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DEEP # 1/2008 (January 2008)

  As an exception to the accustomed order, compilations come now first.  In recent months a number of exceptionally strong projects has been released, which this time gives me the opportunity to utilize my earlier features, too.  In other words, the Dells, Oscar Toney Jr. and Tommy Tate comment on some of the tracks on those compilations. In addition to that, I hope you enjoy my fresh interviews with Betty Harris and Lola, a new William Bell protégé, and those from the vaults with Floyd Taylor, Vick Allen, Carl Sims and Sterling Harrison.

Content and quick links:

The Dells: CD Always Together/The Great Chess Ballads
Oscar Toney Jr.: CD Loving You Too Long/The Contempo Sessions
Tommy Tate: CD I'm So Satisfied
Introducing Lola (CD Give Her What She Wants)
Betty Harris: CD Intuition

CD reviews:
Spellbinders: CD Chain Reaction
Ted Taylor, Reuben Bell, Eddie Giles: CD Sound City Soul Brothers
Betty & Charles, Eddie Houston: CD Soul Chant
Various Artists: CD Can’t Be Satisfied/The XL and Sounds Of Memphis Story
Various Artists: CD Larry Banks’ Soul Family Album
Various Artists: CD Cellarful of Motown, vol. 3
Sharrie Williams: CD I’m Here to Stay
Latimore: CD Back ‘Atcha
Booker Brown: CD A New Beginning
Floyd Taylor: CD You Still Got It
Vick Allen: CD Baby Come Back Home
Carl Sims: CD Can’t Stop Me
O.T. Sykes: CD The Best of O.T. Sykes
Sweet Angel: Merry Christmas My Baby (single)
Sterling Harrison: CD South of the Snooty Fox

DVD reviews:
Various Artists: DVD Respect Yourself/The Stax Records Story
Otis Redding: DVD Dreams to Remember/The Legacy of Otis Redding

Various Artists: DVD Stax/Volt Revue – Live in Norway 1967

Book reviews:
Lyah Beth LeFlore w. Eddie Levert, Sr. & Gerald Levert: I Got Your Back
Motown from the Background - the Authorized Biography of The Andantes


  Verne Allison (second tenor), Chuck Barksdale (bass), Johnny Funches (tenor, lead), Marvin Junior (baritone, lead), Michael McGill (second baritone) and Mike’s brother, Lucius McGill (tenor), formed the group in a Chicago suburb named Harvey, in Illinois, in 1952 and had their first single (Darling I Know/Christine) released on Checker in 1954 under the name of the El Rays (meaning ‘the kings’, although, if correctly spelled, ‘the king’ in Spanish is ‘el rey’).  You can read the full, 3-part Dells story in our printed magazines # 4/97, # 1/98 and # 2/98 (

  Soon after the debut single Lucius left the group, and the remaining five boys signed with Vee-Jay in 1955, where during the next six years they had one album and twelve singles released, including their first hit, Oh What a Nite, in 1956.  After a car accident in late ’58, the group went on hiatus for a couple of years.  During that time Chuck, however, who had been moonlighting with Otis Williams and the Charms and the Moonglows already earlier in the 50s, hooked up with Harvey Fuqua and his New Moonglows again in 1959, and he also attended some recording sessions, like Dale Hawkins’ Class Cutter and he recited the monologue on Jerry Butler’s A Lonely Soldier.

  When the group came back together in 1960 – and first on part-time basis, only - on their ’61 come-back single on Vee-Jay (Swinging Teens) only Chuck and Verne are singing, alongside two non-Dells guys.  Shortly afterwards all five auditioned for Dinah Washington in 1961, but Johnny Funches decided to leave and he was replaced by Johnny Carter, and that cemented the line-up that still exists, records and performs today – Verne, Chuck, Marvin, Michael and Johnny.

  Till the mid-60s the group kept on making good but still today underrated records for Argo and Vee-Jay (four singles for both, including the original Stay In My Corner in ’65), they sang background on many artists’ records (Bo Diddley, Barbara Lewis, Betty Everett, Wade Flemons, Andre Williams, Etta James, Joe Murphy, Ted Taylor, Cicero Blake, Jo Ann Garrett, Bobby Jones, the Players etc.), they had protégés (the Opals) and they toured with Ray Charles in the mid-60s.

  And that brings us to a great new CD titled Always Together/The Great Chess Ballads (Shout 38; 21 tracks, 78 min.!;  Liners by Clive Richardson, the set covers the period from 1967 to ’74 with two exceptions.  A cover of the Five Keyes’ 1955 hit, Close Your Eyes (track # 5), was cut during the groups’ spell at Argo in 1962-63.  Michael McGill: “They had to come up with the album (There Is), so they went in the can and pulled some product out.  Close Your Eyes was recorded in ’62.  It was cut at old Chess.”  The Change We Go Through (track # 2) was recorded in February ‘66, when the group still worked with producer Billy Davis and arranger Phil Wright.  It was released as the b-side to their first Cadet single, Thinkin’ About You.

Michel: “Leonard Chess, who believed in the Dells, told all the producers at the producers meeting ‘I want you to select the artists.  Get a hit record on these artists, and if you don’t get a hit record on these artists, your job is on the line’… When Bobby Miller said ‘give me the Dells’, they all burst out laughing.  At that time we were like thirty years old.  ‘You can have them’… We found out that he had great songs.”

Charles Stepney became the arranger.  Verne Allison: “Charles made us enjoy our craft.  With Charles you had to be very disciplined.  He was the creator, and he liked the stuff to come off right.  He didn’t want a whole lot of messing around.”

The first track on this compilation was released in August ’67.  O-o I Love you (#22-r&b / # 61-pop) is a beautiful Bobby Miller ballad, which introduced a massive and innovative arrangement - by slowly building up from Chuck’s opening monologue into an emotive climax - and which utilizes Marvin’s raspy baritone and Johnny’s soaring falsetto to the maximum for the first time on record.

Another Bobby Miller composition, Please Don’t Change Me Now (track # 3), was the flip to the infectious dance hit called Wear It on Our Face in 1968, and it had Charley doing some experimenting with his arrangements.  From the There Is album (# 4-r&b / # 29-pop) comes still Love Is So Simple (track # 4), another of those Bobby’s dramatic and powerful slowies, which was hidden on the b-side of a huge hit, the majestic rework of Stay in My Corner.

The next three songs (tracks # 6 – 8) all derive from the early ’69 album, The Dells Musical Menu / Always Together (# 9-r&b / # 146-pop), and all three were picked up as consecutive singles with two first released in ’68 and the third one in ’69.  The title song (# 3-r&b / # 18-pop) is a heavy ballad with thunderous arrangement and highly emotive vocalizing.  Mike: “Always Together for me typifies the Dells.  We’ve been very blessed, and Always reconfirms what we’re all about.  I’ve known these guys since I was fourteen… We still have our disagreements, but we’ve always been there for each other.” 

The follow-up was equally outstanding, a thrilling Vietnam slowie named Does Anybody Know I’m Here (# 15–r&b / # 38-pop), and the third Bobby Miller gem in a row was I Can’t Do Enough (# 20-r&b / # 98-pop), again building from a quiet swayer up to a soul thunder.

  I guess the biggest European hit for the group still is their ’69 medley of I Can Sing A Rainbow/Love Is Blue (# 5-r&b / # 22-pop), and on this compilation it is followed by the next ’69 single, a rework of their first hit from 1956, Oh What A Night (# 1-r&b / # 10-pop).  The monologue in the beginning was added by Leonard Chess’ suggestion.  Marvin Junior: “Chess always loved that song, and he was responsible for us redoing it the second time.”

  Both of these songs were included on the ’69 album titled Love Is Blue (# 3-r&b / # 54-pop) as well as A Little Understanding (track # 12) and The Glory of Love (track # 14).  A Little Understanding, an emotive ballad and a real grower, was written by Michael McGill and Chuck Barksdale.  Michael: “I wrote it for my wife, but then she said ‘it’s the most chauvinistic song I’ve ever heard’ (laughing).”  The heavily orchestrated and dramatic cover of The Glory of Love was belatedly released as a single in December 1970 (# 30-soul / # 92-pop), and for the second time in 1975.

