Front Page

The Best Tracks in 2008

CD Shop

Best Selling CDs

Book Store

New Releases

Forthcoming Releases

The latest printed issue

Back Issues

Serious Soul Chart

Quality Time Cream Cuts

Vintage Soul Top 20

Album of the Month

CD Reviews

Editorial Columns


Readers' Favourites



DEEP # 4/2010 (December)

  In the “current Southern soul” section I concentrate on the recent output from CDS Records, and in conjunction with that have a few words with Cicero Blake, too.  A lot of classic soul compilations are reviewed, and at the tail end of the column you’ll find my top-20 for this year.

Content and quick links:

Cicero Blake

New CD reviews:
Chuck Roberson: Deep South Southern Soul
Lee Shot Williams: The First Rule Of Cheating
Gregg A. Smith: Forever Young
Big G: Special Delivery
Carl Marshall: Love Who You Wanna Love
Charles Wilson: That Girl Belongs To Me
Bobby Conerly: The New Old School
Willie B: Hard Times
Queen Emily: Queen Emily
O.B. Buchana: That Thang Thang
Willie Clayton: The Voice

CD soul reissue albums or compilations:
Dee Dee Sharp: Happy ‘Bout The Whole Thing & What Color Is Love & Dee Dee
Bobby Sheen: Too Many To Fight
Evelyn "Champagne" King: Smooth Talk
Earth, Wind & Fire: Faces
Harold Melvin & the Blues Notes: Black & Blue
Pointer Sisters: Special Things
Pointer Sisters: So Exciting
Billy Ocean: Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)
King Curtis: Music For Dancing/The Twist

DVD reviews:
The O'Jays: 50th Anniversary Concert (DVD)

Book review:
Soul Discography


  I’m Satisfied (CDC 1036; is Cicero’s 7th album in his long and eventful career.  Produced by Carl Marshall, we can fortunately enjoy a real live rhythm section on these tracks.  Cicero: “Actually I met Carl through Stan Mosley, but I understood when I got with Dylann that Carl produced most of the stuff for the company.  Once they contacted me and decided that they wanted to sign me, I had to go to Houston, where Carl was at, in order to record.”  Dylann DeAnna is the head of CDS Records.

  The first cut, I Can’t Go On Mrs. Jones, is a swaying and pleasantly laid-back soul ballad.  “We expect that to be a big song.  That’s the one they’re really shooting at.”  It’s also this writer’s personal favourite on this set, and it was earlier cut by Willie West.

  Cicero covers three songs that have been successful for him in the past.  “My biggest song so far has been on a CD called Just One Of Those Things.  That whole CD was good, but there was one outstanding song called I’m Into Something, a tremendous hit.”  Another touching soul ballad from the past is Here Comes The Heartaches.  “I recorded that in the 60s, and we just redid it.”  The single came out on Tower in 1968.

  The third own cover is the bluesy Dip My Dipper from thirty-three years back.  The other two slow blues cuts – She Works The Night Shift (also by Willie West earlier) and It’s The Blues Uprising – are Cicero’s own favourites on this set along with I Can’t Go On Mrs. Jones.

  Among the mid-pacers on this CD there are I’m Satisfied, I Want Some More Of Your Love and the cover of You’re No Good, which frankly would have deserved a better instrumentation.  “The original version of it was by Betty Everett, then Little Milton and Linda Ronstadt recorded it.  There’s a DJ here in Chicago and he called me one day and said ‘why don’t you record that song’, and that’s how it got onto the CD.”

  The concluding song called In The Vibe Room/Let Jesus Lead You is a relaxed and almost a sing-along spiritual.  “Carl had what he called ‘the vibe room’, and he used to put some kind of gospel feel to some of the things he recorded.  Nothing was planned. We just came up with it.”

  “The only problem now really is getting the airplay.  I don’t know what has happened to radio.  For some reason they don’t want to play that kind of music anymore.  In southern states they still play your music, but in Chicago, Detroit and the rest of it, they won’t touch that kind of music, and I don’t know why.”


  The 2000s has been a decade of trials and tribulations for Cicero.  “Back in the year 2001 I was diagnosed with colon cancer, and I had a surgery for that... and chemo and all of that.  Then in 2003 they saw something on my liver.  Then I had a surgery for that and went through that chemo stuff again.  And then in 2004 I was involved in a very bad car accident, when I stayed in a hospital like five months and had both hips replaced.  So 2000s has been pretty rough on me.  I’m doing great now and getting ready now to start going back to working with my stuff.”  At one point Cicero even lost his voice for a brief period.

