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DEEP # 6/2014 (December)

  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!  My December column is rather long and on purpose, because during this period you have more time to read it; not necessarily all at once, but little by little.  You may also still get some last-minute ideas for presents.

  Do you remember It’s Gonna Be Alright and Motown Songbook by Ruby Turner?  I went back to those days with her, but we also discussed her new CD, which I think is her best so far.

  Carla Benson is tagged as “the most recorded female background vocalist in the history of recording industry”, so what does she think about not being featured in the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom?  Also amazingly, after 42 years in the business, only now did she release a solo album... and it’s a good one!

  Butch Ingram produced Carla’s CD, and he’s the producer also on three other recent CDs on his Society Hill label, and below Butch gives some background info on those acts and records... and also on the hardships of releasing new material today.

  Larome Powers just put out his third CD, but his chequered career goes back to the early 70s and it includes working with Don Davis in his Groovesville operations and later with Harvey Scales, on the Washington Hit Makers label and a lot more.

  Then there’s the usual pile of recent Southern soul releases and retrospect compilations; plus one book on Okeh Records.

Content and quick links:

Ruby Turner
Carla Benson
Larome Powers

New CD release, CD reissue & compilation reviews:
Ruby Turner: All That I Am
Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls: Soul Brothers
Carla Benson: You Should Be Here
Philly Cream: Groovin'
The Illusions: Love
Heavy Weather: Movin’ Easy
Larome Powers: Stepping out
Uvee Hayes: In The Mood
Sheba Potts-Wright: I Came to Get Down
Willie Clayton: Untamable
Wilson Meadows: Tighten Up
Jesse James: I Lost My Baby on Facebook
Various Artists: Satisfaction Guaranteed! Motown Guys 1961-69
Various Artists: Bring It on Home/Black America Sings Sam Cooke
Various Artists: Good All Over/Rare Soul from the Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975
Various Artists: Hard to Explain/More Shattered Dreams/Funky Blues 1968-1984
Eddy Giles: Southern Soul Brother/The Murco Recordings 1967-1969

Book Reviews:
Gary Evans: Okeh Records 1918 to 1970


  I’ve been a faithful fan of Ruby Turner ever since I attended her concert in London in the early 90s.  I still remember her terrific and impassioned delivery of I’d Rather Go Blind.  Over the years, I’ve always liked her melodic, rhythmic and entertaining music – not to mention her soulful vocals, of course - and I’ve enjoyed all her albums, but I think that the latest one, All That I Am, is her best so far.  Before we go into that more in detail, let’s have a brief look at Ruby’s earlier career.

  Ruby Turner was born on June 22nd in 1958 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Ruby: “I remember Jamaica very well.  I was there in August 2014.  It’s changed from childhood, but it’s still a beautiful island with its economical problems like every third world country.”  Ruby’s grandfather was a gospel singer in Jamaica.

  In 1967 Ruby moved to Birmingham, England.  “It was a big cultural shock for me being only nine years... and mainly surrounded by concrete and no tropical fruit trees.”  Those days her musical influences still echoed to a degree the island sound.  “I loved reggae music as that was my musical heritage as a child – along with gospel music from Sunday school – John Holt, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff; also Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.  Jazz never played a big part of my early music life other than enjoying the wonderful Billie, Ella, Sarah Vaughan and Miles Davis.”

  Ruby started devoting herself more and more to music in her early twenties.  “It was 1979, when I got into music, but after embarking on a tour with Culture Club in the mid-eighties, I guess, I began to take things a little more seriously, as I had a job to do.  Alexis Korner became a great friend before that, when we did a few shows, including 25th anniversary of the Marquee Club” (in 1983).  I was first a solo artist and always had my own band, but I was fortunate to have been asked to do sessions for other artists and bands, which I always loved – a great learning experience.”

  During her career Ruby has sung both on stage, and on records behind many rock artists such as UB40, Bryan Ferry, Steel Pulse, Steve Winwood and Mick Jagger.  “I worked with Culture Club as things were changing, and we toured for many years in North America and UK.”  Culture Club’s peak period fell on the years 1982 – 1984 (Did You Really Want to Hurt Me, Time, I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, Church of the Poison Mind, Karma Chameleon and Miss Me Blind), but they still came up with medium-size hits on Virgin, when Ruby was touring with them.


  Ruby’s first album, Women Hold up Half the Sky (on Jive), was released in 1986, and it spawned such hit singles as her cover the Staple SingersIf You’re Ready (Come Go with Me) – featuring Jonathan Butler and produced by Billy Ocean – and the aforementioned I’d Rather Go Blind.  Her third album, The Motown Songbook, was released two years later, and among a few Motown veterans it also featured the late Jimmy Ruffin on What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.

  The biggest bomb was dropped in late 1989, when It’s Gonna Be Alright entered the U.S. “Hot Black Singles” charts.  “It’s Gonna Be Alright was a wonderful surprise, but I worked that single – weeks and weeks travelling and doing PR across America, culminating in the track going to number one.”  The follow-up singles – Paradise, It’s a Crying Shame, The Other Side and Rumours - still charted, but they didn’t repeat the success of that # 1 single.  “There is no answer to the not-so-successful follow-up singles.  I can only say that I was in the hands of the record company” (Jive).  It’s Gonna Be Alright came from Ruby’s fourth album called Paradise, and it the wake of that popular single also the album entered both Billboard’s “Top Black” and “Top Pop Albums” charts in the U.S.

  After Jive Records, Ruby released two albums on Indigo – Guilty in 1996 and Call Me by My Name in 1998 – but since 2005 (So Amazing) her CDs have come out on her own label, RTR - Ruby Turner Records.  “It was necessary for me to start up my own record label, so I could continue making and enjoying my music.  The situation was simply ‘do or fade away into obscurity waiting for another deal’.”  There’s also another significant side to Ruby that plays an important role in her life (pun intended).  Besides singing she is also an actress and has appeared in theatre, musicals, TV drama series and movies.


  All That I Am (RTR 009) is actually Ruby’s 18th album, if we include three compilations and one remastered record, Responsible in 2011.  Among them there are three live sets and one gospel CD, I’m Travelling, in 2009.  Besides constantly touring and running her record label, Ruby is also a prolific writer and she co-wrote all but four songs on this new 14-tracker.  “You just have to make time for everything.  You have to prioritize, think about what you need, how you intended to go about getting it and get to working on your goal.  You just have to be proactive.”

  For the most part Ruby is backed by a 5-piece band, which basically is her touring band, too.  Chris Taylor and Reuben James Butler are keys and organ.  “Reuben came to play for me at a private wedding gig in Birmingham.  He was amazing and learned fast; a natural vibrant young man, who was still studying at Trinity college.  Like a young Hare, he was bound for great things.  Long may he continue to be solid, steadfast and grow into someone that’s going to leave a legacy.”      