  Three songs – Open Up My Heart (track # 11), Long Lonely Nights (track # 13) and Since I Fell For You (track # 15) – are culled from the ’70 album, Like It Is, Like It Was (# 7-soul / # 126-pop).  Marvin: “We did a bunch of old tunes that were out in the 50s.  One side was modern tunes, one side was 50s tunes.”  The “modern” category includes Open up My Heart, Bobby Miller’s glorious, haunting ballad, which together with a cover of Nadine on the flip hit # 5-soul and # 51-pop.  Long Lonely Nights (# 27-soul / # 74-pop) was a cover of Lee Andrew and the Hearts’ single on Main Line in 1956 (it became a hit a year later when leased to Chess), while with Since I Fell for You we must go back to Buddy Johnson on Decca in 1945.

  In 1970 Bobby Miller left.  Marvin: “Bobby Miller had an argument with Chess.  He left and went to Motown.  He tried to get us to follow him over to Motown, but we didn’t do it.  He got very upset about that.  When Bobby left, we weren’t really thinking about leaving, because they gave us a new and better contract… We ended up with Charles Stepney.  He stopped being our arranger and started being our arranger and our producer.”  Michael: “When you get a trio like that, you just turn out hit records so easy.  We hated to see it dissolve.  When Bobby left for Motown, Chess was really on the decline.  But we had a lot of faith in Charles Stepney, but what he was lacking was material.  We got lucky with The Love We Had.  Stepney was more of a technical person.  Bobby went for the feel of the song.  They were two different types of individuals.” 

  In 1971 and ’72 the group released three albums on Cadet – Freedom Means, The Dells Sing Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Hits and Sweet As Funk Can Be – and of those LPs the Dionne Warwick one has been recently released in a CD format by Dusty Groove America.  Freedom still fared quite well – mainly because of the hit single, The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind) – but the other two were disappointments both in sales and in airplay.

  On this CD there are two songs from that period, which both remained un-issued at the time.  A soft and tender ballad called Since I Found You (track # 18) saw the light of the day only in 1992 on a compilation titled On Their Corner.  Michael: “The song was written by Skip Scarborough… great song, great production, great vocals.  It was probably the same session as You Changed My Life Around.”  The latter song (track # 17) has never been released before.  It’s a worthwhile ballad and a fine vocal performance by the group.  Both songs were cut in 1972, but by that time Cadet was already losing faith in Charles Stepney being able to come up with hits for the Dells.  Michael: “You Changed My Life Around, written by Michael McGill and Charles Barksdale, was the last recording session with the Dells and Charles Stepney at Chess Studios.  It wasn’t previously released due to the demise of Chess Records and was in the vault at Universal Music.  Although it’s not one of the Dells’ strongest, it still has the Stepney/Dells magic, and I personally wish that the Dells, Bobby Miller and Charles Stepney had recorded 100 more songs.  There is one more gem in Universal’s vault entitled Let Me Show You How to Love Again, written by the late Skip Scarborough and produced by Charles Stepney.”

  Chuck Barksdale: “You’re going on a search, because your main string or your main combination of personnel had been broken up.  There was no Charles Stepney any longer.  He had gone with Earth, Wind & Fire.  There was no Bobby Miller.  He had gone to Motown.  We were in search of where in the hell do we go from here, and who do we find, hoping that somebody would want to pick you up.”

  Don Davis: “The Dells was always one of my favourite groups.  I gave their label a call one day and said ‘hey, listen, I’d like to cut a record on Dells.  I’ll pay for it, and if I get a hit, I want 25 000 dollars’.  They said ‘that’s fine, we’ll make it 50 000, if you get a hit and you’ll do the whole album’.  So I cut a record Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation.”  The song turned into gold in 1973, and the Dells were back in the game.  From the album by the same name (# 10-soul / # 99-pop) comes a slow jam named Soul Strollin’ (track # 16), which actually is a leftover Stepney production from a couple of years earlier.

  A ‘73 album simply titled The Dells (# 15-soul / # 202-pop) was completely produced by Don Davis and it is this scribe’s personal favourite alongside There Is.  Michael: “Don Davis had a factory over there, and we’d go over to Detroit and record in his studio (United Sound Systems).  He would take Marvin in one room, where he would gonna lead.  We’d go in and make the background with another guy.  It wasn’t like with Miller.  It was a different kind of situation over there.”

  The first single off the album, a strong and haunting soul ballad titled My Pretending Days Are Over (# 10-soul / # 51-pop), is included on this set as well as an exceptionally beautiful version of James Dean’s song, If You Move I’ll Fall.  The final song on this CD is a melancholy slowie called I Wish It Was Me You Loved (# 11-soul / # 94-pop), taken from the ’74 The Dells vs. The Dramatics album (# 15-soul / # 156-pop). 

  After two more albums for Cadet and the subsequent demise of the company in 1975, the group switched to Mercury for four albums (’75-’77), then to ABC for two LPs (’78 and ’79) and to 20th Century Fox for two albums, again (’80 and ’81).  Next albums appeared on Private I in 1984, on Veteran in 1988, on ZOO/PIR in ’92 (with Gamble & Huff), on Volt in 2000 and finally on Devine in 2002.  Other milestones in their career include a movie inspired by their career titled The Five Heartbeats and their last hit song from it in 1991, A Heart Is a House for Love.  They were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and a documentary named The Dells: Oh What a Night won a Chicago/Midwest Emmy in the category of Outstanding Achievement for Documentary Programs – Documentary or Cultural Significance in 2004-2005.  Don’t forget their recent concert DVD, Live from New York City (, and please visit also their website at  Although the planned Tom Tom produced album, The Dells Unplugged, with new Bobby Miller songs on it hasn’t materialized yet, we’re still living in the hope of hearing some new music from this mighty group.

  The Dells is my all-time number one soul group and for me they excel especially at deep ballads, so if you get a stunning ballad compilation such as Always Together from their golden era, how can you top that.  Michael: “I’m very, very proud of us, and I’m going to blow up my own horn.  I’m proud of the type records that we’ve recorded.  We’ve recorded songs that I think are very inspirational to the world.”


  A retrospective of this little-known and long-forgotten group is a good idea, because the music still sounds stimulating today.  Chain Reaction (Shout 39; 15 tracks, 39 min.; liners by Clive Richardson) is sub-titled “60’s Soul Stompers & Smoochers.  Produced by Van McCoy”, and it says a lot of the contents.  This polished group, with Bobby Shivers’ high tenor on lead, recorded one album (The Magic of the Spellbinders) and four singles for Columbia in 1965 and ’66 and one more single still on Date a year later – and that was it!

  Three of their five uptown dancers were released as singles, including We’re Acting like Lovers (# 130-pop) and Chain Reaction (# 118-pop).  The one that hit the hot 100 – and it went as high as # 100 - was a Jackie Wilson type of a mover named Help Me (Get Myself Back Together Again).  The biggest hit was a Van McCoy ballad called For You (# 23-r&b / #93-pop), which some of us may remember by Bobby Hebb, too.  Long Lost Love is another sentimental slowie, whereas the familiar standards (Danny Boy, Since I Don’t Have You and I Believe) have a lot of pathos in them.

  Among the five mid-tempo songs there’s another melodic Van McCoy composition, That’s the Way You Make Me Feel, and a Sam Cooke influenced ditty called I Need Your Love.  This is delightful, uptown music from the mid-sixties, and the name ‘Van McCoy’, of course, guarantees the quality.

(on the pic above: Oscar Toney Jr. in Opelika, Alabama, on December 2 in 2000)


  Oscar was a frequent visitor to the U.K. in the early 70s, and after his Capricorn contract was up John Abbey talked him into recording for Contempo Records in 1973, which eventually produced one of the greatest soul albums in 1975, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long To Stop Now…

  Oscar: “I had done Germany and South Africa, but to England I came fifteen times.  One time, when I was over in England, John Abbey and I got together.  He at the time was the head of his Blues & Soul magazine, and at the same time he had his record shop and everything, but he was into promotion business, too.  He said ‘I’ve always liked your singing and I’d like to sign you up’.  I said ok, and we went from there” (Soul Express # 4/98).

