SOUL TALKIN': David Nathan Talks To Ronnie Canada

SOUL TALKIN’: David Nathan Talks To Ronnie Canada

In-person interview with Ronnie Canada, whose career has included stints with The Drifters and The Bluenotes as well as recordings with Caviar, road gigs with Betty Wright and shows as a vocalist with Judge Jules and many other dance music producers and whose previously-unreleased album with Caviar is finally seeing the light of day…

Click here for Ronnie’s website


Latest Classic Soul Reissue Reviews - October 2016

Latest Classic Soul Reissue Reviews – October 2016



This, the follow-up to “Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon & McCartney”, is another pot pourie of wonderful cover versions. This time, George Harrison has been included in the mix, the Beatle who was so often overlooked as John and Paul received the lion’s share of the composing credit having penned the lion’s share of the group’s hit material. With The Beatles openly crediting Black America as their prime inspiration, it seems only natural for them to pay homage to their British equivalents. Kicking off with Aretha Franklin’s “Eleanor Rigby” (always a pleasure), through to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” and Mary Wells’ “Do You Want To Know A Secret”. Smashing! Motown too are well represented – as indeed they should be due to The Beatles (and of course Dusty Springfield’s) relentless promotion of the young sound coming from Detroit – with the Four Tops’ version of “The Fool On The Hill”, The Supremes’ “A World Without Love”, The Temptations’ “Hey Jude”, and The Undisputed Truth’s “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Add to these titles, the magical touch from Isaac Hayes on “Something”, Dionne Warwick with “We Can Work It Out” and “Don’t Let Me Down” from Randy Crawford, and you’ve got a pretty enjoyable compilation. What I like about Ace Records is that the guys think outside the box, and this is another they should be proud of, so highly recommended for sure. (See also Motown Spotlight)

Rating: 9

SMCR5139 Dan Hartman booklet.indd

If you’re into seventies disco, this re-issue definitely has your name on it. “Instant Replay” blazed its way across the world, firing up dancers and DJs with its non stop dance beat that simply roared into the atmosphere. Hard hitting, huge slices of musical domination and a relentless pounding beat. There’s nothing to dislike about this slice of Dan Hartman musical magic, because right from the opening track, the pace and mood is set: party, party, party – and here comes the countdown! Released in 1978, this is Dan’s third full length album where all the tracks hit the top spot in the US dance chart, while “Instant Replay” and “This Is It” were crossover UK hits. Written and produced by the main man, with Tom Moulton at the mixing desk, nothing could really go wrong, could it? The tracks are full to bursting in energy and musical gadgetry, almost wall-to-wall disco of the highest level achievable on record. Pushing open the barriers is evidenced by “Countdown/This Is It”, a melee of sounds grappling to be heard, while “Double-O-Love” hits the funk trail with a harder feel and rougher vocals, all the while the beat yields not at all but becomes engagingly interesting with huge slices of guitar work. Likewise “Chocolate Box” which is more edgy, for want of a better word, and loving the way it changes style part-way through. The introduction to “Love Is A Natural” reminds me of Cissy Houston’s “Think It Over” (also during some of the sections throughout the song) but sadly Dan’s song tends to meander along without the immediate grab of the previous tracks. Then, quite out of the blue, the mood is totally changed with “Time And Space” – a slow moving, softer sounding singer but, my, what a strong chorus line. Many may feel this is out of place here, but, not so, because it offers a different side to the singer/producer, almost melancholy in feel, but not too cheesy. It’ll do for me. Dan died in 1994, aged 43 years old, from an AIDS related illness. The world lost a growing talent of unimaginable creativeness.
Rating: 9



Funk may be the message but after listening to this re-issue time and again, I’m not getting it. The groove and pace throughout is extremely similar, but not unattractive. Sometimes a piece of inventive musical excitement breaks free and the continuous beat takes on different guises, yet the incessant overall sound remains the same. His formative years saw him working with Billy Preston and Merry Clayton in the Los Angeles Community Choir, before a spell in the army where he performed with bands in Germany. Upon his return to America, and now an established keyboardist, Edwin studied at the Manhattan School of Music and Julliard, before recording a pair of experimental jazz/funk/rock fusion albums under the Polydor banner. Following a short stay with Bam-Boo Records, he joined Philadelphia International Records to record this eponymous album during 1979. “Kunta Dance” was the first extracted single, gushing over with a funk/dance styling, with lyrics inspired by the award winning “Roots” television series. Pulsating P-funk inspired “Phiss-Phizz, the second single, which follows the CD’s opener “Cola Bottle Baby”, extending the soft drink theme perhaps. The final single “Lollipop”, another with that compulsive pull, unfortunately followed the same non-hit status of its predecessors, which was surprising when considering the mighty power of the Philadelphia International network. So, over to you.
Rating: 5

