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DEEP # 2/2009 (April)

  In my January column I wrote that I was hoping to return to Spencer Wiggins’ new album, and now I’m happy to announce that Spencer himself comments on the CD and a few other things, too.  Besides that interview, there’s the usual mixture of recent Southern soul releases and various compilations and there are comments also from Philly’s Weldon A. McDougal III, Malaco’s Wolf Stephenson, Ecko’s John Ward and the late Luther Ingram.

Shirley Brown

Content and quick links:

Spencer Wiggins: I'm Going On
Weldon A. McDougal III

New CD release reviews:
James Ingram: Stand in the Light
Clarence Carter: On Your Feet
Chuck Strong: Faithful to a Married Woman
Billy Price & Fred Chapellier: Night Work
Will Easley: Sweet Sexy Soul
Clarence Dobbins: The Uprising
Zay: Old School Lover
Barbara Carr: Savvy Woman
Ms. Jody: It’s a Ms. Jody Thang!
Candi Staton: Who’s Hurting Now?
Shirley Brown: Unleashed
The Chicken Slacks

Reissue/compilation CD reviews:
Various Artists: Philadelphia Soul Rarities, vol. 2
Various Artists: The Philly Soul Tribute Project
Facts of Life: Just the Facts
Little Willie John: Heaven all around me/The Later King Sessions 1961-63
The Ovations: Hooked on a Feeling/Having a Party
Maxine Brown: Best of the Wand Years
Luther Ingram: I’ve Been Here All the Time & If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want To Be Right
Big John Hamilton: Are You Happy With Him
Chuch Brooks, Joe Wilson & George Soule: Three Malaco Brothers
Willie Hutch: Soul Portrait

DVD review:
Various Artists: Love Train, the Sound of Philadelphia

Book review:
Sharon Davis: Lionel Richie - Hello


Although Spencer’s soul career produced only about a dozen singles, his output on Goldwax in the 60s and Fame/Sounds of Memphis/XL in the 70s is highly valued in deep soul circles.  Born on January 8 in 1942 in Memphis, Spencer left the city for Florida in 1973 and soon after that became devoted strictly to gospel music.  In 1999 he released a song called Jump for Jesus, followed by a similarly titled 6-track cassette, and in 2003 they issued a full-length CD named Key to the Kingdom on Tavette Records.

  Spencer: “I live now in Hollywood.  It’s about three miles from Miami.  I’m working at the church that I belong to, New Birth Baptist Church.  I’m working as a security guard.  I’m one of the founding members of our church.  We’ve been together for over seventeen years.  I am also a deacon at my church.”

  Spencer’s latest CD, I’m Going On (Tavette 69626-12346), was released late last year ( Recorded in Miami, Florida, it features mostly real musicians, including a horn section and background singers.  Some of the other tools that were used include Thomas Demerritte’s production company, D-Lite, and his publishing and management company, Lite-D Music Publishing.  Main writers on the CD were Spencer and Thomas.

  Spencer: “Most of the songs go back some years… very old songs.  We kind of changed them around.”  The opener, Highway to Heaven, is an uptempo and melodic “camp” song, credited to Spencer.  “That’s a very old song.  We just came back with it, and we just sang it our way.”  If You Never Needed God before…is another rejoicing uptempo number but this time performed in a more traditional gospel style.

  What a Friend! is a more bluesy slow number.  “It’s more like B.B. King’s Sweet Sixteen style.  Everybody’s raving about that particular song.”  The mid-tempo I’m going on is performed a cappella.  “We were having problems with the musicians showing up at the studio to really get this song down, so all those parts and stuff that you hear on that particular song I’m doing with my mouth – bass, drums and everything.  So there’s no music on there.”

  Praise Your Name is a boisterous scorcher, featuring Queen Kathleen.  “She’s a young lady out of Chicago.  She used to belong to our church.  She came down here maybe about six years ago.  The last I heard of her she had moved to Key West, Florida.  She has a lovely voice.”  God Is so Special is a personal favourite, a slow and deep song, on which Spencer sings also the second, soulfully gruff voice.  “It’s a beautiful song.  I wrote that song way back in 1979.  I was supposed to record it back then at Al Green’s studio, but we had other plans and he never did call me back to get me back into his studio.  When I got with Tommi, we changed the title from God Is Somebody to God Is so Special.”

  What Do You Think about Jesus? is an uptempo “holy spirit” mover, whereas the slow and dark Key to the Kingdom from five years back is now released as an “Acoustic Mix.”  In the Garden is a traditional.  “That’s a very old song.  We decided to go with that strictly a cappella.”  Finally on the two concluding songs, More Love at Christmas and Make Sure They Know It’s Christmas, the titles really tell it all.  “I did them about two years ago.  Tommi wrote those songs.”  According to Spencer the CD has had airplay – they have a radio station at their church, too - but due to the lack of good distribution it’s very difficult for people to buy it.  “We’re trying to get overseas with it, but we don’t have a distribution yet.”

  As with Betty Harris and Garnet Mimms in my earlier columns, also with Spencer we went back in time and did some reminiscing.  PERCY WIGGINS is Spencer’s brother and a recording artist in his own right, too.  “Percy is back home in Memphis and he’s just singing in the church, like I am.  He hasn’t been recording since he stopped.”

  QUINTON CLAUNCH was Spencer’s producer at Goldwax.  “This guy is a character.  He’s the one I signed the contact with, when I went to Goldwax… screwed me out of all my money.  He was vice president of Goldwax.  Doctor Rudolph Russell was the pharmacist, and he’s the one, who really put the money up front for the company.  Quinton, who signed the people, stepped along and tried to steal everything he could.  Most of the songs have his name on it, but he didn’t write them.  He just stole them.”

  GEORGE JACKSON wrote a lot of songs for Spencer.  “He is a very personal friend of mine.  He wrote most of the songs that I recorded.  He’s a born writer.  He lives down in Jackson, Mississippi, now and he’s working with the Malaco Records.”

