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DEEP # 3/2008 (June 2008)

  Again a lot of remarkable retrospective compilations have been issued in recent months, but let’s start with new music anyway, since there are some quite enjoyable discs on offer in that sector, too.  My latest interviews were conducted with Solomon Burke, Gerald Alston, L.J. Reynolds and Bryan Austin.  From the vaults we dug up earlier features on Rue Davis, Leon McMullen, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Hardway Connection and a couple of comments from Tommy Tate and his discography.

Content and quick links:

Solomon Burke
Gerald Alston
L.J. Reynolds
Bryan Austin

New CD release reviews:
Solomon Burke: Like a Fire
Al Green: Lay It Down
Rue Davis: Return of the Legend
Lee Shot Williams: Shot From the Soul
Cicero Blake: It’s You I Need
Gerald Alston: Sings Sam Cooke
Freddie Hughes: I Know It’s Hard But It’s Fair
Leon McMullen: Can I Take You Out Tonight
Nellie "Tiger" Travis: I’m a Woman
Big Cynthia: Don’t Hate
Hardway Connection: Southern Soul Rumpin
The Rhythm All-Stars
L.J. Reynolds: The Message
Dionne Warwick: Why We Sing
Bryan Austin: Realizing the Dream

Reissue/compilation CD reviews:
Tommy Tate: Hold On
C.L. Blast: Lay Another Log on Fire
Mary Gresham: CD Voice from the Shadows
Linda Hopkins: Rock and Roll Blues
Brooks O'Dell: I Am Your Man/The Anthology 1963-1972
The Ovations: One in a Million/The XL and Sounds of Memphis Recordings
Swamp Dogg: Blame It On The Dogg
Various Artists: The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time Is on my Side 1953-2003
Various Artists: Philadelphia Soul Rarities


  Solomon ( seems to come up with a new and musically different CD in approximately every two years these days.  After his Grammy-winning Don’t Give up on Me on Fat Possum in 2002, he released Make Do with What You Got (in early 2005) and Nashville (in late 2006) on Shout! Factory, and now in June this year we’re rewarded with Like a Fire ( 826663-10846).

  Solomon: “The Nashville CD is still very strong for us, especially in Europe.  It was the first full country album that we’ve ever done.  I wanted to do more, but I thought I should just let that be and go on to something else.  I had all these great writers available to me, and I wanted to take a chance and start another journey.  This new album is just a completely different story.”

  Recorded in Los Angeles, Solomon is backed up basically by a rhythm section only – Danny Kortchmar and Dean Parks on guitar, Larry Taylor on bass and Steve Jordan on drums and percussion.  “I thought it was important to get the songs through and to hear directly the message in the songs.  When we get on stage, we can add horns and strings and whatever we need to add to bring it full circle.  The most important thing is to get it out like it is, to bring it out raw, just to be as natural as possible… to bring out the songs and to bring out the lyric and the message of the song.”

  “Steve Jordan was the main producer, but, of course, Shawn Amos is always going to have his hand over there.  My daughter Candy Burke and Jane Vickers are there as my associate producers.  This was just an incredible situation, where Steve – who’s such a great drummer, such an incredible musician – just said ‘let’s get the beats going and we worry about the rest of it’.  That’s what we did.  We worked on the beat, we worked on the rhythm, and working on the measure of the song and the story of the song…  We hooked up with Steve from a couple of concerts we did.  Shawn went after him, and we were lucky enough to get him to come and do this album.”  A producer, a writer and an artist himself, Shawn Amos worked earlier as Vice President at Shout! Factory, and today he’s the Vice President at GetBack Media, Inc.

  The opener, Like a Fire, features also cellos on the track.  Written by Eric Clapton, the song is a mid-tempo, intimate opus that draws a lot from Southern folk-rock tradition.  “Eric Clapton – he is the man!  He’s not only a songwriter and a musician, he’s a friend.  When someone like Eric Clapton says ‘I got a song for you’, sends it to you and then turns around and says ‘you know what, I’ve got another one in my heart, but all I’ve got is music and an idea – you finish it’! – that was a mind-blower, and that song was Thank You.”

  Thank You is a slowish, country-tinged swayer, and here Solomon even does a short Louis Armstrong impression.  “I thought I could sneak that over in there.  I love Louis Armstrong and I’ve always wanted to keep the memory of Louis in the hearts and minds of people, let people know that his spirit still lives.  The music must never die.  It’s important that we keep the music going, because that’s the salvation of this whole business.  That’s something special that lives within us on a daily basis.”

  Keb’ Mo’ co-wrote We Don’t Need It, a laid-back country-rock song with touching lyrics, and he also plays acoustic guitar on it.  “Keb’ Mo’ is a great writer and a musician himself.  We were blessed to get all these guys together for a two-week period and complete this album in eight days here in Los Angeles.”

  The Fall is a poignant country-infused ballad and a convincing vocal performance from Solomon.  Rudy Copeland plays organ and Larry Goldings piano on the track.  “I saw the words and said ‘I have to record this song’.  Steve Jordan and his wife wrote the song, but the message in the song is so important.  It’s one lyric there that says ‘what do we save and what do we throw away’.  All the things we’ve put aside for our children and children’s children that we think will be important to them ten or fifteen years from now, you know, they don’t really want it.  The most important thing is to give them all the love we can, because material things don’t mean anything.  That’s what that song represents.  It’s a very moving, special message.”

  A rocky, big-voiced beater titled A Minute to Rest and a Second to Pray features its writer, Ben Harper.  “When you get a chance to listen to the Ben Harper song – which is happening today, which is the reality of right now – just turn your television on and you know exactly what that’s about.”

  Steve Jordan’s song, Ain’t That Something, is a mid-tempo, almost sing-along type of a jogger.  “You got to listen to it a few minutes and it’ll stick with you, and you find yourself humming it.”

  Jesse Harris recorded What Makes Me Think I Was Right himself five years ago and he plays acoustic guitar and David Paich organ on this re-work, which is actually a waltz.  “A little nice waltz doesn’t hurt you every now and then.  I thought it was a great song and I hope that he’ll be pleased with my version of it.”  Also the other Jesse song, the mid-paced You and Me, was originally cut by its writer last year.

  Understanding is a pleading, down-to-earth ballad.  “This also has a message for people to hear.  All of these songs were my choices, because I try my best to project the story-line and the message in these songs, because it’s my ministry – to sing songs of love and peace and hope and prophecy.  This album is a prophecy and a reality check for a lot of us.”

  The concluding song, If I Give My Heart to You, is a slightly jazzy, “lounge” version of a hit from fifty-four years back, which Nat “King” Cole also cut those days.  “Nat King Cole did it very well, with such love and such grace.  I kind of went with the old Doris Day feeling of it – and just natural, no orchestration, no nothing.  I didn’t want to try to sing it.  I just wanted to try to remember it.  What you have is just an open piano and a bass drum.”

  Solomon is also working on his next gospel CD, his first in nine years.  “The gospel CD is still in the works.  It’s going to be one of the greatest gospel CDs that I’ve ever done.  We’re taking our time.  We’re producing not only the CD, but also the DVD, the video of it, and I hope it’ll be ready for a September release.  I’m just finishing also an album with ‘the Dike’ (De Dijk), a group from the Netherlands, on Universal Records.”

  One thing I never forget to ask Mr. Burke is the state of his autobiography.  “The book is almost completed.  I think it’ll be finished this year.  We’ve stopped writing it, because every time we think we stop we always want to add something else, and my son told me last week ‘dad, seal it up and forget it.  Just stop.  Try to work on something else’.  So this year we should be finished with it.”