THIS IS FAME 1964 – 1968 (KENT)


When this re-issue series was launched in 2011 by the guys at the record company, the vinyl revival was simmering away quietly. Now it’s very much with us – and hallelujah for that! Albums are restricted, of course, by the number of tracks that can be squeezed in, so this one now available offers a definitive look at tracks recorded for this much-revered label. So to tempt buyers, some of the included titles are a pair from Arthur Conley, namely, “I Can’t Stop (No, No, No)” and “I’m Gonna Forget About You”; The Del-Rays’ “Fortune Teller”; George Jackson’s “Back In Your Arms” and June Conquest’s “Almost Persuaded”. Tracks from Clarence Carter and Jimmy Hughes sit easily with recently found gems from Ralph “Soul” Jackson and Ben & Spence. Together they fit well with those by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn. Must give a mention to the actual record sleeve because it will remind buyers of the lovely sixties soul compilations we used to buy. Welcome back – and not before time!
Rating: 7



This is the first vinyl album on Ace Record’s specially created Pied Piper imprint although I’m reviewing it from a promotional CD, not having the pure pleasure of opening the cardboard sleeve and carefully easing the 12” record out from within. I’m joking guys! Anyway, that said, Pipe Piper, a Detroit based production company, boasted a huge enough catalogue to have been a successful label in its own right. And, over the last twenty years or so around fifty completed tracks were unearthed for release, and this is the first from that discovery. Newly discovered soul gems like September Jones’ “Voo Doo Madamoiselle” and The Cavaliers’ “We Go Together” slide easily alongside enduring favourites including The Hesitations’ “I’m Not Built That Way” and Mikki Farrow’s “Set My Heart At Ease”. “Just Can’t Leave You” from Tony Hester, and Rose Batiste’s “This Heart Is Lonely” are included under the rarities banner. A positive must for serious collectors.
Rating: 8

Beverley Knight 2016 Interview

Beverley Knight 2016 Interview

Beverley Knight has distinguished herself as one of Britain’s pioneering soul/pop artists, having recorded eight albums since 1995 and establishing herself as constant presence on the UK music scene as well as expanding – in recent years – to appear in a number of successful London West End musicals including “The Bodyguard,” “Cats” and “Memphis,” the latter providing the inspiration for her latest album, recorded in the famed city. She talks to founder David Nathan about her visit to the birthplace of so many classic R&B recordings and more…


Click here for the BEVERLEY KNIGHT page at

November 2016 SoulMusic Records Releases

November 2016 SoulMusic Records Releases

SoulMusic Records is proud to present the following new releases. Click each CD for more details (track listings, full information, order links):

Due on November 4 via and November 11 via
MELBA_MOORE_ANTHOLOGYMELBA MOORE: STANDING RIGHT HERE – THE ANTHOLOGY – THE BUDDAH & EPIC YEARS (SMCR-5144D) –  A sumptuous first-of-its- kind 2-CD set by the fabulous Melba Moore, spanning the renowned entertainer’s recordings between 1975-1980 for the Buddah and Epic labels. Included are all of Melba’s US charted hits during this exciting period of her career when she first rose to prominence globally.  


GLADYS_KNIGHTGLADYS KNIGHT: THE SOLO COLLECTION (SMCR-5145D) – A first-ever 2-CD set of the two albums “Miss Gladys Knight”  recorded for Buddah Records in 1978 and “Gladys Knight” recorded for Columbia Records in 1979 by the legendary singer in the late ‘70s.   Included are eight bonus tracks from the Columbia sessions.




We’re happy to announce our latest round of voting for induction into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame here at

Voting is free, no registration needed and ends on October 31, 2016.