  Born in 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi, Cicero followed the traditional route of church music and vocal-group singing before entering the blues and rhythm & blues scene in Chicago, Illinois.  His first single (Should I Go/Could This Be Love) was released on Renee in 1962.  “The Renee label was owned by a guy by the name of Leo Austell and he had several labels.  One of them was Brainstorm.”

  In the 60s Cicero still had single releases on Success, Brainstorm and Tower and in the 70s as Corey Blake on Capitol (Your Love Is Like A Boomerang) and Sound Plus & Rainbow’s End (Dip My Dipper).    His second Valley Vue album in 1993 contained, besides the aforementioned I’m Into Something, a pleading soul ballad called Don’t Wanna Blow My Chance With You, which is a big favourite in this corner.  “It had a kind of country & western flavour to it.  Had that record been promoted correctly, it would have been the biggest record on there, but then it turned out that the song Into Something got to be bigger.  Valley Vue was located in Palm Springs, California, but I recorded in Chicago.”

  In the latter half of the 90s Cicero hooked up with Johnny Vincent and his Ace Records for two albums, Wives Night Out and Stand By Me.  “Johnny was a great guy.  Of all the people I’ve ever dealt with in the recording business, he had the best attitude to artists.  He was with the artist.  He wanted the artist to do well.  Most of the companies were just interested in selling records and didn’t care too much about the artist.  Johnny wasn’t that way.”

  Next Cicero worked with another Southern music veteran, Senator Jones.  “Jones was a good guy.  I first recorded through him for Mardi Gras Records (Ain’t Nothing Wrong in 2003).  Then he released a CD, It’s You That I Need (’08), just before he died, which was on the Hep’ Me label.”

  I tore that CD apart in terms of the sound quality in my review at, and Mr. Blake agrees with me on the production, but there weren’t any dubious cuts or outtakes, as I suspected.   “I thought it wasn’t well produced myself.  I really never liked it.  Some of those things were written by a writer here in Chicago, Bob Jones.  Then there were a couple more that were sent to me that we decided to cut.  They were all new songs on that CD.”

  In spite of the fact that Cicero recorded a song called Santa Claus Stole My Baby for Ace in the late 90s, he still wants to come to Finland and meet Santa Claus personally (  (Interview conducted on November 16; acknowledgements to Dylann DeAnna).


  Deep South Southern Soul (CDC 1040) is Chuck’s second CDS album after a lengthy period with Ecko Records.  Produced by Carl Marshall and songs mostly written by him and Chuck, I hope the music listeners understand the title of the CD as a geographical reference rather than to a genre called “deep soul.”

  The only outside song is Stop! (The Ladies & The Babies), a stomping mid-pacer written by Jimmy Lewis and immortalized by Frankie Lee.  The four dancers include a mellow toe-tapper titled Happy With What I Got and a modern honky-tonk title song (co-written by Dylann DeAnna), which owes some to George Jackson’s Old Time Rock & Roll.  Similarly, in the 5-track down-tempo section a soul ballad named I Don’t Want To Live Alone bears a resemblance to one of Johnnie Taylor’s best Malaco songs, Just Because.  Without going further into details over different tracks, I just shortly state that unfortunately in terms of material, performance and production this is the poorest CD from Chuck I’ve heard so far.


  For his new CD, The First Rule Of Cheating (CDC 1039), Lee has come up with an interesting concept.  He has revived old and not-so-obvious songs and approached them in some cases from an unaccustomed angle.  Although in terms of time and place I’m not too sure about the origins of some of the tracks here – for instance, Roy Gaines’ bluesy title track differs considerably in sound from most of the other material – my guess, however, is that most of these tracks are recent recordings.  There are exceptions, though, such as the quick-paced I Hurt Myself and wistful (Sleeping In The) Wrong Bed, which have appeared on Lee’s earlier CDs.  Actually the song I Hurt Myself derives originally from Lee’s late 60s Shama period.

  Produced by Eric Perkins and Harrison Calloway, the former wrote the opening dancer, It Don’t Take All Night, and the tempo still picks up on Get Up Get Funky Get Loose (remember Teddy Pendergrass in ’78).  The fourth uptempo cut is You Fooled Me This Time, penned by Mark Safford, aka Mr. X, I presume.

  A fascinating arrangement is weaved around the mid-tempo Cry To Me, while Johnny Bristol’s You Turn Me On (’77) is very atmospheric and peaceful.  Lee’s singing is especially intense on Gene Barge’s ballad, I’ve Got So Much To Give, but overall the most touching slowie is Twist Turner’s melancholy You Can’t Hide From The Blues.

  This CD certainly is a step in the right direction, but I can’t help feeling that with an additional dose of instrumentation, imagination and intensity we could have approached the masterpiece I’ve been waiting from Lee for a long time now.


