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DEEP # 1/2009 (January 2009)

  In 2008 starting from the late summer all through the autumn there were plenty of new releases on the Southern and indie soul front, but towards the end of the year it all seemed to dry up.  Can we blame the recession on this, too?  Now it’s starting to look more positive again. 

  Now I have a new interview with Philly’s Bunny Sigler and one from the vaults with Andre´ Lee.  There aren’t anymore this time due to my other commitments recently and still up-coming weeks, but you can expect a noticeable compensation in the next column coming up soon.

Bunny Sigler photo by Sierra Hurtt-Akselrod

Content and quick links:

Bunny Sigler
Andre´ Lee

New CD release reviews:
Luther Lackey: I Should Have Stayed Scared
Earl Gaines: Nothin’ but the Blues
O.B. Buchana: Southern Soul Country Boy
David Brinston: Party Time
Willie Clayton: Soul & Blues
Cliff Ellis & Oscar Toney Jr.: Over at Mary’s Place
Andre´ Lee: Straight from the Heart
Bunny Sigler: The Lord’s Prayer
Spencer Wiggins: I’m Going On

Reissue/compilation CD reviews:
Jimmy Hughes: The Best of Jimmy Hughes
Roscoe Robinson: Why Must It End
Linda Hayes: CD Atomic Baby

DVD reviews:
Four Tops: Reach Out/Definitive Performances 1965-1973
General Johnson & the Chairmen of the Board: Under the Radar

Book review:
Tommy Hunt w. Jan Warburton: Only Human/My Soulful Life


  Ecko Records have been active lately, and it’s only good news, since some of their late 2008 releases are very good, as you can read below.

  Among Luther’s earlier releases during the past ten years you can find even country music, but I Should Have Stayed Scared (ECD 1105) is one of his r&b CDs and his first one on Ecko Records ( Raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and soon turning forty, Luther Wade Lackey wrote all ten songs and is responsible for rhythm tracks, vocals, sequencing and recording, so it’s actually a one-man show.

  Besides two thumping beaters and three rather lifeless slow songs, on the positive side there are five tracks, of which I Don’t Care Who’s Getting It is a swaying beat-ballad, perfectly suited for Luther’s ripe voice.  I Should Have Stayed Scared is a story-telling Southern soul ballad and a sequence to Scared of Gettin’ Caught on Luther’s preceding CD, I’m Talking to You, on Goodtime in 2005.

  The Blues Is Alright is a slow and soulful tribute to Little Milton, whereas The New Orleans Blues is only a slightly bluesy protest against how they dealt with Katrina and the damage, and finally She’s Tired of Me is a lilting slowie.  I wish this talented man and soulful singer all the best in his future career.


  One of the biggest surprises in late 2008 was Earl Gaines popping up on Ecko Records, and Nothin’ but the Blues (ECD 1106) turned out to be one of the best releases in the 14-year-long history of the company.  Produced by John Ward, it features real instruments, including horns arranged by Harrison Calloway.

  The 73-year-old Earl was born in Alabama but moved to Nashville in the early 50s, and he enjoyed his first hit fronting Louis Brooks and His Hi-toppers on It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day) on Excello in 1955.  He later cut for numerous labels - including Champion, Poncello, HBR (The Best of Luck to You in ’66), Hollywood, De Luxe, Seventy-Seven (Hymn Number 5 in ’73) and Ace – before going to a hiatus in 1975.  After driving a truck for fourteen years, Earl returned to the recording scene in 1989 and has since had album & CD releases on Meltone, Appaloosa, Black Top, Cannonball and Blue-Fye.

  This new set kicks off with an umpteenth cover of Earl’s signature song, 24 Hours a Day, written by Ted Jarrett over fifty years ago, and the blues – both jump, and slow – prevails on three other tracks on the set, too.  In the r&b category, Let the Past Be the Past is a powerful and big-voiced mid-pacer, while a romp titled Good Old Country Boy gives a new aspect to that phrase, referring to someone with a genuine sense of duty in fulfilling his job… like a rustic Jody.

  A pleading tone in Earl’s voice and fit arrangements for live players give an extra dose of emotion for the four heartfelt and melodic soul ballads (Let’s Call a Truce, If I Could Do It All Over, Everything Sweet Reminds Me of You and Nothing But Party Blues), which are among the cream cuts on this exciting CD.