  For the full Solomon Burke discography please visit


  Just prior to the release of Like a Fire, Shout! Records out of the U.K. put out the sixteen sides from the nine singles that Solomon cut for Apollo Records in 1956 and ’57.  The CD is titled This Is It (, Shout 46; 16 tracks, 41 min.; liners by Clive Richardson), and most of these recordings have earlier been available only, either on the original early 60s Apollo album, or on the Mr. R&B album from ’87, or on a Japanese P-Vine CD six years ago.

  In mid-50s Solomon had a group called The Gospel Cavaliers, and one Sunday they were asked to perform on a program in Philadelphia.  The rest of the guys, however, didn’t want to go, because they wouldn’t be paid.  Solomon: “I was disappointed and I had no way to get there, because my bass player had a car.  He decided he didn’t want to go.  His mother had bought a television that night, and buying a television was a big thing.  Everybody was going to go to this house to watch tv.  As a matter of fact, the whole block was at his house to watch tv.  It was the only tv in the block.”

  Solomon managed to get to Philadelphia, where he sang The Old Ship of Zion.  “The next thing I knew, this lady was running up to me saying ‘you’re mine, you’re mine, all mine’, and I thought ‘my god, who is this lady’.”  The lady in question was Bess Berman, co-owner of Apollo, and she signed Solomon to her label in spite of the competition from Vee Jay, Duke and Savoy.

  On Solomon’s debut single there was a song he wrote for his grandmother just before she passed away, a mid-tempo inspirational holiday song called Christmas Presents.  It was coupled with a soft ballad titled I’m All Alone.  The single was released in early 1956.

  Solomon’s style those days was compared to that of Roy Hamilton, Billy Eckstine, Al Hibbler, Ivory Joe Hunter and even Harry Belafonte, and indeed you can hear echoes of those singers on some of his soft, romantic and even bluesy ballads, such as I’m in Love, To Thee, No Man Walks Alone, Walking in a Dream, I Need You Tonight, This Is It, For You and You Alone and Don’t Cry.  Solomon wrote or co-wrote many of those songs.  “I couldn’t write music or read music.  I just created songs on the spot.  I could just stand there and hum the music to the musicians, to like Sam “The Man” Taylor, Buddy Lucas and “Coatsville” Harris.”

  There was also a more rocking side to Solomon already at that point.  On his second single was an r&b jump named Why Do Me That Way.  “I did my first, what I call a blues song, for Apollo called Hey Baby, Why Do Me That Way, and to this day I have no idea, what I was saying or writing.  But the words came out and the rhythm came out and the band played it and we did it.  Mrs. Berman said ‘you think you can do that again’, and I said ‘no ma’am, because I don’t know that song’.”  Other uptempo ditties and shuffles included A Picture of You, You Are My One Love, They Always Say and My Heart Is a Chapel.

  A mellow spiritual called You Can Run but You Can’t Hide became the biggest seller for Solomon during his Apollo era, although it didn’t chart nationally.  The song was credited to Louis and Horton.  “At that time we had Joe Louis for one year travelling with us, introducing us all over the country with this song.  The song was not written by Joe Louis.  Mr. Bernstein and other writers wrote the song for me, and they used the title without the permission of Joe Louis’ agency.  We were sued by Mr. Louis.  His wife was his attorney and manager, and we had to relinquish the copyright to him.  The deal was that he would travel with me for one year and promote the record, and we would pay him to do that.”

  After these Apollo sides Solomon released two singles on Singular in 1960, but he returned to Apollo for one more single in 1961, under the guise of Little Vincent.  “My father’s name was Vincent.  My mother was Josephine.  I figured that if I can make a song by the name of Little Vincent, maybe I could just thank him.  My father was very special to me.  He was a very spiritual man.  He was a black rabbi, who would go to upper Pennsylvania and purchase chicken, turkeys and ducks.”  Those two Little Vincent sides (not included here) are Solomon’s blackest recordings on Apollo.  You Don’t Send Me Anymore is a bluesy ballad in a Ray Charles style, whereas the slow Always Together is closer to budding soul music.  There was also another single by Little Vincent (Honk, Honk, Honk), but that was an instrumental without any input from Solomon.

   It’s a delight to have these Solomon’s first recordings more widely available finally, and, by purchasing Like a Fire, too, you can hear how he sounds over fifty years later.


  Lay It Down ( 48449) was very skilfully launched with advance videos and articles about bringing the real deal back – reintroducing the hit-making 70s sound by integrating it with today’s music climate – but now that we finally have the CD here it must be admitted that the expectations were not completely over the top.  The set was produced by Al Green ( together with his main musicians on this album – James Poyser (keys), Ahmir Thompson (drums), Chalmers Alford (guitar) and Adam Blackstone (bass).  Those five also form the basic writing team for all the new songs and – what’s especially noteworthy – Brooklyn’s Dap Kings are on horns and Larry Gold orchestrated and conducted live strings on five tracks on the set.

  Anthony Hamilton is featured on the soft and smooth title slowie, although Al himself brings some edge to it with his inspired vocal performance.  The next four songs (Just For Me, You’ve Got the Love I Need, No One Like You, What More Do You Want From Me) are all melodic beat ballads – or at times closer to bouncing mid-pacers – and here you can’t avoid falling into nostalgia and thinking about Poppa Mitchell’s production work with Al over thirty years ago.  The intimate Stay with Me (By the Sea) – featuring John Legend – and the haunting All I Need are quite similar in structure to those four above.

  There are two very slow and sensitive songs, Too Much and Take Your Time, and on the latter one Corinne Bailey Rae is singing a duet with Al.  She’s also one of the co-writers.  So far the music has been burning on quiet fire and only on the two concluding songs the tempo picks up a bit.  Al’s own song, Standing in the Rain, is a good, gutsy way to finish the album.  On first hearings the CD may sound rather monotonous, but time will bring forth distinctions in melodies and make you appreciate this project even more.


  Still in 2005 Rue worked for Studio Showtime Recording Productions out of Houston, Texas, and released a CD titled For Real.  For that label Rue also produced the Superior Band and Lady Audrey) and even sang with her on a romantic slowie called I’ve Never Been Touched (originally cut for Kon-Kord in 2001).  Rue worked also with Little Buck - aka Floyd Green – on his I’mma Blues Man album and I’mma Stir It Up EP.  The tricky part is that on that Buck’s album Rue sings on six tracks out of thirteen – one is a duet with Little Buck (Singing the Blues with My Friend)  – and on that EP on as many as seven out of ten tracks on display.  So actually they are as much Rue’s as Buck’s recordings.  Of Rue’s contributions on those two CDs, I give my highest points to a soothing slowie called If You Don’t Love Him, although there’s nothing wrong with a pretty Christmas song titled Let’s Make This a Special Christmas, either.

  I talked to Rue for the first time in 1995 after the release of his You Are My Honey Poo CD.  If you wish to read about his early career, first single in 1980 and his consequent recordings and his comments on Honey Poo, you can do it here: Rue Davis interview from 1995

  Now Rue is working for Boom Town Records, again out of Houston, Texas.  Recorded at Carl’s Place, Return of the Legend was produced and all music performed by Carl Marshall, and, as you can guess, that’s where the main problem lies.  Rue has to sing to a poor, stripped-down machine backing, and especially the horn section imitations are terrible.