  This Texas-born singer and radio show host turns sixty next July, and I think Forever Young (CDC 1038) is his 9th CD so far.  The set was again produced by Carl Marshall, and he and Gregg also wrote most of the songs.

  The title song, a blues romp, kicks off the CD in a jolly and promising way and with real instruments, too.  Outside guests on this track include Bobby Rush, who besides singing also blows his harmonica, and Lucky Peterson on co-lead, organ and electric piano.  Another track, where we can enjoy a live rhythm section, is a swaying beat-ballad titled He Put The Wrong Woman Out He Brought The Wrong Woman In, cut in a light and playful New Orleans spirit.

  On most of the other downtempo songs we’re back to programming and to those cheeping horns.  Mind you, among them six slowies there are good songs, such as the very slow, almost sacred We Need A Friend and the sentimental When People Talk.  The highlight and Gregg’s best vocal performance here is the inspirational We Ain’t Got Long To Stay Here.

  The music is versatile enough to make this CD an interesting listening experience.  The good-humoured mid-tempo tracks and soft slowies succeed in avoiding the most banal clichés in today’s southern soul, and at times Gregg’s smoky voice remotely reminds you of Billy Paul (


  After at least eleven albums during a ten-year period on the Stone River label, Big G aka George Staten has now released his latest CD, Special Delivery (CDC 1035), on CDS out of California.  Big G himself produced and arranged the whole set and wrote all the songs, except Never Found Me A Girl.  There’s a real live rhythm section on the background and even an occasional saxophone, and, although the rest of the horns and strings are programmed, they are quite skilfully done and create a full sound.  Strong background vocals come as an extra plus.

  There’s only one song you could call downtempo, a beat-ballad named Misunderstood, whereas the rest of the material indicates why Big G is popular also on the dance-loving beach music scene.  The opening song, Pop That Thang, is a catchy, stirring and joyous dancer, and there are many other equally inspiring movers on display, too, such as The Hands Of Time and the more relaxed We Can Stay Together.

  The mid-tempo If I Could Live My Life Again offers particularly powerful singing from Big G, and among other mid-to-up-tempo songs there’s the easily rolling In Your Loving Arms and the melodic and “resigned” The Only Fool, with some Chokin’ Kind influences.

  This CD was a very positive surprise.  The music was exhilarating, arrangements were lively and exciting and the whole thing just radiates energy.  Even Big G’s voice on certain tracks bears a small resemblance to that of the late great Solomon Burke.


  Vice President of CDS Records, Carl Marshall, has released his fourth CD for the label, Love Who You Wanna Love (CDC 1033), and “The New Philosopher of Soul” produced it, wrote all twelve songs and played also guitar, bass and keys.

  The opening is very impressive as Carl sings in a strong and at times gravelly voice a fine soulful slowie called Good Lovin’ Testimony, which is a revised version of Good Loving Will Make You Cry.  He is accompanied by Rue Davis and a fake audience.  Another pleasant ballad on the set is a lilting, pleading song titled I Don’t Let Love Turn Into Hate, part 2.

  Right after the opening track we are brought back down to earth with an anaemic beater named Love Who You Wanna Love with primitive machine backing and false horns... sloppy and off-putting.  It’s difficult to describe them.  You just have to hear them.  To put it bluntly, they sound almost like a small boy tooting his toy train.  Next we are offered a slowly swaying ballad called You Never Know Who You’re Gonna Love, which is okay until the horns set in.  They simply ruin what otherwise might be good elements in the music.

  There are four more indifferent beaters on this set, but the fifth, Let’s Dance, Let’s Shag, a duet with David Brinston, deserves to be mentioned, because it grows into a quite energetic party song.  Linda is a story-telling floater, whereas a slow blues called Alberta is ruined by a voice-box this time.

  On a positive side, the concluding mover, perhaps an autobiographical song named I Lived It All, is a powerful vocal performance spiced with sax.  That means that we have a touching beginning and an impressive ending on this album, but as to the material in between there’s not much to cheer about (


  There are three production units on That Girl Belongs To Me (CDS).  Willie Clayton produced, co-wrote and co-leads on a pleasant mid-tempo title tune.  Mel Waiters produced, wrote and co-leads on a melodic and memorable mid-tempo beater titled Something Different About You, and I like the “sax version” of the song at the end of the CD even better.  Mel’s other collaboration is a brisk and sharp dancer named I Can Dance Better.  The song is cut in an easily recognizable Mel’s style, but is that an Autotune I hear over a few bars?