Just click the

Nominees are:
















































THE MIRACLES (1959-1970)

Motown Spotlight - September 2016

Motown Spotlight – September 2016

Gloria Jones and Sharon Davis

It was nearly forty years ago that Marc Bolan died in a car crash in Barnes and 30 September would have been his 60th birthday, and somehow I was drawn to his partner and Motown singer/composer Gloria Jones. First turning to her “Windstorm” album holding the haunting “If Roses Don’t Come (In Spring This Year)” and the massively emotional “Bring On The Love (Why Can’t We Be Friends Again)”, both composed by the lady, and released by Capitol Records in 1978. If my memory serves me well, she recorded these tracks in the States, and Marc, who stayed in the UK to finished filming his “Marc” television series, regularly updated me on her progress. The tragedy was that upon her return, they dined at Mortons Club, and it was on their way home, that the accident happened that killed Marc outright. Gloria sustained dreadful injuries, one of which was a broken jaw where her mouth was wired for ages. She used to write me little notes when I visited, which was often. It was thought she’d never sing again but slowly her rich, warm, gospel-tinged voice returned – thankfully. Anyway, after “Windstorm” I re-visited her 1973 Motown album “Share My Love” and the wonderfully atmospheric album title penned by Gloria and Janie Bradford. Another pair of standout tracks here are the emotionally sizzling “Try Love” which she co-wrote. Beautifully stylish and soulfully delivered. And with her famous songwriting partner British-born Pam Sawyer wrote “What Did I Do To Lose You”. Yes, one day my book will be written and my time with Gloria and Marc will be lovingly remembered – among other things! Anyway, another day, another story; let’s move on.

I got there in the end! Finally watched with absolute delight Carolyn, Milly, Bertha and Norma – The Velvelettes – performing “Needle In A Haystack” at the annual Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame celebrations held last month at the Ford Performing Arts Theatre in Dearborn, Michigan. Each year, those acts who are inducted are celebrated through musical performances, spoken word, and live and video tributes by many of today’s biggest musical names who have been influenced by R&B musical greats. This year, Mary Wilson hosted the ceremony, where inducted Motown acts included Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, and the fabulous Velvelettes who, as you know, are all original group members. And my didn’t they look sleek in their long gowns, as they moved as one, with their voices as strong and pure as the first time round. It brings a lump to my throat seeing these ladies because they’ve stuck together, loved together (and probably argued a lot too!) but all the while never let anything interfere with their music. True professionals, true legends. When their recordings with Motown dried up, they decided to hang up their microphones and stage gowns. Then the chance finger of fate pointed in their direction when a DJ in the Washington area wanted to hook up with the group. “He was a lover of The Velvelettes and asked over his radio show did anyone know me” Norma once told me in a UK interview. “He wanted me to get the others together. So I phoned them and we got together for the first time in twenty years. We acted like teenagers, I can tell you. We stayed up all night, it was wonderful.”

The group went on to perform at a festival which featured most types of music – jazz, R&B, gospel, and so on. “We got the rock section,” Norma laughed. “The Velvelettes represented sixties music. We got together for a couple of weekends and came up with a medley of songs that included both The Shirelles and The Supremes. It was about a fifteen-minute show and we were scared to death.” However, the overwhelming response from their audience, got them thinking that maybe they could stay together as a performing unit in the business, working around their regular jobs, and when their next invitation was to participate in a Motown Revue at the Fox Theatre, with Jr Walker, Martha Reeves and others, they had their answer. “We opened the show in front of six thousand people. It was fantastic because we’d not seen the other acts for years. People sent us notes to stay together. Diana Ross sent us one too.” Their next important port of call was the UK, where they were astonished to learn they had a solid fan base. In fact, Norman claimed they never knew what happened outside the States – “Motown never told us we had released singles here!” Once a fan, always a fan: we’re a loyal bunch for sure, I told her.

Jimmy Levine

I mentioned last month the unexpected death of Jimmy Levine and just wanted to say a few more words more about the guy who cut his musical teeth on Motown. And, as importantly, he was planning to write his book “Anna & Me” about his relationship with Anna Gordy which, among other things, led to my talking to her. We’d got as far as the book synopsis and Jimmy was, at my suggestion – as he was…er… a slow writer – talking to his tape recorder. He then planned to post me the completed cassettes. It was a method we both felt comfortable with. Well, you know what I’m going to say. We never got there. Oh, meant to have said too, we had the approval of the Gordy family to write this book. Anyway, let me tell you a bit about the innovative man that was Mr Levine who knew everyone there was to know in the business, who would help anyone who needed it, and who loved with a heart bigger than the world.