  Rue and Carl wrote all thirteen tunes, except three very familiar songs.  I never thought I’d hear a prolific writer like Rue singing Down Home Blues, but here it is.  It as much as opens the CD, and we even have the pleasure of listening to Carl’s rock guitar on the background.  Vocally A Change Is Gonna Come is worthwhile, but this song if any just cries for a decent orchestration.  Johnnie Taylor is one of Rue’s idols, so the choice of I Believe in You is understandable, and it really is a great song.  It has even become a hit for Rue.

  The rest of the songs are divided fifty/fifty – in this case five and five – between down-tempo and faster ones.  In the former category the melancholic I Promise, and among the up-tempo ones We Got to Stay Together, a Johnnie Taylor type of a lilter, are closest to the Rue Davis we’ve come to know during all these years.  There are better albums among his six preceding ones (


  As a singer I’ve always rated Henry Lee quite high, and I sincerely hope there’s a big Southern soul/blues hit waiting for him around the corner, still. His earlier achievements are documented at: Lee Shot Williams – (from Soul Express 3/1997).

  Shot From the Soul ( was produced by Charles Wilson with Jimmie Barnett (six tracks) and Floyd Hamberlin Jr. (four tracks), and the only living creatures Lee’s having backing him up is a guitar player and a background singer.

  The CD kicks off with a laid-back but brisk John Cummings mover named Country Woman, which is followed by a standard ‘weekend & let’s party’ beater called It’s Friday (Time to Get Paid), and all the party people have voted this song to be the first hit off Lee’s CD.  The two other uptempo cuts are blues romps by Travis Haddix (Sexy November and Catch You in the Truth).

  Among the four mid-pacers there’s a pleading cover of James Peterson’s melodic, story-line song titled Wrong Bed and a rework of Joe Tex’s clever Leaving You Dinner (1976).  There are still two down-tempo tracks on the set, and one of them, Dirt Road to Your Heart, was a big, positive surprise for me.  I’m not always very keen on Floyd Hamberlin’s work, but this touching soul ballad is a small masterpiece and it even has a quite skilfully constructed background.  Lee definitely needs more of these.  But even as such, this was a much better CD than I expected, and I hope it does well for Lee.


  It’s You I Need (, HP-1142) is supposedly produced and all songs written by Bob Jones and Cicero BlakeSenator Jones remixed and mastered, and this I believe.  If you’re looking for a listening pleasure, avoid this CD like plague.  The sound quality is rotten and distorted – on one track Cicero’s singing comes from one channel only, while the music plays on the other one.  We used to have that in the 60s sometimes.  On a couple of tracks it sounds as if it was a bootleg, illegally recorded in some juke joint.  Could some of these tracks be outtakes from the sessions a few years ago?  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to delve deeper in the history of these recordings.

  There’s nothing wrong with the songs, still less with the singer, of course.  The title track is a pleading soul ballad and Living Double is another impressive slowie.  Cicero’s rework of You’re So Good to Me is almost like a late-night, moody item, and as songs and performances the three bluesoul tracks – A Day Makes a Difference, Stranger in My House and Somewhere Private – are of accustomed standard.  The cover of the fast and melodic ditty titled How Can I Go On is also exciting.  But by today’s audio standards, this is a terrible CD.  There must be something wrong with its history.


  Gerald Alston has fulfilled his long-time dream and recorded a collection of songs written and made famous by his idol, Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke (Love Song Touring Co, Inc. 0193).  Gerald: “I’ve always had the idea, but I actually started doing it about six years ago.  Al Goodman from Ray, Goodman & Brown and myself, we were working in-between the times we were on the road, and we got Travis Milner to do the arrangements.  Travis at that time also played with Gerald Levert and Will Downing.  It took us that time to really finish it, because there were times we were gone for like six months.”  You can read complimentary notes from L.C. Cooke on the back cover of the CD.

  On You Send Me we approach the song from a new and exciting angle.  “We wanted to keep the melody, but give it a fresh arrangement, and Travis did a wonderful job on it.  It has sort of a jazz flavour, music that is cross jazz and r&b.”  On this and two other tracks the sax solo is provided by Gerald Albright.  “Gerald has played on all of my solo projects, starting from 1987.  That’s when I met him.  He and I have been friends ever since.”

  Sentimental Reasons also has a jazzy arrangement.  “We wanted to do something just a little different.  I had a chance to listen to all the arrangements, before we put them down.  Once we talked about where we were going with the arrangements, Travis just put it right there.”

  Only Sixteen is just a couple of sharp beats away from sounding funky.  The track features a live horn section as well as the light Wonderful World.  On Chain Gang the lead is shared by Gerald’s long-standing partner and bass voice extraordinaire, Winfred Blue Lovett, and together they form the core of the Manhattans (there’s also another line-up by that name performing today).  “It’s me and Blue, and we have two gentlemen that have worked with us for the past fourteen years.  It’s Troy May and David Tyson.  David’s brother, Ron Tyson, sings with the Temptations.”

  The joyous Cupid has a Caribbean feel to it.  “We wanted to try to touch everybody with this, to just give it a variety of flavours.  The fast and swinging Twistin’ the Night Away is followed by Bring It on Home to Me, with a few bars from Nothing Can Change This LoveLou Rawls, who sang with Sam on the original recording, is here replaced by another gentleman.  “On this one is my cousin and I.  His name is Edward “Dwight” Fields.  He was the first person I started singing with as a child.  He taught me about singing harmonies and group harmony.  His father, who’s now retired, used to sing with the Five Blind Boys of Alabama.  We all grew up together… around the Blind Boys, the Staple Singers, the Mighty Clouds, the Soul Stirrers, all of those gospel groups.  When we had the opportunity to record again, I got him to do this with me.  As a matter of fact, he’s singing backup on quite a few songs.”

  Gerald’s version of Having a Party is slower and softer than the original, and here Al Goodman is singing background.  “Al was a lot of help in putting this together, and he initially got me started with the recording.  We started out at Sugarhill studios, but unfortunately Sugarhill burned down, and we moved over.”

  On stage A Change Is Gonna Come is one Gerald’s show-stoppers and here his vocal delivery is as powerful as ever.  However, this song requires a full backing, and on this studio cut there’s only a guitar (Eban Brown), drums (Rodney Harrison) and machines backing him up.  “We didn’t have an access to strings and horns like we wanted to, so we put something together there.”  Luckily there’s also a stronger “Live in Kansas City” cut on the CD.  “On stage I have five musicians – two keyboards, bass, guitar and drums.”

  Also That’s Where It’s At offers an arrangement that differs from that we’ve grown accustomed to, and Good Times is set to a reggae beat.  “On the original Good Times by Sam Cooke I could hear the reggae feel in it.”

  Gerald names You Send Me, Wonderful World and A Change Is Gonna Come personal favourites on the set.  “So far the CD is selling pretty good.  I’ve been doing it myself.  I don’t have a distribution deal for it yet.”  You can purchase the CD at, and I recommend you to do so.

  Men Cry Too is a new CD by the Manhattans (, and it was released as a limited edition on Swamp Dogg’s S-D-E-G label (SDEG 1801).  Actually it’s a re-release of their great Even Now album five years earlier with a few additional tracks, which extends the playing time up till 79 minutes!

  “I got a phone call from Trevor Walker about doing a song on one of his artists, Screechy Dan.  That’s when we did The Shining Star – the rap, the reggae and the pop versions of it.  After we did it, it was supposed to be on his CD, but it wasn’t, so Trevor decided to put this back together and add one song and versions of Shorty, which actually is Shining Star.”