  Southern Soul Country Boy (ECD 1107) is O.B.’s fifth CD for Ecko Records, and this time he co-wrote five tunes out of the ten on display.  The concluding, machine-backed four tracks are either blues, or standard quick-tempo dancers, but O.B. tends to be more at ease on the three opening mid-pacers, especially on the mellow I’ll Be Your Shugga Daddy.  Also You’re Just Playin’ with It has a hooky chorus.

  The title slowie has a touch of blues to it, too, but Just Because He’s Good to You is a genuine Southern soul ballad.  A slow and a pretty waltz titled Sweet Memories is a touching tribute to O.B.’s dad.


  As in O.B.’s case, also David’s Party Time (ECD 1108) was produced by John Ward, and this time the background is well programmed, tunes are memorable and David’s singing is more soulful than ever.  All the seven up- and mid-tempo tracks on the set are effortless and captivating, such as I Just Love Women, Crazy ‘Bout You Baby and Hard Working Woman.  There’s not a dud in sight, which is rare these days, but I admit that some strictly non-party music listeners may wish for a bit more variation, especially in tempo towards the end of the set.

  The lush Sometime You Win Some is David’s own slow tune and his voice is quite high-pitched on the other two ballads, You Are My Friend and Heaven Sent.  For me this is David’s best record so far (


  In the latter part of 2008 Ecko released two nice compilations, too.  Young Guns of Southern Soul (ECD 1104) offers 15 tracks and 65 minutes worth of music from recent albums by eight artists, including four songs from the David Brinston and O.B. Buchana CDs above (two from both).  Personal favourites are One Way Love, a soulful and slow duet by Ms. Jody and O.B. Buchana, I Must Be Crazy, an absolutely beautiful longing song by Sweet Angel and I’m Gonna Stand up by Your Side, a Southern soul ballad by O.B. Buchana.  On the other hand, I must admit that I still haven’t warmed up to Donnie Ray’s music and I’m not too crazy about Jody’s Got My Tutu by Mystery Man, either.  Sheba Potts-Wright and Rick Lawson are also featured.

  It may be too late to mention It’s Christmas Baby (ECD 2002) now, a 12-track compilation by almost the same artists as above – David Brinston, Donnie Ray and Mystery Man excluded, but Barbara Carr and Lee Shot Williams included – but it’s a good enough gift for the next Christmas, too.


  Willie ( had two album releases on Malaco in 2008 and both of them are of high standard, especially in terms of vocal prowess.  The latter one is titled Soul & Blues (MCD 7534;, and it’s produced – besides Willie himself – by Vick Allen, Donell “Showcase” Taylor and Mike Snoddy.  Willie wrote or co-wrote seven songs out of the ten on display, and on five tracks on top of the programming there’s a horn section, arranged by Harrison Calloway.  On those tracks you can hear live guitar and organ, too.

  The repertoire consists of familiar ingredients in Willie’s case.  There’s one “Tyrone-inspired” dancer called Another Man’s Gain, one mid-tempo song with a memorable chorus titled Strong Love and, for some reason, one more version of I Can’t Stand the Rain.  Besides three slow blues tracks (Triple Diamond Slot Machine, All Day Blues and Do What I Gotta Do – bluesoul actually), there’s one Isley Brothers type of a bedroom ballad named Body Talk.

  George Jackson wrote the impressive opener, I Feel a Cheatin’ Coming On, which is a distant cousin to Cheating in the Next RoomSweet Thing is Willie’s own soul ballad, but the highlight and absolute delight is It Hurts So Much, a highly emotional deep soul ballad.  Once again I gladly stay in Willie’s corner.


  At first glance this would seem like an odd couple.  Cliff is primarily known as a successful basketball coach, but a more profound research shows that he has a music background, too.  He was fronting a band called the Villagers (Laugh it off on Fame 1005 in 1966) and has since become a notable beach music figure.  Oscar, of course, is a deep soul hero with some superior music ever since the sixties.  You can get acquainted with his complete (and correct) discography at

  Considering Cliff’s close ties with the Carolina music today, it’s no wonder that this joint CD, Over at Mary’s Place, comes out on the Ripete label ( 2383).  Produced by Duane Evans and armed with live musicians, on most of the eleven tracks both singers share vocals.  Cliff explains in the liners that “the sixties decade was a significant time in my life and I love the music of that era.”  So sixties songs is what we get here.