  The rest six songs were produced by Carl Marshall and also penned by him with some help from Charles himself.  I go straight into the seduction section, which consists of a tender ballad named Lovemaking On My Mind, a pleading and more soulful slowie called Give Me Your Love and finally a beat-ballad titled Your Man Don’t Do That, which features Charles talking his way through the track and also presents those “horror horns” again.  The final score is two decent ballads and three worthwhile collaborations from Willie and Mel (


  Look what I found in my collection.  I think that driving dancer on Duke is Bobby’s debut in 1970.  The similar b-side, Little Girls Go Home, was produced by the late Willie Mitchell.  Soon after that Bobby cut a single for Ovide together with the Entertainers and as a solo artist for Evejim in the late 80s, and still in recent years at least three CDs for his own Rob-K label.  He has also worked as a staff writer for Malaco.

  His latest CD, The New Old School ( 004), has come out on CDS Records’ subsidiary.  We are off to a good start with a laid-back mid-tempo bouncer called Now I Know What, which features real instruments... including horns!  Bobby wrote all the songs on display with some help from Jonathan Broussard, except the funky Don’t Do It, track # 2.

  Already on the third track, a messy beater titled Baby Can I Come Back, we’re back to those pitiful machines and faux horns, but among programmed party tracks and big-voiced mid-pacers there are some nice downtempo songs, too.  So Beautiful is a smooth soul serenade and features convincing vocalizing from Bobby.  Call On Me is a powerful and spirited beat-ballad, and equally strong is a swaying love ballad named simply Wonderful Love.  A Letter From A Soldier was lifted from Bobby’s Wonderful Love CD in 2007 – as well as some other tunes, too – and it’s like a throwback to those 60s Vietnam songs.  Especially on ballads Bobby’s big sound and no-holding-back style is quite fascinating (


  Presumably Hard Times (Hot Spot Records, HSPT 186) is Willie’s second CD after his 2004 debut Dr. Jealous & Mrs. Hater, also on Hot Spot out of Montgomery, Alabama.  The CD is distributed by CDS Records.  Eric Perkins produced the set and wrote most of the songs together with Willie.

  Machines are quite sympathetic this time and they form a non-intrusive layer for Willie to use his high tenor voice.  Shake, Rattle & Roll is a steady and straightforward dancer with a nonstop beat, and the same simplicity is repeated on such party tracks as Next Man In Line, Hard Times and Treat Her Right.

  Stay Out Of Me & My Baby’s Business and Damned If I Do are melodic, even poppy mid-pacers, whereas Same Thang is a slow and sentimental swayer and Queen, a beat-ballad, is a tribute to ladies, and especially on this melodic cut Willie slightly reminds me of Terence Trent D’arbySweet Lick and Larry Licker – Mr. Candy Licker Junior? – are those compulsory... well, you know what.

  I must admit that there’s a certain interesting spark in Willie’s music.  It’s a combination of contemporary sound and simple, poppy, relaxed and at times even repetitive, more of an old-time music... and it’s consistent. 


  There are two production units on the Queen Emily CD (MCD 7537;  One producer is Tommy Couch, Jr., and he has used a live rhythm section.  Live horns are arranged by Harrison Calloway.  Add to that still strings, and you’re bound to enjoy a rich orchestration.

  Four of the twelve tracks were produced and co-written by Frederick Knight, and he also arranged them together with Vick Allen.  Here you can listen to only guitar live, but the sound is surprisingly full anyway. 

  Queen Emily (, an “America’s Got Talent” contestant, does mostly covers but she puts her individual and at times quite original touch to them.  The set opens with a mid-paced and peppy toe-tapper called Just Got Started Loving You, and is followed by a big-voiced version of Bill WithersUse MeHold You To Your Promise, a driving Paul Kelly mid-pacer, is followed by the beautiful Angel In Your Arms.  Emily’s version is closer to Hot than Millie Jackson, which happens to be one of my all-time favourites.

  George Jackson wrote a touching country & soul ballad titled Throw Away Me, and the first Frederick Knight song is a thumping beater called Don’t You KnowKeep Gettin’ Up is another funky song from him, whereas Your Used To Be (co-written by David Camon) and the familiar I Betcha Didn’t Know That (co-written by Sam Dees) are both downtempo and melodic beauties.

  Willie Clayton wrote a pleading mid-tempo floater named Going Crazy, and a slow swayer called Still Crazy we remember by Johnnie Taylor.  The set closes with There’s No Easy Way To Say Goodbye, a beautiful and heartbreaking soul ballad from Frank Johnson.

  Emily has a strong and soulful voice and delivery, and I’m glad that Malaco has a new great talent in their roster.  The CD itself is one of the top records this year.


  Aubles’ 8th Ecko CD is called That Thang Thang (ECD 1128, and customarily it’s produced by John Ward.  The set kicks off with It Cost Me More Than I Gained, a standard toe-tapper, which features Charles Matthews roaring his message midway through.