  Paul Pryor plays bass, Nick Marland is on guitar and Simon Moore on drums.  The album was produced by Chris Taylor.  “I’ve known Chris Taylor for many years.  He came to play in my band at the tender age of twenty.  Of course, we went our separate ways as musicians do.  But it was a good separation.  He went to MD other artist and build his career.  Coming together to make this album was perfect, as we already had a good understanding of how each other worked, so it made the choice to have him as producer an easy one.”

  The twosome wrote the opening track, an inspirational and powerful slow-to-mid-tempo song called Mighty Hard Time (A Prayer), with a strong choir backing Ruby.  “That song is about human struggles, internal and external.  We all suffer from the same anxieties and battles.”  Hello Baby is a pulsating dancer, and Putting You First is another good-time, uptempo track, optimistic and melodic and even with a Caribbean feel to it.  “Putting You First is one of my favourites on the album.  Lyrical it’s how I feel and think about treating people.”

  Ruby and Mike Rosenberg aka Passenger wrote the poppy and tuneful ditty named Fire in My Heart.  “I know Mike, when he was supported on some of Jools Holland summer tours.  We became good friends.  I went to catch his solo gig down in his home city of Brighton & Hove, and we then wrote the two songs the following day.”

  A powerful mid-tempo roller titled Move On is followed by Master Plan, which is a poignant, story-telling mid-tempo song, co-written by Ruby.  “Master Plan is another favourite of mine, a song of thankfulness.”  In composing, Ruby is mainly the lyricist, and she constantly seems to come up with new ideas.  “I’m observant.  I stay in tune with my surroundings, the world, people, life, situations, emotions... all of which inspires to write.”

  Next there are three outside tunes.  I Didn’t Know What Time It Was is a jazzy standard from the 30s with only a piano accompaniment.  The touching Dark End of the Street is not arranged to as simple and desolate as, say, James Carr’s original, instead it grows into a fuller orchestrated sound, but there’s still no way you can go wrong with this classic song.  “I also love Ry Cooder’s exceptional version.”

  Kamikaze Waltz is a country-tinged, melancholy ballad, which appeared already on Marv Flanagan’s and Jimmy Bergin’s Down the Wire CD in 2010.  He Knows is a slightly rocky beater (by Ruby and Chris), while Trouble in Mind is Richard M. Jones’ blues standard from the 20s, and Ruby’s slow interpretation here is strong, a bit jazzy, with piano and trumpet on the background.  Ask Me is the other song Ruby and Mike wrote together, and here we can listen to the “acoustic version.” “Ask Me is raw and unpolished, just how I wanted it to be.”

  All That I Am is an exhilarating album with many moods, but it took Ruby as long as five years to release this new album after the preceding I’m Travelling.  “It took time making and completing this because of the work load of touring.  Of course, I was writing material for the album and collaborating with others.  It took its time, but I was never in a rush.  That’s the beauty of running your own label.  And I was not in any hurry either.  I just wanted to put together the best collection of songs I could find and write.  My quest is that people will find something from this body of work – inspiring, encouraging, uplifting – and, most of all, enjoy listening to it.”

  These days Ruby is busy touring both as Ruby Turner and her Band, and with the Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.  “We met with Jools 21 years ago, when he was looking at adding a vocalist to his own rostrum.  I was very lucky to become a part of this wonderful orchestra and proud to say we are still friends with the same goal, to make great music and take it to the streets.”

(; interview conducted on December the 11th, 2014).


  Johnny Rawls told me about this upcoming CD, when I did a feature on him last January ( and we discussed his preceding album, Remembering O.V., where Otis Clay was the vocalist on as many as three tracks.  Produced by Johnny and recorded in Texas, Soul Brothers (CFR-021; was released in October 2014, and Johnny and Otis are here backed by the 8-piece Rays – 4 in rhythm section and 4 in horn section.

  The album kicks off with a speedy cover of Dave Mason’s medium-size hit in 1970, Only You Know and I Know, and is followed by a funky mid-tempo pulsator called Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool, penned by Darryl Carter and Jose Hernandez.  An uptempo floater titled Woodoo Queen precedes the more than familiar What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, and – although there’s nothing revolutionary to this version – it’s another heart-warming interpretation of this great tune.  And timely, too, although at the time of the recording session nobody knew about Jimmy Ruffin’s passing.  Another “soul evergreen”, Tyrone DavisTurn Back the Hands of Time, is treated with equal respect and not straying too far away from the original.

  Fast and funky songs follow (Living on Borrowed Time, Road Dog and the inspirational Hallelujah Lord), but fortunately on two occasions the tempo still drops a bit - on the melodic Poor Little Rich Girl and on the concluding, soft and touching floater called Waiting for Dreams, which was co-written by Linda Greenwade, who herself recorded it as part of Kay Kay & the Rays thirteen years earlier.  Two great singers, mostly new songs, a real rhythm section and a live horn section, what more can one hope for?  A ballad or two, perhaps...


  Carla L. Benson is a musical treasure and one of the best-kept secrets in our genre.  Tagged as “the most recorded female background vocalist in the history of the recording industry”, she’s the top note singer on most of the records coming out from Philadelphia as well as some other regions in the 70s and much of the 80s.  Now, after 42 years in the business, she has come up with her debut album, and it really is a magnificent piece of music.

  Carla was born in Camden, New Jersey, the city that has given us, among others, the Ebonys and Leon Huff.  Carla: “I am still in Camden.  My family is here and I was able to do everything I wanted to do here.  Camden has a terrible reputation, but that’s not the whole story.  Just like in anything else, the negative seems to get all the highlights and all the spotlights and people completely ignore the fact that there are good and decent families and people that live in Camden -that have always lived here – that go to work every day, that are sending their children to church and do the best they can.”

  “As I grew, Philadelphia was right across the bridge, like ten minutes away.  So the studio was close-by, and then, when I had a son and we were on the road, my family was here.  I needed my children to be stable, and they were stable in the arms of my family, which was in Camden.”

  Carla’s elders were not involved in the music business.  “My entire family, seems like, were involved in education.  My parents were teachers, my aunts were teachers and that’s how I became trained as a classical vocalist, because my mom recognized that I was going to sing... and I had to learn how to sing.  I couldn’t just sing in church and I couldn’t just sing rock ‘n’ roll, so I had private voice lessons from the age of twelve.”

  “Doctor James Mumford was my voice teacher.  I believe it was because of my classical training that I was allowed to sustain like I have in the business, because I was in so much control of my instrument.  That classical training gave me just a little bit of a different sound on that top note. I credit a lot of what I’ve been able to do to that training.”


  The first choir Carla sang with was called the Walter Young Choral Ensemble.  “I was in junior high school.  I had a couple of friends, who said ‘you sing, come into this group’.  When I walked in the door, they were all these junior high school African American kids that were singing classical music, and I was amazed!  I did that all through my junior high school into the first year in high school.”

  “Over here back in the day there was a very popular television show called the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, and if you made it to that show you were really doing something.  We made it, when I was in junior high, in the 9th grade.  I wish I could find that reel.  I would love to see that.”

