I decided to
call my old friend Oscar Toney, Jr., because his 80th
birthday is just round the corner. Other than that it’s the usual cavalcade of
reviews – mostly southern soul this time – with a few comments from Rue
Davis’ manager and from Lee Fields.
Love (BCO67-CD) is the second album by Lee Fields & the
Expressions for Big Crown Records out of Brooklyn, NY. The owners of the
label are Leon Michels and Danny Akalepse, and Leon produced this
set; not to mention that he also plays seven instruments on it. Altogether
there are five in the rhythm section, four on the horns, three on strings and
thirteen on background vocals, so a full sound is guaranteed. You can read
more about Lee’s earlier career at https://www.soulexpress.net/deep5_2012.htm.
This CD charted
almost immediately after its release in April, and deservedly so. It consists
mainly of slow material, but there are a couple of more pounding and throbbing mid-tempo
tracks such as Two Faces, which has changes in tempo, the big-voiced and
on the point of being funky Wake Up and the almost aggressive A
Promise Is a Promise. So far two tracks off this CD are shot for videos: the
title tune, which is a memorable and relaxed love song, and the dreamy You’re
What’s Needed in My Life.
include two stimulating ballads with big orchestration, Will I Get off Easy and
the inspirational God Is Real. Also the concluding ballad, the intense Don’t
Give up, takes us to church. Lee: “It’s only three writers of all
the songs: Lee Fields, Leon Michels, Toby Pazner. We felt, not only
should we make music for people who are in good health and also making known my
belief in The Higher Power.”
It took 2 ½
years after Special Night before this new CD hit the streets. “Although
it took only a few sessions, it spanned around six months before completed.”
One reason must have been Lee’s touring, because it seems that he’s on the road
all the time. “I love travelling so I don’t get tired. I look at life this
way: I’m gonna be resting long enough, soon enough. So I don’t have to worry
about rest. Trust me “it’s coming” ha ha ha. My wife and I vacation on
tours. She picks the cities she likes to see and during the day we shop and
sightsee. Much fun!”
I believe that
in Willie’s recording career Excellence (EndZone Ent.; www.willieclayton.net) is his album #
34, if we don’t count the two compilations that concentrate on his Pawn tracks
from the early 1970s. At least that’s how many Willie Clayton albums I have so
far. The set was produced and for the most part written by Willie and Chris
Forrest with some help from Jearmine Rayford, two musicians that Willie
used to work with already on The Crossroads of the Blues CD.
grittier material with a more pumping beat - Love Doctor, If It Ain’t One
Thing, Can We Slip Away and Drop Pop and Roll – there are many more
mellow and smoother mid-pacers. The soft We Belong Together features a
real live rhythm section,the memorable Sidepiece on the Side has
been out as a single for a couple of months by now and Love Games is a
downtempo numbers there are two romantic, Ron Isley type of bedroom
ballads – If You Want Me and Makeup Love – whereas singing in
high register and rock guitar on Broken Heart brings Prince to
your mind. Willie’s interpretation of the familiar I’d Rather Go Blind is
as soulful and intense as you can hope for, and again with a full backing. The
two bonus tracks – Ain’t No Way and Rocking Chair – have appeared
already on Willie’s earlier albums. We also have a cause for celebration,
since it was exactly 50 years ago, when Willie’s debut single, That’s What
My Daddy Did, was released on Duplex. The singer on the label was Willie
“Pee Wee” Clayton.
It looks like O.B.
Buchana’s success story has no end, especially considering that his latest
CD titled Face Down (ECD 1178; www.eckorecords.com) is topping the
southern soul charts again. We’re actually talking about O.B.’s 15th
new album since 2004 on John Ward’s Ecko Records out of Memphis.
With focus once
more on party music, the dancers with highest hit potential – for these ears,
at least - include the easily rolling I Need a Drink, the gritty and
funky title tune and the fast and bouncy Hot Doggin’ Cold Lovin’. The
laid-back and sunny Just Cruisin’ – written by John Cummings and
John Ward – is melodically too close to the Young Rascals’ 1967 gold hit
Groovin’ for comfort, although you could detect in it some elements from
Smokey Robinson’s (1979) Cruisin’ as well.
Till the Morning Light and My Baby Is a Sweet Thing are smooth
mid-tempo numbers, whereas the similar I’m Whipped Again is a duet with Pokey
Bear. To fulfil one genre quota, they’ve added Zydeco Lady, and if
you want to have musical SM with awful voice distortion you can listen to the Club
Mix of the same song. This time Aubles himself co-wrote only two songs and
one of them is the lone ballad on the set, the melancholy Outside Woman.
