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From Soul Express 2/2004


  Malaco's latest catch is a young, gospel-raised artist by the name of Vick Allen.  "I was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on September 17 in 1971."  Vick lists Al Green, Bobby Womack, Bobby Blue Bland and Johnnie Taylor his early idols.  "Fresh out from high school, from 1990, I performed twelve years in a world-renowned gospel group, the Canton Spirituals.  That was a full-time job.  We toured the United States, but we also toured overseas quite a bit."  The group was formed in Canton, Mississippi, already in the 40s, and its first lead was Harvey Watkins, Sr., who passed away in 1994, and from that point on Harvey Jr. has carried the torch.  The group released a lot of albums on J&B and Verity in the 80s and 90s, and our Victor was one of the seven members in the line-up.

  "I started producing secular music for Willie Clayton and I also produced for Bobby Rush.  They were fans of the Canton Spirituals.  A lot of secular artists listen to gospel music."  Vick has worked with Willie on the End Zone album, The Last Man Standing, on Bobby Rush's Waldoxy CD Hoochie Man, on O.B.Bryant's Blues Party (Good Time Records), on Ben Tankard's gospel CD on Verity and even plays keyboards on the latest Shirley Brown set reviewed above.  On some of those albums Vick not only did producing, but also wrote, arranged, mixed, engineered and played keys.  "I just finished working with the Canton Spirituals on their new project, which is supposed to be released in October on Verity Records."

  Vick's first solo album, Let's Dance, was released on Brown Hill 1001 two years ago.  "Brown Hill was a label from Dallas, Texas - A.C. Brown.  That connection was made by Mel Waiters.  Malaco was aware of me through the success of Let's Dance.  When I started recording a new CD, they were interested in what I had started on.  I went by and let them hear about four songs I had done already.  They were interested, and we just decided to sign with them and do the record."

  Vick's latest Waldoxy CD, Old School… New Flava ('04), was produced by him with the exception of two tracks - a gloomy, downtempo song with a hypnotic beat called Clean House and a smooth beat ballad titled Marry Me - which were co-produced (and written) by Rich Cason.  "I've been a fan of his music for a long time.  We've been friends and we've kept in touch.  Then he found out that I was doing a record for Malaco, he sent over a couple of songs and I loved them."

  Vick wrote the first two songs.  Hold On is a heavy mid-bouncer, where towards the end you can hear Bobby Rush's harmonica, while Wrong Place Wrong Time is an impressive soul ballad, on which Vick's voice bears a slight resemblance to Willie Clayton.  "I've worked with Willie for a long time and vocally he has influenced me, but I don't purposely try to sound like him."

  I Better Walk Away (co-written by Vick) is a catchy dancer, but even more infectious is So Sweet So Fine, a new song written by Vick and Willie Clayton.  I'm Going Home is a pleading ballad, whereas Mr. Telephone Man, a mid-beater written by Ray Parker Jr., was a number one black hit for New Edition twenty years ago.  "I'm only thirty-two and that's oldie to me.  That song was popular, when I was in high school.  Whenever I do shows, that's a very popular song to do live, because everybody knows it and it turns into a big singalong song."

  We all remember Gladys Knight's wonderful rendition of the Van McCoy song, Giving Up, from forty years back, but Vick's (6:25) cover is arranged to Donny Hathaway's slow '72 version.  "I've always been a big fan of Donny Hathaway.  I was introduced to his music at an early age, and that has always been one of my favourite cuts by him."

  A slow and spirited testimony called A World Where No One Cries was cut by Bobby Womack for his '87 The Last Soul Man album.  "That song features my wife, Sonya Allen.  She is an evangelist.  I wanted to feature her on a song that wasn't quite so secular.  That song has a more Christian and gospel message to it."

  One of the persons Vick thanks in the liner notes is Peggy Scott-Adams.  "Peggy and I are real good friends.  I've actually worked with her on her upcoming gospel album."

  Besides harmonica on this set you can listen to guitars, bass and sax, so the omnipresent question about machines vs. instruments was raised.  "The music is changing in the U.S.  That's what people prefer now.  Money concerned, actually nowadays it's gotten the other way round.  It actually now costs more for one person to program a track than it would be to bring in the musicians.  It has become a standard here.  Producer Kanye West gets a portion of 100,000 plus the track he programmed, and for 100,000 dollars you can get two orchestras."

-Heikki Suosalo

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