  “Then I changed schools and went into high school.  A gospel choir called the Arneld Dupree Singers began right around the corner from my house.  I have been friends with Evette Benton since we were in kindergarten, and she was in that choir, so my mom would let me be in it.  That’s the first time I sang gospel music, in the 11th grade, as part of the choir.  The Sweeties didn’t start until 1972.”

The Sweeties in July the 4th concert in 1988 - from left to right: Evette Benton, Carla, Barbara Ingram


  The Sweeties were Carla Benson, Evette L. Benton and Barbara Ingram.  The trio was also known as the Sweethearts of Sigma, a name given by the mix master himself, Tom Moulton.  “He says he was referring to a distress call (SOS) he’d put out to them for help on a Grace Jones project that morphed into the Sweethearts of Sigma, which is a reference to the legendary Sigma Sound Studios.” 

  At this point I direct you to my first interview with Carla Benson in 2004, when she was a featured vocalist with the Funk Brothers during their visit to Helsinki.  Carla tells shortly about the Sweeties, their work with Patti LaBelle and her other activities until the early 2000s.

  After the Funk Brothers tour Carla has mainly been teaching.  “I’m a high school music teacher.  I’ve been mostly teaching inner-city African-American at-risk youth over here, which is also something I love to do.  However, I prefer singing and I did shows here and there.  I went back to singing with the Wedding Band, because I needed to be close to my son and stay home more.”  In the 90s Carla sang for many years with a wedding band called the Franklin & Alison Orchestra.  Carla was also involved in the Standing in the Shadows of Motown project in 2002 and she was featured on a 2-CD titled A Soulful Tale of Two Cities, combining the Detroit (“the Funks”) and Philly (“MFSB”) sounds in 2006.


  Carla’s first-ever solo record, an EP titled Ready for Love, was released in 2013 (on Society Hill/EMG), forty-one years after her voice was heard for the first time on a disc as a Sweetie.  “That EP was just a preparation for the entire CD.”  But, anyway – 41 years!  Why did it take so long?  “...because I was completely happy and content singing background.  I never wanted to be famous.  I just wanted to sing.  I was making enough money, I was able to tour and not have all the responsibilities of being a head-liner.  I could just be a member of the band, do what I love to do and still get paid” (laughing).

  In August 2014 on BJK Productions they released a fascinating smooth jazz single called Welcome in My World, produced and written by Brian and Barbrah Kelley.  “Barbrah and Brian are friends of mine, and Barbrah is a singer in her own right.  She also has a CD called Smooth Worship that the two of them wrote.”  This contemporary gospel CD was released on BJK in 2009. 

  “I was the maid of honour at their wedding.  She just called me one day and said ‘I have this song I want you to do’.  I listened to it and I fell in love with it.  It was a separate production, because the production I did with Butch Ingram is not exclusive.  I’m free to sing for whoever I want.  I just avoided business conflicts and kept it off the CD, but I so wish it was on there.”

Carla with Salsoul's Carol Williams, as they were inducted into the Philadelphia Music Alliance of Fame


  Produced and arranged by Butch Ingram for his Society Hill Music and cut at his Society Hill Studios out of Philadelphia, You Should Be Here (Society Hill/EMG 942 323 402-2) is Carla’s debut album.  The Ingram family is heavily involved with Billy on guitar, Jimmy on keyboards, Timmy on percussion, Johnny on drums and Butch on bass, among a lot of other live musicians.  One of the background singers is Evette Benton herself.  “Barbara Ingram is my first cousin and Butch is her brother, so he’s my cousin.”

  The CD was two years in the making.  “...because we were fighting (laughing), because I want my way and the producer wants his way.  I was like ‘it took me a long time to do this, so it has to be how I want it to be top to bottom’.  He was like ‘no, I’m the producer’, and I was like ‘then I’m not doing it’.  You can fight with family different than you can fight with strangers.”

  The title tune and the opening song is a soothing and pretty ballad with fascinating and gentle sax playing by Don Juan Ward.  “It’s my favourite song.  That’s why the album is titled You Should Be Here.  I fell in love with this song the second I heard it.”  The song was written by Bianca Ingram, Butch’s daughter, who also has a CD out on Society Hill, entitled Linguistics and produced by her brother, Kyle Ingram, in 2013.

  Track # 2 is the evergreen Autumn Leaves, subtle and sophisticated.  “I grew up on standards, listening to Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald...  Whatever I do, I will always do a standard.  It’s like a tribute to my mom and also because I love standards.  ‘A Real singer can stand flat-footed and just sing’, is what she would always say.  This arrangement is my shout-out to vocalist Eva Cassidy, who I think was brilliant.”

  Michael McDonald had recorded a mid-tempo floater named You Show Me in 1990.  “That song followed me around since the 90s.  I first heard it in Yokohama, Japan, where I was on tour with Barbara Weathers.  She had just left the Atlantic Starr.  During the ten days we were over there, it was the only song I heard in English.  It was the only English I heard, period (laughing).  It just spoke to me.  When I came home, I couldn’t remember the name of it.  I just searched and searched and then finally, when the computers became popular, I happened to find it.”

  The Jones Girls cut originally in 1980 Cynthia Biggs’ and Dexter Wansel’s soft and serene, even ethereal ballad, I Close My Eyes.  “We were in the studio recording background for Patti LaBelle’s If Only You Knew.  Dexter was a friend of ours and he sat at the piano and said ‘I’m working on this song’ and he started playing I Close My Eyes, and I got chills.  I said ‘Dexter, please let me have the song’, but he said ‘I have to give it to the Jones Girls’.  I’ve been waiting to sing that song for thirty years, and I did all the vocals, the lead and the backgrounds.”

  Butch wrote a new downtempo, moody song for Carla called How Will I Know, and I Dreamed a Dream derives from the musical Les Misérables in 1980.  Susan Boyle is famous for this big ballad.  “I also love Broadway, and I loved to do that song just to show some diversity.  It’s been covered by so many people, because it was such a Broadway hit.”


  Comme un oiseau qui s’envole means in English ‘like a bird flying’, I think.  “The French song we sang for Grace Jones back in 1978.  It was a Tom Moulton production.  He was also a very good friend of ours.  When I was a little kid, one of the first things I wanted to be was a French teacher.  I’ve always loved the language.”

  The soft and slow Ready for Love comes from India.Arie’s debut album Acoustic Soul in 2001 – “she’s a favourite of mine” – and it’s followed by the Isley Brothers’ For the Love of You (on T-Neck in 1975).  “I changed it talking about God, my relationship with God.”

  Outstanding is a more contemporary mid-tempo beater with additional lyrics by Carla and even with two rappers, Jeranimo and B. Arsin.  “In rap there’s a lot of trash.  I know that there are a lot of young rappers, who have tried to release good and positive rap and the powers that be wouldn’t allow them to do that.  It’s a respectable genre, if the people in charge of music industry would allow the positive rappers to do what they do.  In the beginning of Outstanding, that’s my son Adam Benson.  The very positive rap at the end is my nephew Jerome Sye.  He calls himself B. Arsin.”

