Front Page

The Best Tracks in 2010

CD Shop

Book Store

Search Content/Artists

New Releases

Forthcoming Releases

Back Issues

Serious Soul Chart

Quality Time Cream Cuts

Vintage Soul Top 20

Boogie Tunes Top 20

Album of the Month

CD Reviews

Editorial Columns


Readers' Favourites

Top 20 most visited pages


DEEP # 2/2011 (June)

There are some magnificent reissue compilations featured in the latter part of this column, including finely packaged Motown retrospect CDs.  The highlight, however, for me is Candi Staton’s double-CD of “the complete Fame records masters”, and I was fortunate enough to get Candi’s own comments on some of that thrilling music.  Bobby Jones/Jonz is an old acquaintance and - besides including my earlier in-depth interview with him in this column - we had a nice chat about his new Southern soul CD, too.

Content and quick links:

Candi Staton
Bobby Jones/Jonz

New CD reviews:
The Butanes & Willie Walker: Long Time Thing
Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud: One Drop Is Plenty
Bobby Jones: You Ain’t Got No Proof
Various Artists: Ol’ School Party, vol.1

CD soul reissue albums or compilations:
The Originals: California Sunset
Dennis Edwards: Don’t Look Any Further
Ashford & Simpson: Street Opera
Candy Staton: Evidence/The Complete Fame Records Masters
O.C. Tolbert: Black Diamond
The Monitors: Say You!/The Motown Anthology 1963-1968
Patrice Holloway: Love & Desire/The Patrice Holloway Anthology
Marv Johnson: I’ll Pick a Rose for my Rose


  Long Time Thing (Haute Records, HTE 1111; liners by Mike Elias) is Willie’s third CD with the Butanes, and it’s produced, arranged and mixed by Curtis Obeda, who also wrote all sixteen songs.  The 5-piece rhythm section is amplified by two ladies on vocals and on five tracks by as many as ten horns, co-arranged by Michael B. Nelson.  The set was cut in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  Willie’s and the Butanes’ first joint effort in 2004 was called Right Where I Belong, and you can read Willie’s comments on it, as well as some information on his back career, at  The second album two years later was titled Memphisapolis, and again Willie’s own comments are available at  For their third record they have chosen to enter the blues soil, although I’d rather put such labels as “bluesoul” and “swinging rhythm & blues” on this music.

  Especially on some of those horn-heavy big band tracks Ray Charles is the first name to come to your mind (Long Time Thing, I Just Don’t Believe), whereas on certain slow, tuneful and blues-bound cuts Bobby Bland is the obvious parallel (Drift to Sleep, I Want to Be the One, Dirty Deeds, If You Expect to See Another Day, I’m OK).  Along with the horns, Curtis’ bluesy guitar licks are dominant on Let’s Fall in Love.

  Willie’s gruff and seasoned voice easily adjusts itself to chugging or funky numbers, too, such as the driving Betrayed.  On another stormer, Crawl inside a Bottle, Big George Jackson plays harp.  For those yearning for light and poppy, old-time ditties there are You’ve Never Had a Love like Mine and She Lifts Me, and on the latter one I could even hear echoes of the late Johnnie Taylor.

  In this age of synthesized and formulaic music with false facade talents, it’s always a pleasure to hear strong singing backed by real live musicians, and that’s why this “real thing” CD is worth supporting (; acknowledgements to Curtis Obeda and David Cole).


  One Drop Is Plenty (KKV, FXCD 369; also has a five-piece live rhythm section backing Sam up, but although Sam is one of my all-time heroes I can’t praise this newie as much as some of its predecessors.  Produced by Knut Reiersrud and Erik Hillestad from our neighbouring Norway, four songs were written by Knut and Jeff Wasserman, four came from Sam’s pen and three are outside tunes.  Sam’s previous blues/r&b set, Betcha Didn’t Know, was released a while back – you can read Sam’s own comments on it in 2006 at - and since then he has cut a CD called Love Duets across Civilizations with an Iranian songstress Mahsa Vadhat.