  Of the dancers, the quick-tempo title track must be the draw of the record, while I prefer the more loose Crazy Love Thang.  Among the five slow songs there’s a soulful swayer titled A Woman Ain’t No Fool, a laid-back story of a happy threesome love affair called I Want Both Of You and the lilting Let Me Be His Stand In.  Although there’s nothing wrong with O.B.’s version of I Think He Trusts Me Too Much, there’s no competition with Bobby Womack, really.  We Don’t Get Along Until We Gettin’ It On is a hooky slow-to-mid-pacer.

  As much as I normally like O.B.’s music, I think that this CD is more of a routine job.  You could call it “M-O-R Southern soul.”  More innovation in melodies and arrangements could do him good (


  I just counted and found out that I have 26 Willie Clayton albums in my collection.  That is one of the reasons I didn’t start checking, which songs on the new CD, The Voice (End Zone, C&C), have been released earlier, but I think that at least two mid-tempo ones, My Everything and Rock And Hold You, have been available before.  A couple of others ring bell, too.

  Produced by Miykal Snoddy, Darnell Taylor and Paul Richmond, the budget, of course, is a limiting factor in instrumentation.  The album, however, has an apt title, since Willie has and has always had a great voice, stirring with soul.  He uses it to a good effect on a slow and intense version of Change Gonna Come, which runs over six minutes and which Willie turns into an inspirational song.

  Other highlights include a romantic serenade titled Tonight, two sentimental slowies in the Isley Brothers vein (I Love and Diamonds) and a melodic country-tinged soul ballad named As We Lay, a Shirley Murdock ’86 hit.  The Voice offers mostly downtempo and soothing music.  There’s usually always one killer love ballad on each set by Willie and, although I didn’t hear one this time, this record will find its way into my top-20 this year (see later) (

You can turn to for all of those indie Southern soul CDs above.



  Dione LaRue was born in 1945 in Philadelphia, and as Dee Dee Sharp her first solo hit and gold record on Cameo in 1962 was Mashed Potato Time.  After numerous dance follow-ups on Cameo, she moved to Atco in 1966 and to Gamble two years later.  By that time she was already married to Kenny Gamble.  She has a degree in psychology, she has appeared in movies and she’s still very active today.  She’s now married to William W. Witherspoon (

  Happy ‘Bout The Whole Thing & What Color Is Love & Dee Dee (Edsel, EDSD2084;; 2-CD, 27 tracks, 119 min.; liners by Tony Rounce) combines Dee Dee’s three albums for PIR/TSOP between 1975 and ’80.  In that company she worked not only in the studios cutting her own music or doing background for others, but also in the office managing artists and handling their bookings.

  The first album, which was released on the TSOP subsidiary in ’75, was titled Happy ‘Bout The Whole Thing (# 48-soul) and it was produced by Bobby Martin, with assistance from James Mendell.  It kicks off with a slow and mellow and even slightly misty Gamble & Huff song called Love Buddies, and is followed by James Mendell’s lively toe-tapper named Touch My Life.  Other peppy dancers are the title song, which Dee Dee co-wrote, and James’ Share My Love.

  A cover of Ooh Child starts slowly and tenderly but turns into jazzy jamming towards the end.  Another slow and jazzy swayer is Real Hard Day, which Dee Dee also co-wrote and which sounds like a show tune.  Make It Till Tomorrow and Best Thing You Did For Me are both big and powerful ballads, whereas the more pop-sounding I’m Not In Love (# 62-soul) was a hit for 10cc a few months earlier.  There’s not a dud on this album, which must be one of the most underrated ones in the 70s.  Throughout the whole LP, Dee Dee’s singing is intense and for the most part quite big-voiced.

  On the next album, What Color Is Love? (on PIR in ’77), there are as many as seven production units over ten tracks, but Dexter Wansel seems to be some sort of a guiding figure in this project.  He produced, arranged and co-wrote the pretty opening ballad titled I Believe In Love and he also co-produced and co-wrote with Don Covay a laid-back mid-tempo loper named I Wanna Be Your Woman.  Gamble & Huff together with Cecil Womack wrote and produced another mid-pacer, the more aggressive Just As Long As I Know You’re Mine and the three dancers on the set – Nobody Could Take Your Place, I’d Really Love To See You Tonight (a gold record for England Dan & John Ford Coley a year earlier) and Hang Your Portrait – were all co-produced by Phil Terry.

  A cover of Terry Callier’s What Color Is Love? is slightly jazzy, as one might have guessed, and Michael Burton’s and Phil Terry’s Flashback is a soft and tender ballad.  Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again, a slowie that grows towards the end, is the poppiest one of the lot, and it’s no wonder, since it was a hit for Barry Manilow in 1976.  Color is another quality album from Dee Dee, and it almost equals to the preceding one. 