Here we have a
connection or transition, for which we have a beautiful name here in Finland.
We call it “the donkey bridge.” Here it goes: O.B. Buchana and Jaye Hammer are
close friends, they’ve toured together and they both record for Ecko, so
logically we now cross the bridge from O.B. to Jaye.
– aka Jaye Hammer – is a 37-year-old Mississippi native, who unfortunately
lost his sight a little over ten years ago, but is musically as active as
ever. Double Trouble (ECD 1177) is his sixth Ecko release since
Ward is the producer of the set and he’s also the most prolific co-writer along
with John Cummings, James Jackson and Raymond Moore. There are
three fast routine dancers with “hammering” beats - Groupie Girls, Buck
Jumpin Dance and Booty Slide - but I was more fascinated by two
smooth mid-tempo steppers: She’s My Baby Forever and the mellow We’re
Steppin out Tonight.
Half of the
songs are downtempo ones. There’s one bedroom ballad called Let Me
Hammerize you and one blues track titled Trouble Trouble, but the
ones that touched me most are a sentimental tribute to twenty artists, who have
passed on, named Blues Heaven, the swaying and melodic She’s Lovin Me
Crazy and the most soulful and beautiful of the lot, a sweet love song
titled Coming Home to You.
downloading Rue Davis’ latest CD, Back in the Day (Pure Soul),
I decided to call him in Houston, Texas, because the last time I talked to him
was when I wrote a feature on him (https://www.soulexpress.net/deep3_2014.htm#ruedavis) and that was
already five years ago. Ruben soon handed the phone over to his manager and
fiancée, Schrella Zavala, who answered to most of my questions.
Eight songs on
this new compilation derive from Rue’s 2003 CD called Dapp Daddy, and –
as you can read in the feature above – some William Woodard is credited
as the writer of these songs, although Rue actually composed them. Schrella:
“I was looking at his songs and noticed that most of these songs never were
published. They just put them on the album. The only one William Woodard
published was Dapp Daddy.” Luckily now we can re-listen to best songs
from that album, such as the gentle and smooth I’m so Glad, Just Ask Me, We
Were Taylor Made, Take Me Back to Farish St., a couple of grittier ones – 24
Hour Love, Let Me Lay You Down, Set You Free – and finally a touching
tribute to Johnnie Taylor called Johnny You Were Our Friend.
beautiful ballads on this new set have appeared on Rue’s earlier recordings: Special
comes from Juke Joint Blues and Perfect Combination from Sings
with his Friends. “People wanted to have a combination of love songs, like
for anniversaries and weddings.” They’ve also added two Rue’s latest singles,
a light and easy 2017 party dancer titled Midnight Snack and the
romantic Can I Sing You a Love Song from 2018.
In the feature
above Rue also openly tells about his health problems. Schrella: “When we got
together about four-five years ago, he had just had a stroke, but now he’s as
healthy as he can be. I’m having him on a diet, so he has somebody in his
corner” (laughing). Just a week ago Rue gave a concert in Laurel,
Mississippi. “After that we were in the studio and we did remakes of Can I
Sing You a Love Song. He added verses and changed his voice to sound like Sam
Cooke, and when they called Al Green’s name out, he changed his
voice to sound like Al Green. We’ll release that thing after a couple of
OSCAR TONEY JR.
One of my
biggest heroes in music turns 80 on May the 26th. Born in Selma, Alabama,
Oscar Toney Jr’s first spiritual group was called the Sensational
Melodies of Joy, which evolved into the secular Melodies. In 1957
he formed with his brothers, cousin and one outsider a five-member group called
the Valentines, which soon changed its name to the Searchers. Oscar,
however, never was a member of the Desperados, as stated in some sources.
Oscar: “The Desperados was Jo Jo Benson and his brother.” (You can read
Oscar’s complete history in our printed Soul Express # 4/1998).
unforgettable period with Bell Records in the 60s and with Capricorn and
Contempo in the 1970s (https://www.soulexpress.net/oscartoneyjr_discography.htm),
music business temporarily in the late 1970s for twenty years. “What put me
out of the music business was mismanagement. The only way I can stop the guy
that was managing me at the time from ripping me off is just to walk away from
These days Oscar
is living peacefully in Phenix City, Alabama, and is ready to come over and
sing for you, if any of you promoters are interested. “My wife (Carolyn) and I
are doing just fine. We’re hanging in there, but we’re blessed. I haven’t
retired completely. I still do part-time work, maybe about 24 hours a week.
I’m a security guard. I still do a lot of singing in church. People call on
me, when someone has passed away... and my wife wants you to know that I sing
for free” (laughing). (Interview conducted on May 13, 2019).