  Knut is a renowned Norwegian guitarist (, who has played and released records for about thirty years in different fields of music, including blues.   In the liner notes it says that Sam and Knut “agreed on making a soul record with the sound of the early 70s”, but this certainly isn’t it.  Here I have the same problem as with Solomon Burke’s recent CD, Hold on Tight, with the Dutch group, De Dijk.  Solomon’s singing style and rock-inclined background just don’t mingle.  Also on this set the lightweight and at times experimental arrangements and pop-flavoured instrumentation don’t inspire Sam to such volcanic vocal fervour as in the past.  Luckily, as far as I know, we can still count on one gospel CD from Solomon as his farewell record, and Sam’s next set, Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whisky), is finished and waiting for a release soon.

  Two songs from this set are available on YouTube.  Can You Stand the Test of Love (originally on Sam’s Audio Quest album Keep On Movin’) is a beat-ballad with soulful singing to a non-soulful, jazzy rock arrangement, and One Drop Is Plenty is a nice melodic ballad, but it’s not soul, nor blues, but lightweight pop music. 

  Sweet Soft Kisses in the Rain and Long Time Running are both mid-tempo numbers.  The former chugger is an unrestricted showcase for the band with a lot of improvisation and the latter mover is a mix of pop and rock.

  I still think that Sam should cut an unashamedly old-fashioned country-soul album, close to the style of Sweet Dreams and other songs from that period, but not record a straight country waltz like Learn, How to Love you again on this set (earlier on his Sweet Dreams CD on Telarc).  A spiritual song titled Open up Heaven’s Door is also a country-tinged slowie, which derives from Sam’s One More Bridge to Cross album on Mighty Music, and the initial rendition of the funky Love One Another was available on the Telarc CD, Blues for the Soul.

  A very slow and intense, 6-minute-long reading of Jerry Ragovoy’s magnificent song, You Don’t Know Nothing about Love – remember Carl Hall and Lorraine Ellison – is more blues than soul, and a quite light interpretation of James Cleveland’s I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired is closer to country than gospel.  Only towards the end they let loose.  Bendik Hofset’s Proceed, a slow and melodic pop tune, appeared first on Bendik’s ’91 album, IX.

  As I stated above, I have mixed feelings about this CD.  Besides Sam himself, the music has little to do with rootsy black music.  You could call it modern folk-blues.  It’s all very nice, laid-back and intimate, but it lacks the passion and intensity that’s usually an integral part of Sam’s music (


  In Southern soul circles our Bobby is probably still known best as Bobby Jonz, a name he chose in the early 80s, because there was a gospel recording artist working in the same area also known by the name of Bobby Jones.  However, our Bobby reverted back to his real family name, Jones, about five years ago.  Bobby: “Dr. Bobby Jones is kind of an icon now, so people know that he’s a gospel singer.”

  Born in Louisiana in 1936, Bobby has so far recorded for close to twenty labels.  You can read about his earlier career in my in-depth feature on Bobby Jonz seven years ago.  Since then he switched over to straight blues, recorded with the Mannish Boys and toured with them, not only in the USA and Canada, but also extensively in Europe, including Finland in 2008.  He appeared as a vocalist on three Mannish Boys CDs on Delta Groove Records, Big Plans (’07), Lowdown Feelin’ (’08) and Shake for Me (’09) and also cut a solo album for Delta Groove in 2009 titled Comin’ Back Hard.  In 2010 Living Blues awarded Bobby as the “Most Outstanding Blues Singer.”

  Bobby: “Our contract with the Mannish Boys is up, but we haven’t resolved our relationship.  Randy Chortkoff and I are very good friends.  Randy did lots of things on Delta Groove Records.  I could do the blues stuff, but I was doing it on a minute scale.  Delta Groove and Randy launched me into the real big time world of music.”

  “I like blues and I like Southern soul... and I like country.  I like the Southern soul and the blues probably about the same.  I came up singing the blues.  I was the little fellow looking up Muddy Waters’ nose, whenever he would sing... and Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy.  We all came out of that same mould there in Chicago, the 43rd street, Pepper’s Lounge and Theresa’s Lounge.  Being a country boy, I learned to love all kinds of music.  Being a farmer, if you like music, all you have is blues and country... and there was John R out of Nashville, Tennessee.  They played the rhythm and the blues back then, so I was listening to country at daytime and blues at night.  I love music, and - what makes me feel so good - I can sing any of it - except opera.”

  Bobby’s latest CD, You Ain’t Got No Proof (Desert Sound Records), takes him back to Southern soul.  “Desert Sound Records out of Albany, Georgia, belongs to Pete Peterson.  He used to live here in Las Vegas.  He’s been in the music business for 25 – 30 years, so I’ve been knowing Pete for at least twenty years.”  Prior to this they worked together on the Lee Shot Stole My Freak CD in 2003.