  The concluding track, God’s House (Downtown), is an uptempo fiesta song with a Caribbean feel.  “That’s an old song by a guy named Lillo Thomas, and it was called Downtown (on Capitol in 1987).  It was a party song, and I’ve always loved the song.”

  Carla’s album is long overdue, but it’s a truly thrilling record filled with mainly downtempo gems.  Her own favourites include You Should Be Here, I Close My Eyes, Autumn Leaves and Comme un oiseau qui s’envole – “so everybody knows I can sing in French” (laughing).


  What does this lady, who has over fifty gold and platinum albums, think about the recent documentary about background singers called 20 Feet from Stardom, featuring Patti Austin, Merry Clayton, Susaye Greene, Cissy Houston, Fanita James, Lisa Fischer, Mable John, Gloria Jones, Darlene Love, Vaneese Thomas, the Waters, Edna Wright etc.?

  Although in the 60s such groups as the Blossoms, the Andantes and the Sweet Inspirations were constantly used in sessions, in the 70s there wasn’t anybody that could even touch the Sweeties.  “We were not included.  Rudy Calvo, who was Patti LaBelle’s makeup artist when we were with her, lives in L.A. and he was involved in the movie.  He wrote me and told me about this movie and he had pressed really hard for the director to include us, and they just didn’t.  I haven’t seen it yet.  The director said it was because of the budgetary issue.  When you’re singing in the background, you kind of get used to being ignored and not getting credit, but our body of work will stand for us.”

  “I finally did this album, You Should Be Here, just to show myself to people, who didn’t know I can sing more than ‘o-ooh’ and ‘a-aah’ (laughing).  I hope that everybody will embrace it and let me get out there and do some shows.  I am ready to perform again.  For the first time in my life I don’t have to be concerned with who’s watching my children, because they’ve grown now.  Now I can just fly free and high.”

  Just one more thing... please enjoy Carla together with the Voices of Camden on a beautiful Christmas song:

(; interview conducted on December the 3rd, 2014).


  Prior to Carla’s CD, there were a few other Society Hill releases as well – all produced and arranged by Butch Ingram and music provided by Ingram, including Bianca, Sharon and Cindy Ingram on background vocals; plus the Society Hill Orchestra on strings and horns.  Released in September 2014, Groovin’ by Philly Cream (Society Hill, 942 323 315-2) is a very entertaining set with a lot of familiar songs on display.  Today the line-up of the group is Art Austin, Simone Talley and Adrienne Aje (

  The group had two small hits thirty-five years ago – Motown Review and Cowboys to Girls on the WMOT label.  BUTCH INGRAM: “Philly Cream is a group I started back in the 70s.  Art has always been the lead for the group.  The musicians were the Ingram Brothers and the singers were Art Austin, Brandi Wells and Phyllis Nelson.  Art was singing with Fat Larry’s Band.  Brandi and Phyllis wanted solo careers.  The Ingram Brothers were touring as a group, so nobody toured as Philly Cream.  Brandi and Phyllis died, and Art wanted to record again, so I called Simone and Adrianne from Heavy Weather.”

  Gamble & Huff together with a few other writers were involved in composing two songs, which are covered here.  Art delivers a surprisingly convincing version of Teddy PendergrassSomebody Told Me (1977), and the Intruders’ # 1 hit in 1968, Cowboys to Girls, is again revived at a quite fast pace.  Another cover from Philly Cream’s own repertoire is Slow Down, a soulful floater from 1980.  The group Ingram itself cut a rough mover called Would You Be Surprised in 1977, and Janet Jackson’s platinum smash in 1993, That’s the Way Love Goes, is as dull as it’s always been.  As expected, one of the ladies is co-leading here.  A cover of the Chequers’ melodic disco dancer, Undecided Love (1975), is a delight.

  There are as many as five covers of yesterday’s pop hits on this set.  The Rascals’ sunny and laid-back feel is retained both on A Beautiful Morning (’68) and Groovin’ (’67), whereas Tommy James & the ShondellsCrystal Blue Persuasion (’69) is more playful.  U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking for and Sting’s Fragile – featuring Billy Ingram on guitar - both stem from 1987 and lift us to a more philosophical level, but on all these tracks Philly Cream is mostly quite true to the original arrangements and their interpretations are spot-on. 

  Butch: “I picked the songs.  The group always has a mixed crowd, so we did those pop songs that their crowd enjoys.  Today radio is a joke and there are no stores, so the only place to sell the CD is at their shows.”


  The Illusions in the line-up of Bill Flemming, Derrick Wright and Lamont Purnell is a new group, and their debut CD, Love (Society Hill, 942 323 316-2), also contains only covers, mostly from the Philly sphere – but it’s all very sweet and even nostalgic.

  Butch: “The Illusions is a very good group with great harmonies and leads.  I chose the songs they recorded, and I only did covers on them, because that’s what they do live and the only place that CDs sell is at the live show.  These guys were in the armed service together and sang to the troops for many years but never recorded.”

  Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love) by the O’Jays in 1976, Let’s Make a Baby by Billy Paul  (’76), Since You’ve Been Gone by Blue Magic (’83) and What’s Come Over Me together with Margie Joseph (’75) are among those skilful covers.  There are two tributes to the Delfonics - a beautiful ballad named Tell Me This Is a Dream (’72) and a light dancer, I Told you so (’73).

  Barbara Mason is remembered on two slow songs, I Don’t Want to Lose You (’67) and I’ll Never Love the Same Way Twice (’80), and this poignant and soulful rendition - over 7:30 long - is vocally the highlight on the whole set.  The Ethics cut originally a mid-tempo floater titled Think about Tomorrow (’68) and the concluding track is a fine, almost a cappella rendition of the SpinnersI’ll Always Love You (’65).  The Illusions is a very professional group and – as Butch stated above – with great harmonies.


  Again produced, recorded and mixed by Butch Ingram, the associate producers on Movin’ Easy (Society Hill 942 323 317-2) are Bob Russen, Harry O and Wayne Hammond.  With eight tracks written by the group, the total running time is mere 32 minutes, but - then again - this is an old recording.  Butch: “Heavy Weather was recorded in 1978, at Delight/Ridge Studio (in Philadelphia, PA).  The group went through some changes, so I sat on the LP.  This year a lot of people keep asking about it, so I made it available for sale.  I am still working with some of the key members of the group.  The group was from Camden, NJ.”

  This self-contained, 11-piece band plays mostly heavy funk, hard-hitting and tight – even nasty – that won’t give you a breather even for one minute.  Far from “Deep”, I’m sure aficionados of traditional funk music will love this nonstop jam.

  Butch: “I am the sole owner of Society Hill Records, and the label was started in 1979.  Today the sale of music is gone.  We are hanging in there, although sales are very slow.  People download everything free, but the artist still has to have product out, so we will always be producing and recording music.  We need more tours and appearances for our artists.”  So if you know any venues, please let Butch know, in the Facebook.