  For the most part we’re offered swinging, feel-good, brassy music - such numbers as the driving Meet Me (Over at Mary’s Place) and Linda Lu, originally cut by Sam Cooke and Ray Sharpe, respectively.  More restrained but nevertheless energetic performances are I’ve never found a Girl, Mercy Mercy, Louie Louie, You Are My Sunshine and Today I Started Loving You Again.

  There are actually only four exceptions to the overall “modern honky-tonk” pattern on the set.  Cliff leads on Loveland, a soft mid-tempo song, and I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog, the familiar blues song, is also cut mid-tempo here.  Then there are two Oscar’s solo tracks.  The interpretation of Make It Easy on Yourself derives from his mid-70s Contempo period, but even better is a touching, deep soul version of Be Sure.  For Oscar’s fans this song is a must.

  On some tracks arrangements are true to the original ones, but on the others they have a more modern approach, with even rock guitar solos included.  I guess this nostalgic throwback music goes down well on the beach scene.


  After the release of So Good CD on Avanti over ten years ago, I had a short chat with Andre’ about that CD and his early days.  Now this singer with a light but warm tenor voice has come up with the third album in his career on his own Cape-Town Records out of Jackson, Mississippi (

  Andrew Lee Caples produced Straight from the Heart (CT 1000) himself and wrote or co-wrote all of the eleven songs on the set.  There’s no mention of the players, so I guess there aren’t any – or not many, at least.  The five slow songs (Too Late, Let’s Get Romantic, Southern Soul Man, I’ll Do whatever and Those Were the Days) are all tender and romantic serenades.  The two mid-tempo cuts (Gonna Go Stepping and Groove On) are quite laid-back, while the uptempo grooves are easy, light dancers, except the more angry I Don’t Believe a Dam Word.  Andre’ has once again created relaxing, intimate music for all the romantics to enjoy (

  And you do remember, of course, that a good source to purchase these Southern soul indie CDs above is



  Walter Sigler is one of the ground-breakers in Philly music and a master in almost every field - be it singing, writing, playing, producing…  His latest venture is a gospel CD titled The Lord’s Prayer (Bun-Z; 2008), which he produced and for which he wrote or co-wrote nine songs.  “I was cutting somebody else, and they didn’t come up with the money.  I put up the money to cut the tracks for this person, and when it came time for them to pay they ran out of money, so I took over.” 

  Bun-Z Music & Records is a company owned by Bunny and his lawyer, Lloyd Zane Remick.  “My lawyer is the one that pressed me to do an album to get back to work as a performer, because I’ve been producing and doing things on my own – working with the Trammps, Jeff Majors…  I was just doing so much that I wasn’t really concerned about performing.  When we started the label, it started growing.”

  On most of the tracks on the CD you can hear live musicians playing (except drums), and on some songs there’s even a church choir backing Bunny.  “I cut it everywhere.  I cut it at my house and I cut it in Sicklerville, New Jersey.  The bass player of the group Instant Funk – do you remember I Got My Mind Made Up – is Raymond Earl, and he’s the engineer.  I do most of my vocals with him.  And I mix at Gamble & Huff studios.”

  Bryant Pugh is one of the co-writers and an arranger on some tracks.  “Bryant is a musical director for a gospel singer called Richard Smallwood.  There’s a big church here in Philadelphia called Sharon Baptist Church, and he is the musical director for that church, too.”

  The CD opens with a laid-back version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.  “I was at a funeral in Columbus, Ohio, and I heard a trumpet player to get up there and play Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and then he started singing it, and the people went crazy.  That’s how that happened.”

  After a slow and passionate rendition of Near the Cross, Bunny comes up with a delicate and beautiful version of The Lord’s Prayer.  “When I do it in churches, they go crazy.  During the first part they’re really quiet, but when I do the second part they go off.  In the church I do it a little more soulful.  When I try to do it on a record, it seems to take it away from it.”