  Alongside Bobby and Pete, Eric Smith and Mistey Lundy are the co-producers.  “Mistey is a singer, producer and writer.  She’s from Albany, and she’s singing all the backgrounds.”  Besides Bobby, Mistey and guitar players, the rest of the music – horns, strings, drums - is programmed by one of the guitarists, Eric Smith, so there’s a big difference, say, compared to those authentic Delta Groove albums.  “There’s definitely a difference, but programming is commonplace in Southern soul.  That’s a sort of norm for Southern soul music.  I was doing Southern soul and rhythm & blues, when I met Randy Chortkoff, but I decided I wanted to dive off to Southern soul again.  It’s so much easier for me, compared to those long hours travelling to foreign countries... not that I won’t do it again, but I just needed a break.”

  Bobby is Southern soul’s crooner.  One of his influences is Brook Benton, and you can hear it on such songs as the soft and romantic You Be Lovin Me and the laid-back and poignant Cheating on Me, two of Bobby’s favourites on this CD.  “Cheating on Me is a very good song and it’s our next single.”  Listening to This Is Your Night, Johnnie Taylor may come to your mind, and another ballad called Wife and Sister revives the Bill story all over again, only on the other sex this time.

  All songs written by the producers, You Ain’t Got No Proof is a light and catchy dancer, but – according to Bobby - the most feedback so far has been on the two blues songs on the set, Stick a Fork in Me and Little Sally Walker (Syl Johnson cut a similarly titled song on Federal in ’62).  “I came up with those song titles, and we all pitched in and wrote them.  We scratched out here, and filled in there.  We all collaborated.  I’m on my way to Albany again, getting ready to do another album.  I think we might lean a little bit more toward the more bluesy stuff.” (Interview conducted on June 20, 2011; acknowledgements to Peggy Eldridge-Love).


  If there ever was a flawed title for a CD, then Ol’ School Party, vol.1 ( is the one.  All you traditional soul music fans, don’t be misled.  Produced by Alfred Brown in Memphis, SOA logically means “Sounds of Alfred.”

  On the positive side, the almost fifty years old gold hit Green Onions is here revived in a style quite true to the original by such musicians as Alfred, John Ward, Morris J. Williams and Curtis Steele.  The bluesy Last Two Dollars, originally cut by Johnnie Taylor, also has a live band on the background, except horns, and finally on a ballad called Show Me there’s our old acquaintance Ruby Wilson on vocals - actually the only real singer on this set - although for most of the time she’s drowned by Alfred’s monologue.  Barry White’s bedroom music is given artificial respiration on Love’s Delight and on a lush, big instrumental titled New Age Symphony, which brings this CD to an end in a grandiose way.

  As for the rest of the tracks, if you’re taken on a ride in a flying saucer I guess this is the kind of music those little green men make you listen to.  As a young man, perhaps you could still pretend and say that all this hallucination is excitingly experimental art, but with the years pseudo layers wear off, and you’re able to put these futuristic cosmic jams, boring fusion tracks with strange noises and heard-before wah-wah Shaft licks into their right place (acknowledgements to Mike Ward).



  California Sunset (CDBBR 0044;, 11 tracks, 1 bonus, 48 min., liners with interviews by Justin Cober-Lake) was produced by Lamont Dozier, who had been friends with some of the members of the Originals ever since the late 50s.  Lamont actually put the first incarnation of the group (Freddie Gorman, Walter Gaines, C.P. Spencer and Tyrone Hunter) together in 1964, but then Ty couldn’t rid himself of his Chess contract and he was replaced by Hank Dixon, who just got out of the service. 

  Lamont also wrote all ten songs for this set, and luxuriant and lively instrumentation was arranged by McKinley Jackson (rhythm) and Paul Riser, Jimmy Haskell or Larry Fallon (horns & strings).  Main characteristics on this coherent album are big orchestration and hooky passages in melodies... not to forget vocals, of course.  Hank and Ty are the main leads, but Freddie and Walter are equally important pieces in overall harmony. 

