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Soul Express DVD Reviews

By Heikki Suosalo



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The Dramatics: Biggest Hits Live DVD

  The first discs in a series of live classic soul DVDs and CDs have been released by Soul Concerts LLC. Produced by Darryl Payne, they’ve been available for a couple of months now, so it’s time to have a look at three groups first – with comments from one member of each group – and carry on reviewing some of those DVDs in up-coming Deep columns.


There really aren’t any surprise choices among the eighteen songs the group performs during their 80-minute concert.  David Sea: “I think we did that concert last year in Chicago.  The DVD is doing well over here.  They were supposed to take it back and do some remakes on it, but I don’t know if they’re going to do that now at all.  Our show usually lasts about an hour and a half.”

  The cavalcade of hits on this Live In Concert (DVD 1015) contains songs from the Tempts’ psychedelic period – Cloud Nine, I Can’t Get Next to You, Ball of Confusion, Papa Was a Rolling Stone – as well as earlier hits, such as Get Ready, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Beauty Is Only Skin Deep, The Way You Do The Things You Do and My Girl.  “People like everything the group has done back in the day, so that’s basically what we do on the show.  You might have something that has come up a little later like Some Enchanted Evening and Treat Her like a Lady, but they are the newest things that we do, with Ali Ollie Woodson being with us now.”

  The group in the line-up of Dennis Edwards, Ali Woodson, David Sea, Mike Pattillo and Chris Arnold is backed on stage not only by a rhythm, but a horn section as well.  “That’s our permanent band.”  One song, I’ve had a Love of My Own (or by another name, Hello Young Lovers), differs from the rest of the repertoire in its jazzy arrangement.  “That’s a song that was done by the Temptations way back in the day, when they were performing on Ed Sullivan’s shows and such… It was a very popular song, kind of jazz orientated.  We also do some traditional songs like Ol’ Man River, but that’s as far as we go with it; not a whole lot of jazz stuff.”

  Dennis naturally handles most of the leads, but other members get their spots, too.  Mike (bass) does Rainy Night in Georgia, Ali and Chris share the lead on Some Enchanted Evening and Ali handles both Treat Her like a Lady and the ever-beautiful Lady Soul.  I Wish It Would Rain is and has for a long time been David Sea’s show-stopper.

  Standing on the Top and Just My Imagination are also featured, and as a bonus we get an 8-minute interview with the members of the group.  Although it doesn’t contain any new information, we are, however, treated to an “a cappella” version of God Bless America.  The shooting, camera work, seemed at times amateurish, without professional directing; wrong persons at a wrong time, wrong angles and losing a lot of the choreography.


  This magnificent group (, which has been in existence for 55 years and has been singing in the present line-up of Marvin Junior, Johnny Carter, Chuck Barksdale, Michael McGill and Verne Allison since the early 60s, may not be as mobile on stage as they used to be, but they still know their steps.  Chuck: “We do what we do.  We just put the DVD out there for the general public.  Let them be the judge of the quality of the DVD.  It’s our first one… and then you always do things a little better.”

  Again both rhythm and horn sections backing the boys up, Live From New York City (DVD 1008) is only 53 minutes long, with no bonus interviews this time (and sound balance leaves a lot to be desired).  “This was like chapter one, and now we are ready to do chapter two… then three and four, because this one is doing so well.  It’s doing extremely well.  This concert took place in the fall of 2006.  There’s going to be a lot of different things happening after this DVD, where you’re going to hear interviews by the Dells etc. etc… We also keep you informed, when the next Dells CD is coming out.”

  The singing, of course, is as powerful as ever, but there are actually only seven songs on the DVD – There Is, The Love We Had Stays on My Mind, Oh What A Night, Always Together, Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation, A Heart Is a House for Love, Stay in my Corner – but on average they are quite long ones.  And they are some of the most remarkable mileposts in group’s career.  “The Dells have recorded some 350 songs over these 55 years, and of course you can’t hear all of them on one DVD.  That’s why it’ll take a series of these DVDs, like an encyclopaedia.  It’ll take us awhile to put it all together, but until that happens we’re very pleased and thankful that this DVD is doing as great as it is.”