  Jesus Got Your Back and What Did Moses Do? are storming scorchers, reminding you of the stuff  Instant Funk used to cut.  “That’s what we were going for.  The bass player on this song, who’s actually a guitar player, is Randy Bowland, and he has worked with Joe Scott, Gerald Levert, everybody…  We were going for Instant Funk, Brass Construction and bands like that.”

  Thank You Lord is a slow number and a powerful vocal interplay with a female singer – or two?  “Veronica is singing background and Charlene is singing the lead with me.  I sang the song four months before she sang on it, and when we put her on it we wouldn’t play me at all.”  The song was co-written by one Noisette “Saint Man.”  “His father owns a church, and we record in the church.  We wrote about thirty hip-hop songs, and then one day we said ‘let’s write something about God and thank him for getting us together to write this music’, and we wrote that song.”

  On Honky Tonk Music the title really tells it all.  “There’s a guy in Philadelphia, whose name is Bill Jolly.  He’s the guy they used to use, when they had big concerts.  He’s a musical director.  I was telling him about my mom.  I never knew that my mother played piano.  One day we were at the house and she just walked over to the piano and started right on - honky-tonky-tonky-tonk…  And I told Bill we need to do some honky tonk music.”

  He Walked on Water is a ballad that has a more contemporary feel to it.  “Saint Man said ‘I got a song about a girl saying She Walked on Water’.  When I did the gospel, I changed it to He.”  He’s Comin’ Back is a fast, poppy and good-humoured chant.  “I tried to write a South African song, me and Raymond Earl.  We had the drums and stuff – it was dam-dam-nueda…  When I started doing the gospel song, I heard the track and I thought I might as well do a song to it.”

  Lordie, Lordie is a slow beater.  “The guy that’s playing the piano, Urie Cane, plays beautiful music.  We cut that right in the back of my house.”  Dropped the Big One is another slow beater, only heavier.  “The kid, Saint Man, wrote that one with me.  When I did it, he hated it.  He said ‘man, that’s the worst song you ever wrote with me’.  But then when we let the people hear it…”

  Finally there’s a beautiful ballad titled Without the Lord, written by Bunny and James Sigler.  Actually it’s the same melody as What Would You Do without Love, which Bunny cut for Star Island over twenty years ago.  “My brother passed away four years ago.  It’s really weird, when we wrote the gospel song and I sang it I started thinking about his words.  I have a Christmas single, O Holy Night and Christmas Dream, and there’s a Ukrainian guy in there, and he really loved that song, What Would You Do without Love.

  After his contributions on a double-CD titled A Soulful Tale of Two Cities a while ago, Bunny has been engaged in a lot of activities.  “Recently I wrote a song called Mr. President, and you can watch it on YouTube.  I’m trying to get to the big TV stations to do that.  Also with Jeff Majors I’ve been on a homeless tour for about six months now.  We go to a city and we help homeless people.  Then there’s a group called Piano 4.  They’re four concert pianists, two men and two women.  They put out an album called The Nut Cracker, and we’re already booked for next Christmas.”

  “On The Love Train Special on PBS I did Me and Mrs. Jones, and I did a new arrangement on it.  Also me, the Three Degrees and Jean Carn sang Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.  It went over so well, they’ve been sending me around the country to sing Me and Mrs. Jones on TV.  I’m gonna really try to be a full-fledged entertainer this year.  Me and Uri Caine, we’re nominated for a Grammy in the best classical crossover album category.  If that happens, I’m ready to go anywhere, all over the world, to do opera.” 

  Please visit Mr. Sigler’s websites at and


  Spencer is a deep soul hero, who’s best remembered for his magnificent 60s and 70s Memphis recordings, and now he has released a new gospel CD, too.  I’m Going On (Tavette 69626-12346) was produced by Tommy D and Brother Miller, recorded in Miami, Florida, and has some real live musicians playing on it.

  There are many goodies among the eleven tracks.  Highway to Heaven and Praise Your Name are boisterous but melodic fast songs, whereas the deep God Is So Special should please the fans of those old Spencer gems.  This is just to inform you about the existence of the CD.  I won’t go into details, since I’m hoping to return to this album in my next column.