  Released in 1975, California Sunset is the Originals’ 6th Motown/Soul album (see  It kicks off with the fast and melodic Why’d You Lie, and in the same vein Let Me in Your Life and Financial Affair are equally pulsating.  A toe-tapper named Good Lovin’ Is Just a Dime away was chosen for the first single, but it didn’t set the charts on fire (peaked only at # 53-soul).  A very slow, string-laden serenade titled Fifty Years was scheduled for a follow-up but was apparently withdrawn at the last minute.

  Other downtempo highlights still include the plodding Don’t Turn the Lights off, the sunny and laid-back California Sunset, the positive and atmospheric Sweet Rhapsody and the lush and infectious It Could Never Happen.  Actually, every track is a winner.  Lamont’s music was clever.  He used a lot of different elements, unexpected rhythm breaks and frequent instrumental runs and weaved a hooky melody around it all to hold it together.

  Unfortunately commercially this album was a failure (# 51-soul).  The late Freddie Gorman: “They never promoted it.  As a matter of fact, the album was stopped right after it was released.  It started receiving airplay, because one of the songs, Good Lovin’ Is Just a Dime away, had begun to show up, and then they stopped it.  One of the reasons that I understand was that they thought Eddie Holland might sue, because he had a contract with Lamont Dozier.  It was a very good album, but they sat on it.”


  Dennis Lambert was the mastermind behind Don’t Look Any Further (CDBBR 0040; 13 tracks, 4 bonuses, 57 min.; liners with interviews by Shelley Nicole).  He was the main producer, co-arranger and co-writer.  Other arrangers on the album were Paul M. Jackson, Jr., Robbie Buchanan and Larry Williams

  Don’t Look Any Further was released on Gordy in 1984, but it wasn’t the first solo album Dennis had cut.  After his first stint with the Temptations (1968-76) he went solo and was replaced by Louis Price.  Dennis: “Me and Teddy Pendergrass had decided to do a solo album.  At the time Teddy was very resentful at Harold Melvin, because Harold would get all the money.  So we went to our record companies and said ‘look, we know we have the voice, we wanna do an album.  We wanna million dollars and we’ll do the album.  Teddy’s record company, PIR, did the album, and he got a million.  I did an album, which is still in the can.  I had an agreement with them to pay me so much, but when I did the album, they neglected the agreement.  We might see the album one day.  It was mainly ballads, right on the same street as Teddy’s first solo album.”

  Don’t Look Any Further, however, is the first officially released Dennis Edwards solo album and it hit the streets right after his second stint with the Temptations, starting from 1980.  Dennis Lambert gathered an impressive array of musicians - besides himself and co-arrangers, such players as John Robinson on drums, Nathan East and Freddie Washington on bass, Paulinho DaCosta on percussion and Jerry Hey and Gary Grant on trumpet.

  The draw of the LP was the haunting mid-tempo title track, which had preceded the album by one month and finally as a single peaked at # 2-black and # 72-pop.  The very album reached # 2-black and # 48-pop.  Siedah Garrett sang on the demo and she ended up on the final duet as well, although Dennis’ earlier girlfriend, Aretha Franklin, and Chaka Khan were also asked.

  Other highlights include the second single, a soothing ballad called (You’re my) Aphrodisiac (# 15-black), a poignant and melodic big-ballad named Another Place in Time... and Just like You, a sweet downtempo song and slightly jazzy in a Billy Paul style.  To be frank, the rest five post-disco dancers with their occasional rock and Prince leanings left me cold (


  I still cherish the VHS tape of Nick & Val performing on their musically marvellous and thought-provoking Street Opera.  This thrilling opus covered the b-side of their first Capitol album in ’82, after their decade-long spell with Warner.  All songs written by the couple, Street Opera (CDBBR 0039; 12 tracks, 3 bonuses, 44 min.; liners with interviews by Christian John Wikane) was also produced by Ashford & Simpson and co-arranged by Leon Pendarvis (horns & strings) and Ray Chew (rhythm).