  So far all the tracks had been cut at the Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, but for her third album, Dee Dee (on PIR in 1980; # 59-soul / #204-pop), our lady took a trip to Chicago.  Five tracks were cut there under the guidance of Jerry Butler, while the rest three were still Philadelphia-based under the auspices of Kenneth Gamble, Dexter Wansel and Philip Terry.

  Those Chicago tracks included two rather clichéd disco dancers – although Breaking And Entering evolved into a dance hit – but there’s also a melodic mid-tempo duet with Jerry called Everyday Affair.  Also co-produced by Jerry but written by Gamble & Huff, the fast See You Later is another haunting and fascinating song and a personal favourite.  Among the Philly tracks there’s a big ballad called If We’re Gonna Stay Together – some impressive singing from Dee Dee – and a soft and sophisticated mid-pacer titled I Love You Anyway (# 79-soul).  This double-CD is a good reminder of Dee Dee’s vocal prowess and of the high quality of those three lost albums.


  As Garry J. Cape writes in his liner notes, Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford formed Wishbone Productions in 1972 and produced Bobby Sheen up till ’75 in Muscle Shoals on songs mostly written by Frank Johnson and Phillip Mitchell.  Four singles were released from those sessions, but now on Too Many To Fight (Soulscape, SSCD 7025,; 17 tracks, 45 min.) we can also listen to those nine tracks that remained in the can.

  Bobby’s first Warner Brothers single in ’72 comprised of two catchy mid-tempo toe-tappers from Phillip’s pen, the familiar I May Not Be What You Want and Something New To Do, whereas Frank’s two uptempo items in ’73 - the poppy If I Ever Dreamed I Hurt You and the catchy It Ain’t Easy Being Your Fool - have more drive to them.  Frank’s Payback and Don’t Make Me Do Wrong (in ’73) are both funky, while the final Chelsea single in ’75 offered a classy infidelity soul ballad called Love Stealing and a Marvin Gaye type of a mover titled Come On And Love Me, both penned by Frank and produced by Ed Sherman.

  They were the eight cuts that came out as single sides, but in Bobby’s case many of those shelved ones surpass the released discs.  I’m Not Strong Enough (To Love You Again) is a big and soulful ballad, and the oft-recorded You’re Messing Up A Good Thing and If You’re Ever Gonna Love Me may be light and romantic, but they’re not lacking soul either.  I’m Sorry is as melancholy as the title suggests.

  The title track is a powerful mid-tempo number with some impressive singing from Bobby, and both Tryin’ To Get To You, and Can’t Keep My Mind On What I’m Doing plus She Hit Me From The Blind Side are all light and easy movers.  Give It Up is a busy shuffle, and it rounds out a very worthwhile compilation.


  Evelyn’s first album, which she recorded at only seventeen for RCA in 1977, went gold, as well as the two hit singles lifted from it, the fast top-tenner Shame and the more mellow bouncer I Don’t Know If It’s Right.  Now that debut, Smooth Talk (, CDBBR 0015; 12 tracks, 56 min.; liners by Andy Kellman) has been re-released with four bonus tracks – disco mixes and single versions of those two hits.

  The set was produced and arranged by Theodore Life, and he appears also as a co-writer on every song, except the aforementioned Shame.  On many tracks lively orchestration, jazzy improvisation and exciting solos are provided by Instant Funk.

  Worth mentioning are still a colourful and jazzy opener called Smooth Talk, two melodic dancers (Nobody Knows and We’re Going To A Party) and the “last dance” floater titled The Show Is Over.  Although the music is not very revolutionary or “deep”, it is bubbly enough and music-wise there’s a lot happening on the background.  Evelyn herself remained popular through the 80s and she’s still active.  Her latest CD was released two years ago (


  EW&F was tremendously successful in the 70s.  Seven albums in a row had gone platinum, whereas the first one in the 80s – 1980, to be exact - earned only gold.  Now this “commercial failure” has been re-released in a CD format, Faces (CDBBR 0014; 18 tracks, 79 min.!, liners by Christian John Wikane).

  After the preceding album, I Am in ‘79, Maurice White had visited Egypt, admired pyramids and crystallized his view of life, based partially on mysticism.  Consequently the lyrics on some of the songs here concentrate on unity of mankind, development of spiritual resources and preparing oneself for a new age of higher awareness, but -  a sigh of relief - there are also normal love songs.

  Customarily there are hard-hitting funk songs and driving, even poppy dancers, such as the first single, Let Me Talk (# 8-soul, # 44-pop), and Pride, Sparkle (actually “Fantasy, part 2”), Back On The Road, Song In My Heart, And Love Goes On (# 15-soul, # 59-pop), Win Or Lose and Share Your Love.  Of the three ballads, the atmospheric You (# 10-soul, # 48-pop) became the second single, whereas You Went Away is a big power-ballad and Sailaway a more moderate and fragile number.