  The only new song, Men Cry Too, is a beautiful and melodic ballad, just like vintage Manhattans.  Written by Al Johnson, Walter I. Ray, Jr. and Walter Williams, Sr., Blue first does a short monologue before Gerald’s emotional and soulful delivery.  “We like it, because it’s true.  Most of the time in relationships when women get hurt, they cry.  It’s a perfect song to let people know that men hurt too, we have feelings and we cry.”

  There are many gems among the rest of the tracks – such as the beautiful Turn Out the Stars, Lover’s Lullaby, Even Now and a duet with Peggi Blu, Let’s Try Love – and if you like the Manhattans and don’t have the Even Now CD, Men Cry Too comes more than recommended.  “I would still like to thank all my fans for their many, many years of support of the group and myself as a solo artist.  We will continue as long as we can to bring our kind of music – love music, real songs, songs from the heart – to our fans.  We really appreciate them and we love them.”


  I Know It’s Hard But It’s Fair ( is Freddie’s third joint album with Chris Burns, his writing and producing partner and soul mate in music for the last fifteen years.  Recorded in California and featuring real live rhythm section, in the liner notes of the CD Lee Hildebrand tells shortly about Freddie’s musical history.  You’ll find more about Freddie still at

  The set opens with the title song, a mid-tempo, swinging swayer, which comes from the “5” Royales repertoire, as well as another mover, Think (’57).  Johnnie Taylor is also covered on two songs, a gravely and unpolished version of What About My Love (’82) and a slowed-down interpretation of Ain’t That Lovin’ You (For More Reasons Than One), which Luther Ingram turned into a hit in 1970, three years after Johnnie’s original recording.

  Little Willie John and his music are remembered on the real slow and intimate Suffering with the Blues and on the rolling Heartbreak It’s Hurting Me, but that’s not all that has been borrowed.  The light and lilting Gypsy Woman (Curtis Mayfield) shows that the 64-year-old Freddie has occasionally problems with high notes, Frankie and Johnny (Sam Cooke) is an energetic duet with Gilda Carlos and the longest (7:16) and the most intense cut on the CD is a rework of Little Blue Bird (Little Milton).

Freddie himself wrote a slow blues titled I Know I Need Someone, and his other slow blues song, Broke & Hungry, appeared already on his The Future Is Now CD in 2002.  I think this CD will be more popular among blues folks than soul fans.  Actually Freddie himself tells that he was converted to the blues only in the early 90s. My own number one favourite by Freddie still is his deep rework of Send My Baby Back on Hatties in 1989.


  My top album of the year in 2005 was Leon McMullen’s debut, A Few Words.  At that point I also talked to Leon, and you can read his comments about that CD and his earlier career here.  His follow-up, Can I Take You Out Tonight ( 30018-2), comes out of Birmingham, Alabama, and it was produced by Leon together with Jimmy Underwood, and they also wrote all the songs except the slow and atmospheric Chuck Strong song, Let’s Be Together.

  Leon had real instruments on his first CD, and he for the most part he sticks to his principles here, but the budget seemingly allowed only “cheap horns” this time.  Midnight Rendezvous is one of those dancers we use to refer as “Tyrone” ones, but the mid-tempo Don’t You Wanna Party with Me is a slightly jazzy jam, and another mid-tempo song, My Baby’s on the Phone, has an interesting arrangement, too.  So Leon doesn’t take the easiest road in southern soul music.

  Majority of the program is slow songs.  Among them there are the sensitive and soulful We Belong Together, the blues-inclined Thank You Baby, the pre-sex duet called Sexy Lady, Sexy Man and the darkish After This Night Is Gone, which takes us into the Bobby Bland and Geater Davis territories.  This new CD is almost on a par with Just a Few Words.  It doesn’t seek for easy musical solutions, but brings exciting new elements to Southern soul.  And Leon, of course, is a magnificent soulful singer.


With the exception of two tracks, Nellie’s new CD, I’m a Woman (CDS Records), was completely produced by Floyd Hamberlin Jr.  Nellie herself is responsible for the slow Amnesia, which is actually lifted off from her 2000 CD, I Got It Like That.  A duet with the great Stan Mosley, Who Knows you, is a rousing, impressive deepie, and that particular track was produced by Rick Lucas and Bob Jones.  Nellie’s previous CD in 2005, Wanna Be with You, was produced by Floyd, too, and at that point I talked to Nellie about that album and her past career.

  Backed again only by a guitar and background vocalists, I’m a Woman  starts off with the title track, a fluid mid-tempo mover, which is very easy on the ear, but the problem is that – with the exception of a couple of breaks – we’re offered one long chain of similar party tracks.  One break comes with a hurting ballad called Don’t Talk to Me and another one with a poignant slowie titled Running on Empty. Floyd is good at these, so why not more?  It would increase variety and give beneficial breathers (


  I think Don’t Hate (, HE-2308) is this Junior Walker’s daughter’s fourth album.  All songs (except Feel like Breaking up Somebody’s Home) were written by Cynthia Walker and Don Hearon, and, although backed by machines, this shoutress makes sure it’s her loud voice that dominates the record.

  Old school Southern soul fans experience a shock start on Big Cynthia Gonna Break It up, which is a beater with rap passages, and there’s no relief on the next big-voiced boomer, I Came to Party, either.  On a mid-tempo swayer titled I Didn’t Lie, I Just Didn’t Tell it All Cynthia refers to her godmother, Denise LaSalle, and, indeed, the song could be a part of Denise’s repertoire.  Another mid-pacer, I’m Gonna Do Me before I Do You, is the most restrained performance on the CD, and for some reason there are only two ballads this time (I’m a Lonely Woman and It Don’t Hurt Me like It Use To).  If you like your soul nuance-free and blasting, try Big Cynthia (


  I first talked to one of the lead singers of Hardway Connection, Mr. Robert Owens, in 1999, when their It Must Be Love was released.  We’re glad to reproduce here that interview , which reveals that the roots of the group go back as far as to the early 80s.  Now that their 5th CD, Southern Soul Rumpin, has been released, this self-contained group still has all of their three main leads – Toni Love, Jerome MacKall and Robert – in the line-up.  Horns are synthetical, but the rest of the instrumentation is more or less genuine.

  I’ve always liked this group’s music.  It’s pleasant, laid-back and entertaining with occasional dips deeper.  The uptempo songs on this set – the title song, Dirty O Man and Eyes on You – are all melodic and easy.  The two last ones were produced by William Bell, Robert Owens and Reginald Jones, the rest ones are by Robert and Ray Tilkens.

  Among the nine songs there are still two mid-tempo ditties (Talk to Me and Dance with Me) and four slow songs.  Toni Love excels at the cover of the standard At Last and Robert and Toni do a good job on the inspirational and sincere Belle, which Al Green turned into a hit in 1977.  This is simple and well-performed music for you to enjoy.


  The self-titled The Rhythm All-Stars (Silk Records) is a debut album by a self-contained sextet out of Florida.  The line-up includes Stuart Redd (lead guitar), Joey Shaling (rhythm guitar), Chuck Ledford (keys), Eric Lampley (bass), Greg “Sticks” McCray (drums) and – surprise, surprise! – Geoff McBride on lead vocals.  That means we can enjoy real instruments throughout (except horns and strings), and we, of course, remember Geoff’s gruff, soulful vocals already from his early 90s Arista recordings.