  Six out the nine songs on the album had been released on CD before, when Oscar put out his Resurfaces – Year 2000 in 1999 (see the discography at  Oscar: “When I started making the CD, I wanted to go with ninety-nine and a half per cent of original material, but after Ichiban went bankrupt on me, I decided – rather than put all my eggs in one basket – pick two of the tunes and cover some other tunes.  We put that out to see how that’s gonna do” (Soul Express # 4/99).  Those two tunes that Oscar refers to is a great, touching deepie called I’m Not the Dad (personal number one record in 1999) and an r&b shuffler titled You Can’t Come In.  The rest of the original songs that Oscar had ready by that time and that were supposed to come out on Ichiban were finally released on Bob Grady Records a year later and they were re-issued in a CD format on Shout in 2006 under the title of Guilty.  You can read Oscar’s comments on them at

  Now we finally get these Contempo gems on CD, Loving You Too Long/The CONTEMPO Sessions (Shout 40; 12 tracks, 51 min; liners by Clive Richardson).  Fine arrangements were created by Gerry Shury.  Oscar: “John Abbey was overseeing everything… chief, like Papa Don, but on the good side.  Gerry worked on mixing board.”

  They released six Contempo singles in the U.K. (and two Contempos and one Atco in the U.S.), and for me the first one is the best single ever produced in the U.K.  Oscar’s extremely soulful interpretation of Kentucky Bluebird (A Message to Martha) beats all the other versions I’ve heard, and the Bread hit, Everything I Own, on the flip is equally breath-taking.  The second single paired Oscar’s own deep ballad, Everybody’s Needed, with the funky Love’s Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down (the only song that’s not on this CD).  Single number three offers another funky take on Syl Johnson’s Is It Because I’m Black coupled with a laid-back but very pleasant version of Make It Easy on Yourself, with monologues at both ends.

  Oscar himself chose to do a feel-good and sunny interpretation of My Girl, but went bluesy on The Thrill Is Gone on the flip.  I’ve Been Loving You Too Long is as strong and as Southern as you can get – one of Oscar’s most impressive vocal performances – and his rework of For Your Precious Love differs a lot from his Bell hit in 1967 and, although it’s more relaxed or ‘quiet fire’, it grows in intensity towards the end.  The final single, an excessively funky version of Chicken Heads – backed by Ultrafunk – was coupled with Everybody’s Needed again.

  All of those eleven songs except Love’s Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down and Chicken Heads were gathered on the Contempo album (CLP 511).  This new CD also offers both album and single versions of Kentucky Bluebird and Everything I Own, and, once more, I can’t praise enough those single mixes.  There should be something in the vaults, too.  Oscar: “I did Unchained Melody.  I don’t know why they didn’t release it.”

(on the pic above: Oscar and his wife, Carolyn)

  These tracks from thirty something years back have stood the test of time.  Contempo was Oscar’s fifth recording label after his debut on Mac in 1960 (according to his own words, he didn’t record such tracks as Love, Oh Why Cha Cha Cha, Ooo-Wee and Wow Wow Baby with the Searchers on Mac and Class in the 50s), two singles on King (cut in late ’60, but released only in ’64 and ’67), his 8-single hit period on Bell (’67-’68) and finally four fine singles on Capricorn (’70-’72).  In recent years Oscar has cut new material and is currently looking for financing and an outlet for it.  As with the Dells in terms of groups, in the category of male soul singers Oscar is my number one, so I’m extremely happy that this long overdue CD has finally been released.


  Garry J. Cape compiled it and Paul Mooney wrote the liner notes to Sound City Soul Brothers (Soulscape 7005; 24 tracks, 76 min.!;, which features tracks that were cut in Shreveport, Louisiana, for Alarm Records between 1973 and ’79 and were for the most part produced by Wardell Quezergue.  The playlist is almost equally divided by three distinguished Southern soul male singers.

  Ted Taylor had a self-titled album released on Alarm in 1976, and from that ten-tracker we now get seven songs on this compilation.  The only single that charted was Ted’s cover of Jimmy Hughes’ Steal Away (# 64-soul), but I’m sure that the fans of this particular genre value highly the three melodic and soulful songs that Sam Dees co-wrote - the mid-paced Standing in the Wings of a Heartache, the lilting Wrapped up in a Good Woman’s Love and the most captivating slowie, I’m Gonna Hate Myself in the Morning.  The previously unissued Looking Back is a surprisingly strong version of the Brook Benton-Belford Hendricks-Clyde Otis song for Nat “King” Cole.

The late Reuben Bell had four singles on Alarm in ’75 and ’77, and the most memorable sides are two poignant ballads (Asking for the Truth and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye), a slowly swaying deepie called Meet Me Half Way and a personal favourite, the touching One Sided Love Affair.

  In terms of music, Eddie Giles was the most boisterous one of the three.  His ’73 single, Are You Living with the One You’re Loving with, bears arrangement-wise a resemblance to Mr. Big Stuff.  The rest of his singles were released as late as in 1979, and among them you have such energetic dancers as Baby I Care and There Must Be a PlaceIt Takes Me All Night is a mid-tempo toe-tapper, and Swearing out a Want (by Bettye Crutcher and Frederick Knight) brings melodically I Don’t Want to Cry to your mind.  I Can’t Get over You is a beautiful, wistful ballad.

  Sound City Soul Brothers is an exhilarating compilation, which proves that solid Southern soul music in the traditional meaning of the term was still made in the mid-70s and beyond, albeit unprofitably.


  Soul Chant (Soulscape 7006; 21 tracks, 54 min.) carries a subtitle “The long lost Malaco recordings of Betty & Charles and Eddie Houston.”  Compiled by Garry again and liners written by John Ridley, there are six previously unissued tracks and five that became available only in 1979 on a Japanese Vivid Sound album.

  You can’t help thinking about Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson the minute you hear Betty’s and Charles’ strong vocals and powerful delivery on such mid-tempo songs as Someone for Everyone and That’s Why I Call You Mine or on such poppy movers as As Long As We Believe In Each Other and Somebody’s Foolin’, not to mention It’s All Over, a driving gospelly stormer.  Can’t I Find Love is a convincing deepie.  Peggy and Jo Jo had their biggest hits (Lover’s Holiday and Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries) in 1968, and all these songs were cut that year, too.  Betty Johnson and Charles Warren came from Texas, and also their solo sides (Betty has four and Charles two) further prove how good singers they really were.

  Eddie Houston has listened closely to James Carr and Otis Redding.  Actually, That’s How Much I Love You must have been influenced – consciously or not – by That’s How Strong My Love Is.  The self-written I Won’t Be the Last to Cry is a melodic country-soul number.  All three are magnificent singers, who without this CD would have sunk into obscurity.


  Tommy had released ten singles between 1965 and ‘70 – many of them with Tim Whitsett and the Imperial Show Band - and had a short stint with the Nightingales before hooking up with Johnny Baylor in 1971.  Tommy: “I met Johnny Baylor.  He talked me into going to New York.  Naturally that was exciting for me, because New York was everything in the entertainment world” (Soul Express # 3/2001).

  On Johnny’s KoKo label Tommy had six singles released between 1971 and ’77, and all ten songs from those singles are now available on I’m So Satisfied/The Complete Ko Ko Recordings and more (Kent 289; 20 tracks, 68 min.; compiled and liners by Tony Rounce;  In addition to that, there are seven songs that remained unreleased at the time and three songs that he recorded for Stax with the Nightingales in 1970 and ‘71, after Ollie Hoskins had left.  You’re Movin’ Much Too Fast is a rousing, inspirational mid-pacer – and here we get a longer version and a different mix – whereas the second ’71 single paired a deepie titled Just a Little Overcome with a big-voiced testimony called I Don’t Want to be like My Daddy.