  The “operatic” side, dealing with unemployment and consequent family crisis, opens with a dramatic and powerful slow song called Working Man, and it’s followed by an emotive tear-jerker titled Who Will They Look To.  The sharp and uptempo Street Corner was tested as the first single to satisfactory results (# 9-soul, # 56-pop).  The follow-up singles were picked up from the more customary a-side of the album - an infectious beat-ballad named Love It Away and a truly beautiful declaration of love, I’ll take the Whole World on, but they were less successful.  On the Street Corner side of the LP there’s still one more powerful big-ballad, Times Will Be Good Again

  Add to those six gems above still Make It Work Again, a gentle and simple mid-pacer, and Mighty Mighty Love, a pulsating dancer, and you’re wrapping up a perfect package.  For me, Street Opera was the creative peak in Nick’s and Val’s remarkable career ( and


  After her first gospel-recording spell and before she hooked up with Rick Hall and Fame Records in 1968, Candi had one single released on Unity Records in 1967.  Candi: “That was the only record label at that time interested in me.  They asked me to do a record with them.  They were out of Birmingham, Alabama.  Bob Grove saw me at a nightclub I was performing that night and asked me, would I be interested in making a record.  I told him ‘sure’, and we got into this contract with them, and I made Upperhand.  It was played on the radio... about three times” (laughing).

  This energetic dancer, however, became a Northern favourite in the U.K.  Produced by Bob Grove and Richard Dingler and cut in Bob’s Birmingham studio named Prestige, Now You’ve Got the Upperhand  (U-7-11) was written by Robert Fowler, and it was backed with You Can’t Stop Me.

  Prior to Fame, there was still one single released on Shelby Singleton’s Minaret label (137) out of Nashville, Tennessee, in 1968 called The Judgement (flipped with XYZ), which Candi recalls under the name of The Soul of a Man and which was probably cut at the same time as Upperhand.  On this smooth-to-rough slow song Candi’s dueting partner is Billy Walker.  You can read briefly about Candi’s Station career.

  Evidence/The Complete Fame Records Masters (CDKEND 353; a 2-CD, 48 tracks; 2 h 25 min; essay by Dean Rudland) covers Candi’s Fame recording period with Rick Hall from 1969 till 1974.  Those years produced three albums, eight single-only sides and now with this complete package we are rewarded with twelve more tracks that stayed in the can at the time.


  The first album, I’m Just a Prisoner (’70), was named after one of Candi’s uptempo and big-voiced single releases (# 13-soul, # 56-pop), but there were still bigger hits on the LP – the funky I’d Rather Be an Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than a Young Man’s Fool) (# 9-soul, # 46-pop) and a mid-tempo beater titled Sweet Feeling (# 4-soul, # 24-pop). 

  Candi: “I thought it was a really, really good album.  It’s just the essence of soul music.  If you want to hear music that is just the heart of soul and if you want to really know what soul music is about, you need to pick it up and listen intently on what we’re doing, because if you want to hear pure soul that’s exactly what it is.”

  For the most part written by George Jackson, Raymond Moore and Clarence Carter, among the uptempo and funky cuts there are three gorgeous soul ballads for you to sit down and enjoy.  “I love ballads, but those days the best way to get hit records was to do uptempo songs.  Ballads were good, but if you ever got a g-o-o-o-o-d ballad, you were set for life, just like Misty BlueGladys Knight was good on ballads, but there were very few people to get a hit record out of a ballad.  So we kind of played it on the safe side and did uptempo type of songs.”

  One of those Southern soul ballads is Candi’s version of Roosevelt Jamison’s That’s How Strong My Love Is, earlier cut by O.V. Wright.  “It was Rick’s idea.  We were looking for songs to put on the record and Rick thought about Otis Redding’s That’s How Strong My Love Is.  I told him that I didn’t want to hear it.  I just wanted to hear the chord and get the lyrics.  I wanted to create my own.  I didn’t want to be persuaded by the way Otis phrased, as though it was a brand new song for me.  Rick did just that, and I really created it my own way.”


  The second album in 1970 was crammed with “deepies and weepies”, great Southern soul ballads, but it was titled after a country-soul song with a faster tempo, Tammy Wynette’s Stand by Your Man, which gave Candi the second biggest hit in her career, peaking at # 4-soul and # 24-pop (surpassed only by the chart-topping Young Hearts Run Free in 1976). 

  “I thought all of the albums we did during those days were very, very good.  We worked real hard.  We put a lot in them.  Rick went through the albums over and over and over again trying to make sure he got the right sweeteners.  He put in the right horn lines - if not, then he changed them, or we do more background...  It was like a baby, trying to teach the baby how to walk.  That’s how he looked at his music.  He didn’t send sloppy music out to the streets.  He wanted the best he could get.”