  With the exception of the laid-back, mid-tempo Tic Toc (by Nile Rodgers, Jimmie Vaughn and Jerry Williams) and the even more familiar What You Won’t Do for Love (by Bobby Caldwell and Alfons Kettner), all the songs were written by the group and also produced by them – by “Sticks”, for the most part.

  Stuck, a soulful and gentle mid-tempo floater, has been out as a taster for awhile now, and in the same category She Is Powerful is even more catchy and melodic ditty.  Three good ballads deserve a special mention still – the emotional I’ll Work for you (another single), the late-night Hold Me and the yearning Come Back Home.  This CD is an impressive debut and a welcome return to Mr. McBride.

  All of those Southern soul indies above can be purchased at



  The Message (Crystal Rose Records, CRD 0977; is Larry Reynolds’ second gospel album after his magnificent self-titled set on Bellmark in 1991, which was re-released with one extra song on it on Da Pit Bull Kat in 2006 (check out L.J.’s discography as a part of The Dramatics Discography).

  L.J.: “Gospel music has always been a passion of mine.  R&b music is my job and my livelihood and it supports my family.  Gospel music supports my spiritual concept and my faith.  The first album didn’t do so well, but this second one is doing great.”

  The Message was released on Crystal Rose Records out of Detroit, Michigan.  “This is one of my best friends in this business, Brian Spears.  He used to work for Don Davis.  Brian has had several gospel artists within the last 15-20 years.  He’s done the Clark Sisters, Thomas Whitfield and the Whitfield Company… and now his good buddy, L.J. Reynolds.  The company is maybe 10-15 years old.”

  L.J. wrote or co-wrote six songs out of the eleven on the set, and he, Michael Mindingall and Michael J. Powell are the main producers.  “Michael Powell is a part of Crystal Rose Records.  Also he’s a good friend of mine, and he understands my talent.  He understands my approach to the music industry and my willingness not to give up.  I guess he just sees that I’m very, very positive of about what I’m trying to do and put together, and he decided that he would come in and co-produce this project with me along with Mike Mindingall.”

  “Mike Mindingall is a musician here out of Detroit that has worked with a lot of artists, both in gospel music, and r&b.  Mike is also a good songwriter and a good producer, so I thought that if I approached and used two of some of the best in the country – along with what I know – I would come up with something pretty spectacular.”

  Most of the songs are graced by real instruments – live drums, bass, guitar, organ; even live horns on three tracks – but machines are sneaked in here and there, too.  “You just have a certain feeling as a producer and as an artist of what the song needs.  I go by what my feelings are, and basically I’m usually right about it, because you have a sense of what songs need horns and you have a sense of what songs don’t.  You have a sense of what songs need a keyboard horn, so you just go by your first impression, and if that doesn’t seem to work, you take it off and do something else.”

  The CD sets off with the fast and fierce Do It for Me (written by Carlton Jenkins).  “It is a new song.  I don’t only sing the lead to the song, but I also sing the background.”  A Set Time is a fascinating mid-tempo song, and here L.J. is singing with LaTonya Terry Reynolds.  “Kayla Parker, who wrote the song, is a young lady, who unfortunately died a little over year ago (at 35).  She wrote a lot of songs for the Winans and other gospel artists, and, even though I never had the opportunity to meet Kayla Parker, I was very excited about this song.  This song was brought to me by Brian Spears.  Originally it was recorded by Marvin Winans and Kayla Parker.  I took the song and didn’t listen to their version anymore.  I did some rewrite on the song, and I took my daughter, who’s singing that song with me.”  You’ll find Kayla’s and Marvin’s duet on the song on an album called A Set Time by Special Gift from 1996. (Kayla was one of the four members of the female group Special Gift, while Marvin was guesting on the album; ed. note)

  L.J. and Michael Mindingall wrote a pretty and soothing ballad called Sunday.  “I wrote about how much trouble there is in the world right now, and that all we need is a little bit more love.  And I also wrote about myself.  I had to sit down and think about all the bad things that I’ve done… but I’m so glad I made it through.  This song, Sunday, is very special to me.”

  So Good is an uptempo mover with a slightly contemporary touch to it.  “I’m singing again with my daughter, LaTonya Terry Reynolds.  I’m getting her ready for her career.  This is my first child.  This particular song was written by a guy named Curtiss Boone.  He’s a great songwriter.  This is the first opportunity that I had to work with Curtiss Boone.  It’s the type of song that, I guess, you can play on urban radio and on gospel radio, so I’m very excited about that song.”

  Malcolm Williams wrote a very slow and deep testimony named You Can Make It, and it is one of L.J.’s vocally most impressive moments on the set.  “This is the new single that’s been released.  This is the record that’s climbing the charts right now.  When I got this record, it had written on there ‘for Aretha Franklin’.  It was initially for her, but I’ve done one of Aretha’s songs before called Call Me.  So I took that record that was written in Aretha’s key, written for her and I applied Call Me things – like the high notes – to it, and it turns out to be a very great record.  I’m just getting a lot of response from it.”

  A Spoken Word by Pastor Don Wiggins, L.J.’s first cousin, precedes a wild beater titled Shout.  “Shout features three generations of my family – two of my sisters, three of my nieces, my daughter, two of my nephews and three of my grand-nieces.”  There’s even a rap by Marvin and Jeff Reynolds.  “A lot of gospel people ask me, how can you do them both?  How can you sing r&b and do gospel music?  God gave me this gift.  I’m not a pastor.  I’m not a preacher.  I’m a messenger.  So I’m delivering this message with passion and sincerity.”

  Co-produced by Sanchez Harley, We Need a Word from the Lord is a beautiful, country-tinged ballad.  “That song was written by Thomas Whitfield.  Again Brian Spears brought it to me, and it was such a beautiful song and there’s a great message in that song.  This record can cross a lot of boundaries.”

  Jesus Cares is a gentle slowie, which keeps on growing with the help of Sole after Soul choir, and it’s followed by a funky chant titled Spirit Will Make You…(Move).  “I took a piece from the Shout track and looped it, looped it, looped it and came with Spirit.  It’s a song about feeling good even when you’re feeling bad.  You can exercise yourself to good health.”

  Never Get Too Busy is a haunting slowie.  “Michael Mindingall wrote that.  The song was also on his gospel album (Praisestrumentals) on Crystal Rose Records, and I performed the record on his album.”  The slow and slightly experimental A Message in the Song rounds out another strong CD from L.J.  “At the end of that song we keep modulating in different keys.  It keeps getting higher and higher.  That is really the gospel warm-up.  That’s the way most gospel singers warm up their voices.  So I decided to use that warm-up part in it.  Michael Mindingall and me wrote the track, and I came up with the lyrics and the story about there’s a message in this song.  The message is to listen to the album, because in that song I speak about every song that’s on the album.”

  “It took me two and a half years to record this record.  I lost my mother in the process, so I got a lot of things in this record about my life, and even about yours and everybody else’s.” (

  We’ve been anxiously waiting for many years new material from the Dramatics, too.  “We’re currently working on a new album.  I had to stop working on it, because the Message has gotten out, and the response has been just so great.  Not that I will stop recording with the Dramatics, because, again, gospel music is my passion.  R&b music is my job.  I got a lot of people that depend on me to have to take care of their livelihood.  We’ve got a brand new record deal with Al Bell.  Myself and Al Bell have partnered up and we started a brand new label.  We’ve already recorded half the album.”