  Most of Tommy’s KoKo songs were credited to him and Johnny Baylor, but actually it was Tommy alone.  Tommy: “Johnny took the executive credits, but the musical end of it was – and I don’t wanna sound vain – that a lot of that stuff was done by me.  I must take a lot of credit for the musical things that went down.”  The first single coupled I Remember, a driving mid-pacer, with the more laid-back Help Me LoveLuther Ingram covered both of these songs for his second album a year later.

  A pleading beat ballad called School of Life became the biggest hit in Tommy’s career (# 22-soul) in 1972, but the third single – another pleading slowie titled More Power to You backed with the funky I Ain’t Gonna Worry – failed to chart.

(on the pic above: Tommy Tate in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 30 in 2000)

  After the resurrection of KoKo in 1976, they released Tommy’s fourth single for the label, the funky Hardtime S.O.S. (# 62-soul), coupled with a cover of Luther Ingram’s beautiful serenade, AlwaysIf You Ain’t Man Enough (# 93-soul), a hard-hitting dancer, and a toe-tapper named Revelations formed the follow-up, and Tommy’s swan song for the label in 1977 was a big-voiced beat ballad called I’m So Satisfied.

  Those days they were also planning to release Tommy’s debut album titled I’m So Satisfied, but it remained in the can, mainly because Johnny was concentrating on Luther.  The shelved material was released on P-Vine in Japan in 1996, and now we are treated to those seven missing songs again.  A pleasant mid-pacer called If You Got to Love Somebody was scheduled to be released just prior to or instead of I’m so Satisfied, but was cancelled at the last minute.  (Interestingly, Johnny Baylor’s song for Luther Ingram a bit later called Do You Love Somebody doesn’t differ much in construction or in melody).  Other catchy mid-tempo songs include Sanity, (You Brought Me) A Mighty Long Way and It’s a Bad Situation, whereas It Ain’t No Laughing Matter and Identity (I’ve Got to Know Who I Am) fall into the funk category.  I Just Can’t Believe Your Love for Me is a beautiful slowie.  Tommy: “I liked it.  It was a very nice, slow romantic song.”

  After the KoKo era Tommy continued writing for Don Davis (Groovesville) and Malaco.  Some of his Malaco demos were released on Hold On, on Vivid Sound in Japan in 1979, but his actual recordings in the 80s appeared on Sam Kazery’s Sundance (3 singles) and Frederick Knight’s Juana imprints (the Tommy Tate album in ’81).  In the 90s two more albums emerged, Love Me Now and All or Nothing.

  Tommy was honoured at the Jackson Music Awards in 2006, but after a heart attack in late 2001 he’s been tied to a wheelchair and he’s still in rehabilitation, so most probably we won’t be seeing him perform or record again.  But we have his rich legacy, and I’m So Satisfied covers some of his best work.  Tommy: “I have been through a lot of changes, but I still have my mental capacity.  After some things I have undergone through life, I could possibly have become crazy, but I’m not.  I have done everything imaginable in the blues and r&b world.”


  Can’t Be Satisfied/The XL and Sounds Of Memphis Story (Kent 283; 22 tracks, 71 min.; 7 prev. unissued) features some fine soul music recorded in Memphis between 1967 and ’77, with the emphasis on the years ’71-’73.  Dean Rudland compiled this set and wrote the exhaustive liner notes.

  The CD kicks off with an ultra soulful Southern soul ballad, I Can’t Be Satisfied (’73) by Spencer Wiggins, and also his second contribution, the previously unreleased Best Thing I Ever Had, is as emotive and deep as you can wish.  Among other impressive slowies there are Play Thing by Barbara & the Browns and Love Just Ain’t There by Richard & Walter, which is one of those typical, intense male soul duets they used to cut a lot those days.  William Bollinger’s You Can Lead Your Woman to the Altar (’67) pales in comparison to Oscar Toney Jr.’s later version, but there’s nothing wrong with Ann Hodge’s poignant country & soul ballad called Shower of Tears.

  The Ovations, with Louis Williams on lead, sing two Sam Cooke type of songs (of course), the slow Take It from Someone Who Knows and a mid-tempo toe-tapper named Don’t Break Your Promise (both from ’72), while George Jackson delivers in his recognizable, laid-back style two tender ballads, Talking About the Love I Have for You (’77) and Walking In The Streets (prev. unissued).  Rudolph Taylor’s Tell Him Tonight (’67) is a pleading, hurting song, parallel to Hanging around Your Doorstep (’73) by Billy Cee & the Freedom ExpressVision’s Let the Moment Last (’73) represents sweet group sound.

  Dan Greer’s Thanks to you (’71) is a catchy mid-pacer, whereas Lou Roberts increases the tempo on the melodic and poppy Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Love (’71).  You can also enjoy tracks by the Minits, the Sweeteens and the Jacksonians on this impressive compilation, which I think will be followed by further volumes.


  There are as many as fifteen previously unissued tracks on Larry Banks’ Soul Family Album (Kent 284; 24 tracks, 63 min.).  Some of them are alternative mixes, some are demos.  Detailed liners in a 24-page booklet are by Ady Croasdell, and the music derives from the period of ’63-’70 (most of it comes from ’66-’68) on such labels as Tiger, RCA, Kapp, Spring, GWP, Select, RSCP and Spokane.

  Larry Banks managed most of the artists on this CD and produced, arranged and wrote music for them.  Among them there are his two wives, first Bessie Banks, whose original Go Now naturally opens the set, and Jaibi, whose highly-praised ballad, You Got Me, is also included.

  Other highlights include Showdown by the Shaladons, a Dells type of a strong soul ballad, Living in the Land of Heartache by the Cavaliers, another powerful ballad, and Will You Wait, Larry’s own recording.  A Roy Hamilton wannabe, Kenny Carter, delivered some goodies, too – You’d Better Get Hip Girl, I Can’t Stop Laughing and the Vietnam song, Lights Out, which can’t avoid comparisons to Zerben Hicks & the Dynamics’ unbeatable gem.

  Other artists include Milton Bennett, the Devonnes, the Geminis, the Pleasures and the Exciters.  I must still mention one of my favourite groups, the Hesitations, whose messy beater called No Brag Just Fact (on GWP in ’69) unfortunately is one of the least interesting recordings in their career.  I find this set a strange mixture of splendid ballads and indifferent stompers and substandard fast tracks, but the good ones are really good.


  A Cellarful of Motown, vol. 3 (Universal 5303228; a 2-cd set with 45 tracks, 125 min.;; compilation and notes by Paul Dixon) introduces us the music that didn’t pass Motown’s quality control at the time, and it covers the years from 1963 till ’70 – with the exception of Soldier of Love by the Four Tops, which was cut as late as in 1984.

  When I received this compilation, the first thing I did was to check the unreleased tracks by some of my favourite artists.  The two Spinners songs – Memories of Her Love Keep Haunting Me and Too Late I Learned – are as good as anything the company released from them, so they were a pleasant surprise.  On Fantastic Four’s Loving You (Is Hurting Me) James Epps’ vocals are as “sweet” as ever, but in melody the somewhat forced chorus fails.  The Originals Judge’s Daughter is a messy funk and should have stayed in the can, and Gladys Knight & the Pips’ I’m Gonna Get you just scrapes through my control.

  Some of the delights were the two Brenda Holloway tracks – You’re Walking out with My Heart and We’ll Keep on Rolling Dennis Edwards’ Easier Said Than Done, Clarence Paul’s You Stay on My Mind, Mike Ward’s poppy Watch Your Step (like from Del Shannon’s songbook), the Contours’ I Can’t Help Loving You Baby and J.J. Barnes’ I’m Here Now That You Need Me.

    I can fully understand, why cuts by the Lollipops, Edwin Starr, Jr. Walker & the All Stars, the Marvelettes, Rita Wright, Blinky, Bob Kayli, Paul Petersen, Little Miss Soul, Shorty Long, Little Lisa and the Headliners were never released.  Also, by Motown’s standards, Stevie Wonder, Marv Johnson, Carolyn Crawford, Debbie Dean, Ivy Jo and even the Temptations (Come Back My Love) are represented here by such so-so songs that at best could have been picked up for an album.  But now we must keep in mind that these tracks are reviewed against the high-standard material that actually was released.  For Motown fans and fanatics this compilation is a must.  For non-Motown ears this sounds mostly nice but not spectacular.


