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Soul Express CD Review

J. Blackfoot: Reality

From Soul Express 5/1995

  We ran an interview with J(ohn Colbert) a couple of years ago (in issue 6/93), when his previous album, Room Service, was released. “It did pretty good. Not as good as I expected, because we didn't get the airplay that we should have gotten. It be's that way sometimes, and you just have to roll with the punches.”

  Now Lester Snell and Homer Banks have produced and mainly written John's follow-up, Reality, on their Platinum Blue label (preceded by the label's Christmas set). “It's selling very well at the moment. We still need a lot of airplay, but when you are independent you don't get the airplay that you should get. That's the key. But so far we're doing very well.”

  On this John's sixth solo set one of the co-engineers is Willie Mitchell. “He's a good friend of mine, and I called him and asked to use his studio to record the album, and he said `yes, come on'. A lot of people are cutting in Willie's studio. He's not producing or doing a lot of things like that, but he’s active in that way.”

  The album is called Reality, even though there isn’t a track with such a title on it. “The songs are the reality. Listen to the words of `I Messed Up'. There's the person that courted his old lady's best friend. That’s reality, that happens in real life.”

  The set opens with Times Like This, a swaying mid-pacer that attacks you with an unexpectedly heavy soul-burst, and is followed by Storyteller, an impressive and captivating jogger with a fine story line, which, in irresistible How Could You, finds its equal.

  Next we are surprised by an interesting mid-tempo arrangement - by Lester Snell - and a new angle with a light Caribbean touch to a tune we all know from a way back, Let It Be Me. "Homer Banks and Lester Snell wanted to record this tune. Jerry Butler (who together with Betty Everett had a top-ten hit with the song in '64) has been a friend of mine for years back when he and The Impressions were doing `For Your Precious Love'. I always loved Jerry Butler’s songs, and that was a great song for me to do."

  And isn’t it lovely Miss Ann Hines, who is duetting with John? “Right, she's the young lady there that's singing with me. Homer Banks wrote some words for her to do in the song, and we changed it a little bit.”

  Ann had her Man Hunt album released on Platinum Blue in '93, but very little has been heard of her since. “Publicity. Like I said, we're independent, and we don't have the money to promote as well as we could.” However, Ann never left the scene, but has been and still is working closely with John also as one of his background singers. "I have three background singers, and I have a five-pieve rhythm. But I love horns, and sometimes on certain occasions I use them."

  I Messed Up is a very slow, passionately pleading ballad about a repentant man begging for forgiveness. “That's one of my favorites, because of the story and the feeling that I really felt. I felt good recording that song. Emotionally I got into that song.”

  This Bed is a hard-hitting funk track. "We recorded that song over six-seven years ago, but we never did put it out. We redid it to bring it up to date. It's really a funky track, I like `This Bed', always have."

  Let Me Put You Up (For The Night) is a love ballad with a touching melody, but on the label it says part II. "That was a fourty-five. We recorded that song, I guess, about four or five years ago. It was the A-side with Edge Records. We didn't get a lot of publicity behind it or airplay. Wherever it played, it was a hit, but that was in very few places where we got it played. We just put part II on the album, because a lot of people wanted that song. It was a great song."

  We are also treated to impressive updatings of John's two Sound Town hits, Taxi (‘83) and I Stood On The Sidewalk (‘84). “Everybody’s been asking for them, so we put them on this album. They have been hard to get.”

  Always And Forever is a light, bouncy mid-pacer. “That's another one of my favorites. I like the story, and the feel of it, the bounce of it.”

  Reality rounds up with Sweat, a jolly but tight dancer with a fake audience, leaving us soulfully satisfied and hoping that they'd still make more albums like this. But are there any single releases? “No, because they're playing so many songs off the album. It's hard for us to pick up a single, so we're just letting them go on and play. By us being independent, we're trying to get as much airplay as we can get.”

  If among you there are those who are still pondering where the name ‘Blackfoot’ is coming from, John is quick to explain. “When I was real young, I didn't like to wear shoes. When I walked, the pavement was tarred, and my feet would get black on the bottom. A young man, his name was Spookie, started calling me ‘Blackfoot’, and the name stuck with me. I just took J. from my real name John and put with the Blackfoot, when I got by myself.”

  John is both optimistic and realistic about his future. “I plan to record another album. I'll be recording until the good Lord will take me away. One of these days J. Blackfoot will be a house-hold name. It's been hard for me. I don't get the recognization that I deserve, but I know that the Lord has some plans for me, so I'm gonna keep on doing what I'm doing and doing it good; good records.”

-Heikki Suosalo

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