   In the course of the years, the close to 8-minute-long title tune has grown into something of a cult track.  This exciting, jazzy jam is almost completely instrumental with a lot of improvising.  Besides the 9-piece group itself, there are also other renowned musicians playing on the album – Paulinho da Costa, David Foster and Jerry Peters, among others – and massive horn and string sections.  On this 12th album by the group, all except one song were self-written.  The next album in 1981, Raise!, went platinum again (


  Black & Blue (CDBBR 0013; 10 tracks, 47 min.) was the second album by the group for PIR in 1973.  Produced by Gamble & Huff, it boasted two hit singles that are highly valued and sound extremely good still today.  The Love I Lost (# 1-soul, # 7-pop; gold), arranged by Bobby Martin, is an irresistible dancer and a serious contender for the first disco record.  It’s not the only one, though.  Satisfaction Guaranteed (# 6-soul, # 58-pop), arranged by Norman Harris, is another floor-filler and an excellent vocal delivery from Teddy Pendergrass, and also the flip, a swaying ballad called I’m Weak For You, scraped the bottom of the charts (# 87-soul) in its own right.  In the liner notes Bobby Eli reminisces of Gamble & Huff, the MFSB orchestra, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the year 1973 and other related musical matters. 

  Vince Montana arranged a lesser dancer titled Is There A Place For Me, and the strange opener named Cabaret is in style closer to the Four Freshmen than the accustomed Blue Notes.  It All Depends On You, Concentrate On Me and I’m Coming Home Tomorrow - three magnificent and intense big ballads just ooze soul and are in the same category as the earlier singles, I Miss You and If You Don’t Know Me By Now.  The two bonus tracks are the single versions of The Love I Lost and I’m Weak For You.  If you’re a Philly music fan – or soul music fan in general, for that matter - and for some reason you don’t have this album, the Black & Blue CD is an essential purchase.


  Special Things (CDBBR 0022; 10 tracks, 36 min.) was the sisters’ 9th album in their career and third for the Planet Records with the hit producer Richard Perry.  It was originally released in 1980 and reached # 19-soul and # 34-pop.  For this reissue the foreword was written by Wayne A. Dickson, manager of Big Break Records, and the very liner notes with interviews were by Christian John Wikane

  The album spawned two hit singles.  He’s So Shy, a highly catchy mid-tempo song written by Tom Snow and Cynthia Weil, was led by June Pointer and it scored gold (# 10-soul, # 3-pop).  Anita was leading on an energetic mover called Could I Be Dreaming (# 22-soul, # 52-pop).  Other highlights include a pretty beat-ballad titled The Love Too Good To Last and Where Did The Time Go, a big ballad, which, however, didn’t chart as a single.  Both songs were written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager.  The third sister Ruth also gets a lead on a nice ballad named Here Is Where Your Love Belongs.  I’ve seen it written that this was the sisters’ best album this far, and it may well be so.  I can’t tell, because I haven’t heard all the preceding material, but – three tracks aside – I enjoyed this record.

  So Excited (CDBBR 0025; 10 tracks, 45 min.) was released on Planet in ’82 (# 24-black, # 59-pop) after the sisters’ gold Black & White album a year earlier.  Again produced by Richard Perry, three singles charted.  Anita is leading on a pop jogger called American Music (# 23-black, # 16-pop) as well as on the catchy title ditty (# 46-black, # 30-pop), which as a remix went as high as # 9-pop two years later.  June leads on the funky If You Wanna Get Back Your Lady (# 44-black, # 67-pop).

  Prince’s I Feel For You is interpreted as a light mover, not in the heavy Chaka Khan style, and the mid-tempo See How The Love Goes repeats the smoothness of Slow Hand from the previous album.  A fast dancer titled Heart To Heart is quite hooky.  However, I’m not so excited.  The music is more pop and dance than soul, and actually there’s not a single ballad on display (


  Leslie Charles was born in Trinidad in 1950 and moved to London when still under ten.  He cut his first single in 1972, but hits started coming only after he had signed with GTO in the mid-70s.  His third album, Nights (Feel Like Getting Down) (CDBBR 0023; 13 tracks, 59 min., liners by Hayden Jones), is the first one that charted in 1981 in the U.S. on Epic (# 27-soul, # 152-pop).

  Produced by Nigel Martinez and Ken Gold and recorded in London, the songs were mainly written by Billy himself together with Ken Gold.  For this album Billy rerecorded some of the songs that had been released earlier in the U.K.  The title cut became the first charted single in the U.S. from this album (# 7-soul, # 103-pop), and the influence of Michael Jackson’s music of the day is evident on this mover.  A light toe-tapper called Another Day Won’t Matter also made an appearance on the soul charts (# 66) a little later on.