  Jimmy had 12 singles released on Fame between 1963 and ’67, and now most of those sides are officially released in a CD format on the re-launched Fame label, The Best of Jimmy Hughes (Fame/EMI,; 18 tracks, 45 min.).  Recorded in Muscle Shoals and produced by Rick Hall, Jimmy and his high, distinctive tenor voice is backed by a rhythm section, horns and background vocals, and in many cases the inspiration for music is drawn from gospel.  In the rhythm section you can spot such names as David Briggs on piano, Jerry Carrigan on drums, Terry Thompson on guitar, Norbert Putman on bass and Spooner Oldham on keyboards.

  In the booklet Rick Hall tells about the session and the promotion work for Steal Away, “the great Vodka tour”, but there’s no information on the very songs – the writers, label numbers, release dates etc. – that are commonplace on compilations like this.  On the other hand, as a bonus MP3 we get a freely flowing, vivid and warm-hearted conversation about the history of the label, studio and musicians, about the essence of the Muscle Shoals sound, about Jimmy’s career and about marketing and distribution of Steal Away.  The reminiscing lasts over two and a half hours and, besides the musicians above (Earl Montgomery instead of Terry Thompson), there are also Jimmy Hughes and Rick Hall at the discussion table.

  It all started with a gospel-derived, bluesy ballad called Steal Away, which peaked at # 17 on the Billboard Hot charts in 1964, and was followed by a simple and equally pleading cover of James Brown’s Try Me (# 65-Hot).  Jimmy had to wait for two years for his next hit, when the uptempo Neighbor, Neighbor hit the charts (# 4-r&b and # 65-pop), and another pleading soul ballad in a waltz time called I Worship the Ground made some small waves, too (# 25-r&b).

  The highlight in 1967 was Why Not Tonight (# 5-r&b, # 90-pop), a great haunting soul ballad with country and gospel elements to it and a firm personal favourite in Jimmy’s output.  The follow-up was a slow and melancholy ballad titled Don’t Lose Your Good Thing (# 121-pop).  The same year they still leased to Atlantic a stomper called It Ain’t What You Got (# 43-r&b).

  Those were the seven songs that charted nationally for Jimmy during his Fame period, but this CD has a lot more to offer.  Included are both sides of his ’62 Guyden single - a big-voiced ballad named I’m Qualified and an “uptown”, mid-tempo shuffler called My Loving Time – and a previously unreleased, poppy dancer titled Too Much (cut also by the Entertainers).  There’s also a bluesy reading of Stormy Monday Blues and a great Steal Away type of a ballad called Midnight Affair, which unfortunately flopped in 1965.  The rest six tracks are all dancers, and I would have replaced a couple of them with Goodbye My Lover, Goodbye and You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy, but that’s always a matter of taste.  It’s great that we finally have Fame rolling again (


  Roscoe is now eighty years old and still going strong.  His musical peak period, however, fell on the 60s, and now in their Sound Stage 7 series - right after Sam Baker’s I Believe in You and Ella Washington’s He Called Me Baby - Soulscape ( presents Roscoe Robinson on Why Must It End (SSCD 7015; 20 tracks, 57 min.; liners by John Ridley).  The first two tracks (1965) and the last six (1969) on this set were, however, produced by Roscoe for his own Gerri label, but the rest (1967-69) are cut under John Richbourg’s supervision.

  After a varied gospel era lasting over twenty years, Roscoe’s second secular single on Gerri in 1965 – a sharp dancer called That’s Enough – turned into a hit (# 7-r&b) after it was leased to Wand.  The flip was an r&b waltz titled One More Time.  After three more Wand singles, Roscoe hooked up with John Richbourg and cut arguably his most valued sides, and most of them were self-written.

  Among those twelve tracks there are only two mediocre stompers (One Bo-Dillion Years and How Many Times Must I Knock), since the other uptempo cuts (Fox Hunting on a Weekend, You Don’t Move Me No More, Standing in the Safety Zone and You’re All I Need) are all compelling, melodic and loose movers.  Mid-tempo tracks are either smooth floaters (I’m Burning and Yearning for you), or more dramatic numbers (My Pride Won’t Let Me).  Soul ballads are all deep and touching, actually fabulous – Darling, Please Tell Me, Let Me Know and Why Must It End.

