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DEEP # 2/2013 (May)

  Just like with my previous column, I grew out of patience.  I have a bunch of presumably very good records arriving in any day now, but the old reviews on the previous CDs are irretrievably losing their topicality, so I decided to put the old ones – some even from a few months back - on our site now and come back with the new ones, hopefully in the immediate future.

  Most of the CDs that are reviewed in this column are refreshingly good.  For me the best one of the lot is the latest album by my interviewee this time - and one of the nicest persons in the business - Mr. Otis Clay.  In the compilations section you’ll find comments also from Denise LaSalle and Millie Jackson.

Content and quick links:

Otis Clay

New CD reviews:
Otis Clay: Truth Is
Jeffrey Osborne: A Time for Love
Will Downing: Silver
Billy Price: Strong
Wendell B.: Get to Kno’ Me
Jerry L: A Million Women

CD reissue & compilation reviews:
Various Artists: Motown Girls
Denise LaSalle: Making a Good Thing Better/The Complete Westbound Singles 1970-76
Millie Jackson: The Moods of Millie Jackson/Her Best Ballads
Caston & Majors: Caston & Majors
Charles Williams: Love Is a Special Thing


  My feature on Otis appeared in our printed paper as early as in 1990, but those days our magazines were published only in Finnish language, so there’s no purpose in copying it for our website now.  Today, at 71, Otis keeps himself very busy.  He is booked for various festivals around the world, he turns up at different venues in the U.S. and a few months ago he released an excellent CD on his own Echo Records, Truth Is (ECCD 358).

  On fourteen tracks (68 min.), Otis is backed with live musicians, horn section and background singers, which creates a delightfully full sound.  Otis: “Most of them are members in my band.  They work with me.”  Beneath the title of the CD it says “Putting Love Back Into The Music.”  “So much of the music nowadays sets the different sexes against each other.  We just want to make some good music, to make people feel good about their relationship.  We put a lot of work into it.”

  The main producer and arranger on the set is Tom Tom Washington, who these days goes under the number “MMLXXXIV”, which I think means 2084.  “That number changes, I guess, every five or ten years.  Tom Tom and I, along with Willie Henderson, musically grew up together.  We’ve been knowing each other for many years.”

  Tom, Otis and Darryl Carter are the writers of the swaying, mid-tempo opening song called Love’s After Me.  “We met with Darryl Carter about forty years ago, when I was with Hi Records.  We’ve been friends and co-writers and collaborators all these years.”  Even Now is a very slow and emotional song, which Johnny Adams has cut earlier.  “I love Johnny Adams and him singing this song.  He was such a great artist.  That song was from his last album” (Man of My Word on Rounder in 1998).

  I Thought You Knew is a snappy, mid-tempo number, written by Darryl and Jonah Ellis.  “Jonah and Darryl wrote five of the songs on there.  They were writing partners in Memphis.”  The slow and longing All That’s Missing Is You is another song from the twosome.  Jonah was born in North Carolina and he died at 62 in Memphis, Tennessee, in February 2010.  He co-wrote two of Yarbrough & Peoples’ biggest hits, Don’t Stop the Music and Don’t Waste Your Time (in 1980 and ’84, respectively), alongside songs for the Dells, Switch, the Gap Band, Billy Paul etc.  He also sang in the latter-day Drifters and was the lead guitarist for the Temptations.

  Joe South’s irresistible Walk a Mile in My Shoes was the title song of Otis’ album six years ago.  “It was always my plan to put it on the gospel album as well as on a secular album.  It’s such a great song.  We got a Grammy nomination for it (Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance), so we put it on this album, too.”  You can read Otis’ own comments on the album at

  The title tune, Truth Is, is a touching mid-tempo song, again by Carter-Ellis, whereas the intense and deep, over 7-minute long I Know I’m Over you was recorded live at the Monterey Blues Festival.  “Originally Willie Mitchell and I recorded the song on an album Watch Me Now on Waylo” (in 1989).