  The second country-soul hit off the album was He Called Me Baby (# 9-soul, # 52-pop), which was followed by an impressive and bittersweet infidelity ballad, Mr. and Mrs. Untrue (# 20-soul, # 109-pop).  “I love country.  I’ve always wanted to take country and add a little gospel, bluesy type of feeling.  I wanted people to really feel, because country music is a feeling kind of music.  It just has different instrumentation, but if you take out the steel guitar and some of the chinks and put more keyboard in and maybe a little organ and maybe some horns in there, you turn country into a soul song.”

  Candi herself wrote a beautiful ballad called To Hear You Say You’re Mine for the album.  “I laugh at it right now, because it was really not structured that well, and it was just like my first little endeavour.  I really appreciate Rick in helping me put it together and putting it out.  That was actually the first song that I wrote by myself.  I introduced myself as an artist with that song.  Rick Hall had done Aretha Franklin and I was doing her song, and Rick asked me ‘do you have something else that you could sing, because I recorded this on her’, so I came up with that little song I had been playing around with on the keyboards.”  Of the four songs that stayed in the can from that period Candi especially values the cover of Ann PeeblesTrouble, Heartaches and Sadness.


   The third album in 1973 was for the most part a collection of funky dance and pop tracks and outside songs.  In the Ghetto (# 12-soul, # 48-pop) was the first single release, followed by Barbara Wyrick’s mid-tempo, melodic country-soul song, Lovin’ You, Lovin’ Me (# 40-soul, # 83-pop).  The final single off the album was a driving and hard-hitting dancer titled Do It in the Name of Love (# 17-soul, # 63-pop).

  There were still two post-album singles released on Fame, before Rick and Candi switched over to Warner in 1974.  Love Chain (# 31-soul) was George Jackson’s funky item, while Mac DavisSomething’s Burning (# 83-soul) had been a hit for Kenny Rogers & the First Edition three years earlier.  “Mac was in the studio a lot.  He was also cutting some stuff on himself, demos and other things.  He was around the studio during the time we were doing a lot of his music, and that’s why you see so many of his songs on the album (In the Ghetto, Spread Your Love on Me).  He and Rick Hall had a great relationship at that time.  He mentioned that he thought I would do good doing Something’s Burning, and we went into the studio and we cut it, and it came out really good.”

  The final eight songs, deriving from 1973 and ’74, are released on this CD for the first time.  Slipping Away is another beautiful country-soul ballad.  “I do remember cutting that.  It’s almost like an Aretha Franklin type of song.”  George Jackson co-wrote the fast and melodic One More Hurt, and together with Candi he wrote a hooky mid-tempo tune titled Are You Just Building Me UpGeorge Soule is the writer on I’ll Be Here, a tuneful Southern soul ballad, and another Candi’s favourite is the mid-tempo, country-infused I Gave a Little and Lost a Lot.

  Dolly Parton’s pop song Jolene is also included.  “That was definitely Rick Hall’s idea, because I didn’t want to do that song (laughing).  I don’t like it.  He thought it would be a great song for me, but I said ‘Rick, I don’t think so’.  However, we ended up doing it anyway.  I never thought that would be coming out.”  Candi delivers a fine vocal performance on a beautiful country song called We Had It All, which concludes this excellent double-CD, an essential purchase for each and every soul music fan.

  Candi is happy about the eventual release of these masters, but she’s busy with new projects, too.  “I’m working with Cliff Richard.  We have two duets, Teardrops and This Time with You, on his upcoming album called Soulicious.  We cut these songs in Memphis, and the album should be coming out around the last of September, no later than the first of October.”  Such soul icons as Percy Sledge, Freda Payne, Dennis Edwards, Russell Thomkins, Jr., Deniece Williams, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., Billy Paul and Lamont Dozier are also involved in Cliff’s project.  “I also talked to Rick Hall the other day.  We’re thinking about doing maybe three or four sides again.  I also have some more things that are cooking right now.” 

  “Now I just want to tell my fans that if they ever get any record on me, they should really pick this one, because it is some of the greatest vocal work that I’ve done.  I look back now, and it was so pure – the voice was so pure, the music was so pure – and the soul was so prevalent.  They should pick it up and have it in their catalogue at home and tell somebody else about it, and just keep it forever.  I thank all the ones that have bought it or are going to buy it, and I know you’ll enjoy it.  When I’m in a concert over there, bring it by my concert and I’ll sign it for you” (

(Interview conducted on June 25, 2011; acknowledgements to Bill Carpenter).