  On Stay in my Corner Marvin this time holds that one special note for 23 seconds, and to liven the atmosphere up even more, on the ten-minute-long Always Together their high-voiced tenor, Johnny Carter, takes Chuck Barksdale’s place and turns into a bass singer.  This is an essential DVD for those, who haven’t been lucky enough to witness a Dells concert before.  Incidentally, the information on these discs is scarce, to put it mildly; no booklets, only some text on the back cover.


  In terms of running time and the amount of information, Live In Concert (DVD 1039) by Ray, Goodman & Brown is the most rewarding of these DVDs so far.  The very concert runs close to 70 minutes and all the bonuses add up to almost 50 more minutes, still.  A five-piece rhythm section plus two on horns on background, the concert took place in Pittsburgh.  Al Goodman: “It was Mother’s day in 2005.”

  The four singers on stage were Al Goodman, Billy Brown, Kevin Owens and Larry Winfree.  Al and Billy have been members (of the Moments) since the late 60s.  “Kevin has been in the line-up for a long time, but he was in and out.  He’s been with Luther Vandross for awhile, but now he’s a permanent fixture.  Larry has been with us for twenty-two years, first singing background.  Because Kevin was going back and forth with Luther, we moved Larry up to the three upfront.  When Kevin came back, we just kept him up.”

  Of the fifteen songs on display, personal favourites include “the Moments medley” of Sunday, With You and Lovely Way She Loves.  Other memorable Moments songs are Look at Me, All I Have, Not on the Outside, Sexy Mama and, inevitably, Love on a Two-Way Street.  “It’s because we had more hits as the Moments.  Ray, Goodman & Brown – Inside of You, Special Lady, Happy Anniversary (all three are on the DVD) and My Prayer – that’s about the extent of the hits; except that we had a gold album (RG&B, on Polydor in 1979).  But as the Moments we had a lot of r&b hits, starting with Not on the Outside, Sunday and all that stuff.”

  In their shows the group does also some outside tunes.  “We use Stay with Me (I Love You Babe) as an opening song.  It was a song done by Babyface, and later on by the Whispers.  We do the Whispers version on stage.  We never had too many uptempo songs, so we use a performance by another artist just to get on stage and have something to loosen up with the audience.”

  “Somewhere There’s a Love was by Howard Hewett of Shalamar, and Before I Let Go was by Frankie Beverly and Maze.  It’s a big party song here in the United States.  Over here Frankie Beverly has such a tremendous following, and to close out with something like that… people love to party.”

  The show consists mainly of beautiful and romantic love ballads, and the boys do quite a lot of light talking between the songs.  “We don’t change our program a lot, but we do change it according to where we’re going.  If we’re booked for a major pop audience, we change the show a lot.  If we’re booked for an r&b crowd, basically that’s it.”

  The first bonus section is a 4-song and 25-minute excerpt (Love on a Two-Way Street, Sunday, Sexy Mama and Special Lady are repeated here) from a concert in Philadelphia.  “That was earlier than Pittsburgh.  It was the same year, but earlier.”  Other bonuses show signing autographs for fans, interviews and a sound-check. 

  When asked about some other RG&B melodies, Mr. Al Goodman kindly explains that “Take It to the Limit we do a lot, but I don’t think we ever performed Till the Right One Comes Along live, because nobody knows it here.  We do Who’s Gonna Make the First Move sometimes here.  Stay – we have two different shows.  People love to see a group with track, without a band, so we’re using the backing track.  We do Stay in that particular show.  A lot of the songs that we’re not doing with the live band, we’re doing at our track show.”

  The group remains active on the recording front, too.  “We’re about 40 % finished with the Christmas album.  I don’t think we’ll get it out this year.  We want a great Christmas album.  We don’t want one of them run-of-the-mill albums.  This has to be the best ever.  I don’t want to go out with an album that’s just mediocre.  We’re doing some standard tunes, and some that we are doing are originals.  We’re not doing a hip-hop version.  We’re doing a full work with orchestration.  We just started our new label called New Image, and hopefully our new r&b album will be on that label, too.”

 After the three DVDs above, new ones at least by the Chi-Lites, Edwin Starr, Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, the Delfonics and Melba Moore are now available.

Heikki Suosalo

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