  One of the co-writers on the funky Even When I Win (Seems like I Loose) is Paul Richmond.  “It is a new song, although I came up with the title maybe forty years ago.  One night we were talking with a friend of mine, Walter Hatchett, and I just laughed at myself and said ‘wow, even when I win I lose’.  We looked at each other and said ‘that’s the title of the song’.  I think, Darryl and I worked on it for Hi Records, but I never recorded it.”  Walter Hatchett is Otis’ long-time partner in music, and they worked together e.g. on the When the Gates Swing Open cassette in 1990.

Otis Clay live picture courtesy of his website © Dragan Tasic

  One of the reasons for the late release of this new CD is that Otis didn’t have enough uptempo material ready.  “When we were talking about this album and how we want to add some uptempo songs, I said ‘well, I want something like Hi-Heel Sneakers’, and then I said to Tom Tom that there’s a song I started writing years ago.  I always remembered how I wanted it to go, and that’s how we wound up putting Even When I Win on this album.”

  Steal Away to the Hide Away is Luther Ingram’s memorable, poignant ballad from 1977, and here Otis does it as a duet with Uvee Hayes.  “Uvee Hayes is the wife of a good friend of mine, Bernie Hayes, and Bernie and I’ve known each other from back in the sixties.  I hadn’t seen Bernie in some years, but one day Tom Tom called me ‘hey, Bernie’s in town’, so I rode down to the studio and that’s when I first met Uvee.  At that time Uvee was doing Play Something Pretty, which was written by George Jackson.  George and I worked for years at Hi Records.  We were talking in the studio and I said that maybe a man should be on the tune, and I just recorded the song with her.”  Uvee’s Play Something Pretty CD was released on CDS in 2009.  “Later they were doing Steal Away to the Hideaway.  I always loved the song.  We both liked the song, so we cut it and put it on this album, too.”  It first appeared on Uvee’s CD, True Confessions, on Mission Park in 2011 (

  The slow and smooth I Keep Trying (Not to break down) was co-written by another ex-Koko artist, Tommy Tate.  “Tommy is a great singer as well as a great writer.  David Porter from Colchester, England, sent se some demos on Tommy Tate.  I did quite few Tommy Tate songs in my recent albums, like I Can Take You to Heaven Tonight.”

  That’s What You Ought to Do is a new and tuneful, Carter-Ellis beat-ballad, whereas The Only Way is Up (by the late George Jackson and Johnny Henderson) was first cut by Otis on 1980 (Echo 2003), and eight years later it evolved into a huge European hit for Yazz.  “We added some more things to it.  It is the original recording, but we did some background things.  That was the song we felt that needed to be put out there, although the song is very popular in the U.K., but we never got a lot of airplay in the U.S.”

  The quick-tempo Messing with My Mind is another song co-written by George Jackson and cut by Otis in 1980 (Echo 2002).  Clarence Carter and Barbara Carr recorded the song a few years later.  “It was in the same session as The Only Way is up.  Again we’re coming back to adding some uptempo songs to the new album.  The rappers Ace Hood and Trey Songz have probably done million on Messing with My Mind, but they call it I Need Your Love.  We think it’s good for the people to hear the whole song, and that’s why we put it on the album.”

  Otis makes frequent visits on other artists’ albums, too, like recently on a funky track titled Got to Get Back (to My Baby) by a Memphis group, the Bo-Keys (on Redeye in 2011).  “I also did a song on a Johnny Rawls album.  It hasn’t been released yet.”