Southern SOUL STEW


  It can be quite eye-opening, when in the early 2000s among recent blues releases you spot a new name, Larome Powers, and then – after some researching – find out that this music pro has been active in many fields of R&B for at least thirty years prior to that.

  Larome was born on November 21st in 1952.  Larome: “That’s my ‘Hollywood name’.  Larome is my middle name and Powers came from the movies.  Gerald Robinson is my real name, and under that name I wrote a lot of songs – for the Dramatics (Come Inside), Johnnie Taylor (It Ain’t What You Do), Denise LaSalle (Home Wrecker), Mel Waiters Down Home People), Jesse James (I Can Do Bad By Myself)... – a lot of stuff for Capitol, Malaco and Groovesville, which was Don Davis in Detroit.”  Altogether Gerald has 99 registered song titles at BMI.

  Gerald was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.  “Basically I got out of there at five and went to Michigan, but I always came back when I was little.  All my relatives were down there.  Tupelo is not famous for a whole lot of artists (besides one Elvis), but we always had music.  My dad played guitar in church and it was electrifying, although it wasn’t perfectly tuned” (laughing).  Also my two uncles played guitar.  Those days I loved Jerry Butler and I loved Jackie Wilson.  Those days music was everywhere.  People had these 45 record players in their house, and I was listening to them.”  Today Larome lives in Memphis, and he has as many as eight daughters and four sons.

  “I myself basically play just a little of few things, just to know what it does.  I’ve always really wanted to be a guitar player, but it just didn’t seem to fit me.  I played bass – I got the hang of that – and then I picked up piano.  It was in the garage, and we had a good time banging on it.  I have a distant cousin, Clay Robinson, who did some stuff with Aretha Franklin – played trumpet with her – and many others.  He’s a great musician and did a couple of jazz albums.  He said ‘look, if you wanna play, I’ll help you, but first you have to pass all the tests I give you on paper’, so I know a lot of music on paper.”

  “In Michigan I went to a town called Ann Arbor.  My mother banged on a tambourine and we went to church four or five days a week, and you just picked it up.  Then they had all these doowop groups like the Spaniels, also mixed groups like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.  When I was about eight, it was curtailing.  It was like the end of the era, but it was still floating around, so I heard a lot of doowop.  By the time I was twelve-thirteen, one of my friends, William Ventress, would try to teach me harmony.  It was hopeless (laughing).  I’m very good at it now, though.  William was singing bass with his brothers in the Del Rays.”


  “Then I started writing songs.  I went to Detroit in my early twenties so that my distant cousin could teach me, and he said ‘let’s go by Groovesville’.  I was never expecting to become a writer for Groovesville.  That was the last thing that was on my mind.  We went there, and I had these songs.  Don Davis said ‘I think we probably can use them’.  He was a great arranger and a guitar player.  Don liked my writing and gave me a break.  He said ‘we’re going to make you a staff writer’ – with no pay, of course (laughing).”

  “Don was a great person.  He and his brother, Willie Davis, went into the banking business later.  Brian Spears was number two man with Don Davis.  He was heading up the publishing and writers, and he’s in the gospel music business now.”  Don, who passed away on June 5, 2014, also ran the First Independence Bank in Detroit (

  “Don was the kind of guy that could take something that you got and he could see the whole picture... just like with Disco Lady (a platinum hit for Johnnie Taylor in 1976).  I and my friend Harvey Scales wrote a lot of stuff together.  When I brought Harvey to Detroit from Milwaukee, he had a group called the Seven Sounds.  Don heard Harvey’s writing and he knew right then that Harvey was a great writer.  Don paid for all our demo time in the studio - ‘okay, you guys go into the studio’ – and Disco Lady came up.  First it was Sexy Baby or something.  Don took that groove and turned into what you hear... and it became magic.  When Don Davis helped you with a song, any kind of writing and publishing he got – he deserved it, because he made what you had priceless.  And I’m a super-witness to that.”

  In the late 70s, Gerald worked also for a music publishing arm at CBS called April Blackwood.  “Jimmy Bishop was the president.  We had five people as staff writers.  We were writing for other artists on the CBS label.  We had a workshop also.  We were training writers for CBS.  They’ve got tons of our old stuff at April-Blackwood, which I think is great music.  I don’t know what happened to it.”


  “Next we had a big production company in Oakland, and I was the CEO of that company.  It was called Super Disc Productions first, but after signing a deal with Casablanca it turned into SGH&R.  Besides that record deal with Casablanca and Henry Stone’s TK Records, we had a production deal with CBS and some artists that were on major labels – Lenny Williams, Jesse James...”

  “Then Fantasy brought Harvey Fuqua, and he started signing all the acts that were in the Bay area – San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, all over.  We had been doing that for a while – Harvey Scales, myself and a guy named Melvin Griffin – so everybody there was really coming to us.  I could say that our company was the root and the beginning.  I trained Master P in the business.  He had his No Limit Records, distributed first by Jason Blaine and In-A-Minute Records in the early 90s.  I also signed the (wrestling) No Limit Soldiers to No Limit.  Silkk the Shocker was on deck.”

  Still in the 80s we didn’t have computers and most people didn’t have information.  Any contact out there that I had... if you wanted to be in the music business and paid for copies, I gave them free.  I did that for so many production companies and people coming up.”

  Enter the 90s, and Gerald is still running his production business, and “at the same time I was writing music and performing as an artist.  Sometimes I came to the Baltimore, D.C. area, and that’s when I made stuff for the Washington Hit Makers.  I was their promotion man.  They had a nice catalogue with Rick Webb, Al Mason and Harvey Scales.  I produced Harvey’s CD, Blues Is in the House.” 

  Indeed, Gerald “Gypsy” Robinson produced the set along with Harvey and Johnny Mills, and our “Gypsy” also co-wrote ten songs out of fourteen on display.  “’Gypsy’ was given to me, because I moved around a lot.”  Blues Is in the House was released in 1994 on KashGold Records & Washington Hit Makers.  “Then somebody got a hold to it and turned it around and put it out by another name.  I had to get out to those guys for fraud.  Somehow they got off of it.”  The very same songs but in a different order were released on a CD titled Somebody Else’s Somebody on Four Sight in 1997, and that “bootleg” is still selling, whereas nobody remembers the genuine original one, not even discographies.  “Washington Hit Makers was a pretty good thing, but eventually it got into trouble and it closed. Controlling interest in KashGold Records belongs to me.”

  In the 90s, Alan Lott and Gerald were a promotion team.  They worked for Pow Wow Records, 4th and Broadway and eight other indie labels.  Gerald also worked numerous stations from Richmond, Virginia, up to New York, NY.  “Russell Simmons, Party West Johnson, Alan Lott and I worked the same circuit.”

  In 1996, Gerald appeared as a producer on Kenne Wayne’s debut album on Master-Trak called Old Fashion Love.  “It came out to be a pretty good album.  That was the beginning of Kenne’s career.  I was heading to California.  I was coming through Crowley, Louisiana, and my car broke down.  The guy, who owned the studio at that time, Mr. Miller, said ‘look, if you’ll finish this album, I get your car fixed to get you out of here’.  We did that album in 31 days.”