Dionne’s singing is rooted in gospel, more precisely in a family group called the Gospelaires, but among her dozens and dozens of albums Why We Sing ( 8122-79950-8) is only her second gospel set, after The Magic of Believing forty years ago.  Produced by Percy Bady, BeBe Winans, Damon Elliott, Teddy Harmon, Gregory G. Curtis and Dionne herself, almost on each cut we can enjoy live instruments.  Only on three tracks – two (I Lift My Heart and Show Me the Way) by Gregory Curtis – we have to do without them.  Liner notes are by David Nathan and Bill Carpenter.

  Battle Hymn of the Republic was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as BeBe Winans’ mid-tempo song, I’m Going Up, which even has BeBe singing on it.  BeBe’s worthy contributions continue on two beautiful ballads – With All My Heart and The World Needs Jesus – and each of those four songs is embraced by real strings and horns.

  Dionne’s son, Damon Elliott, produced six tracks – half of them with Teddy Harmon – and they were recorded both in New York, and in California.  Old Landmark and Rise, Shine and Give God the Glory are hand-clappers with additional vocal power from New Hope Baptist Church ChoirJesus Loves Me is a slow and beautiful song, and on Kirk Franklin’s Why We Sing there’s Dee Dee Warwick sharing the vocals.  For the intense The Lord Is My Shepherd Cissy Houston did the arrangement, and the concluding mid-tempo, almost poppy song is titled Seven.  It was composed by Dionne’s other son, David Elliott, and he also duets on it.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this classy CD.


  You can dream of many things.  You can dream of wealth and material things, but you can also dream of love and peace on earth.  Our “master dreamer”, Mr. Bryan Austin, has dreamed up his fifth CD titled Realizing the Dream (Art-Tist Records), and considering that it’s his third inspirational album in a row you can assume that his dreams and aims are more lofty and spiritual than those of only winning in lottery.  But I think he’s not against material things, either, especially in terms of selling this new CD.  And this album deserves to be heard and purchased.

  I talked to Bryan for the first time in 2000 right after the release of his Still Dreaming set, and if you wish to read about his early career and first recordings you can do it here.  The nine-track Realizing the Dream was recorded in Bryan’s home city, Kansas City.  Bryan: “I have a good friend by the name of Dan Smith, who owns a studio – excellent studio, excellent musician, excellent engineer.  As a matter of fact, I recorded my last two albums with him.”

  On the mid-tempo opener, Prayer of Realization, Bryan talks his way through a track created by his little cousin, Darryl “DAT” Taylor.  “It’s just a prayer.  On occasion, Darryl would record music for me and just allow me to write lyrics.”  The Anchor Holds is a beautiful melody written and first recorded (in 1995) by Ray Boltz, and on this track the background with a big choir is skilfully built.

  Battle Hymn of the Republic needs no introduction.  “On my website – – there’s a video performance of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which Nate Woodward arranged for what was called a Patriotic Sunday.  He and I reunited and decided to record it.  He’s playing all the instruments and I’m doing all the vocals, lead and background.”

  On an old negro spiritual called There Is a Balm in Gilead Bryan is backed up only by a piano player and a choir.  “The choir is from St. Paul United Methodist Church, out of Raymore, Missouri.  I sing a lot at the church, and the choir collaborated on this.  The piano player is Brenda Morris, and she plays for the choir.  I wanted to do a cappella version, but when we were rehearsing it I said ‘let’s keep the piano in’.”

  Wade in the Water IS pure a cappella.  “Wade in the Water is one that is heavily requested, so I just decided to go in and record it.  People just rave, when I sing it, and I also encourage people to clap.”  Another traditional song that derives from the 19th century, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, has only drums behind Bryan’s high tenor.  “Dan Smith did the drums, and it’s my own arrangement.”

  Lyrics by Bryan and music performed by Darryl “DAT” Taylor, a slow and atmospheric ballad titled Undeserving is set to an old school soul sound, whereas I Believe I Can Fly, one of Bryan’s show-stoppers, is a big ballad, not unlike The Anchor Holds.  The final song, another big ballad named Were You There, would be a highlight on any Bryan’s CD, and actually it appeared already on his previous album, Chosen for the Dream.  “The problem was that people would want to buy the song, but not being around Christmas time they wouldn’t want to buy a Christmas CD, so I put it on this one.”

  On weekends Bryan usually performs in churches and similar venues.  “Even my old school is wholesome, so on occasion I will still do an old school set.”  Besides the Battle Hymn, you can watch videos of I Believe I Can Fly and Were You There, too, on Bryan’s website.  “The Anchor Holds, Wade in the Water, I Believe I Can Fly, Undeserving and Were You There are the crowd favourites.  The Anchor Holds and Were You There have them spellbound.  Wade and Undeserving make them want to sing along.”

  I bet there’s the word ‘dream’ on Bryan’s next CD, too.  “I would like to thank all of those, who have supported my music.  I hope they will enjoy the new CD, and just continue to share this dream.”



  Tommy cut nine singles in the 60s and many tracks and demos that were first released more than ten years later on a Japanese Vivid Sound album called Hold On (in 1979).  The Tommy Tate discography, which first appeared in an 8-page feature in our printed paper # 3/2001, is now available online, too.  Subtitled “the Jackson sessions, rare and unreleased”, a CD called Hold On (Soulscape, SSCD 7010; 23 tracks, 64 min., 5 prev. unreleased; makes all those rare tracks more widely available.  Interesting and detailed liner notes are by Tim Whitsett.

  The set kicks off with Tommy’s 1966 version of Stand by Me, which is one of his finest vocal performances.  Backed by Tim’s Imperial Show Band, Tommy’s high soaring tenor just oozes soul.  Tim Whitsett: “We always had a great reaction, when we played that live.  We put that out for more or less for local consumption, because people around here wanted it.  We really didn’t expect to have a national hit, because it had only been a couple of years since Ben E. King had a hit with it.”

  Tommy’s final single with the Imperial Show Band was released on Musicor in 1968.  Where Did I Go? is a gloomy and almost psychedelic rock number, whereas The Whole World Is The Same is a poppy, sing-along type of a song.  Ilene Burns was supposed to release it on her Bang Records, but since against her wish Rick Hall didn’t produce the record, but Tim did, she lost interest.  Tim: “With Tommy we recorded a lot of things for Bang Records, but I don’t think any of those records ever came out.”

  In the late 60s Tommy and Tim worked at Malaco studios.  Tommy Tate: “I was a free agent then, so I saw no harm working for whomever I pleased.  Some of those demos were supposed to be for Bobby Bland, who mimics all my works.  On most of those songs – as I remember – I played bass, guitar, piano and did the backup vocals.”  Among the highlights from that period there’s a bluesy ballad called Friend of Mine.  Tommy: “Joe Lewis, a former disc-jockey, received credits on this song, because at the time I was acting as a ghost-writer.  Actually, Jerry Puckett and I wrote Friend of Mine.”

  My Wife is a poignant beat ballad.  Tommy: “That was written in the early stages of my marriage.”  Get It over Anyway is a preaching deepie, and Hold On (To what we’ve got) is a touching country-soul ballad, which James Carr recorded for Atlantic in 1971.  Tommy: “I just remember a lot of attention drawn to that song – and James Carr was popular then.”

  Those five demos that appear on this CD for the very first time don’t represent the best Tommy can offer, but still they are valuable inclusions.  The fast Cold and Lonely Man, the funky Solid, Straight and Sound, the rocky You’re Not to Blame, the laid-back So Hard to Let a Good Thing Go and the country-infused Something Good Going On show at least versatility in Tommy’s art.