  “We were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame on May the 8th in Memphis, Tennessee.  Next I’m doing the Chicago Blues Festival at the Millennium Park on June the 8th, which I’m looking forward to, because I’m going to be with Eddie Floyd, Sir Mack Rice, the Bar-Kays and... Uvee Hayes.  (Interview conducted on 14.5.2013;


  Jeffrey’s A Time for Love (StarVista Ent./Saguaro Road Rec., 27429-D) really took me by surprise.  Eight years after his previous studio album, From the Soul, Jeffrey invited his old musical partner, George Duke, into jointly producing, arranging and orchestrating a set of Jeffrey’s jazz and standard favourites.  Backed by a nucleus trio of George Duke on keys, Christian McBride on bass and John Roberts on drums, there are many other famed musicians visiting on different tracks, such as Paul Jackson, Jr. on guitar, Kamasi Washington and Everette Harp on sax, Rick Brown and Walt Fowler on trumpet and Lenny Castro on percussion.  George produced Jeffrey’s first solo recordings in the first half of the 80s, and the pair came up with such hits then as I Really Don’t need No Light, Don’t You Get So Mad, Stay With Me Tonight, Plane Love, Don’t Stop and The Borderlines.

  Although there are at least two songs, which you could classify pop - James Taylor’s soft Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight and the CarpentersClose to You, here turned into mid-tempo groove – they fit well into the sophisticated and soothing musical surroundings of the other jazz-flavoured tracks.  Among mellow, dreamy and atmospheric moods of The Shadow of Your Smile, My One and Only Love, When I Fall In Love, What a Wonderful World, Nature Boy, You Don’t Know What Love Is and A Time For Love, there’s the comedy of Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Chaka Khan, the bossanova-ed Smile and the improvisation on Teach Me Tonight.

  A Time for Love is a classy and also soulful smooth jazz album, and I hope it gets a lot of exposure.  You don’t get to hear this kind of high-quality music these days very often anymore.  (


  ‘Elegant’ is the correct word here.  Compiled for the most part from Will’s preceding three Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow EPs, Silver (Sophisticated Soul) was produced by Will and Chris Davis, who’s also the main keyboard player on the set.

  On this 12-tracker there are three outside tunes.  A melodic ballad named Send for Me was written by Sam Dees and Ron Kersey, produced here by Rex Rideout and earlier cut by Atlantic Starr and Gerald Alston, among others.  The often-recorded Miracles song, Ooh Baby Baby, is approached gently with soft drumming and late-night saxophone backing.  Finally, the medley of I Go Crazy, Wishing on a Star and I Try is called ‘live recorded rehearsal’, and here they occasionally burst into faster and louder musical passages.

  Of the rest four slow tracks, I especially enjoyed an old-school big ballad called You Were Meant Just for Me, full and soulful and led by Avery Sunshine.  The more rhythmic numbers, which are placed mainly in the first part of the CD, vary from urban mid-tempo beaters (Sexy) and mellow jazzy jams (Falling) to a ditty with a Caribbean beat (What Would You Do).  Besides ‘elegant’, file under ‘smooth’, ‘sophisticated’ and ‘intimate’. (


  Our energizer soul bunny from Pittsburgh, PA, has come up with a new CD, Strong (Dixiefrog, DFGCD 8747) with a tested recipe of something old and something new.  Produced by Billy and Jimmy Britton, both of whom also co-wrote six of the ten tunes on display, Billy is backed by his 7-piece band; three out of them horns.

  This time I prefer the more restrained mid-tempo songs, such as Sweet Soul Music and the haunting Gotta Be Strong.  Actually this melodic floater is my personal favourite on the set.  The slow and bluesy The Lucky One also leaves its mark.  The ‘something old’ department offers Roosevelt Sykes’ scorcher Drivin’ Wheel, Bobby Byrd’s funky Never Get Enough and Clay Hammond’s familiar slow moan, Part Time LoveDrivin’ Wheel as the opening track certainly wakes you up, and equally a driving, quick-tempo mover called I’ve Got Love on My Mind as the last track leaves you on a high note. (



  Together with his partner, Mike 360 Brooks, Mr. Wendell Brown has produced a new, outstanding CD entitled Get to Kno’ Me (Smoothway Music;  The twosome also did the arrangements and wrote fifteen new songs, which gives you 70 minutes worth of listening pleasure.  Already earlier Wendell had released a DVD named Who Is Wendell B.?