  Musically Roscoe’s late 60s Gerri tracks were varied but nevertheless high-class.  Don’t Forget the Soldiers (Fighting in Vietnam) is almost like a gospel-trance scorcher, whereas Tis Yuletide is a pretty, heartfelt ballad.  A dancer called That’s It is coupled with a soulful big ballad named In Time You’ll See, and finally Roscoe’s own bluesy slowie titled Leave You in the Arms of Your Other Man is backed with a fast and fierce cover of Fred HughesOo Wee Baby I Love You, which, leased to Atlantic, peaked at # 42-r&b in 1969. 

  In the 70s Roscoe returned to work in the gospel field but switched over to the secular side again in the late 90s.  Roscoe’s talent is underrated, but luckily we now have this precious compilation ( 


  I must admit that Linda Hayes isn’t the first name to come to my mind, when thinking about artists that should still get a retrospect CD.  But I’m glad that released Atomic Baby (Shout 49; 21 tracks, 54 min.; liners by Clive Richardson), since, to be honest, I wasn’t very aware of Linda prior to this release – although there’s at least one earlier compilation on her – but after listening to it I admit that her music deserves to be heard today, too.  It may even touch music listeners outside the 50s r&b aficionados circle, too.

  Born Bertha Williams in 1923 in New Jersey, Linda took the normal route from gospel to r&b and back to church, but more or less seems to have abandoned music in the 60s.  At least it no longer was one of her priorities.  She names Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday her favourites, and you can clearly hear their influence in her singing.

This compilation covers the years from 1952 through ’56 and releases on such labels as Recorded in Hollywood, King and Antler, and it includes also her two r&b charted singles in 1953 and ’54, Yes I Know (# 2) and Take Me Back (# 10).  The first one is a sax-driven jump and an answer song to Willie Mabon’s big hit, I Don’t Know, while the latter one is a mellower slowie, cut with Monroe Tucker’s band.

Other worthwhile, bluesy and big-voiced ballads are Big City, the heavier Change of Heart and Why Johnny Why, a melancholy tribute to Johnny Ace.  On the jump side some of the most notable ones are the melodic What’s It to You, Jack and Atomic Baby with some Caribbean elements to it and still one ’56 rocker titled You Ain’t Moving Me.

  Linda’s brother, Tony Williams, was a member of the Platters, and for a brief moment she became also a member, before Zola Taylor stepped in.  From that connection we get Linda’s and the Platters’ My Name Ain’t Annie, a swaying mid-tempo answer song to the Midnighters and similar in structure, too (b/w a nonsense track called Let’s Babalu).  Also Please Have Mercy, a tender and pleading ballad, was cut with the Platters, and Oochi Pachi, an uptempo doowop number, was a duet with Tony.



  Today there’s only Abdul “Duke” Fakir left of the quartet that started as the Four Aims fifty-five years ago.  Lawrence Payton, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Levi Stubbs have all passed during the last twelve years.  As a fine reminder of some their achievements we can now enjoy a DVD called Reach Out/Definitive Performances 1965-1973 (Hip-O/Universal 8001 1787-09; 22 songs, 80 + 35 minutes; nice and informative liners by Andria Lisle).

  The main feature consists of 18 performances by the group.  Between the clips there are short interviews with some of those, who were involved in creating that music, but mainly it’s Abdul telling about the history of each song.  Among the highlights there are Baby I Need Your Loving (shot in 1966), I Can’t Help Myself (’65), It’s the Same Old Song (’66) and also a pseudo-artistic set-up of the day for Ask the Lonely (’65).

  There’s no lip-synch in an extract from the Ed Sullivan show in 1968 featuring Reach Out I’ll Be There, and from the same show, only a year earlier, comes Bernadette.  7-Rooms of Gloom is a ’67 Motown promotional film, and Walk Away Renee (’67) still strikes with its emotional charge.

  Bonus interviews – both recent and vintage – are conducted with the members of the group, Smokey Robinson, Mickey Stevenson, Roquel Payton and Lloyd Thaxton.  Some of the later performances at a medical centre and in a concert in ’73 aren’t that impressive anymore, but A Simple Game (’70) sounds as good now as it did back then.