  William Bell has found a new blues & soul lady by the name of Lola for his Wilbe label.  Give Her What She Wants (Wil2012-2; is produced by William himself and Reginald “Wizard” Jones, and out of the twelve songs Lola herself wrote or co-wrote as many as ten, mostly with William and Reginald.  The big plus for Wilbe is the real live rhythm section.  Lola: “I did a lot of keyboard playing and I did a lot of rearranging as well.  I play fourteen-fifteen instruments, maybe.  I’m a music major.  I was studying to be a music conductor.”

  On opening tracks Lola’s voice and style bears a slight resemblance to Mavis Staples – and at times to Candi Staton, too – but in the middle of the CD (on tracks like Look My Way and The Sweetest Thing) the first artist to come to my mind is Joss Stone, which only proves that Lola is a flexible and many-sided music lady.

  The set kicks off with the funky Back Door.  “I was coming from Mardi Gras in Mobile and I wrote it in a car.  It was just a fun song to write.”  I Can’t See is a mellow and melodic mid-tempo song, whereas The Blues Chose Me is a slow and – yes! – bluesy swayer.  “I’m a blues artist, but what I do on stage kind of depends on what the show calls for.”  A funky beater named I’ve Got Feet was considered for the first single, and a mid-tempo mover called Look My Way has a jazzy tone to it.  “I wrote that song many years ago, when I was younger, and it was actually about someone.  I do also jazz on stage.”

  Three slowies follow, a beat ballad titled The Sweetest Thing, a powerful pleader called Don’t Go Away and a very slow and big-voiced “lounge blues” number named Wash Your Hands.  “It was the first song that I wrote, when we started the project, and I wanted to do a strong ballad.  We just sat down, and in thirty minutes this song was written.” 

  Besides two beaters (Let’s Call It a Night and Two Fools in One House) there are still two downtempo songs left.  Ties That Bind is a beautiful and soft serenade.  “That was the last song that I wrote.  I enjoy that song a lot.  I like to play that live on stage.”  Shake Hands is a ballad that William Bell first released as a duet with Rubi Burt on his Bedtime Stories CD in 1992 on Wilbe/Ichiban.  “He played it in a studio, and I loved it.  We took it and changed it around, because it was really 80ish and we just kind of updated it a little bit.  I think it was a great idea, and I was honoured to do a duet with William Bell.”

  Lola Gulley was born in New York City on May 13 in 1964.  “I was born in the backseat of an Oldsmobile 88.”  Music is and has been a denominator in Lola’s family.  “My father is a musician.  He’s a guitar player.  He’s one of the original guitar players with the Mighty Clouds of Joy.  He got married, before they started recording, so he never recorded with them.  I have a brother, who’s a jazz drummer.  He’s in Dallas, Texas.  I have several cousins, who are singers and players.  There are a lot of musicians in my family.”

  “I was born in New York, and I moved to California, when I was like two or three, and I was raised in California.  I moved to Mobile, Alabama, when I was nineteen-twenty years old, and I moved here to Atlanta about nineteen years ago.”  In her formative years Lola listened closely to Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples, the Emotions and Kool & the Gang

  “By my father being a musician and having a band, there were always instruments in the house, so I would play instruments when I was two or three.  It was just a natural thing that I’ve always done.  In elementary school I was in music programs and in junior high school I started playing horns.  In high school it was drums and I took interest in conducting music.  When I got into college, I played organ for different churches, and then I went out on tour with Johnnie Taylor as his keyboard player in ’88 and I stayed with him off and on for about three years.”

  “In the 90s I started playing with local bands, and then I really got into singing.  I also won a contest and got a recording contract with Motown.”  At Motown Lola recorded an album in 1996, but it remains canned due to her patron leaving the company.  “It’s nothing like this CD.  It’s more r&b.”

  “I formed my own band for the first time in 2000.  Usually I have four pieces and I have two background singers.  I did an independent CD called Blues Chose Me in 2004.  They’re other songs than the ones on this CD, except Back Door and The Blues Chose Me.  In the future I would love to continue to write and produce and keep performing.  I just love music that much.”


  “The Princess of Rockin’ Gospel Blues” wrote or co-wrote all fifteen new songs on her I’m Here to Stay CD (CrossCut Records, ccd 11097;  She also co-produced the set with Michael Cloeren and Lars Kutschke, and it was recorded in Pennsylvania.  The big-voiced Sharrie and her backing band, the Wiseguys, have become popular in Europe in recent years, but this CD is released in the USA, too, on

  Sharrie remains true to her raucous style on the seven uptempo “rockin’ blues” numbers, which vary from the Louisiana-style I Gotta Find Me a Mojo to an inspirational scorcher, Pocono Praise, with an express-train tempo.  For blues listeners there are still three more slow moans, and the most awful rock guitar solo this time is heard on Power, but I guess those solos go down well in certain areas of Europe.

  On the bright side there are a tender, country-tinged ballad called Seeking, a melodic, slow swayer titled Will You Still Love Me and a mid-tempo song named Rhythm of Life, which turns from soft into a heavier beater.  Another one that grows towards the end is It’s Getting Late, a pretty ballad, and of the uptempo ones the most exhilarating is a good-time ditty called Don’t Give Up.  For me this is Sharrie’s best CrossCut CD so far, but the “rockin’ blues” folks still remain the target audience.


  In this “insert feature” Betty first tells about her new CD, and in the latter part we revive old memories of some of the artists and producers that mattered to Betty in the 50s and 60s.

  Amazingly, Intuition (Evidence, ECD 26135-2; is Betty’s first album ever.  Produced by Jon Tiven, this 16-track CD was recorded in Nashville with a live rhythm section and it features songs written for the most part by Jon and his wife, Sally Tiven, who also plays bass in these sessions.  Betty herself resides in Atlanta these days (

  Betty: “Jon was introduced to me by my attorney, Fred Wilhelms, who lives in Nashville.  We were introduced probably a couple of weeks prior to me going to Australia.  When I came back, I went up to Nashville on weekend, and I took some of the songs with me.  When I came back, we went into the studio.  Jon is very easy to work with.  We worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday and got everything down, and then I brought it home with me and figured out, where I could make improvements.  We went back the following weekend, and that was it!”

  For those, who cherish Betty’s soulful sides from the 60s, the new CD may come as a shock.  The music differs drastically.  The tracks form a Southern rock foundation for Betty’s “shoutress” vocals.  Depending on the song, there are leanings to blues, country, r&b, pop and even inspirational, but basically it all comes down to rock and pop music – and with a lot of guitar solos from Jon, too.  How did Betty adapt herself to this new style?

  Betty: “I started out with old school r&b, and I needed to make a change.  Old school r&b was limiting me, so I wanted to try something different.  You have to look at the fact that when I first came out, I came out with Cry to Me when that type of music was not very popular.  Cry to Me was not a complete soul song, but it was more soul than what was being played on pop stations.  So, being adventurous like this, I wanted to do a change again, even though it’s a challenge… and I had no idea how this would turn out.  But I was quite surprised with the finished product, and we do have some good sides on this CD.  I chose the material, and they were stories that I felt mattered.  But some of the songs took a little more listening to actually make them matter.”

  After over three decades’ hiatus, Betty returned to the stage almost three years ago and perform these days something old, something new and something borrowed.  “We’ve mixed all of those together.  We’re doing soul, we’re doing the new stuff and I’ve basically tied it all together.  I feel like I’m able to reach the young and the old, because right now my audience is mixed.  I do some uptempo stuff that the kids enjoy and then reach back and get to downhome blues type things that my age group likes.  It’s blended.”

  The opening song on the CD, Is It Hot in Here?, is a perky, rolling mid-tempo groover, which – according to Jon’s notes about the history of these songs – was written with Shemekia Copeland in mind.  Isolation (Someone to Hold) is a bit poppy and almost gentle mid-tempo number.  “Sometimes I wish I could have cut Isolation over again after living with it for a bit longer, because it was after the session that I really heard the tune.  Now, when we do it, it’s absolutely moving.”