  Before his first album, Gerald had released four singles, which are now extremely difficult to trace and hunt down.  One was under the name of Gypsy Wade and the titles were Action Time b/w Let Love Take Your Mind on Phoenix Ent. Records out of Baltimore in 1983.  The other one is You Got What It Takes b/w Why Break Two Hearts on the New Boss label out of Benton Harbor, Michigan, possibly recorded in the early 70s and produced by Clay Robinson.  We’re still chasing up the rest two.

  After about thirty years in the business, Gerald as ‘Larome Powers’ finally released his debut album, Somebody’s Chasin’ My Cat, on his own Blues Club International label in 2003.  Michael Dawson is the producer, he co-wrote with Larome five songs and he’s in charge of most of the instruments.  “Michael and I are writing partners, and we produce stuff together.  He lives in Baltimore.”

  Half of this 12-tracker is straight blues, while the rest six songs are comprised of three dancers and three more soulful ballads (No Need to Lie, Come Back to Me and Let Love Take Your Mind).  “That album has stayed alive out there, but I can’t seem to collect my money on it.  There’s so much illegal activity, like the royalty collecting company out of Washington DC that’s trying to keep over five years old and older royalties they’ve collected.”


  “At that time I lived in the Baltimore, D.C. area.  Right after that first album I came to Jackson, Mississippi.  I realised that I had to get down there and find people, who were really doing this stuff, so I could get closer to it.  So I went by Malaco.  Tommy Couch Jr. had Chasin’ the Cat CD on his desk.  He didn’t want to say yes and didn’t want to say no.  Finally he said ‘I think I want to sign you after all and record another album on you’.  I guess being a writer had a lot to do with it.”

  “Tommy Couch Jr. is the president down there now.  Tommy Couch Senior is still there in the building making sure that the junior doesn’t make too many mistakes” (laughing).  What’s Life without Love was released on the Waldoxy subsidiary in June 2006, and it was produced by Tommy Jr., Larome and Kevin Lipsey.  “Kevin is an engineer that was at Malaco.  He’s in L.A. now.  He’s a great engineer.  He plays guitar and a lot of stuff.  He and Ernie Singleton are tied up there now.  Ernie was the president at MCA and before that he was at Casablanca.”  Kevin also did the arrangements alongside Larome, and one Wolf Stephenson worked also as an engineer on the record.  Gerald “Wolf” Stephenson is the vice president today.

  The album included two rather successful single releases, a tuneful and easy quick-tempo dancer called Shake & Shimmey and a soulful ballad with an opening monologue named I Feel like Cheatin.  “Those singles represented the direction that Larome Powers was going in Southern soul.  It wasn’t exactly what they were doing though.  It was a little bit too polished or just a little bit too different from what they were doing with Willie Clayton, Billy “Soul” Bonds, T.K. Soul and Mel Waiters.”

  A fast dancer called Get down on it was co-written with André Lee (  “I wrote a lot of stuff with André Lee.  On his fourth album, Straight from the Heart (Cape-Town Records in 2008), we wrote seven-eight songs together.  I’ve written with different people.  I’m not one of those guys that want to do everything by himself.  Same thing with Terry Wright, also for his album How Sweet Is Your Candy (on Mac Wright in 2009) we wrote together about six-seven songs.”

  Some of the other noteworthy tracks on What’s Life without Love include a romantic ballad titled Let’s Make Love Tonight, a mid-tempo toe-tapper called So Many Fish and another “Tyrone Davis” type of a mover named Are You Lonely.  There’s less blues this time and more hooky Southern soul dancers.  “I don’t think the CD did too well, and I don’t think that the company really made any money off from it.”


  In June 2011 Waldoxy released Larome’s biggest hit so far, a mid-tempo mover titled I’m Knockin’ (at Your Door).  “Michael Dawson and I wrote the song, and Harrison Calloway programmed it.  We did it, and it came out fine.  I’m crazy about Knockin’.  It’s been out for years, and everybody’s still playing it.”

  Now Tommy Couch Jr. has produced together with Larome a new album by the name of Stepping Out (Waldoxy, WCD 2850;  Besides Harrison’s programmed horns, there are real guitar, piano and bass featured and Freddie Young with Val Kashimura are on background vocals.  “Freddie Young is the man.  When it comes to background, I just put him up there among the best.”

  However, it took eight years from the previous album and three years from the introductory single (Knockin’) for this new CD to emerge.  “The storm came and tore the Malaco building down (in 2011) – everything’s up new now - and they also changed directions totally and brought in rap and urban r&b.  They just decided not to do the old stuff anymore.  They kept on releasing a lot of gospel stuff, though.  But they’re smart people at Malaco.  They know how to survive.  A lot of these independent companies have only three or four people employed, but Malaco has a lot more workers.”

  A quick-tempo, steady dancer named What’s the Name of that Thang – written by Larome with Morris J. Williams – has Raye Renaye cooing softly on the background, and this song recently topped the Southern soul charts.  I Need Your Sugar is a similar track. 

  Let’s get it on “Tonight”, a soft, after-hours ballad bears a slight resemblance to Latimore’s Let’s Straighten It Out.  “I’m a big Latimore fan, just like I’m a Tyrone Davis fan.  It has that feeling, but with a Larome Powers twist.”

  With his gritty and soulful baritone Larome sings a swaying, melodic slowie called If You Cheat on Your Woman, written by Harvey Scales, Johnny Rawls, L.C. Luckett and Larome.  “Originally it was a Rawls & Luckett song.  In the studio they weren’t going to do it.  Harvey and I paid for the studio time.  We were in Milwaukee.  Eventually they did that, but no verse... and it worked!  Now that I got the chance I did what I wanted to do with it.”

  Shake is an uptempo dancer written by André and Larome, and there’s also Jewel J softly talking on it.  André cut the song for his Stories of Life CD in 2012.  “I wanted that song on André’s album.  Then he decided not to put it on the Straight from Your Heart album.  He didn’t use it, so I said ‘I’m going to put it on my album’.  Then he came by the studio after a gig, he heard it and now he wanted to put it on his upcoming album.  I said ‘go ahead’.  It was written for him.”

  Older Man Young Thang, a downtempo song with Lashun Murry doing the talking on the track this time, may remind you of Millie Jackson’s concept of Young Man, Older Woman.  “... and also Denise LaSalle’s Dirty Old Woman.  I played it for a couple of my lady friends and they were crazy about it.  Then I knew I had the right thing.”

  Among the rest of the songs on this 12-tracker there are two touching ballads, the soulful If You Want Some Love and the tender and poignant I Could Never Give You Up.  “On my next album I’m not following any trends, but I’m going to record songs that I want to record.  Generally, I think that Southern soul is not going away till the people of our era pass on.  I also think that the established Southern soul artists need to do a video on some of their best songs and not to worry about new songs.  That way we remember what they look like and what they did.  That way we reserve the era and memory of Southern soul.”

(Interview conducted on December the 4th, 2014).