  By ‘outstanding’ I mean that Wendell has created a style of his own, an easily identified, original sound, which is rare these days.  The key element is his multi-layered vocals.  Wendell’s distinctive, masculine baritone is naturally on lead, but even more dominant aspect is his overdubs and lively background voices; actually, more co-leads than background vocals.  You could describe it as one-man’s call & response choir.  All this creates an interesting, chequered audiophonic mosaic.

  The four mid-tempo tracks have a slightly urban touch, although Good Man is a genuine old-school floater.  Midway through there’s an oasis of slow and romantic, candle-light songs.  This 5-tune group sets you at ease and may even turn you on into something funny.  The most soulful song on the CD is Do Me Like That, a duet with Nikki Parish.

  Wendell’s down-tempo music is like hypnotic chant, rather than memorable melodies.  But it works.  You can read about Wendell’s career at


  For his 7th album, A Million Women (CDC 11), Jerry Minnis now turns up on  He co-wrote one song and single-handed wrote six out of the thirteen songs on display, and at least six songs have appeared on Jerry’s previous albums.  He also produced seven tracks, while Ricky White, Carl Marshall and Simeo each produced two.

  Let’s start with Ricky, another CDS artist these days.  He shares lead with Jerry on a pulsating and energetic opener and the first single, She’s Got That Ooo Wee, whereas Make a Choice is a slow, “stuck-in-the-middle” story with the ripping pain and also self-pity coming out strongly in Jerry’s delivery.

  Carl produced the title tune, a relaxed down-tempo swayer, which is another one to offer intense vocalizing from Jerry.  Don’t Turn on Me is a dull, slow beater... and with those irritating toy horns again.  Altogether, live instrumentation is in minority on this CD.  The two Simeo’s mid-tempo contributions (Get Busy Loving You and When the Ladies Are Happy) are the lowest points here; the latter even introduces autotune.

  Girls in the Hood, That Nookie Stuff, It’s Gonna Be Good to See You Again, I like Being with You and Oops That’s My Bad are all smooth and easily sweeping dancers, whereas The End of the Rainbow is Jerry’s most impressive vocal performance on the CD.  This McKinley Mitchell’s majestic song is here credited as ‘public domain’, and you can read Jerry’s own comments on the song at

For the indie CDs above, look no further than



  Keith Hughes and Mick Patrick at Ace have compiled an interesting Motown music CD of twelve tracks, unreleased at the time, and another twelve, which more or less remained in the shadow area in the company’s output.  Actually, there is one charted record, Mary WellsWhat’s Easy for Two Is So Hard for One (# 8–r&b, # 29-hot in 1963).  Also for initiated, such songs as the Andantes(Like a) Nightmare (’64) – led by Ann Boganthe SupremesLong Gone Lover (’64) and Buttered Popcorn (’61) – co-led and led, respectively, by Florence Ballard – are more than familiar.

  As Keith Hughes ( has later explained, these masters were picked up during the time the Ace boys were looking for material for the Eddie Holland double-CD a couple of years ago, and that’s why most of the tracks on Finders Keepers/Motown Girls 1961-67 (Ace, CDTOP 1364;; 24 tracks, 64 min.) derive from the first part of the sixties.

  As a rule, there are and there were obvious musical criteria for a track to remain in the can, and also here I can very well understand, why cuts, for instance, by LaBrenda Ben (Do You Know What I’m Talkin’ About; ‘63) and the Marvelettes, actually Bettie Winston, (Grass Seems Greener on the Other Side; ‘63) went unreleased.

  However, to these ears there are more genuine gems than fool’s gold.  Personal number one is Gladys Knight’s fascinating and so-soulful rendition of the mid-tempo When Somebody Loves You (You’re Never Alone) (’67).  Other highlights include the waltz-time Lover Boy (’65) by Carolyn Crawford, the soft and sensual Till Johnny Comes (’66) by Brenda Holloway, a big-voiced blaster inventively titled Dance Yeah Dance (’63) by Thelma Brown and two snappy and steady stompers, You’ll Never Cherish a Love So True (‘Til You Lose It; ‘62) by the Vells - aka the Vandellas - and Let Love Live (a Little Bit Longer; ‘65) by the Velvelettes.