  In their series of “Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Masters”, Kent has now issued Black Diamond by O.C. Tolbert (CDKEND 352, 22 tracks, 69 min., liners by Ady Croasdell), which draws mostly unreleased tracks from the periods of 1969 – 74 and late 80s.  Arthur Cleveland Tolbert was born in Selma, Alabama, in 1944 and passed away in Detroit at fifty-two, and these tracks were cut under the patronage of either Dave Hamilton, or Jack Taylor.

  The most distinctive element throughout this CD is O.C.’s strong and raw voice, ripping and growling, penetrating to the bone.  It’s so overwhelming that it almost hides other shortcomings in music – such as unbalance between vocals and background, strange blunders in arrangements and instrumentations, discontinuities – which must mean that some of these tracks are not finished.

  Six mediocre dancers and formulaic funky cuts aside, there are still numerous captivating stormers and toe-tappers left; all big-voiced, of course, in a “modern-day shouter” style.  I especially enjoyed a mellow bouncer called A Message to the Black Woman, which was actually released under the pseudonym of King Diamond, one of O.C.’s aliases.

  O.C. came from gospel and was preparing an inspirational album in the late 80s, but only now we get a chance to hear six of those impressive cuts, with the slow and intense Somebody Is Here with Me leading the way.  Saving the best for the last, there are three killer soul ballads on display - the horn-heavy Message to Mankind, the poignant and pleading Where Were You? and the familiar, heart-breaking country-soul song, That’s All She Wrote.  Under a proper guidance and in solid recording surroundings O.C. could have evolved into a name to reckon with on a larger scale.  He was a powerful singer, to say the least.


  Say You!/The Motown Anthology 1963-1968 (Kent, CDTOP 355; 26 tracks, 70 min.) contains the group’s lone ’68 album, two non-album b-sides and twelve previously unissued tracks.  Keith Hughes has written detailed track annotations and notes, partially based on an interview with Richard Street.  The seeds for the Monitors were planted in such groups as the Majestics and the Distants (Richard Street).  Actually three of those unreleased tracks on this set derive from the Majestics days in 1963, when the group was knocking on Thelma Records’ door.  Anything is still a quite primitive ballad – even with out-of-tune singing – but Guilty is already a powerful and intense, gospelly beat-ballad.  The third one, Cry, is an uptempo pop song in a style not unlike the 4 Seasons those days.  The rest of the tracks on this CD were recorded between 1965 and ’68.

  I had forgotten what a gripping and joyous album Greetings! We’re the Monitors really is.  I actually have it on an old reel-to-reel tape, so logically I haven’t been listening to it very often.  In the established line-up of Richard Street, Sandra and Maurice Fagin and Warren Harris, the Monitors’ first V.I.P. single was a mid-tempo, mellow song with a full background named Say You (# 36-r&b), and it was followed by a perfect and memorable cover of the ValadiersGreetings (This Is Uncle Sam) (# 21-r&b / # 100-pop), their signature song.

  The rest three singles didn’t chart anymore, which is a pity, since at any rate the third one, Since I Lost You Girl, is a fascinating mover with a big orchestration created by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol.  A toe-tapper titled Bring Back the Love, which would have suited the Four Tops as well, also flopped, as did the last single on Soul in ’68, a catchy and almost inspirational mover, Step by Step (Hand in Hand).

  Among the more familiar songs there are Share a Little Love with Me (Somebody), a driving scorcher also cut by the Isley Brothers, Baby Make Your Own Sweet Music, an equally storming cover, and The Further You Look, the Less You See, a post-doowop cover of the Temptations’ earlier ballad.  On rawer material (Number One in Your Heart) one can hear echoes of the Contours, whereas on smoother tracks (Serve Yourself a Cup of Happiness) the Spinners is the closest parallel, as well as on the closing song, Smokey Robinson’s mellow beat-ballad called You Share the Blame.