  JAMES CARR was Spencer’s singing colleague at Goldwax.  “James is a personal friend of mine.  He had this big hit on Goldwax, Pouring Water on a Drowning Man.  He just died a few years ago.  He was a very nice gentleman, soft-spoken, always smiling.  He was a very nice guy, a very quiet guy.”

  O.V. WRIGHT is another artist Spencer used to work with.  “He’s another personal friend of mine.  We were on different shows together.  This guy could really sing.  I’ve never seen anybody make another man cry.  I was on a show with him back in ’71 in New Orleans along with Jackie Wilson, Bobby Bland, Denise LaSalle, and he just turned the place up.  He had me just crying.  He was really a soulful singer.”

(Acknowledgements to Spencer Wiggins, Thomas Demerritte and Colin Dilnot).


  Our spiritual quest continues.  James Ingram ( has come up with a “Christian” album that avoids any traditional gospel fury and keeps to the middle-of-the-road but still classy and soulful music.  Is it really over fifteen years, since we last could enjoy a complete album with fresh music from James?  The previous album in my collection is Always You, which was released in 1993.

  Stand (in the Light) (Intering 700201) was mainly produced by Keith Thomas and James, with some help from Keith Andes, Jeremy Lubbock and Rickey Minor.  James wrote or co-wrote six songs out of the ten on display – the ’83 hit Yah-Mo Be There appears here all over again – and the set boasts impressive programming.

  James uses his pleading voice with great dedication on big ballads that even have a few classical elements to them.  Almost without an exception they are all highly emotive and powerful – Stand, Don’t Let Go, Blessed Assurance, Mercy, Beneath the Snow and the familiar For All We Know.  Some are slightly experimental in arrangements by trespassing on jazz territory (again, the familiar Everything Must Change and No Place like Home).  Those of you, who cherish James’ melodic 80s music, won’t be disappointed with this new set, and I for one really enjoyed these ballads.


  The 73-year-old Clarence ( releases regularly CDs on his own label, Cee Gee Entertainment, out of Decatur, Georgia, and the new one is titled On Your Feet.  Produced and for the most part written by Clarence, I think that the only real instruments on this set are keys and a guitar.

  Clarence has a habit of lifting songs from his earlier albums, and in this case at least Did I Do the Right Thing, Lust in My Mind and You Got to Grunt have been released on previous Cee Gee Ent. CDs.  The two outside toe-tappers this time are He Don’t Love You (Jerry Butler) and Left over Love (C.L. Blast). 

  There’s not a single slow song in sight.  Of the beaters, Ain’t Gonna Do It No More, I Got Excited and The One You Choose could generate some interest.  Clarence is relying on hooks and humorous lyrics with sexual connotations on some songs, but vocally he’s not able to hit high notes properly anymore.  I’m afraid this CD will not go down as a landmark in Southern soul.


  Chuck’s third Waldoxy CD, Faithful to a Married Woman (WCD 2847,, deserves a listen due to the fact that it contains some of Charles Richard Cason’s last work – seven tracks that he produced and five songs that he co-wrote.  Mind you, some of them - such as a poor chant titled Grown and Sexy - are throwaway cuts.  The same goes also for two light dancers, She Had to Do Bad and 3 Into 2 Won’t Go; no match for Z.Z. Hill.

  However, Faithful to a Married Woman and I Got a Good Woman Now are both pretty and emotive soul slowies.  Also the opening beat ballad, Big Women Make the Best Lovers (by Robert E. Conerly), makes a nice single pick.  Other than that, there are at least five songs that have appeared on Chuck’s own SM Music label about ten years earlier, so there’s no use of going into them anymore.


  Billy aptly calls himself an “east coast blue-eyed soul man”, and now on his latest CD, Night Work (Dixiefrog, DFGCD 8661), this Pittsburgh-based mobile has joined forces with Fred Chapellier, a blues guitarist of French origin (

  Produced by Billy, Fred and Jeff Ingersoll, this 13-tracker features live rhythm and horn sections, which traditionally is Billy’s trademark, with an occasional harmonica thrown in for a change.  Billy’s singing is as dynamic and loud as ever, and this time the music is even more driving, feel-good and snappy than normally.  It is guitar and horn heavy and leaning more on rock, which I think is due to Fred’s input.  There’s one slow blues, though – All the Love in the World.

  The uptempo songs are new ones, but there’s also a mid-tempo version of O.V. Wright’s Don’t Let My Baby Ride and the personal highlight, an intense delivery of Love and Happiness by a frequent guest on Billy’s records, Otis Clay.


  CDS Records ( out of California has under the guidance of “blues critic”, Dylann DeAnna, become an active player in the Southern soul market by releasing new CDs from many established artists.  Although some of the CDs below have been around for awhile, they, however, deserve short albeit belated reviews.

  Will ( possesses a strong and masculine, very soulful voice.  His Sweet Sexy Soul (CDS 1009) is actually a re-release of his earlier CD almost ten years back, with the exception of three tracks: tow are produced by Eric P – a touching and longing soul ballad called Wantcha Back and a hard-hitting dancer titled Loop the Loop, which Will himself wrote alongside three other tunes - and the third one is Charlie Brown's slowie, Hell On My Hands. In fact, the mid-tempo It’s Going Down is the only other non-slow song besides Loop the Loop.

  Especially on the remake of Show and Tell you notice a strong resemblance to Al Wilson, and Al’s voice is haunting also on two beautiful, pleading ballads – Always a Friend and If I Let You Go.  Other gentle slowies are Your Love Amazes Me and I Love you and always Will .  This CD deserves another chance, and Will himself is a talent to reckon with.


  Clarence ( has been a performing artist for forty years by now, and he’s one of those singers, who’s constantly trying to find a balance between blues and soul.  Recorded in Nashville and produced by Clarence himself, The Uprising (CDS) features real live players and a horn section, and Clarence wrote or co-wrote with Dylann all the songs except two.  Those two are a brave attack on Drown in my Own Tears, in a Ray Charles style, and a slow and intense interpretation of Eight Men and Four Women.  At least four tracks were lifted from Clarence’s previous CD, The Soul of a Man, on Reach Hi Records in 2005.