  The title tune is a plaintive and rather soft beat ballad… and poppy again.  “When I was given that song, the first thing I said was ‘I can’t sing that’, and Jon said ‘yes you can, you can’.  After I made the hook on it in my hotel, I thought ‘okay, maybe I can do it’.”  An aggressive stormer titled Still Amazed is followed by a brisk quick-tempo floater and the most soulful song on the set, Since You Brought Your Sweet Love.  Jon explains that the co-writer of the song, the late Freddie Scott, cut it first in New York and then Betty put her vocals on it in Nashville, and that’s how this duet came about.  “I’ve never even met Freddie.  That was strictly from tape.”

  After a mid-tempo beater named A Fool Can Always Break Your Heart there’s a quite melodic slow-to-mid-pacer called You Do My Soul Good.  “That’s my favourite.  We did that particular song at Porretta.  It’s joyful and it’s sad, too, but it was just a good tune for me.”  How to Be Nice is a big-voiced “mad” song, co-written by Jerry Ragovoy.  “That’s my get down dirty song.  It’s another crowd pleaser.  We did it in New Orleans in November, and it’s really one of those house-rockers.  I like Jerry Ragovoy’s writing, anyway.”

  On the driving Who’s Takin Care of Baby? Betty lets herself loose vocally.  “That song resonated today’s problems.  I was trying to get across to young people and say that there’s more to life than having children.  There’s responsibility.  I talk about this in my show.”  After one rough stormer (Time to Fly) and a somewhat monotonous mid-tempo song from Jerry Ragovoy’s pen again (It Is What It Is), we are treated to a mediocre fast tune titled Need, co-written by Don Covay.  “I think I spoke to Don at the studio.  I haven’t met him.  It was one of those songs that, when I first heard it, I really didn’t get it.  I tell you about my type of singing.  Songs have to resonate with me.  They have to have a meaning.  They have to have a story.  With Jon’s writing I did get story-lines that I wanted.”

  The mid-tempo She Stays On is closest to country music on this set.  “I’ve always wanted to sing something that was country.  I’m totally blown away by the lyrics in that song.”  Two fast tracks, Tell It to the Preacher Man and A Bible and a Beer (with a quite good melody), are not inspirational songs, although on the latter one Betty vocally takes it on the road to the church.  “In my book and with my religious background that is not inspirational.  One of the preachers in my mother’s church called and said ‘what were you thinking?  How did you get those two words together?’  I did not write that, but I chose that because of the hook in that and the truthfulness in the song.  My mother has never heard this.  She’s ninety-five, and I hope she never does” (laughing).

  The concluding song, Happiness Is Mine, is fast and funky again.  In recent years Betty has written a lot of new songs, but this is the only one she co-wrote for this CD.  “That one’s been changed totally.  The one I wrote is totally different, but it’s my opening song now.  When you put a CD together, the songs have to gel.  If they don’t, then you’ve got a mess.  Jon and I write quite differently.  Mine is old-school, and in order to make that cross-over, that change, I had to go with what he was doing.”

  To add some soul – or, let’s say, vintage soul – to this feature, I asked Betty to go down memory lane and tell us about some of the yesterday’s music heroes she used to work with.  In the late 50s she worked with Big Maybelle, who passed away in 1972 at the age of forty-seven.  “When I first went to New York, I compared myself to everybody.  I didn’t know that much about r&b.  I knew about gospel.  I had met the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Blind Boys, Sam Cooke before he was even Sam Cooke… I had met all of those people.  Half of them had lived at my home, because my father was a promoter.  So I knew about gospel, but I did not know where I would fit in r&b.  The closest thing to me was Big Maybelle.  I went to hear her in the Apollo.  I sat through her show, and I was blown away.  I said ‘oh, my god, this lady’s voice is bigger than mine, and she is GOOD’!  So I used her as a catalyst to try to find myself.  Maybelle was an instructor for me.  She taught me to be me and not to try to sing like somebody else.”

  With Bert Berns (d. in 1967, at 38) Betty cut her signature song in 1963, Cry to Me.  “He was a doll.  When I went in to do Cry to Me, I had listened to all the r&b songs that were going during that era.  Solomon Burke and I had the same management.  I had listened to Solomon do the song several times.  I loved the song, but it needed to be slowed down and it needed to be really heard.  That was what I gave to Bert Berns.  When I sang Cry to Me to Bert, right in the middle he stopped me and called Gary Sherman, whose office was upstairs, and Gary wrote the arrangement for the song for me.”

  “Bert was absolutely fun-loving and very, very relaxed. I went to his home, and he had one of those penthouses.  I’ve never been in one before.  The elevator opened into his home, and he had this huge, humongous dog sitting there, and you weren’t coming out of that elevator.  So I’m in the elevator screaming and the dog isn’t moving.  He’s just sitting there looking at me, and Bert looked at the both of us and he cracked up.  Bert was a beautiful person, and he had the ear for what he wanted.”

  During the second half of the 60s Betty cut over twenty sides with Allen Toussaint, who turned 70 on January 14.  “Allen was totally the opposite.  He was a fabulous arranger.  I had to take a totally different attitude with his music.  I basically said to myself ‘hey, if you can write it, I can sing it’.  It was like a wall between us.  First I was looking for another Bert Berns, which I did not find.  Secondly, I had to get past personality, and, third, I was coming out of New York with the fabulous studios and all that stuff… going into New Orleans to what looked like a barn.  So it was a totally different atmosphere, but what was coming out of that barn and what we were doing… he was at the top of his game.  I can’t say anything bad about him and I don’t intend to.  As a musician he’s a very, very gifted person.”

  Betty toured with Otis Redding just prior to his demise on December 10 in 1967.  “I worked with Otis for three months.  I enjoyed it.  I thought that he was one of the best out there.  There was this thing going on at that time between him and James Brown, and all of us were coming out of the south, so it was like who’s going to have the next biggest record.  I was scheduled to go to Europe with him, when all of that happened.  I saw a great future in him.”

  Betty does the duet with James Carr on his I’m a Fool for You on Goldwax in 1967.  James passed away seven years ago on January 7, at 58.  “We were together in the same studio singing it.  We were coming off of the Otis Redding tour, and James was driving.  My car was in New York.  We started playing with the song.  I thought nothing of recording it.  I was just messing with it with him.  When we got to Memphis, he said ‘hey, you ain’t gotta go now, come on over to the studio’, and I did.  I had no idea that they were going to record it or to release it.  I never did the song again until 2005.”

  “I was crazy about the way James sang, and his voice was absolutely fantastic.  He was a part of the gospel singers coming out of the gospel field.  I got to know him to a point, but it was really hard for anybody to get to know James, because James was introvert.  He didn’t do a lot of talking.  You just did not know where to place James.”

  Now that Betty is back on the music scene, she’s already planning her next steps.  “Right now we are doing not a lot of work, but we are doing some work.  We’re still going to promote the CD, and we are going back into the studio.  For all those fans that swear to nothing but old-style r&b, we’re going to do some of that.  I want to be comfortable with the CD totally, and I want to give myself a lot more time on the second one.”


  Latimore appeared recently on Gwen McCrae’s album (Sings TK) on, and now together with Henry they have formed a new label, LatStone Records.  Those two go way back together to the mid-60s, when Henry produced Benny’s first singles.  Back ‘Atcha (LTS 1001-2) is now produced by Latimore, and he wrote all ten songs on it; four of them together with his fellow players, Roach Thompson and George Perry.

  The opener, Edna Mae, is vintage Latimore, an effortless and smooth downtempo song that leaves you feeling good.  Leaning a bit on reggae, Ghetto Girl is a slow lilter, while ‘Nanna Puddin’ is an easily rolling, infectious mid-pacer.  I See Love is a pretty and sentimental slowie.  So far – great!  Had the rest of the tracks been of the same quality as the first four, this CD would be sitting at the top of my 2007 list.

