up to be his back-up band. I opened the show for Otis Redding, 'cause Arthur Conley had left Otis and gone his way. I was with Otis when they had the plane crash (10.12. 67), and I identified all the bodies. I was on a commercial flight.

After the crash I left and went out on my own. I was just working, doing local shows, going out of town and just doing little local bands. It wasn't anything special.”

Carl had his first taste of recording not earlier than mid-70's. “My first recordings were with Wet Paint Production (on New Beale St.), with Dan Greer. I think it was about '75, '76. Some of the songs were Pity The Fool, I Know How To Love A Woman, The Do Gooders and The Word Is Out - all of them were singles. They really was no success.

After that I went to New York City and I got with a group called Steel, on Epic Records, a rock group.” Steel had released a single already in '71 (Never On A Monday, on Epic), but that was way before Carl had joined them. “They had a lead singer, but they fired him. I became the lead singer for that group. We cut a whole album, but it didn't do me any good. It was no big record. All the songs were kinda lousy.

After Steel I went back to Memphis and got a job. In '77 I went overseas with Element Of The Universe, it was army bases in Germany. In '78 I joined a group called Fiesta (out of New Jersey). We were with Arista Records. I met them in Memphis, Tennessee. They were an r&b group. I did the background, I was not the lead singer. The only song I did was `Quit Funkin' With Me'. We also recorded an album, but we didn't go very far, because we had poor management, which is why I left.” Fiesta had a minor soul hit in '78 with `E.S.P.' (Arista; soul-53), but the follow-up, `Thanks For The Sweet Memories' ('79), didn't chart.

“Then I got with Ms. Denise LaSalle. I opened the show for her. That was around '80. I was with her for four years. I've had the pleasure of working with quite a few artists, Johnnie Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Tyrone Davis, Little Milton.”

After Denise Carl revived his recording activities. “I recorded `Use Your Head' (in '85) on my record label, Cash Money. I changed my name then to Carlo Cash and The Money Masters, but I went back to Carl Sims, my real name.”

Now we've come up to '87-'88, when Carl first recorded Seventeen Days Of Loving on Labro to Edge. There were also rumours about a complete album on Edge. “It never did materialize, because Edge Records really was not a good company to work for.

Then we got with Al Bell with this label called Bellmark. We cut this single called Smooth Ride, but that wasn't a good label, either. I didn't have too good experience with them. They do business very poorly. I left them because of lack of business practice. It's a label that I don't think the artists can have much of a success with.

After Bellmark, Paula Records. I left Memphis for Shreveport, Louisiana. I took the song `House Of Love' down there, and they picked me up and put a CD out on me.

I am the producer for the CD. The producer of this CD was stated (Ron Capone), they said they had a misprint on the CD, but the real procuders are Carl Sims and Gladys Faye Crawford. She used to be my lady friend. We're still friends and business partners. We wrote and picked up all the songs for the CD.”

Carl, who by the way names Michael Jackson as one of his favourite artists, is full of confidence about the future. “I'm booked up. I'm flooded with work. I'm looking forward to getting my own record label and find a distributor for me.”
-Heikki Suosalo

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