  The six blues numbers are all guitar-heavy, and for soul fans there are still three more delightful ballads – the lilting Call on me, the more intense Don’t Give up on me and the country-tinged You Don’t Know.


  The 40-year-old Xavier Ayers, Sr., who goes under the stage name of Zay (, had a CD titled Old School Lover on Mardi Gras seven years ago and a hit song titled She Only Wants to See me on Friday, and now he has come up with Zay’s Way (CDS 1011).  He wrote ten songs and two were penned by Charles Richard Cason (Bring It on) and Luther Lackey (Thang Played with).  No players are listed, so I guess Zay himself programmed the soul set. 

  It’s very difficult for me to approach this kind of music.  Basically there’s nothing wrong with this downtempo sound, but vocally it falls between more contemporary and traditional Southern soul.  Zay’s singing is close to those modern, even “nasal” male tenors, which for old-schoolers can be irritating sometimes.  But I’m sure younger audiences and Sir Charles Jones fans will love this.  The slow Get the Hell on, the romantic Tender Love and Crazy about Your Love, the saddish Trippin’ and Liar, Cheater and a floating ballad called 2 Sides of Love make pleasant listening, though.


  Barbara grew up with gospel music and made her first secular record with a group called the Petites as early as in 1963.  Now after her stint with Ecko Records, she has her Savvy Woman released on CDS (CDC 1012).  Produced for the most part by Clarence Dobbins, real rhythm and horn sections are involved and unfortunately on some blues cuts also rock guitar.

  The blues numbers are mainly fast ones, and among them there’s one jump blues called How Long, which was written and produced by Roy Roberts and on which he also shares vocals with Barbara.  Their other joint effort is a poppy, mid-tempo bouncer titled It’s Only YouHarrison Calloway produced John Cummings’ toe-tapper named Blue Collar Man.

  Although the emphasis is on blues, there are still three more tracks – besides Blue Collar Man – for soul folks.  After She’s Gone is a very slow and intense soul ballad, while both Tonight Your Love Belongs to Me and No Getting over Me are melodic and easy mid-tempo movers.


  Considering short intervals between her releases recently, you’d think that Ms. Jody is Ecko’s leading lady today.  Her fourth CD is titled It’s a Ms. Jody Thang! (ECD 1111;  It’s produced by John Ward, who also co-wrote all songs with Raymond Moore, except Loving You Is like Doing Hard Time, which is Vertie Joann’s own catchy dancer (

  Another easily flowing dancer is the opener, Cheatin’ Comes with a Price, and also all four mid-pacers (You’re a Good Man But a Lousy Lover, The Better the Goods the Higher the Price, He’s Coming in the Backdoor and I Please My Man) are mellow floaters.  Of the three ballads the soft and soulful Only a Fool Would Cheat on a Good Man like You is the most captivating one.


  As a follow-up to Candi’s previous CD, His Hands, three years ago, Mark Nevers produced Who’s Hurting Now? (Honest Jons Rec., HJRCD 37;  It was cut in Nashville with genuine rhythm and horn sections – one violin, too – and background singers, including one Cassandra Hightower, Candi’s daughter.  Marcus Williams on drums is her son.    Please read my interview with Candi at, conducted after the release of His Hands. 

  The opening song, an emotive and hurting ballad titled Breaking down Slow derives eight years back and it was co-written by Dan Penn.  There are a lot of beautiful country-soul ballads, and one of them is the cover of Mercy Now.  Another one is a swaying slowie named I Don’t Know, which Dave Crawford wrote over forty years ago.  Candi’s own Dust on My Pillow is a waltz-time, poignant ballad.  Also a beat ballad called I Don’t Want for Anything is country-tinged, and The Light in Your Eyes was actually a country hit over ten years ago.

  The tempo picks up a bit on three tracks.  The dark and almost funky I feel the same derives from the 70s, whereas Lonely Don’t and Cry Baby Cry are more melodic and lighter mid-tempo songs.  Finally both Candi’s own beat ballad called Who’s Hurting Now? and Will Oldham’s peaceful Get Your Hands Dirty incorporate slightly jazzy elements in them.  This soothing country-soul album simply is one of the top records this year, and you can read Candi’s own comments on it at


  It took almost five years for us to hear new music from Shirley, but finally Unleashed (MCD7535; is here.  It starts with a serene and rather mellow ballad called Upside Down, which, however, vocally grows into a passionate eruption.  The song was written and produced by Frederick Knight, but unfortunately his second contribution, an almost funky beater called Let Me Relax You, isn’t on a par of that opener but, on the contrary, sounds rather dull.

  Vick Allen did a lot of producing for this set, and the first song is his and Omar Cunningham’s I Don’t Wanna Leave, a slow swayer with powerful singing again.  The mid-tempo If You Can’t Hit It Right (co-written by Tonya Youngblood Polk) is more mediocre and ominous.  Vick also wrote and produced together with Shirley two songs, a poppy mid-tempo stepper titled You Should’a Know Better and a poignant and impressive deepie named Why, which is dedicated to the ones we’ve lost.

  I’m afraid that the late Charles Richard Cason’s and Zuri’s two repetitive jams (Clean House and I Wish You Didn’t Love Me So Good) leave me cold.  They simply are too “hip-hop” and contemporary for Shirley’s emotive and established old-school style.

  On A Sample of my Love, a mid-tempo beater with an irresistible groove, and (You Promised Me Heaven, But) You Gave Me Hell, a bluesy slowie, it says that “initial tracks and lead vocals recorded at Ecko Sound Studios in Memphis, TN.”  The writers of those two songs are John Ward, Raymond Moore and Larry Chambers.  Malaco’s Vice president, Wolf Stephenson: “John Ward runs the Ecko studios in Memphis, and he has written a lot of songs for us in the past.  He used to be a signed writer to Malaco Music for years.  He submitted five songs, and Shirley chose those two.  John Ward: “I sent those songs to Shirley, because I knew she was cutting her new CD.  At first they were going to record them at Malaco and I assumed they would redo the tracks.  But Shirley liked the feel I had on the tracks and was afraid they would lose the feel, if they recut them, so she asked if she could use my tracks.  They decided to just come here and cut the vocals, since Wolf Stephenson was coming through town anyway on his way back from Nashville to Jackson.  So that’s how we ended up doing the vocals and basic tracks here.  After the vocals were cut, we sent the tracks with her vocals down to Malaco for more overdubs and mixing.  I was glad that Shirley did the songs and thought she did a great job on them.”