  Track # 5, In he Mist of Making Love, is a fast song with machine sounds coming disturbingly through for the first time.  They have real instruments in the rhythm section, but I guess here Latimore is testing his “Yamaha Motif Keyboard to introduce the sound of a solo guitar, saxophone and trumpet, playing solos that are hard to tell from the real thing.”  On this track, as well as on some of the following ones, you can tell for sure.  A sub-standard beater titled Love Hit Me is the worst example.

  My Give a Damn Gave out (a Long Time Ago), a swaying, story-telling slowie has become a hit for Latimore (there’s that Motif again), and it’s followed by a passionate mid-tempo song called Honeymoon.  The two concluding tracks are a slow and gloomy – and guitar-heavy – protest song named Wake up America and a fast, Caribbean fiesta type of a tribute to Miami.  It says in the liners that “this was the first time that Latimore would have full creative control on his work since he had last been with Stone.”  Perhaps somebody should have guided him anyway, but only in the latter part of the CD.


  Booker’s previous CD, Passion of Love, was a marvellous Southern soul record.  You can read about it and Booker’s earlier career at (please scroll down almost to the bottom).

  Now after three years Booker has come up with a CD titled A New Beginning ( out of Detroit).  Produced by Percy T. Friends and recorded in West Memphis, Arkansas, there are even live horns on two tracks, but otherwise it’s mostly business as usual.

  Booker is a great singer and it’s a pity that this time he has to waste his talent on this kind of mediocre material and production.  The best track is the last one, a tribute called Tyrone Lives On, and Tyrone’s influence is evident on two dancers, too – Stir It Up and Let The Past Stay in the Past.  Two blues tracks aside, the record is filled with standard dancers that combine many clichés this time; witness Fishin’ at the Hole in the Wall and Lookin’ for a Freak.  The only other slowie is John Cummings’ swayer named Match Made in Heaven.


  You can read about Floyd’s earlier career in an interview I conducted with him in 2002 after his Malaco debut, Legacy, was released.  His third Malaco CD, You Still Got It (MCD 7531; has four different producers on it, and, contrary to the Latimore album above, now the first five songs (out of twelve) should have been replaced by more proper ones – with one exception, though.  The late Charles Richard Cason produced three of them, but for me they are mostly indifferent without any real hooks, as if they were trying to turn Floyd into a contemporary r&b star.  The one exception is a slow-to-mid-tempo You’ve Still Got It, the first single, which also has footage to support it (at

  Come track # 6, I Miss My Daddy, and we finally get to the real thing.  This sentimental and slow tribute to Johnnie Taylor is Mr. Cason’s best tune and production on this CD.  Next we’ll meet the ever-reliable Wolf Stephenson, who uses real live players on his three tracks.  No One Should Be Lonely by George Jackson is a good-time swayer, and on the other G.J. tune, I’m hooked on These Blues, the title really tells all.  On another slowie, I Forgot to Remember, Floyd sounds incredibly like his dad, and the same goes to If You Catch Me Sleepin, too (produced by Earl Powell).  With a little skipping in the beginning, you’re bound to find the same Floyd as on his earlier CDs.


  I also talked to Vick Allen about his background soon after his Waldoxy debut, Old School…New Flava, came out in 2004, and you can get acquainted with his history here.  Vick, too, has reached his third Waldoxy CD, but Baby Come Back Home (Waldoxy 7900) is actually an EP with only seven songs on it (29 min.).

  Vick is the main producer and he wrote or co-wrote four songs on this set, which in addition to programming features guitar, sax and keys.  The title track is also promoted as the first single, but for me there’s still a better ballad, the soft Good Love.  Only a catchy toe-tapper called When You Pack Your Bag and a mid-pacer titled New Way to Cheat break the chain of slow and moody songs.

While waiting for a full-length CD, please visit or


  You guessed it!  I’ve also talked to Carl, and that took place for the first time in 1995, when I got a hold of his Paula CD, House of Love.  If you wish to know, what Carl himself thinks about that album and what he’s been up to prior to that, please read the interview here.  After Paula, Carl, too, became a Waldoxy recording artist, but now (after Entune Records) he’s been with Ecko for more than three years and – surprise, surprise! – he has come up with his third CD for the label.

  Can’t Stop Me (Ecko 1096; is produced by John Ward, and a catchy swayer titled I like This Place was chosen for the first single.  The opening cut, If You Can’t Help Me, is another pleasant mid-pacer.  The only really fast song is an effortlessly floating ditty called You’ve Been Lyin’.  Of the four slowies, a melodic love song named Tell Me Where You Been All My Life attracts me most.  All is well, but this time I don’t like Carl’s covers too much, because he’s no Bobby Womack (Daylight) and he’s no Johnnie Taylor, either (Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone).


  You can read about Dr. O.T. Sykes, “The Singing Dentist”, at Now Big M Records has released The Best of O.T. Sykes, which actually is the same as his First Love CD (eight tracks, 32 min.).  On this small-budget CD there are three slow songs, and two of them have been small hits – Loneliness inside Me and a beat ballad called My First Love.  On the uptempo front there are a couple of tracks that even take you back to the days of disco, Licensed to Love and Stone Crush on You.  Vocally O.T. faintly reminds me of Chuck Strong.

  Mac Dobbins has produced a bluesy single on Sweet Angel titled Merry Christmas My Baby, and it’s good enough for you to listen to after holidays, too (


  I bet you were thinking that this is an artist that he definitively hasn’t interviewed, but actually I have.  But I can’t do it anymore, because sadly Sterling passed away on August 21 in 2005 caused by prostate cancer.  He was born in Richmond, Virginia, on July 19 in 1941, and besides singing he was famous for his imitations, too.  We talked in 1999, and the reason for that was his recently released CD, Two Way Love Affair.  You can read about that album and Sterling’s interesting and chequered career here.

  Now has released a posthumous CD titled South of the Snooty Fox (R2-271868), which was produced by Steve Berlin and Eddie Gorodetsky and which features rewarding liner notes by Allen Larman.  On this CD Sterling is backed by his New Breed Band and a few guest musicians.

  Sterling sings some of his favourite songs, and among the uptempo ones there are Ain’t Nobody Home and an almost rock ‘n’ roll version of Seven DaysSurprise, Surprise and You Left the Water Running are performed in mid-tempo, as well as the bluesy Don’t Mess with My Money and a rousing version of I Believe in You (You Believe in Me), a song made famous by Sterling’s idol, Johnnie Taylor.

  Music is slowed down and intensified on A Nickel and a Nail, the bluesy There’s a Rat Loose in My House, Tom Waits’ country-soul melody, The House Where Nobody Lives and I’ll Take Care of You, with an opening monologue.  At the very end of the CD there’s a hidden track, which I think is Sterling’s ’64 Smash single, Funny LifeSouth of the Snooty Fox remains Sterling’s best record.  A good place to purchase it and other Southern indies and some compilations in this article is



  Three great DVDs dealing with Stax were released last year, and they’ve been praised on many forums by now, but I do my short and belated review, anyway.

  Respect Yourself/The Stax Records Story (Concord/Stax, DVD-7032; 126 min. with extras; tells the story of a company, which was founded by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton and had its “Satellite” start in a record shop and country music singles in the late 50s.  After they hired Al Bell in 1965, business wheels were put in motion.  The DVD covers such 60s landmarks as the tour in Europe, the Monterey festival, Otis Redding’s death, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul album and Shaft two years later, in 1971.  We move on to Wattstax ’72 and to financing and distribution problems with the Union Planters National Bank and CBS.  Also IRS and FBI came into the picture and the concluding subjects are the Stax auction and bankruptcy in the mid-70s.

  There’s a lot of historic footage, much music and comments from as many as thirty-nine persons, including Jim and Estelle, Deanie Parker, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Wayne Jackson, Don Nix, Jerry Wexler, Al Bell, David Porter, Mavis Staples, Mable John, Bettye Crutcher, Dino Woodard, Mack Rice, Tim Whitsett and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

  Twenty-two songs are featured, and it allows us to enjoy performances – mostly vintage but some fresh, too - by Mar-Keys, William Bell, Booker T. & the MG’s (2 songs), Otis Redding (6), Sam & Dave (3), Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, Isaac Hayes (2), Mel & Tim, the Staple Singers (2), Rufus Thomas and Albert King.  Written and produced by Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon and Mark Crosby and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this is one of the best and most informative music history DVDs that I’ve seen.