  Chronologically the last recording on this set is a magnificent message song, almost like an Indian hymn, called Let Us Be Heard (A Prayer for Peace), which was released in 1970 on a small Jackson Sound label, owned by Julian Russell.  His wife Judith Russell wrote the song, and Tommy was reported to donate one half of his royalties to a “Let Us Be Heard Trust Fund” and the other half was used scholarships at Jackson State College.  The flip, Peace Is All I Need, is also a great, gospelly ballad.  Thanks to Garry J. Cape for the access to these gems again.


  As John Ridley writes in his liner notes, Clarence “Junior” Lewis cut his first single in 1955 and has since then appeared on numerous labels.  He took the common route of church-secular-church, and this CD captures him in his most popular worldly period from 1976 till 1984.  Produced and mostly written by Frederick Knight, the bulk of Lay another Log on the Fire (Soulscape, SSCD 7009; 20 tracks, 78 min.!) consists of C.L.’s two albums on Juana and Park Place, I Wanna Get Down (1980) and C.L. Blast (1984).

  The first two tracks, however, the funky Don’t Fight the Feelin’ and a soulful and beautiful ballad titled Hard to Get the Feelin’ Again, were produced by Sam Dees in 1976.  After Sam, Frederick composed for C.L. many melodic and lively disco dancers (Love Don’t Feel Like Love No More, Beautiful Lover, I’ve Got to Make It on My Own) – albeit some average ones, too – but it’s the soulful ballads where C.L. really excels at.  There are both beautiful and touching songs like Our Love Will Last and If I Could Feel That Old Feelin’ Again (first by Anita Ward), and more powerful and bluesy ones, such as Lay another Log on the Fire (influenced by Let’s Straighten It Out) and the single, 50/50 Love.

  The covers are also worthwhile, be it slowies like Share Your Love with Me, Drown in My Own Tears, Never Let Me Go, I Just Don’t Know, or a disco ditty made famous by the Controllers titled Let Me Entertain You.  This is a very soulful collection from a strong vocalist, and here even the disco dancers are musically creative and easy to listen to.


  Booklet to Voice from the Shadows (Soulscape 7008; 24 tracks, 70 min.; 20 prev. unreleased) has a very good feature on Mary with an interview by Garry J. Cape.  Subtitled “the story of a Muscle Shoals soul sister”, this disc can be divided into four parts.  First there are four single sides that were cut at Fame and released on Abet in ’68 and ’69.  Let’s Walk down the Street Together is a strong, gospelly deepie and a duet with Chuck Cooper as Chuck & Mariann.  “Mariann” is alone on the equally emotional flip called The Woman in Me.  The duo’s second recording was a fast stomper named Going through the Changes, and here you can’t help comparing the pair to Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson.  “Mariann” again is alone on the uptempo Motivation.

  Those singles were produced by Finley Duncan, as well as the next six demos Mary cut at Playground in 1969.  Those days she wrote or co-wrote many of her songs, and the most touching ones from this particular period are the slow and big-voiced Just Me and You, the deep Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) and the melodic and critical The Colour of Man.

  Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford produced the next eight songs, which were mostly written by Frank Johnson.  They were supposed to come out on an album on Sussex in 1974, but the company ran into financial problems.  We’re all aware of Frank’s reputation and talent as a writer, and here we can enjoy such ballads as Leaving Me, You’ve been Doing Wrong For So Long and I Want to be Loved, or such melodic mid-pacers as I’ll Never Let You Walk Alone and Sorry We Didn’t Make It.

  The final six songs are Mary’s demos for the Muscle Shoals Sound, produced by Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins and Jerry Weaver in 1976 and ’77.  They were mostly written by Mary and her brother, James Gresham, and besides two disco cuts there are also some deep and impressive ballads among them (Promises Are Not to Be Broken, His Love Can Be No Stronger, Stay There and Try to Be Strong and the tender We Are So in Love).  It’s amazing what hidden treasures you can still find in the vaults.


  It’s been awhile since music from the 50s has been reviewed in this column, but Linda Hopkins’ early recordings certainly deserve a paragraph or two.  Like in Mary Gresham’s case above, also Rock and Roll Blues (Shout 45; 20 tracks, 55 min.; liners by Clive Richardson) can be divided into four parts. 

  At the age of 25 in 1951 Linda recorded in Los Angeles and San Francisco eight tracks with Johnny Otis for Savoy, some of them self-written.  They were all big-voiced blues ballads, with a leaning to jazz.  Her next four recordings – cut in Los Angeles in 1953 and released on Forecast and Chrystalette – were all written by Leiber & Stoller, and among them was her fist jump tune, Get off My Wagon.

  In 1956 in Kansas City and New York she cut material for three singles on Federal, including two movers (My Loving Baby and Mama Needs Your Lovin’ Baby) and a rather conventional cover of Danny Boy – with the usual climax at the end, of course.  Her three New York recordings in 1957 were released on Atco, and this is also when she cut the fast rocking & rolling title tune.

  Linda is best known for her duets with Jackie Wilson in the early 60s (I Found Love and Shake a Hand charted) and her subsequent endless tours, revues and shows up to these days, but her rhythm & blues roots are often forgotten and that’s why this CD serves as a good reminder.


  The Philadelphia-born Brooks O’Dell is one of those great singers that’s barely known, and this 75-year-old gentleman prefers to keep to his privacy these days, so it was quite a feat from Tony Rounce to put together rather detailed liner notes from the scarce information there is on Brooks.  I Am Your Man/The Anthology 1963-1972 (Kent, CDKEND 296;; 26 tracks, 76 min., 9 previously unissued) is comprised of two musical phases.  First there are Brooks’ 60s singles on such labels as Gold, Bell, Columbia and Valentine, and then there are his early 70s sides that were supposed to come out on a Mankind album but remained mostly in the can.

  Highlights from the 60s era include a dramatic ’63 ballad called Watch Your Step, the only single that charted for Brooks (# 58-hot).  It was written by the young Kenny Gamble, Thom Bell and Luther Dixon, and Thom and Luther also composed I’m Your Man in 1964, a fine uptown ballad.  On Bell in 1965 they released a soulful big ballad with a rich orchestration titled You Better Make up Your Mind, which some regard as Brooks’ best record.

  The cover of It Hurts Me to My Heart is soft and slightly bluesy, whereas the fast Standing Tall represents a fuller and brisker sound.  Walkin’ in the Shadows of Love and Now You Are Gone are both melodic and smooth mid-pacers, while Nothing’s the Same without You is an old-fashioned ballad, which sounds much older than its release year (1968) indicates.

  It’s great to have that Swamp Dogg produced album finally released, simply because it offers irreplaceable music.  Most of these eleven songs were written or co-written by Jerry Williams Jr, and for the most part they are touching, soulful ballads – What’s So Wrong with You Loving Me, Everybody’s Friend Nobody’s Lover, (I Didn’t See the Smoke) Until the Fire Was gone and You Can Always Get It Where You Got It.  Fortunately they managed to release two splendid singles on Mankind in ’71 and ’72 – Predicament # 2 and Got to Travel On.  Had that album been released as scheduled, the hard soul fans today would praise it as a masterpiece.  A top-class compilation!


  The best Ovations expert, Martin Goggin, wrote the liners to One in a Million/The XL and Sounds of Memphis Recordings (Kent, CDKEND 294; 21 tracks, 68 min., 6 prev. unreleased), which concentrates on Louis Williams’, Nathan Lewis’ and Billy Young’s 70s recordings (1972 – ’78).  Besides single releases, there are also tracks from the two albums the group cut for Sounds of Memphis and MGM.