  The last three tracks, produced by Wolf Stephenson, were cut at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in 2003, and they feature real instruments.  Wolf: “Those three tracks were recorded at the same time as Shirley’s previous album (Woman Enough), and we did not use those songs.  Since then I went back and listened to them and decided to put them on the album.”

  The first of those tracks is a hurting ballad called When I Hear Your Name.  Written by Rue Davis and Harrison Calloway, it’s another big-voiced performance from Shirley.  “When we were getting ready to do that album, I told Rue Davis that we needed some songs for Shirley.  He had a few ideas, and I asked him to finish them with her in mind.  Rue Davis is the one, who comes up with the idea, lyrics and such, and Harrison Calloway wrote the music part of the song.”

  Shirley is determined on Luther Lackey’s beat ballad named You Ain’t Gone Get No More of My Love and gives advice on another Luther’s tune, the softer Watch What You Tell Your Friends.  Wolf: “Luther has written other songs for us.  He’s a local guy, a writer and a singer, and he has a lot of ideas for songs.  He writes songs all the time.”

  “We released the single, the lead-off song, Upside Down, and that’s a ballad, but also some of the uptempo songs are getting action.  Several radio stations are picking them up.” 

  Recently Wolf has spent a lot of time in the studio.  “We just signed a new artist that we’re really excited about.  She was, I think, a runner-up in last year’s America’s Got Talent show, Queen Emily (  We were able to sign her, and we just finished the tracks last week.  Hopefully we have the product to come out in August.” 

  If you like Shirley’s music and if you only have time, you could read my 3-part Shirley Brown story at

  If you became interested in some of the indie Southern soul releases above, please try


  The Chicken Slacks ( is called “Boston’s hardest-working funk and soul band”, and it was formed seven years ago.  This self-contained (rhythm section & sax and trumpet), 7-piece band is allegedly a great act on stage, and some of that energy is conveyed on their recorded music, too.  Can You Dig It? was cut in Massachusetts, and it contains four self-written and nine outside songs.

  Funk is fast on Going to the Shack (Syl Johnson) and Tragedy, which transmits a social message in a psychedelic setting, not unlike what Norman Whitfield used to do with the Temptations.  The seven uptempo tracks include also a fine interpretation of Too Much Time (Captain Beefheart) in a genuine Memphis spirit, a driving cover of one of Sam & Dave’s better recordings, You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me, and a storming version of She’s Looking Good (Rodger Collins), which is quite true to Wilson Pickett’s later hit recording – even vocally!

  Two mid-tempo Memphis songs – On a Saturday Night (by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper) and Any Other Way (by William Bell) - are cut in an old-school style and set to a good-time groove.  The Chicken Slacks’ main vocalist, Durand Wilkerson, penned and leads an emotive soul ballad called I’m in Love.  Another slowie is a sort of mating novelty titled I Wanna Take a Shower with You, while a slowed-down interpretation of CCR’s Long as I Can See the Light, works quite well, actually.  Only a Fool Gets to Heaven, written and sung by John Moriconi, is a bluesy ballad.  If you want to party to a good imitation of classic soul music sounds, then this CD is for you.



  I bet many of us still remember how surprised we were at the high quality of volume one, when thirteen tracks out of the 18 on the set, all produced by Mr. Weldon A. McDougal III, were unearthed and released for the first time last year.  Now Philadelphia Soul Rarities, vol. 2 (Universal Love Records, UL 003; 17 tracks, 67 min.) has hit the streets and again as many as twelve cuts are previously unreleased.  Once more, produced and most of the songs written by Mr. McDougal, Andrew Demetriades has helped in compiling the set and he wrote the informative, track-by-track liners, too.

  Most of these songs derive from the 70s (five from the 60s and one from the 80s), but still… twelve good numbers unissued at the time – that’s a lot!  Weldon: “The main reason was that I was a record promotion man.  I would produce a record and try to get a deal with record companies, but they wouldn’t take me seriously.  So I just kept them trying to get things released… and still recording, and finally I just gave up.  I did have people say they liked it, like 20th Century Records, but the deal never came about.”

  The opener, Would You Believe Me by the Three 3P’s with MFSB, is an easily flowing, airy Philly dancer from 1976, and it says “remixed by Tom Moulton”, too.  Weldon: “Actually he copied it.  I mix all my own tracks.  It’s very important that you mix your own records, because that way you ensure you get everything straight.”

  Nothing but Heartaches is a slowed-down version of the Supremes ’66 hit.  This intense beat ballad gets an impressive treatment from an unknown songstress in 1970.  “All I remember is that she’s from New York.  In my mind and in my soul I was just trying to help people.  A lot of people would hang out with me for years, and then I would never see them again.”

  Barbara Mason’s and Weldon’s cooperation goes back to the Yes, I’m Ready days in 1965, but still as late as in 1978 Weldon produced a hit for her.  An atmospheric ballad called I Am Your Woman, She Is Your Wife peaked at # 14-soul on Prelude Records.  “Last year I was in London for the first time in my life, and Barbara was playing at the Jazz Café, and I went to see her.  It was such a thrilling experience, because I hadn’t see her perform for awhile or perform for an audience overseas.  She was real good.”

  Bright Shining Angel (’77) is a tender but unfinished ballad by Dennis Rodgers with Universal Love.  “In fact, we talked a couple of days ago.  What happened was that the group, Universal Love, kind of broke up and they lived in Trenton, New Jersey, which is not far from Philadelphia.  When they broke up, I just went on and did other things.  Dennis is still singing and I’m planning on recording him.”