  Under the Radar (2007 General Entertainment; duration 1:31) is a documentary written and directed by Billy Camp and it concentrates on a concert on April 28 in 2007 at the Triangle Beach Music Festival in North Carolina.  There’s no booklet to go with this DVD, which is rather unfortunate these days, but some of the history of the group is exposed in interviews with each member - General Johnson, Danny Woods and Ken Knox (

  On stage the group is packed by a 5-piece band – Ken is playing saxophone – and they open with Gone Fishin’.  General’s distinct vibrato isn’t what it used to be anymore, but his voice and tone are still easily recognizable.  The real showman of the group, however, is Danny Woods, and his energetic performance and singing on Pay to the Piper and A Bird in the Hand show that he’s lost none of his vocal prowess.  From that point on General takes control on the rest of the songs: 39-21-46, Carolina Girls, Patches, (You Got Me) Dangling on a String, I’d Rather Be in Carolina and Soul Man (the last one together with Danny).  For some strange reason we only get a few opening chords of Give Me just a Little More Time before the song is cut.

  There’s also a ’94 video of Rockaway Beach with Joey Ramone and scenes from the rehearsing of a new song called I Go Crazy.  They also show the recording of a Christmas album in the studio, and here’s where we reach the peak - a great dramatic and powerful ballad called King of Kings.  If that’s not enough for you guys, you’ll get to see some bikini girls, too.



  Tommy was born as Charles James Wilson in 1933 in Pennsylvania, and after a reform school he moved to Chicago to work with the Five Blazers.  Next he formed his own short-lived groups and joined the air force in the early 50s, but AWOL caused him a prison sentence in Kansas City.  After release and back in Chicago he continued to work with the Five Echoes, then joined the Flamingos and finally as a solo artist signed with Scepter in 1960.

  Later in the 60s he worked military bases in Germany, then clubs in England and Wales, and from there toured Australia, Iran, South Africa, Holland, Iceland and Israel and many other countries before finally settling in Amsterdam, Holland.

  All those turns in life are described in detail in a book titled Only Human/My Soulful Life (ISBN 9781904408420;, 280 pages), written by Tommy Hunt with Jan Warburton.  Tommy also openly touches such sore subjects as living without a father, drugs, many unfaithful ladies in his life, antipathy from Florence Greenberg, internal tensions within groups and, although trivial, it seems that in the latter part of the book he’s having a drink on every page.

  Tommy’s writing is like creating scenes for a play and many times you feel like you’re on the verge of fiction.  Also the reader senses certain wisdom of hindsight.  However, it’s an easy read and makes a nice autobiography.

  Then we come to the grumbling part.  If you’re a fan of Tommy Hunt, then first and foremost you’re a fan of his music.  You want to know about recording sessions, songs, writers, producers, musicians, promotion etc.  Tommy cut his first recording in 1953, and – although briefly mentioning it later on still – on page 34 he writes “we (the Five Echoes) had some success and a small local hit”, and that’s all there is about Lonely Mood.  Of the recordings with the Flamingos, I Only Have Eyes for You is dealt with on one page, but not a word about other sessions or other recordings.  Not even the family names of the members of the group - or any other group – are listed.  Human is discussed on two pages, as well as I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself, and The Biggest Man and I Am a Witness are also briefly mentioned.  Worth pointing out are also mistakes in years, wrong Billboard chart info and even spelling mistakes.  Also, if they see all the trouble of writing a book, then why add an incomplete discography to the end.

  Now we have a book about Tommy’s life.  Next we need a book about Tommy’s music.  You’ll find Tommy on the internet at and

MY TOP-20 in 2008

(Full-length, new releases)

1.  The Soul Children: Still Standing
2.  L.J. Reynolds: The Message
3.  Al Green: Lay It Down
4.  Leon McMullen: Can I Take You Out Tonight
5.  Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke
6.  Willie Clayton: My Tyme
7.  Dionne Warwick: Why We Sing
8.  Pookie Lane : Southern Woman
9.  Willie Clayton: Soul & Blues
10. Bobby Wayne: Soul Station
11. Ms. Jody: I Never Take A Day Off
12. Earl Gaines: Nothin’ But The Blues
13. Marvin Sease: Who’s Got The Power
14. Solomon Burke: Like A Fire
15. Alex Lattimore: Promise
16. The Rhythm All-Stars
17. David Brinston: Party Time
18. Archie Love: Love Chronicles
19. Irma Thomas: Simply Grand
20. Hardway Connection: Southern Soul Rumpin

- Heikki Suosalo

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