  I was also drawn to the last four tracks, which to a degree deviate from Motown’s standard sound.  Admittedly, Anita Knorl’s If Wishes Came True (’63) still sticks to the basic concept, and on this sweet and mellow song she sounds like Mary Wells, only more delicate and fragile, but Linda Griner’s So Let Them Laugh at Me (’63) takes us away from Snakepit into a peaceful lounge atmosphere.  Liz LandsI Gotta Right to Sing the Blues (’63) penetrates deeper into jazz, whereas Kim Weston’s version of the standard It’s Too Soon to Know (’64) is unashamedly sentimental and bloomy with strings and a heavenly choir.

  Finders Keepers is an essential purchase for Motown aficionados, but it offers interesting listening moments for a common music consumer, too.


  Making a Good Thing Better/The Complete Westbound Singles 1970-76 (Ace/Westbound, CDSEWD 152; 26 tracks, 76 min.; liners by Tony Rounce) gives us sides from twelve singles plus two short radio ads from Denise’s Westbound stint.  She wrote or co-wrote as many as eighteen of these songs.  Denise: “ I was writing poems, they would come to me with melodies.  I started to put them on tape.  I had nobody to play music, and I’m not a musician, but finally, as I was working as a barmaid in one lounge, a recording artist with Sun Records, Billy ‘the Kid’ Emerson came in.  I asked him, how could I get a song published, and he said ‘if you can sing it, I’ll play and tape it and I can get it published for you’.  So we took it to Chess Records, they liked the song and signed a contract with me.”

  Denise had five singles released on Tarpon, Chess, Crajon and Parka, before the uptempo Hung Up, Strung Out appeared on Westbound.  However, it was the second Westbound single that became a smash.  A self-written, light bouncer called Trapped by a Thing Called Love (# 1 – soul / # 13 – hot, in Billboard) sold gold and is still the biggest record in Denise’s career.  She has even re-recorded it a couple of times.  “It’s a great song.  Trapped by a Thing Called Love is a never-ending smash hit record, and the public will never let me live it down.  My fans want it continuously and I couldn’t give them the Westbound, because they didn’t issue it anymore, so I had to go in and record it again.  So, when I recorded it in ’79, I did a long 15-16-minute version with a long rap on it with the medley, and they ate that up.  Then ABC went out of business, and they couldn’t reissue it, you couldn’t find it anywhere.  So I’m with Malaco, and the public won’t let me live it down, so I had to cut it again, and it sold third time all over again.”

  Two thirds of Denise’s 70s Westbound single sides were up- or mid-tempo tracks, rather than ballads.  Among dancers and funky numbers the biggest hits were Now Run and Tell that (# 3-soul / # 46-hot, in 1972) and Man Sized Job (# 4 / # 55, in ’72), but two catchy, even poppy ditties named We’ve Got Love (the Good Part About It) (’74) and My Brand On You (# 55 / -; in ’75) – although lighter – should make your toes tap, too.  Add to that still John Footman’s melodic song, What Am I Doing Wrong (’73).

   The most touching and soulful down-tempo numbers are I’m over You (’72), Don’t Nobody Live Here (by the Name of Fool) (# 67 / # -; in 1973), Trying to Forget (’74) and a powerful infidelity story named Married, But Not to Each Other (# 16 / # 102; 1976).  Those last three songs were on Denise’s third and final Westbound album.  “Westbound was great except for the last year.  I did three good albums with Westbound, but things fell apart on the last album.  Here I Am Again (’75) should have been a big album – as a matter of fact, the song, Here I Am Again, should have been a big record for me.”  Here I wholeheartedly agree.  Here I Am Again is a great, tuneful floater and simply one of the best songs in Denise’s career.

