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and the interview with Gerald Alston

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Sings Sam Cooke
US Love Song Touring Co USA, 2008
1) You Send Me 2) Sentimental Reasons 3) Only Sixteen 4) Wonderful World 5) Chain Gang 6) Cupid 7) Twistin' the Night Away 8) Bring It on Home to Me 9) Having a Party 10) A Change Is Gonna Come 11) Good Times 12) That's Where It's at 12) A Change Is Gonna Come (Live in Kansas City)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heikki Suosalo

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