  There are many fast “Michael Jackson” dancers on this album (Are You Ready, Don’t Say Stop, Who’s Gonna Rock You, Stay The Night), and the one and only downtempo song is the rather lame Taking ChancesThe Dells later came up with a respectable cover of Whatever Turns You On, and as a whole Billy became a prolific songwriter not only for himself, but many other artists, too.  Later in the 80s he was to enjoy enormous success on Jive (Caribbean Queen, Suddenly, When The Going Gets Tough..., There’ll Be Sad Songs, Love Zone, Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car etc.), but here we still witness the half-ripe stage... but after three years it was to be another story altogether (


  Music For Dancing/The Twist (Shout 69,; 12 tracks, 29 min., liners by Clive Richardson) is actually King Curtis’ RCA album from 1961.  It offers fast, rocking instrumental versions of familiar or standard tunes (Peppermint Twist, The Twist, Let’s Twist Again, The Fly, Honeysuckle Rose etc.) and a couple of new ones, too.  On six songs there’s a vocalist that is said to be the young Don Covay.

  You could call this a short twist marathon.  The music is lively and driving and there are a lot of improvisation spots for different members of the combo.  If you like the sax sound, like I do, this is an uplifting experience. 



  50th Anniversary Concert (RSMDVD 080, was shot in New Jersey and on stage Eddie Levert, Walter Williams and Eric Nolan Grant are backed by a 5-piece rhythm section, 9-piece horn section and if you count still their musical manager, Dennis “Doc” Williams, you’ll add up to 15 persons behind the excellent trio.

  Produced by Michael Yannich, the very concert lasts a little over one hour, but as bonuses you still get over half an hour’s worth of interviews not only with management and musicians, but with the three leading stars as well.  They talk about the history of the group, the music, motivation and “The O’Jays Scholarship Fund” (

  In the show the big dance hits are placed in the beginning (Give The People What They Want, Love Train, Back Stabbers) and in the end (Use Ta Be My Girl, For The Love Of Money), and in-between we can enjoy some of their gorgeous ballads, such as Let Me Make Love To You, We Cried Together and Stairway To Heaven.  There’s also a lengthy musical passage with a some strong improvisation from Eddie and Walter on You Got Your Hooks In Me, Forever Mine and Wildflower.

  The group is still going strong after 50+ years, vocalizing is strong and the whole act spellbinding.  I recommend this DVD highly.  And you all of course bought their new Christmas CD, Christmas With The O’Jays, didn’t you?



  Volume I: A-F (ISBN 978-0-9866417-0-1;; 596 pages) will be followed by two more volumes next year.  This is an in essential reference book for musicologists, music reporters and writers, collectors and in fact for everybody, who’s seriously infected by rootsy and classic soul music.

  The book is compiled in the same way as the earlier tomes on gospel and blues.  The artists – solo, groups, any act... - are presented in an alphabetical order, and the members of the group or orchestra are mentioned in most cases.  Singles, EPs, albums, CDs – except reissues – and even unearthed unissued cuts are all listed with info on the label, titles, matrix numbers, years, producers, arrangers, recording locations and even musicians, if available.  The main focus is on the period between 1960 and 1980, but - if necessary - those limits are stretched out from both ends.

  Right after the release of this book, on some forums they started complaining about the inevitable mistakes, but such enormous pieces of work like this can never be perfect and faultless.  Actually, there’s never been this kind of a detailed study on soul music before, and we should thank Mr. Bob McGrath for it.  I know that I’ll be using this book a lot in the future.

MY TOP-20 in 2010

(Full-length, new official releases)

1.      Solomon Burke: Nothing’s Impossible

2.      Bettye LaVette: Interpretations

3.      Queen Emily

4.      Mel Waiters: I Ain’t Gone Do It

5.      Earl Gaines: Good To Me

6.      Big G: Special Delivery

7.      Latimore: Live In Vienna

8.      The Mighty Clouds Of Joy: At The Revival

9.      Toussaint McCall: For Lovers Only

10.  Sweet Angel: A Girl Like Me

11.  Willie Clayton: The Voice

12.  The Temptations: Still Here

13.  Jesse James: Get In Touch With Me!

14.  Ms. Jody’s In The Streets Again

15.  Will Easley: Smokin’

16.  Freddie Jackson: For You

17.  Denise LaSalle: 24 Hour Woman

18.  Will Downing: Lust, Love & Lies

19.  Scott Seabock: Every Shade Of Soul

20.  Ronald Isley: Mr. I

Best regards


Back to Deep Soul Main Page
Back to our home page