  “That fell apart, because we had lost our distributor.  Something happened between the distributor and the record company, like somebody was mad at somebody, and they didn’t push the record.  So we lost the album. Then Westbound was sort of at a stand-still trying to get their money from this company (20th Century) and not able to move on forward.  I sat there for almost two years with no album and no nothing.  I’m sitting there going crazy, because I was ready to go to the studio and I needed to cut another album.  So, in 1976, when my contract was up, I moved to ABC Records.”

  I thoroughly enjoyed this compilation.  During this period Denise had most of her sessions in Memphis, but six of the songs released in 1974 and ’75 were cut in Muscle Shoals and two in Detroit (Here I Am Again and Married, But Not to Each Other).  (Denise’s comments are from my feature in our printed paper # 5/93).


  I just love Millie Jackson.  She was my favourite chanteuse in the 70s alongside Gladys Knight, and I even had a chance to briefly meet Millie here in Finland in the 90s.  She can deliver gritty, funky material, not to mention raunchy and funny stuff, but for me her forte is slow and passionate songs, often with a touch of country.  Now Sean Hampsey has compiled a delicious CD entitled The Moods of Millie Jackson/Her Best Ballads (Kent, CDKEND 391; 20 tracks, 75 min.), which gathers up tracks from ten out of Millie’s eighteen Spring albums and covers the years 1971-1982.

  Early personal highlights include the thought-provoking A Child of God (It’s Hard to Believe) and a strong delivery of desperation, I Just Can’t Stand It, from her first self-titled album.  Millie had cut her first single for MGM in 1969, but A Child of God was the first one to chart (# 22-soul, # 102-hot in Billboard) in 1971.

  Phillip Mitchell’s Hurts So Good and Billy NicholsGood to the Very Last Drop were released two years later.  It Hurts So Good (# 3 / # 24) was a movie song from Cleopatra Jones, and for Millie it also meant the start of a ten-year plus partnership with the producer Brad Shapiro.  Millie: “They brought him in, because they were tired of the (earlier) Motown sound and I was tired of it, too.  So they brought him in to try and get more soulful sound.  It was between him and Don Davis.  It was a matter of one produced Johnnie Taylor and the other one Wilson Pickett, so I said ‘well, either one of those could produce me’, so they chose Brad.”

  After a powerful beat-ballad called How Do You Feel the Morning After (# 11 / # 77; in 1974), we come across Millie’s first real concept album, Caught Up, in 1974.  Cut in Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, the album eventually went gold, and it yielded one mid-sized single hit, an impassioned version of Luther Ingram’s epic hit more than two years earlier, If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right (# 42 / # 42)... with a long, milliesque rap.  “I’ve never had a gold single in America.  The album sold so much.  At that time I picked up a story line, and it didn’t make sense to just go by singles, because you didn’t get the full story.  They wanted the album, so the album went gold in six weeks.”  The two other samples from that album are I’m Tired of Hiding (co-written by Phillip Mitchell) and a poignant reading of Bobby Womack’s I’m Through Trying to Prove My Love to You (# 58 / # -).

  An equally impressive follow-up album, Still Caught Up, in 1975 also crossed the half million mark. “Eventually, but it wasn’t certified.  Feelin’ Bitchy (’77) is the biggest is the biggest album I’ve ever had and Get It Out’cha System (’78) went gold also.”  The wonderful, country-tinged Loving Arms (# 45 / # -) is one of the three tracks from Still Caught Up on this CD.  The song has been recorded by numerous artists throughout the years, and it turned into a small hit for Dobie Gray in 1973.  It was written by Tom Jans, who’s a recording artist in his own right, too, and who died of a drug overdose in 1984 at the age of 36.  For me, however, nothing beats Millie’s version.