Born in San Francisco in 1954, he had seven brothers and five sisters, and lived in a middle class white neighbourhood. His family attended his grandfather’s church, St Paul Missionary Baptist, and it was during a service that four-year-old Jimmy was mesmerized listening to his mother and grandmother playing the piano. Two of his older brothers played in a band, and by the time he was ten years old, Jimmy had mastered the saxophone. Whilst at high school, he was asked by his friend Robert Reed to join the Black Pain & Co band. They played around the San Francisco area, later becoming one of the hottest bands in northern California. In time, the group progressed to support artists like Ray Charles and Al Green on stage.

In the notes – and I own the copyright to them all so no reproduction please without my consent – Jimmy sent me as an outline for his book, he wrote – “In 1973, I met Wally Cox who worked with Harvey Fuqua and Marvin Gaye. Wally told me that Marvin was going to be in concert at the Oakland Coliseum early-1974 and would I like to be on stage with him. Man that blew my mind! I said ‘you bet – this can change my life’. The morning of the concert, Wally introduced me to Gene Page, the arranger/conductor for Marvin at the time. I was invited to be part of the orchestra. That was the biggest night of my life. About two weeks later, my friend Michael Hong, one of the background singers for Marvin, at the time moved to Los Angeles to live on the hill that we all know now to be Outpost Drive. Michael told me that Marvin would like for me to come to Los Angeles and work with him. So the summer of 1995, I packed up my grey corvette and headed to Los Angeles. It took five hours to drive from Richmond, California, and man was I tired when I got there. I called Michael to ask where I was to go now that I was in LA, and he told me that Marvin had given him the address 2745 Outpost Drive, Hollywood. I drove up the long hill almost to the top, and when I got to the address, I saw two pearly white gates that had G/G on them. This meant Gordy/Gaye. I pushed the button on the phone; a woman answered. I said ‘Jimmy Levine for Michael Hong’ and the two gates opened. I drove up the driveway, saw a parking lot to my left and a house a little further up the drive, way to my right. I drove to my right and parked beside the swimming pool. I saw a beautiful woman sitting next to Michael. She got up and started walking towards my car. I got out of my car and walked towards her. Then she started walking backwards, like she didn’t want to meet me. So I asked Michael who is this woman and who does she think she is? So I said ‘the hell with this, got back in my car and drove back down the hill.”

Not wanting to leave the situation as was, Jimmy called the house again from a phone box whereupon Michael answered this time. “He said ‘Jimmy, what the hell are you doing? That was Mrs Gaye, Marvin’s wife and Berry’s sister.’ I said ‘how the hell did I know? She acted like she didn’t want to shake my hand.’ He replied ‘Get your ass back up here now, she wants to meet you. Marvin told her all about you. And that was my introduction to Anna Gaye! Michael had worked everything out, and Miss Gaye and I shook hands and that began 38 years of the most wonderful friendship two people could have.” Anna went on to employ Jimmy as president of her Outpost Productions, which included him signing, producing and writing for the company. “I wrote a lot of songs, played sax and keyboards.” However, the happy relationship was tarnished when Jimmy became aware that Anna was unhappy and going through some emotional issues. “About four months into my being in Los Angeles, Anna and I went to lunch together, and she told me about what she was going through with Marvin and the divorce. She was really hurt, angry and sad at the same time. She told me my energy was a breath of fresh air to her.” Jimmy was also signed to Jobete as a writer, where he worked with Teena Marie, Rick James, among others, and met and befriended the Motown family, and families of Diana Ross, Lionel Richie and so on……

anna gordy 1

Anna Gordy’s story is well documented from the time as a teenager she exhibited her family’s strong work ethic, walking a mile each day from her home to her first outside job in a local store. Following this, she worked for the US Government’s Tacon plant. Living life fully, her audacious spirit transported her through a variety of experiences from horseback riding at her sister Loucye’s ladies riding school, tap dancing and being a model. In the mid-fifties Anna changed direction to join her entrepreneur sister Gwen in a photo concession business, which she operated at Detroit’s Flame Show Bar. The sisters enjoyed a particularly strong bond and when Gwen later formed a record label, she proudly named the company, Anna Records. It was there that Anna caught the eye of a young Marvin Gaye. When the two first met he went to her house or office every day at 4pm. Anna waved to acknowledge him. One time he didn’t show up as usual because he wanted to see if she had missed him! In time, they married whereupon Anna skillfully oversaw her husband’s career, and as she couldn’t have children, they adopted a boy. And the rest as they say, is history.