  In The Mood (Mission Park Record Company, MPCD 1957) is Uvee’s 8th album altogether and her 6th on Mission Park out of Florissant, Missouri.  This 11-track CD has two producers, Tom Tom MMLXXXIV (= 2084) in Chicago and James McKay in East St. Louis.

  Tom Tom has gathered an impressive group of musicians for his session.  There’s a 4-piece rhythm section (Richard Gibbs, Keith Henderson, Ron Hall and Vern Allison), Robyn Sutton on flute, Edith Yokley on violin, a 4-piece horn section (Marvin Davis, Tyrone Hines, “Big Willie” Wood and Willie Henderson) and Theresa Davis on background vocals.

  The three songs Tom Tom and Uvee cut together are all splendid, and two of them we know very well from the past.  Both Tyrone Davis’ ballad In the Mood (’79), and Margie Joseph’s As Soon As the Feeling’s Over (’75; written by Sam Dees) succeed in retaining that haunting original feeling, and the mid-tempo toe-tapper called You Make Me Happy has, I believe, evolved into a small Southern soul hit.  Coincidentally, it was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee.

  I believe that James McKay - known also for his bass, guitar and keyboard playing - tours with Dennis Edwards these days.  He has also a live rhythm section on the seven songs he wrote and produced, and the most delightful mid-tempo floaters are Ordinary and Grooving.  If you want deeper ballads, you have here a soulful swayer called Won’t Be No Fool, the melancholy Heartbreaker and as the highlight a desperate separation song titled A Woman’s Gotta Do.  This smooth and soulful CD is the best one I’ve heard from Uvee so far (


  Hooray!  One of my favourite Southern soul girls has come back after another three-year hiatus.  I Came to Get Down (ECD 1157; is her 8th Ecko album, and, as usual, it’s produced by John Ward and the songs are written by him and an established staff of writers – Gerard Rayborn, Raymond Moore, Henderson Thigpen and John Cummings.

  There’s the usual cocktail of scurrying party movers (I Didn’t Come to Sit Down, Where’s the Party At?), laid-back mid-tempo numbers (Happy Tears, A Weak Man Can Make a Woman Strong, Old School Lovin’) and lilting ballads (We Got the Right Stuff, Big Boy Stuff).  One downtempo number, I’ve Done All I Can Do Now the Rest Is up to You, that derives from Sheba’s previous CD is remixed, and a couple of time it refers – also melodically - to Al Wilson’s Show and Tell.  The ballad that made the biggest impression is Stay with Your Wife, and it’s available on YouTube, too.


  On Untamable (Endzone Entertainment) Willie has locked himself more determinedly in the bedroom than ever before.  Produced by Willie, Boo Mitchell (!), Lewis Kortez Harris and Todd Vaughan, the set is crammed with slow, after-hours, romantic and seducing songs, mating calls.  There are fourteen songs on the set and I think that this time the only one that has appeared earlier on Willie’s records is Missing You from the Ichiban/Bellmark days.

  Occasionally the old chameleon appears in the disguise of Ron Isley, Lenny Williams and Al Green, but mostly it’s Willie himself singing soft and soothing candlelight music.  Personal favourites this time include the gentle and melodic Leave My Woman Alone and two mid-tempo tracks, Girl I Love You and the sunny Let Me Be with You.


  “The Gentleman of Soul” has released a new CD, Tighten Up (M&M Records & Brimstone), produced by Wilson with Lee Parker.  Recorded in Jackson, Mississippi, and arranged by Harrison Calloway, off the top of my head I counted that Wilson has recorded at least nine of the twelve songs here on his earlier albums (I Wanna See You, I Promise, Still My Love, She’s Gone, Hold On, Where Will This Leave Me, Don’t Take It Away, Go on and Cry, Let’s Do That Thang), so you can look at this Tighten Up as some sort of “Best Of Plus” collection.

  The opener, an easy and catchy dancer named Can You Hang, has made some waves in the circuit, while the title tune is another fast song with a steady beat.  Sweet It Be is a nice mid-tempo ditty.  Wilson wrote all the songs, except Don’t Take It Away, which was penned by Troy Seals and Max Barnes and which became a number one country hit for Conway Twitty and which the Meadows Brothers covered soon after.


  Alongside Willie Clayton and Wilson Meadows, also Mr. James McClelland likes to lift songs from his precious CDs - sometimes remixed, sometimes not.  I think that on I Lost My Baby on Facebook (Gunsmoke Records, GUN-5863) there are only four new songs.  Rich & Famous, God’s Got Your Back, Your All In My Dreams, Why Do You Have 2 Lie, If He Can’t Hold His Pants up – How Can He Hold You up and It Doesn’t Seem Like Xmas 2 Me are all familiar songs from the past.

  The jogging mid-tempo title song and the opener is Jesse’s recent hit, and the track # 2, Can I Still Be Your Friend, is a soft, pleading ballad.  Sexy Booty is a mediocre dancer, but – along with the title track – the crucial song on this CD is the 7-minute long Hate Will Destroy the World.  The song first appeared on Jimmy McCracklin’s Gunsmoke CD, Tell It to the Judge!, in 1999, and here Jesse has topicalized this ballad, transformed it even more thought-provoking than before.  Sub-titled Trevor Martin Story, Jesse uses here news comments, interviews and other sound clips on the background to visualize the message and make this whole track a touching testimony.

I purchased all the Southern soul CDs above at



  I’ve stated it before and I repeat again that usually there’s a reason for a record not to be released.  After listening to Satisfaction Guaranteed! Motown Guys 1961-69 (Kent, CDTOP 424;; 24 tracks, 66 min.; notes by Keith Hughes) I came to the conclusion that some of the reasons are simply poor songs and poor arrangements.  All these 24 tracks were left in the can, and I was sorry to find that many of my biggest favourites have failed on these particular tracks.  Now I’m talking about the Spinners (Hold On to me a little Longer), Chuck Jackson (Where Did You Go) and the Fantastic Four (I Wanna Say I Love you).

  Naturally there were sources of joy, too.  Johnny Bristol’s Tell Me How to Forget a True Love (’64) is a pleasant toe-tapper, Edwin Starr’s The Sound of Love (’69) is an energetic scorcher, Frank Wilson’s Together ‘til the End of Time (’65) is a nice downtempo song – Brenda Holloway cut her version, too – and Ivy Joe’s Just Your Love (’65) is a big ballad.

  Let me pick up a few more:  Jimmy Ruffin’s It’s You That I Need (’65) is okay – because of Jimmy and his voice – but not on a par with the TemptationsFreddie Gorman’s I’m Gonna Make It to the Top (’63) is a fast poppy ditty and the Serenaders’ – with Sidney Barnes and George Kerr in the line-up – Say, Say, Baby (’63) is a mixture of pop and doowop.

  Devoted Motown fans are, of course, ecstatic about that basic sound and the beat and they desire everything that is in that alley.  It’s all very good, but for the average soul music consumer I’d advise to listen to this CD first.