  The brightest star at Stax around mid-60s was Otis Redding, and his tragic death in December 1967, aged only 26, paralyzed the company for a moment.  Dreams to Remember/The Legacy of Otis Redding (, DVD-7031; 110 min. with extras) tells his story and features sixteen performances, which were filmed in America and Europe in 1965, ’66 and ’67.  Produced by David Peck, Rob Bowman and Phillip Galloway, Otis’ history is told also, and more in detail, in the liner notes written by Rob Bowman.

  In between songs there are comments from Jim Stewart, Steve Cropper, Wayne Jackson and from Otis’ wife, Zelma Redding, and daughter, Karla Redding-Andrews.  Songs go back all the way to Pain in My Heart and as a bonus there’s a music video of The Dock of the Bay, created in 2007.  For me the highlights are I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (from a ’67 London concert; dedicated to Mick Jagger!), My Lover’s Prayer, Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song), Shake (in Monterey in ’67), Glory of Love and Try a Little Tenderness, which was shot in Cleveland, Ohio, just one day before the fatal plane accident.


  The same producers and the same liners writer as above, Stax/Volt Revue – Live in Norway 1967 (Reelin’ In The Years, DVD-7030; 103 min. with extras) shows us the recently discovered Oslo concert that was part of the Stax’s first European tour.  Interspersed between the performances there are once more interviews with Steve Cropper, Wayne Jackson, Sam Moore and Jim Stewart.

  The 75-minute concert kicks off with five instrumentals by both Booker T. & the MGs and the Mar-Keys, before Arthur Conley hits the stage and delivers In the Midnight Hour and Sweet Soul Music.  After Eddie Floyd (Raise Your Hand), the stage became full of fire, first set by “the dynamic duo” of Sam & Dave (You Don’t Know Like I Know, Soothe Me, the awesome When Something Is Wrong with My Baby and Hold On! I’m Comin’) and then by Otis Redding, who closes his five-song stint with an incredible delivery of Try a Little Tenderness.  My advice is to purchase all these three DVDs.



  Lyah Beth LeFlore together with Eddie Levert, Sr. and his son, Gerald Levert, are the authors of I Got Your Back (Harlem Moon/Broadway Books, 2007; ISBN 978-0-7679-2744-4; 206 pages).  It’s a quick read.  It consists of interviews conducted at different locations during 2006 with not only Eddie and Gerald, but also with Eddie’s other son Sean, his daughter Kandi and first wife Martha.  This book was finished just before Gerald passed away on November 10, 2006, at age forty.

  The book actually starts at page 29, and from page 149 it’s only “tributes and reflections.”  The 120-page substance in between handles mostly family matters: values, ties between father and son and daughter and mother and love for each other, and more delicate subjects such as Eddie’s divorce and second marriage and Gerald’s children outside of wedlock.  They also discuss the temptations on the road – ladies, drugs etc. – social issues, politics, religion and education.  If you wish to know what Eddie and Gerald think about the world and each other, you can read it here.  If you’re looking for music facts, forget it.  Books about the careers of the O’Jays and LeVert are not written yet.


First they brought out the Funk Brothers into the limelight in Allen Slutsky’s great ’89 book entitled Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson, then in Paul Justman’s successful documentary movie in 2002 and subsequent tours.  Now it’s time for another of those Motown’s best kept secrets to be exposed.  Motown from the Background (ISBN 13: 978190440829X;; 296 pages – 65 illustrated with photos) tells the story of Louvain Demps, Marlene Barrow-Tate and Jackie Hicks, collectively known as the AndantesVickie Wright wrote the story in close collaboration with the ladies, and there are comments from many artists, business people and relatives, too.  You can purchase the book at least at and

  Jackie and Marlene went to an audition at Motown with Popcorn Wylie in 1959.  Louvain was already there as a member of the Rayber Voices.  The three girls – all in their twenties – were put together, which meant the beginning of a 14-year-long saga as a quintessential component of the Motown sound.  Allegedly, these unsung heroes sang on as many as 20,000 songs, which seems incredible… almost impossible to believe!  They also moonlighted for other Detroit labels and travelled to Chicago and New York to record.  The Andantes were always available and in many cases they filled in and patched up in order not having to invite artists off the road into the studio.  They also did some touring, but sang mainly behind the curtains.  Pat Lewis was a member on and off and sometimes replaced Louvain since the mid-60s.

  Throughout the whole sixties and early 70s up to the point, when Motown moved to Los Angeles in late ’72, the girls made their significant contributions on records by the Supremes, Mary Wells, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, the Vandellas, the Temptations, Jimmy Ruffin, the Marvelettes, the Velvelettes, Edwin Starr… practically everybody.  There were times, when the microphones of the actual members of the group were shut off and the Andantes’ voices were used on the finished product.  Also physically, Marlene used to fill in for Florence Ballard, both on records and on stage.

  Everybody agrees that the girls were truly professional and quick at their work.  They only had one single released under their own name – (Like a) Nightmare on V.I.P. 25006 in 1964 – and it wasn’t promoted at all and only a few copies surfaced.  Ironically, the lead vocalist was Ann Bogan.  Similarly to the Funk Brothers, the company wanted to keep the Andantes strictly an in-house group and not let the rivals know about them.  The last time the trio sang together was for Ian Levine almost twenty years ago, and today only Louvain keeps on singing.  The other two are happy with their family life and retirement.

  The first thing I look for in a music book is index for possible research purposes later on.  This book was published without an index, and, after reading it through, I realised that I don’t really need it in this case, because I don’t have to open the book again.  It’s an easy read and an interesting tale, but there aren’t very many facts and not a lot of new information – substance – in terms of music.

  When a Motown fan sees a title like Motown from the Background, the first thing he expects is recollections and interesting, behind-the-scene details about artists, producers, arrangers, musicians, sessions, tours, off-work events etc.; and I’m not talking about gossip here.  In this book the focus is on personal life and opinions of each of the three ladies.  There are bitter comments about the lack of money, lack of help, lack of recognition and lack of information.  True, there are also comments about forgiveness and understanding.  Those comments and overly repeated praises from colleagues made me lose my concentration at times and move to cursory reading. 

  This book could have used a lot more editing.  Now it’s inconsistent, jumping around too much.  Had there been a logical approach either in time (year-by-year, session-by-session; not each and every one of them, of course) or in featuring artists and session staff, this book would have become a keeper.  If you can’t get those details from the ladies themselves, the many producers, arrangers and musicians that were also interviewed for the book could help.  Even some additional, more precise data on songs, sessions or artists in between the comments could have anchored the text better in time or in music.  However, this is the first proper coverage of the group that played a more important role in the history of Motown that is generally realised, and as such it’s a valuable piece of work.

MY TOP-20 in 2007

(full-length, new releases)

1.  Otis Clay: Walk a Mile in My Shoes
2.  Deniece Williams: Love Niecy Style
3.  Mashaá: Anytime Anyplace Anywhere
4.  Shirley Slaughter: Philadelphia Soul
5.  The Mighty Clouds of Joy: Movin’
6.  The Temptations: Back to Front
7.  The 3 Tenors of Soul: All the Way from Philadelphia
8.  Patrick Harris: Long Time Comin’
9.  Sterling Harrison: South of the Snooty Fox
10. V.A.: A Soulful Tale of Two Cities
11. Sweet Angel: Another Man’s Meat on My Plate
12. Bettye LaVette: The Scene of the Crime
13. Power: Powerized
14. Vickie Baker: I Could Show You
15. Thelma Houston: A Woman’s Touch
16. Lola: Give Her What She Wants
17. Fred Bolton: I’m Gonna Git Mine
18. Floyd Taylor: You Still Got It
19. Latimore: Back ‘Atcha
20. Carl Sims: Can’t Stop Me

Heikki Suosalo

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