  A touch of Motown is felt on Phyllis Smith’s uptempo cut titled Keep on Holding on (’66).  “She’s another good friend of mine.  She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, now.  I spoke to her about a year ago.”  The second song from Phyllis is a plain ballad named I Need Somebody to Love (’69).

  Weldon with his bass voice joined forced with a high-voiced Dahlia on The Lover Man, a jolly mover, which has Dahlia bursting into some ecstatic noises towards the end – somewhat similarly to Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby; only Donna’s record was released a bit later in 1975.  Weldon C. McDougal was the co-writer.  “Whenever you produce a record, you got to have the charts written down.  That’s what my cousin did for me at all times, on most of my records.  One day he said ‘hey man, I got a song’ and I said ‘okay, let’s cut it’.  That was really an instrumental, so I put some lyrics to it, and that’s how it came about.”

  Rhonda Burg cut a disco dancer titled Come Share My Umbrella in 1978.  “This is a strange story.  I worked for Motown.  Phil Jones was the president of Fantasy Records.  He called me one day and said ‘hey man, guess who I heard from’.  I said ‘who’.  He said ‘Rhonda Burg’.  ‘No kidding’.  She told him that the stuff that she recorded with me is the best stuff she ever recorded in her life.  Actually, one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this CD is that I really want to hear from the people that I recorded, so that they could hear it and we could get in touch.”  Rhonda’s second song on the CD is Sweeter (’78), a big beat ballad with Rhonda doing some impressive vocal gymnastics.  Willing to Bet Cha (’78) is a mid-tempo beater.

  Without You Baby by Irma Jackson and the Larks is the oldest track on this compilation (’63), and this dancer has since evolved into a northern favourite.  “Let me tell you the reason I put it on there.  Roland Chambers, Karl Chambers, Winnie Wilford and Tommy Bell – they were the rhythm section and they were the guys I used to use those days.  They then became the Romeos with Kenny Gamble.”

  Eddie Holman with the Larks covers two 50s songs - Been So Long (’67), originally cut by the Pastels (although this scribe prefers Sonny Warner’s magnificent version), and Johnny Ace’s Never Let Me Go (’66).  “I made a deal with Cameo-Parkway with Eddie Holman, and they wanted to put out an album and they needed two songs real quick.  Those songs, Been So Long and Never Let Me Go, were songs that the Larks used to sing in our show, so it was easy for him to learn the lead part and all we did was the background.  He had to do it in the same key we did our background in.”

  Gerri Grainger does both a disco dancer, Would You Believe (’75), and an intense, big-voiced ballad, Why Can’t You Be Nice to Me? (’72).  I met her, when I used to work with Sammy Davis, Jr.  She used to open the show for Sammy.  She lives in New Jersey, which is not far from Philly.  She asked me would I record her, and I said yes.  I thought I would definitely get a deal, because she was a well-known singer and can really sing, but nothing ever happened.  The last time I talked to her, she was at the Philadelphia airport and she told me she was retiring, because her mother was sick and she didn’t think she’ll be going out on the road anymore.  That was about twenty years ago.”

  The running time of Barbara Cole’s melodic disco number, No Other Love (’79), exceeds six minutes.  “She manages Zeola Gaye, which is Marvin Gaye’s sister.  They’re doing a movie on Marvin Gaye.  A lady by the name of Mamie wanted me to produce Mel & Tim, but then Gene Chandler produced them.  She said ‘I got another artist for you’, and that is Barbara Cole.  She sent Barbara here to Philadelphia and I recorded several songs on her.  One of them was Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean on volume one.  I recorded No Other Love with Barbara Mason first, and Barbara Cole heard it, and I did it over.”

  A Philadelphia Groove, a funky instrumental by George Howard, Weldon C. McDougal, Gerald Veasely and Kae Williams is the only track from the 80s (’81).  “In the 80s and 90s I didn’t do much recording.  Now I’ve been real busy doing volume one and two that I haven’t had time to concentrate on recording.”

  “I was working with Shirley Slaughter (her interview at, but she left me.  She left with one of the guys I was working with in England.  He convinced her that he can do better for her.  I hope that she does well, but this is what happens in business, when a lot of artists think that the grass is greener somewhere else.  Sometimes they move too fast.”

  “I don’t think I’ll be doing volume three soon, because it takes a little money and I had some extra money at the time I did volume two.  But it’s doing well.  I’m so surprised that it’s doing so well.  Volume 1 is number one in Japan, so that’s very encouraging.  I can’t say, if there’s going to be volume three or not, but at this time I’m kind of going with the flow.”


  We still stick to Philly music, but this time the songs are anything but rarities.  The Philly Soul Tribute Project is an interesting venture in terms of approaching big Philly soul hits from the Nashville scene.  Produced by two session musicians, Bobby King and Dennis Wage, they also play bass and piano & organ respectively on this set, and they are joined by a host of other local players and background singers.  Bobby King, who was born and allured into music business in Philadelphia, moved to Nashville eighteen years ago and he came up with the concept for this album.  You can read more about it as well as history, artists, sessions and listen to the sound clips at

  In arrangements and construction some of the songs are quite true to the original ones - witness Break up to Make up by John Foster, Love Won’t Let Me Wait by Thomas Cain and Could It Be I’m Falling in Love by John Berry.  As far as some of the other tracks are concerned, I would use the term “folk-soul”, spiced with common pop appeal – Now That We Found Love by Chris Burke, Stop, Look, Listen (to Your Heart) by BethAnne Clayton, Wake Up Everybody by the Soul Survivors and Sara Smile by Tim Buppert.

  On the rest a lot of creativity has been used.  Brand New Me uses Pam Tillis’ country voice over a swinging jazzy arrangement.  Lisa Martin’s interpretation of Back Stabbers has an increased dose of Latin elements to it, while T. Graham Brown delivers Drowning in the Sea of Love in a heavier style than accustomed.  Finally Hold Back the Night is a sax-driven, jazzy instrumental.  I thoroughly enjoyed this album of familiar songs in a new setting.