  I admit that there are many familiar songs and obvious choices on Bring It on Home/Black America Sings Sam Cooke (Ace, CDCHD 1420; 24 tracks, 66 min., notes by Tony Rounce), but Sam’s music is just so captivating that I enjoyed this set a lot.  His songs are always melodic and mostly joyous, but - when needed – also touching and innovative.

  The tracks derive from the period of 1959 till 1976, and – to be honest - not all of them thrilled me.  Theola Kilgore’s previously unreleased version of (Chain Gang) The Sound of My Man sounds unconvincing, and I still haven’t grown used to the quick-tempo arrangement on Eddie Floyd’s Bring It on Home to Me.  Also the Motown sound and Sam were not always compatible.  Led by Florence Ballard, the Supremes did okay on their express train version of (Ain’t That) Good News, but the Miracles sound a bit out-of-place on Dance What You Wanna.  And most importantly: for me A Change Is Gonna Come has to be intense and dramatic, not a lightly bouncing track like Brenton Wood presents here.

  There are so many delights on this record that a few so-so’s are snowed under them.  Johnnie Taylor’s Rome (Wasn’t Built in a Day), Bobby Womack’s I’m Gonna Forget about You, the FlamingosNobody Loves Me like You and Little Anthony & the Imperials’ storming I’m Alright are all fine uptempo movers, whereas on the mid-tempo front there are a lot of gems: Mel Carter’s When a Boy Falls in Love, Johnny Nash’s Wonderful World, the Falcons’ Pow! You’re in Love, Lou RawlsWin Your Love and Cupid by one of my favourite singers, R.B. Greaves.  In this section the two most soulful interpretations are Somebody Have Mercy by Willie Hightower and Soothe Me by Sam & Dave.

  The downtempo songs are in minority this time, but nevertheless they are equally fascinating.  Sam himself is leading on That’s Heaven to Me by the Soul Stirrers, the Persuasions sing a cappella version of Love You Most of All and the deepest of them all is The Smile by the Simms TwinsBring It on Home is a fine and timely tribute to Sam, considering that he passed away almost exactly fifty years ago, on December the 11th in 1964.


  For me the ever-soulful Fantastic Four is the head-liner on a new compilation entitled Good All Over/Rare Soul from the Westbound Records Vaults 1969-1975 (Westbound/Ace CDSEWD 154; 23 tracks, 2 prev. unissued, 76 min.; notes by Tony Rounce).  Three of the group’s four Eastbound single sides in 1973 are featured here, and each of them – I’m Falling In Love, If You Need Me Call Me, I Believe in Miracles – is a keeper (

  Then there’s A.C. or Abe or Abrim Tilmon, who was a busy man those days on these Armen Boladian’s labels in Detroit.  He recorded as a solo artist – the slightly bluesy I Love to Dream is a good sample – as well as headed the Detroit Emeralds (the uptempo Rosetta Stone and That’s All I Got), but his most memorable performance on this set is a previously unreleased, beautiful and romantic duet with Denise LaSalle named Tender Moments.

  Besides himself and the Emeralds, Abe was a prolific songwriter and producer for some of the other acts, too.  His contributions are heard on tracks by Damon Shawn (the tender I’m Wishing), by the Motivations (the melancholy I’m loving you you’re leaving me) and Bob & Harold (a post-doowop ballad named You Can’t Take This Love for You from Me).

  There are many nice tracks on this CD, but especially two of the rest stood out for me: the pleading Trying Real Hard (to Make the Grade) by the Magictones and the haunting More Love (Where This Came from) by Emanuel Laskey.


  Hard to Explain/More Shattered Dreams/Funky Blues 1968-1984 (BGP, CDBGPD 285; 20 tracks, 63 min.; notes by Dean Rudland) concentrates on the 70s, and the words “funky blues” actually tell everything.  We are catered to mostly blues romps - fast and rocky, stomping and pounding, funky and nasty – by Freddy Robinson, Artie White, Obrey Wilson – his interview is printed in the booklet – Lowell Fulsom, Albert King (on an instrumental called Cold Sweat), Jimmy McCracklin etc.

  Of the five slow numbers I liked the best Big Daddy Rucker’s He Made You Mine and Jimmy Robins’ strong bluesoul reading of It’s Real.


  Eddy is one of those artists, who followed the familiar route of gospel-secular-gospel.  In terms of soul music, his peak period was in the latter part of the 60s and early 70s, and now Southern Soul Brother/The Murco Recordings 1967-1969 (Kent, CDKEND 4011; 18 tracks, 49 min.; notes by Dean Rudland) gathers his best sides from that era.

  The rolling and fervent Losin’ Boy started it all, and the similar Don’t Let Me Suffer followed.  Other noteworthy uptempo tracks are a sparkling mover called So Deep in Love and the poppy Pins and Needles, which is one of the two previously unissued songs here.  Besides a dancer named simply Music, the rest of the fast tracks are all funky jams.

  Among the slow numbers there are three above others.  That’s How Strong My Love Is appeared already on the Silver Fox label, right after the Murco period, Happy Man is a thrilling deep soul ballad and even more emotional is While I’m Away (Baby, Keep the Faith), actually a duet with Charles Brown.  One more thing: the tracks on this Kent compilation are in a beautiful chronological order.



  Okeh Records 1918 to 1970 (100 pages, 80 photos; no index) is Gary Evans’ tribute to his favourite record label, and the spark for this was ignited already twenty years ago.  The book is divided into seven chapters and I repeat them here, because they describe the content quite well (I’ve added the years myself): In the beginning (1918-42) / Pop, doo-wop and the birth of rhythm & blues (1951-52) / Rock & Roll is here to stay (1952-57) / The wilderness years (1958-63) / The golden age of Chicago soul (1962-65) / Life after Carl (1966-70).

  Gary doesn’t make record-by-record or year-by-year annotations and lists.  Instead he writes about the Okeh history at a general level and gives us artist profiles, bios.  Okeh was a pioneer in “Race Records”, and had in its roster such artists and persons as Mamie Smith, Clarence Williams, Richard M. Jones, Victoria Spivey, Roosevelt Sykes etc.  In the beginning Okeh worked in many fields, including blues, jazz, country & hillbilly and gospel.  In 1926 Columbia took over and became the master.

  After Okeh was revived in 1951, such names as Maurice King, Johnnie Ray, Brook Benton, Billy Stewart, Marie Knight and Little Richard pop up.  On page 62 we finally reach the golden era for Gary, the early and mid-sixties in Chicago, with Carl Davis, Major Lance, Walter Jackson, Billy Butler, the Vibrations and numerous other northern soul icons, also towards the decade.  Even some deeper soul artists are discussed, like Margie Joseph, Sandra Philips, Major Harris and Azie Mortimer.

  In spite of some minor inconsistencies and misprints, in the writing you can sense the excitement of a true fan.  Along with all the facts – which I always love - the most fascinating part of the book is how Gary has put his heart and soul into this research.  He really has done a good job in telling the story of one significant label in our music.

© Heikki Suosalo

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