  Many of the songs were produced and written by Dan Greer, and there are plenty of beautiful and soulful slowies among them, such as I Can’t Be Satisfied, Take It from One Who Knows, I Can’t believe It’s Over and Touching Me, which was the group’s first hit in the 70s (on MGM in ’72; # 19-soul).  So Nice to Be Loved by You, written by the members of the group together with George Jackson, is almost a deepie.

  The group and it’s Sam Cooke sounding lead singer, Louis Williams, are still more better known for their poppy and melodic mid- and uptempo songs – One in a Million, Don’t Break Your Promise, Don’t Say You Love Me (If You Don’t Mean It), Pure Natural Love, Sweet Thing (also cut by its writer, George Jackson) and, of course, the Sam Cooke medley called Having a Party, which was the most popular single for the group in the 70s (’73 on MGM; # 7-soul) – all feel-good and danceable cuts.  This is both a soothing, and an uplifting CD.


  It’s more than likely that you recognize Swamp Dogg’s sound, when you hear it.  Singing is loud and big-voiced, orchestration is rich and full, beat is heavy and tempo is almost lingering.  Having said that, I must add that there are many exceptions to that generalization in Mr. Jerry Williams Jr.’s output, such as his two own recordings – a gentle ballad called Your Man and a fluid, string-laden mid-pacer titled Run Run Roadrunner – and Shu-Doo-Pa-Poo-Poop (Love Being Your Fool), a nice floater by Helen Curry.

  Those three are available on Blame It On The Dogg (Kent, CDKEND 293; 24 tracks, 76 min.!, 4 prev. unreleased; liners by Tony Rounce), which offers music that was produced and in many cases also written by Swamp Dogg during the ten-year period of 1967 – ’76.  Two big hits are included, Gene Pitney’s She’s a Heartbreaker and Inez & Charlie Foxx’s (1-2-3-4-5-6-7) Count the Days.  Deep soul aficionados, however, cherish Jerry’s early 70s work with Doris Duke, Sandra Phillips and Oscar Toney Jr., and that side of his music is represented here by He’s Gone by Patti La Belle & the Blue Belles and Plea # 3 (Is It True Boy?) by Eleanor Grant.  Other highlights on the CD include the mid-tempo On Your Way Home by C & the Shells, the fast The Other Woman by Eleanor Grant and the storming Rockin’ Your Baby Now by Eleanor Grant, again.

  This compilation also reveals that not all pairings with Swamp were musically compatible.  Tracks by Tommy Hunt, the Drifters, Z.Z. Hill, Arthur Conley and Ruth Brown here represent some of the weakest moments in each artist’s career.  Swamp’s style just didn’t suit the character of their music.  For some reason, most of the tracks on this compilation are uptempo ones, but still it exposes the many sides of Swamp Dogg (  Besides those mentioned above, you can also listen to Gary US Bonds, Little Charles & the Sidewinders, Kenny Carter, Slick ‘N’ the Family Brick, Obe Jessie & the Seeds of Freedom and Wolfmoon.


  After Leiber & Stoller, Goffin & King, Pomus & Shuman, Jack Nitzsche and Bert Berns it was only natural, and necessary, to release The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time Is on my Side 1953-2003 (Ace, CDCHD 1183; 24 tracks, 72 min.; liners by Mick Patrick), which concentrates on the music Jerry produced, wrote, arranged, conducted and played in the early and mid-60s.

  His first production was a 1953 doowop ballad called My Girl Awaits Me by the Castelles, and from there we jump into the early 60s, when Jerry worked with the Fabulous Four on a mid-tempo ditty named I’m Comin’ Home and the Majors on a poppy dancer titled A Wonderful Dream.

  His biggest smashes are included, of course: Stay with Me by Lorraine Ellison, Cry Baby by Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters and Pata Pata by Miriam Makeba.  Actually, I didn’t remember that Pata Pata was one of Jerry’s productions.  There are two more tracks from Garnet (As Long As I Have You and Thinkin’) and also samples from Jerry’s other protégé, Howard Tate, (You’re Lookin’ Good, Ain’t Got Nobody to Give It to, Get It While You Can from 2003). 

  Equally interesting are the original Good Lovin’ by the Olympics, the original Time Is on My Side by Kai Winding, the soulful You Got Just What You Asked For by Estelle Brown, the fast What’s It Gonna Be by Dusty Springfield and the deep You Don’t Know Nothing about Love by Carl Hall.  Other featured artists are Claudine Clark, Pat Thomas, Irma Thomas and Lou Cortney.  Move Me No Mountain by Dionne Warwick and Pretty Red Lips (Kiss My Blues Away) by Major Harris give the 70s touch to this compilation.


  All eighteen tracks were produced and arranged by Weldon A. McDougal III and, with the exception of one song (Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean), also written by him on Philadelphia Soul Rarities (Universal Love, UL 002; 74 min.; 13 prev. unreleased), covering the period from 1965 to the present.  In the liner notes Weldon and Andrew Demetriades tell the story of each song.

  There are many surprisingly strong songs on this record, such as a melodic ballad called There’s No More Beautiful Days by Jimmy Randolph, who sounds a lot like the late O.C. SmithNorman Harris, Ronnie Baker and Earl Young are playing on the track, and Linda Creed together with the Sweethearts of Soul sing on the background.  Sharon Paige, before her stint with Harold Melvin, shines on a dramatic ballad titled Rain, and the rework of Unbelievable by the Larks features fascinating neo-doowop sound.  Why Can’t You Be Nice to Me by the 3 P’s is actually a deep ballad, while Lou Gordon’s Sweet Memories represents more traditional and sweet Philly sound.

  Although there are a couple of funky and disco tracks that I’m not too crazy about, the good by far outweighs mediocre.  One interesting track is a mid-tempo song titled Loving You Is an Every Day Thing by a Southern soul man by the name of Joe Shamwell.  And let’s not forget Weldon’s own feel-good songs, a fiesta track called Brazilian Rock and a novelty titled You Know I Know.  This is both a historically, and musically valuable compilation, and the volume two is promised next year.


The Embers is a very popular 5-man group on the beach scene (, and the group and their producer, Charles Wallert, honour their music with real instruments, including live horns and strings. They also favour strong choirs with such singers as Lisa Fischer, Kevin Osborne, James “D Train” Williams and Tawatha Agee.

The Show Must Go On (, BLWR 1003) offers mainly poppy, smooth and melodic floaters and dancers, with a couple of pretty and sweet slowies thrown in.  The most soulful one is Not So Long Ago, a duet with LaTanya Hall.  Some of those tracks have appeared before on a previous Embers album.

Bernard is a high-tenor, west coast style vocalist, who sings soft pop & soul music.  Recorded in California and produced by Lew Laing and Bernard Stevenson, Kingdom of Love ( features some real instruments.  Bernad himself wrote all the songs, and although there are five nice dancers (Everybody is a good opener) and mid-pacers, it’s the atmospheric and late-night slowies that steal the show on this CD.  Your Love is the most beautiful serenade among them.

  Calvin Richardson, also tagged “the Soul Prince” or “the Prince of R&B” (, is another high-tenor vocalist, whose popularity is on the rise, but his contemporary urban style makes an old school supporter only feel uneasy.  The smooth When Love Comes (, SH 5773) is targeted at young r&b listeners, and they have already put Calvin firmly on the charts.

Heikki Suosalo

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