  What a terrific compilation!  It covers the recording history (1975 – ’78) of an act, which was formed as a 6-piece Gospel Truth in 1974 but which a while later and now as a trio changed its name to the Facts of Life.  All the tracks on Just the Facts (Southbound, CDSEW2 147;; 2-cd - 23 tracks, 88 min; notes by Tony Rounce) were produced by Millie Jackson (Brad Shapiro was the executive producer) and they come from the two albums by the group, Sometimes (Kayvette 802 in ’77) and A Matter of Fact (Kayvette 803 in ’78).  Additionally there are still three single sides (the fast If You Can Give, You Can Get and L-O-V-E, plus the single version of Did He Make Love to You?).  Rhythm tracks were recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Millie and Brad were the arrangers with the exception of strings and horns, which were arranged by Mike Lewis.

  Jean Davis, Keith Williams and Chuck Carter excel on slow material, and sometimes they even remind me of the magnificent Soul Children.  A soulful cover of a country song called Sometimes remained their only pop hit, whereas on the soul side also a Banks & Hampton cheating ballad titled Caught in the Act (of Getting’ it on) charted.  Barbra Streisand’s Lost Inside of You turned into lush soul, while Barry Manilow’s recent gold hit, Looks like We Made It, was dramatized into a powerful opus.  Both That Kind of Fire and Love Is the Final Truth are gospel-infused ballads.

  Their second and the last album was even better; actually deep soul fiesta.  Among the nine tracks there are only two mid-tempo ones (I’m Way ahead of you and This Ain’t No Time to Sleep Apart), while the rest are gorgeous deepies.  Did He Make Love to You? was cut by Johnnie Taylor earlier and Larry Santos had charted with We Can’t Hide it Anymore two years before.  He Ain’t You and You Always Get Your Way are both melodic downtempo songs, but Do You Wanna Make Love increases the drama again, and both Joe Shamwell’s It’s Only a Matter of Time and Dr. Feelgood keep it up there.

  This compilation is for fans of big, dramatic, deep soul ballads and for those, who think that they didn’t create great music in the late 70s during the disco era.  Soon after the second album the trio disbanded.  Millie Jackson (in 1993): “T.K. was the major company that Kayvette was on, and they ran into financial problems.  Keith Williams went to California.  I think he’s into computers.  Chuck Carter became a barber in Brooklyn, New York.  Jean Davis, Tyrone’s sister, is my best girlfriend.  I’m the godmother for her daughter and I was the maid of honour at her wedding.  She’s married very happily to an ex-police chief in Chicago.  They have a security company, and she runs a catering service.”  Let me say it once more: what a terrific compilation!


  Ace Records has done a praiseworthy job in releasing Little Willie John’s King material, and now the fourth, concluding CD in this series has come out, Heaven all around me/The Later King Sessions 1961-63 (CDCHD 1221; 24 tracks, 62 min.).  My one criticism is that I would have preferred to have these tracks in chronological order, because that also helps to follow the liner notes, written by a big fan of William Edward John, Tony Rounce.

  The songs that charted for Willie in the early 60s were the poppy (I’ve Got) Spring Fever, # 25-r&b; the Hank Ballard like Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to you), # 5-r&b; a plain ballad titled Now You Know, # 93-pop; and the more rocking Don’t You Know I’m in Love, # 116-pop).

  The big-voiced Willie could handle any type of material.  With a tear in his voice he pours emotion on such standards and big ballads as The Masquerade is Over, Every Beat of My Heart, My Love Will Never Change and Heaven All Around Me.  He could get bluesy (Inside Information) or rip into rocking r&b (Doll Face, Don’t Play with Love, Bill Bailey, Come on Sugar and the only previously unreleased track, Like Boy, Like Girl).

  Sometimes he came close to pop (Until Again My Love, Half a Love, Rock Love and a Coasters-influenced novelty, Mister Glenn), sometimes he tackled country (Big Blue Diamonds, She Thinks I Still Care).  The career came to an abrupt, untimely end, when he was convicted of manslaughter and he passed away in prison in ’68, officially of a heart attack.


  Hooked on a Feeling/Having a Party (Kent, CDKEND 311; 19 tracks, 66 min.) offers two albums that the Ovations - featuring Louis Williams - released in 1972 and ’73 respectively.  In the liners the history of the group is told this time by Dean Rudland.

  There are ten tracks – actually the first album almost in its entirety - that appeared already on Kent’s compilation titled One in a Million (CDKEND 294), which was released last year (my review appeared in the # 3/2008 column).  The two tracks that didn’t make it onto that compilation from the original album were a mid-tempo and intense Sam Cooke medley of Were You There? & Touch the Hem of his Garment and a poppy ditty called Mr. River.

  The material on the second album ranges from a subtle beat ballad (Your Love Is Like a Song to Me) to a critical mover (Born on a Back Street), from blues (My Nest is Still Warm) to the swinging cover of You Send Me and from a Caribbean-flavoured, feel-good mid-tempo song (Under the Banana Tree) to a fast version of Don’t Look Back, dedicated to the memory of Paul Williams.  The final track is an emotive delivery of A Change Is Gonna Come.


  As Ady Croasdell writes in his notes, many of the tracks on this new CD, Best of the Wand Years (CDKEND 312; 28 tracks, 72 min.), have been available on earlier compilations.  This time we have 9 originally unissued and 4 previously unissued tracks.  The ones that charted for Maxine on Wand were Coming Back to You (# 99-Hot, not included here), Oh No, Not My Baby (# 24-Hot), another slowie called It’s Gonna Be Alright (# 26-r&b) and finally I Don’t Need Anything (# 129-Hot in ’66, not included here).  Add to those still four duets with Chuck Jackson, but they are out of scope of this CD.

  There’s a number of uptown goodies on display, such as Yesterday’s Kisses (by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson and Josephine Armstead), Gotta Find a Way (by Van McCoy and Ed Townsend), She’s Got Everything (co-written by Jimmy Radcliffe), Since I Found You and the spectoresque Whatever Happened to Our Love.