  Undistinguished here and mediocre there, I can very well understand why some of those twelve unreleased tracks were left in the can.  But there are also goodies among them.  Too Busy Thinking about My Baby is a nice version cut before Marvin Gaye’s hit single and Smokey’s other beat-ballad titled The Letter floats along effortlessly.  However, the cream cut must be a big and powerful ballad called My Love Grows Stronger, produced by Richard Morris and co-written by J.J. Barnes.  This is a very worthwhile anthology, and Ace/Kent has done a praiseworthy job on it (


  Love & Desire/The Patrice Holloway Anthology (CDKEND 354; 25 tracks, 64 min.) combines Patrice’s nine Capitol single sides with one V.I.P. single and fourteen tracks that were left in the can at the time.  An illustrative essay by Dennis Garvey tells us that Patrice was born in L.A. in 1951 and as a child prodigy in music she appeared on records at an early age, wrote songs and did a lot of session work throughout her active career.  She retired in the mid-70s due to schizophrenia and passed away in 2006.

  Her lone V.I.P. single in 1963 couples Stevie, en elementary mid-tempo kiddie song about her then-boyfriend, Stevie Wonder, with a poppy jogger titled (He Is) The Boy of My Dreams, about Stevie again.  The ensuing Capitol singles were a let-down.  First produced by Billy and Gene Page in 1966 and after that by David Axelrod in 1967, they clearly didn’t know in which direction to go with Patrice and consequently most of these cuts are stomping Motown sound copies (Stolen Hours, That’s All You Got To Do and the Mary Wells influenced Lucky, My Boy).  A social statement named Stay with Your Own Kind has the best verve.  The later Capitol singles in 1972 and ’73 offer a funky and rocky cover of Evidence, which Candi Staton had released earlier, and two fast and poppy songs, Black Mother Goose and The Touch of Venus.

  The unreleased tracks are L.A. recordings from 1963 – 65 and for the most part produced by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon.  The one to pick up is Come into My Palace, a mid-tempo and big-voiced duet with the older sister Brenda.  Mostly average stompers, occasionally they tested different styles and moods, such as I Got to Change, a r&b scorcher á la Ray Charles, Flippitty Flop, a pop dancer á la Little Eva or Millie Small and Face in the Crowd á la Phil Spector.

  It’s a pity that Patrice’s vast talent couldn’t be properly captured in the grooves.  She deserved better material.  I just noticed that there isn’t a single downtempo song on display, so there must be a market for this CD in Northern soul circles.


  I’ll Pick a Rose for my Rose (Kent, CDTOP 351; 26 tracks, 71 min.; notes and annotations by Keith Hughes) is subtitled “The Complete Motown Recordings 1964-1971.  It contains the U.K. only Rose album from 1969, nine songs unissued at the time and six mono single mixes.

  Marvin Earl Johnson was born in 1938 in Detroit and he died in a concert in 1993 in South Carolina.  He started out in the Jr. Serenaders, enjoyed his biggest hits - Come to Me, You Got What It Takes, I Love the Way You Love, Happy Days - on United Artists between 1959 and ’61, and since 1964, besides singing and writing, worked at miscellaneous jobs at Motown until their move to California.

  Marv’s high and somewhat thin tenor was next heard on Gordy Records in 1965, when they released Berry Gordy’s mid-tempo sing-along song titled Why Do You Want to Let Me Go, which originally had been cut by Eddie Holland.  It was backed by a nice beat-ballad called I’m Not a Plaything.  The only charted Gordy single for Marv in the US, however, was the next one in 1966, a loud and hard-hitting stomper named I Miss You Baby (How I Miss You), which peaked at # 39-r&b.  The B-side was Marv’s own pretty floater, Just the Way You Are, which even had strings and horns on the background.

  As the third and last single they released the delightful I’ll Pick a Rose for My Rose in 1968, but it scored only in the U.K.  You Got the Love I Love, a mid-tempo and hooky toe-tapper, was placed on the flip.  The rest of the songs on the album are covers (Sleep Little One, Bad Girl, Everybody’s Gotta Pay Some Dues), except a sunny dancer called So Glad You Chose Me and a fully orchestrated big ballad named I Wish I Liked You (As Much As I Love You).

  The highlights among those canned tracks include She’s All I Need (In This World), a longing beat-ballad written and produced by James Dean and William Weatherspoon, Another Lonely Night (Completes Another Empty Day), a freely flowing, string-sweetened and captivating mid-tempo gem produced and co-written by Henry Cosby and Just Look Through Your Window at the World, an optimistic and pleasant mover.

  I’ll Pick a Rose for my Rose is an entertaining and feel-good CD, which proceeds in a logical and chronological order; another worthwhile Motown comp from Ace/Kent.

© Heikki Suosalo

Back to Deep Soul Main Page
Back to our home page