  Two commercially let-down albums followed, Free and in Love (’76) and Lovingly Yours (’77).  “Reverend Jesse Jackson and Bush got involved with the music industry.  They were saying that profanity on records was destroying our children.  Record companies were afraid to release these records with profanity in it... We kept watering and watering it down until we ended up with Lovingly Yours, which was a total bum.  Then I just said ‘no, you’re not gonna hear what I’m doing’.  I went into the studio and recorded Feelin’ Bitchy and said ‘if you don’t like it, to hell with it, tear up the contract’.  Needless to say, when I did that I ended up with my biggest album I ever had (# 4 / # 34 - 38 and 23 weeks on charts, respectively).  So after that they didn’t bother me too much.”

  This Moods CD offers one song from Feelin’ Bitchy (’77), which is also my favourite album in Millie’s output.  That song is a convincing cover of Hot’s golden hit, Angel in Your Arms, from the same year.  Sam Dees’ beautiful Special Occasion (# 51 / # -) is the most noteworthy song among the rest of the tracks from later years.

  To pick up the best ballads from Millie’s vast repertoire is difficult and always comes down to personal taste.  Instead of some of the songs here, I would have included – and note: this is a personal opinion! – a couple of Latimore’s songs, All the Way Lover and Keep the Home Fire Burnin’, perhaps a cover of Didn’t I Blow Your Mind with an appetizing rap leading into the Delfonics song, but definitely two country-soul gems, If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday and Sweet Music Man.  But although I bought each and every Millie record right after it was released and still have them all, I cherish this wonderful compilation, introducing deep and highly emotional soul music with good songs and rich orchestration.  (; Millie’s comments are from my feature in our printed paper # 6/93).


  I particularly bought this CD, Caston & Majors (, CDBBR 0217; 17 tracks, close to 80 min.; liners by J Matthew Cobb), because practically I didn’t know anything about this duo.  Now after listening to it patiently and repeatedly, I realise that I really haven’t missed anything.

  Leonard Caston, besides being a member of the Radiants in the 60s, is known as a songwriter for Chess and Motown.  Carolyn Majors comes from Detroit’s gospel circles, and the twosome started working together in L.A. in the early 70s and eventually also got married.  This CD re-introduces their 1974 Motown album (8 tracks) and the presumable follow-up (9 tracks), which stayed in the can.  The album and the three U.K.-only singles from it made some small waves in Britain, but in the States the album went unnoticed.

  The music really is a hotchpotch of West Coast hippie-infused pop music of the late 60s (Child of Love), pompous show tunes (There’s Fear), even “Abba” sound (Say You Love Me True).  On the released album the least experimental and the most enjoyable tracks are a quick-tempo melodic floater called I’ll Keep My Light in My Window and a gospel-meets-Motown stormer named Everything Is All Right Now.

  Among the unearthed tracks What About the Price is gospel-disco á la the Mighty Clouds of Joy, and alongside one operatic hymn (Don’t Let), one down-tempo hallucination (I’m Flying Your Sky) and pure pop (I’ve Got to Fly), there’s one nice love ballad (Carolyn Ann) and one decent driving dancer (We’re Together).

  This music is of acquired taste, and I’m really amazed at the cult status this album holds.  For me the closest comparison in music is Rotary Connection, and with the exception of Carolyn’s vocal parts here and there this has nothing to do with soul music.  Although the album has spiritual leaning, I’d say that the fans of psychedelic Hair might enjoy this.


  This is just to notify that Charles Williams’ LP, Love Is a Special Thing (ROK-120;, which was first released in Finland on EMI in 1975, has now been re-released on CD.  Surprisingly, there seems to be and has been a big demand for this album.

  This high-voiced singer was born in Georgia, worked in different bands in the USA, moved to Finland for 1974-78 and is now, at 61, back in California.  His smooth and sweet music and sensitive style are influenced by Marvin Gaye, Barry White and – in his own words – Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Out of all names, I’d still like to add Leonard Cohen; just listen to the melody and arrangement of Reason to Make You Smile.  Tracks were mostly cut in California, Stockholm and Helsinki, and the two bonus tracks introduce his rare ’76 single, too.

© Heikki Suosalo

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