  Slow songs are mostly placed at the end of the CD, and there are such beauties as Put Yourself in My Place, Anything for a Laugh, Losing My Touch and You’re in Love.  Especially interesting are the three tracks Otis Redding wrote, produced and cut on Maxine in Muscle Shoals – the funky Baby Cakes, a swaying slowie named That’s All I Want from You and a tear-jerker titled If I Had Known.  As for the rest, there are too many indifferent dancers and stompers for me to consider this a “best of” compilation (


  Earlier Kent had released two valuable and complete compilations of Luther’s KoKo singles and now they put together his four KoKo albums for two CDs (  I’ve Been Here All the Time & If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want To Be Right (CDKEND 315; 21 tracks, 77 min., liners by Tony Rounce) pairs Luther’s first two albums, and especially the latter one I rate as one of the best albums in the history of soul music.

  The first album had many highlights, too.  It kicks off with Ain’t That Loving You (for More Reasons than One).  Luther: “It was recorded by Johnnie Taylor, and then I recorded it, because they had messed up the bass line in the track.  Johnny Baylor brought it to me and asked me could I do anything with it.  So I heard it, I liked the lyrics to it, recorded the song and it turned into a hit” (# 6-soul / # 45-pop).

  Sam Cooke recorded originally You Were Made for Me for Keen Records in 1958, but Luther’s version is a half-heavy, rolling mid-pacer.  Luther: “I chose it, because it was such an intimate song.”  It was one of Luther’s favourites out of his own recordings, alongside If Loving You Is Wrong and To the Other Man.

  Be Good to Me Baby, a heavy and hypnotic mid-pacer, was produced by Johnny Baylor and Willie Hall.  Luther: “Willie was a good drummer.  The way Willie was hired was that the original drummer had a little too much to drink and fell off the stage, so Willie Hall got up and took his place, and he just kept on playing.”

  Other gems on the album include the mid-tempo Oh Baby, You Can Depend on Me, a slowly swaying ballad called Since You Don’t Want Me and the haunting Missing YouIsaac Hayes wanted to cut I’ll Love You until the End first, but he was persuaded to give Luther the first shot.  Pity for the Lonely is a Drifters type of a melodic and poppy ditty, which Little Dooley had cut originally (KoKo 102), whereas To the Other Man is a melodramatic, slow song.

  (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right is an all-time soul classic and Luther’s signature song (# 1-soul, # 3-pop).  Luther: “I was in the room with Isaac and David Porter and I heard this demo, and it was about a woman.  I decided to change it and put it on a man, and they liked it.  I had my family – my sister and brothers – do the musical arrangements.  Then I went to Muscle Shoals, they gave me the perfect arrangement and I recorded it.  It took less than half an hour.”  Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson and Carl Hampton wrote the song, Homer did the demo and the Emotions cut it first, but they thought it was too risqué for their image.  Veda Brown tried it next, but the result was not satisfactory.  Interestingly, both Don Davis and Isaac Hayes turned the song down.  Randy Stewart: “Luther really produced the song on himself in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but because of Johnny Baylor owning the company his name went down there as a producer.  But Luther and Pete Carr, the guitar player in Muscle Shoals, did all the work.”

  The hit is followed by two superb singles, an enchanting mid-tempo song called I’ll be Your Shelter (in Time of Storm) and a melancholy and beautiful ballad named Always.  Tommy Tate had cut both the pleading Dying and Crying and the mid-tempo Help Me Love first.  I’m Trying to Sing a Message to You is another great ballad from the trio of Banks-Hampton-Jackson.  Luther: “Al Bell and Homer Banks put the track down originally, but we changed the lyrics around a little.”  The driving I Remember was again cut by Tommy Tate first, and finally a slowie called Love Ain’t Gonna Run Me Away was picked up for the last single release off the album.  The rest two albums (Let’s Steal Away to the Hideaway and Do You Love somebody) are still in the pipeline.


  Finley Duncan acted almost as an exclusive producer for Big John Hamilton, and he cut John mostly at Playground in Valparaiso, Florida.  Are You Happy With Him (Soulscape, SSCD 7016;; 21 tracks, 65 min., liners by John Ridley) contains recordings from three periods – late 60s, 1976 and 1986 – and as many as fourteen tracks are previously unissued.  Finley produced all but two of them.  Some of them are demos.

  There are only two fast tracks – On Our Way Home is a duet with Doris Allen – and three melodic mid-pacers (Temporary Love, Old Man Bad Luck and the country-tinged I’ll Just Keep on Loving You).  The rest of the material is slow, and there’s a number of country-soul songs on display – Angel, Are You Happy with Him, After Loving You, Tender Side of Me (actually pure country) and almost every ’86 recording, such as Creole Lady, Every Time You Touch Me, Rainy Day Lover, Country and the Blues, Help Me Make it through the Night and Kiss the Hurt Away.

  On another country-soul tune titled Free Me John’s admiration to Otis Redding is evident in his singing style, while Ray Charles’ influence pushes through on a slow blues named Love Comes and Goes.  Four soulful beat ballads round out a set, which just oozes beautiful and soothing country-soul music.


  Soulscape keeps on delving into Malaco’s vaults and finding solid material.  Malaco Soul Brothers, vol. 1 (SSCD 7017; 25 tracks, 76 min.; liners by John Ridley) introduces us to Chuck Brooks, Joe Wilson and George Soule, and there are as many as ten previously unreleased tracks.

  Chuck Brooks (9 tracks) cut a lot of funk and pop for Mercury, Chimneyville, GSF and Malaco between 1972 and 1977, but he recorded some convincing slow material, too.  Loneliness (Is a Friend of Mine) is a pleading soul ballad, but the pretty A Little Bit More leans heavily on country and pop.  I Believe in Love is a lush big ballad, whereas What Would We Do without Music is a perky pop mover.  In the 80s and 90s Chuck became known mainly as a writer and producer and a partner of Carl Hampton.

  Joe Wilson’s (13 tracks) ’71 – ’73 releases on Malaco, Dynamo and Avco were produced by Wardell Quezergue, and again among them there were some fast poppy songs, such as (Don’t Let Them) Blow Your Mind, Let a Broken Heart Come in and Sweetness.  At time Joe’s voice distantly reminds you of Clyde McPhatter.  When a Man Cries is an impressive Southern soul ballad, which has appeared on a few other compilations earlier.  Other richly orchestrated and touching slowies include Our Love Is Strong, Sour Love, Bitter Sweet and You Need Me.

  George Soule (3 tracks) is a blue-eyed musician, writer and producer, who’s still active today.  Talkin’ about Love and The Easiest Thing I’ve Ever Done are both pop, but That’s Why I’m a Man (demo) is a slow and convincing testimony with a soul feel to it.  Since this CD was volume one, it means that there’s still more to come.


  Almost simultaneously with the wonderful Sandra Feva CD titled Savoir Faire Plus (, Shout! Records released the first solo album by Willie Hutch called Soul Portrait (Shout 52;; 11 tracks, 30 min.; liners by Clive Richardson).  The album was released on RCA in 1969, and all songs were composed by Willie.

  The music was pretty much aimed at dance floors, and of the seven uptempo cuts the ones that made a more or less lasting impression were Ain’t Gonna Stop, You Can’t Miss Something That You Never Had and Lucky to Be Loved by You.  Especially on the last one, which evolved into a northern favourite, Willie’s high voice bears a slight resemblance to that of Jackie Wilson.  Two beat ballads (A Love that’s Worth Havin’ and That’s What I Call Lovin’ You) and two energetic mid-pacers (Good to the Last Drop and Your Love Keeps Liftin’ Me Higher; no, not that one) complement the set.  After a second RCA album (Seasons for Love in 1970) Willie moved to Motown, Whitfield and other companies.  He passed away in 2005 at 60.


A PBS show, which was recorded live on June 7th in 2008 at the Borgata Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, NJ, is now released on a DVD under the title of Love Train, the Sound of Philadelphia (Sony BMG/PIR 88697-35587-9;  Produced by Emily Cohen, the total running time of the thirteen songs from the show (the Intruders are not included) is 55 minutes, but the bonuses give you one hour more.  Within that hour you can listen to Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Joe Tarsia and many others tell about the history of Philly music, sessions and making records, the importance of radio stations, the making of this particular DVD and you can visit the PIR offices and studios, too.  There’s also bonus music by the T.S.O.P. Orchestra with the Three Degrees (T.S.O.P.), the Delfonics (Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time), Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes featuring Sharon Paige (Hope That We Can Be Together Soon) and the instrumental jam of I Love Music.

  Backed by a big orchestra under the direction of Bill Jolly, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes work up a rousing performance on The Love I Lost and Wake up Everybody, but Russell Thomkins Jr. & the New Stylistics gives us a breather with the sweet and sophisticated I’m Stone in Love with You.  In between the two, Soul Survivors (Charlie and Richie Ingui) storm through Expressway to Your HeartG.C. Cameron’s singing is as impressive as ever, but I only wish he’d chosen some other song than The Rubberband ManJerry Butler’s Never Gonna Give You up is cool and sympathetic, while the Delfonics provide another sweet soul moment with La-La – Means I Love You.

  Bunny Sigler’s interpretation of Me & Mrs. Jones is simply devastating, and later on with Jean Carne and the Three Degrees he sets the stage on fire with Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.  I gather the O’Jays were the headliners, as they are represented here with three songs.  I Love Music radiates energy, Use Ta Be My Girl is cute and perky and finally People Get Ready/Love Train is a show-stopper if any.  As a fan of the Philly sound, I enjoyed every minute of it.


Based on several interviews and comments from Blues & Soul and a number of other sources, Lionel Richie - Hello (Equinox Publishing Ltd.,, ISBN-13 978 184553 1850; 191 pages) is allegedly “the first book written about Lionel Richie and the Commodores” and it’s published “to coincide with Lionel Richie’s UK and European tour Spring 2009.”  Also Lionel’s new studio album has been released recently.  Hello is the latest book written by Sharon Davis, a prolific writer, who seemingly gets along fine with Mr. Richie.  The book, which was actually finished already three years ago, includes all-important indexes and British hits discographies.

  I’m always interested in artists’ formative years.  How they got into music?  Were any of their family members or relatives involved in music business?  Their first musical influences and first idols?  Their first public performances etc.  My only complaint in this case is that Lionel’s early days are dealt with only on two pages.  If approached once again before publishing, I think Lionel would have been only pleased to discuss his childhood and early teenage years more in detail.  But, I guess, that’s a minor matter after all.

  The 6-piece Commodores were formed in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1967 out of two local bands, the Mystics and the JaysSwamp Dogg produced their first single (Keep on Dancing/Rise Up on Atlantic 2633 in ’69) as well as one shelved album.  Soon Benny Ashburn became their manager and Suzanne de Passe was instrumental in arranging the group to become an opening act for the Jackson 5 in their tour.  In 1971 the Commodores signed with Motown, and their first single for the company (The Zoo) was released in early ’72.  An instrumental called Machine Gun became their first hit two years later.

  James Anthony Carmichael became their exclusive producer, and soon funk turned more and more into softer music, even country & western.  There were such huge hits as Easy, Three Times a Lady, Still by The Commodores and Lady by Kenny Rogers and the platinum Endless Love with Diana Ross.  Lionel’s first solo records were released in 1982, and the latter half of the book is dedicated to his solo efforts.  It tells about such gold records as Truly, All Night Long (All Night), Hello, Say You, Say Me and the platinum We Are the World by USA for Africa in 1985.

  The book proceeds chronologically, record-by-record, tour-by-tour… and there’s a lot of information about Motown, too.  It also touches personal matters and such sore points as Lionel’s burn-out in the late 80s/early 90s and his two divorces.  Hello is a well-balanced and well-written book.

Heikki Suosalo

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