Away from Motown, Jimmy relocated to Chicago to work with a variety of artists signed to Gold Coast Records, an offshoot of Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records, before opening the Mo-Philly Group with Raymond Earl, which handled all aspects of the music industry. He was later involved with Larry Kimpel at GVR Records which, among other things, released the fabulous Gene Van Buren album “Still”. But, also let’s not forget Jimmy’s own “Share My Love” album released in 2006 where he recruited musical assistance from his pals like Ray Parker Jr, Howard Hewitt and Philip Ingram. It was a collection of original material and cover versions, given the working title “Jimmy Levine and Friends” when he came up with the idea in 1984. He only returned to the project in 2002 when his daughter begged him to record some music that was ‘good old R&B/soul’. Eight months later “Share My Love” was released. Alongside writing his book, Jimmy had other projects underway, but sadly, his life ended before any could be completed. So, in my small way, here’s my heartfelt tribute to a guy who touched my life, and who had so much more to give. Rest in peace now Jimmy.

October 2016 SoulMusic Records Releases

October 2016 SoulMusic Records Releases

SoulMusic Records is proud to present (4) new reissues due for release in October. Click each CD for more details…

Due on October 7 via and October 14 via


NATALIE COLE: I’M READY Expanded Edition (SMCR-5141)
The sole album recorded by the late and legendary Natalie Cole for Epic Records. The original eight-track 1983 album is supplemented by four cuts produced by famed musician Stanley Clarke which remained in the vaults until they were included in a ‘90s U.S. reissue of the original LP.


Due on October 21 via and October 28 via :
TAVARES_REMIX_PROJECT TAVARES: DON’T TAKE AWAY THE MUSIC-THE REMIX PROJECT (SMCR-5142) A specially-compiled CD of remixes of five of the major hits by international hitmakers Tavares by top European remix producer Ben Liebrand, four of which achieved major British chart impact when issued in 1985 and 1986 as well as a US disco version of “It Only Takes A Minute,” making its CD debut along with the Liebrand-penned instrumental “One Minute.”


RAMSEY_LEWIS-CoverRAMSEY LEWIS: HOT DAWGIT-THE ANTHOLOGY-THE COLUMBIA YEARS (1972-1989) (SMCR-5143D)  A luxurious 2-CD set by the legendary Ramsey Lewis, spanning the award-winning musician, producer and composer’s seventeen-year tenure with Columbia Records, featuring 37 tracks including all of Ramsey’s charted hits for the label, selected key singles and notable LP cuts drawn from among the eighteen albums he recorded for the label.


Due on October 28 via via and November 4 via
TOWER_OF_POWER  TOWER OF POWER: BUMP CITY/TOWER OF POWER Expanded Edition (WSMCR-5146D) Expanded editions of BUMP CITY and TOWER OF POWER, the first two classic albums by pioneering funk super group Tower Of Power as a 2-CD set with single versions of the hits, “You’re Still A Young Man” and “What Is Hip?”

Phyllis Hyman:  The Sadness Behind The Soul

Phyllis Hyman: The Sadness Behind The Soul

Renowned writer and author Jeff Vasishta shares his reflections on meeting one of soul music’s true legends, the late and great Phyllis Hyman…

When I finally got to meet the statuesque and sultry R&B singer, Phyllis Hyman I had no idea quite what a revelation the day would be. At school I’d often gazed longingly at her album covers, mesmerized by her sheer beauty. A former leading diva at music mogul Clive Davis’ Arista Records and Broadway Star of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies”, when we met she had long since been eclipsed by younger artists. However, she was still a favorite of the London based magazine for which I wrote and when she won a readers poll in 1993 I was tasked with the job of interviewing her over the phone. The interview turned personal as I asked her about her romantic life.

“I don’t have a boyfriend right now but the electricity bills are paid, if you know what I mean?” she said with a throaty laugh. I didn’t get her cryptic clue.
“A vibrator, Jeff” she spelled out, leaving me speechless. We continued to talk, the usual formality between a journalist and interviewee long since dispensed. I informed her that was due to be New York the following month and she suggested that I call her and we meet for lunch. “My treat,” she said.

I’d seen Phyllis in concert many times before our interview and knew that she no longer resembled her glamorous former self but the teenager in me was elated at the prospect of meeting a singer he’d once idolized. After such a revealing interview I hoped that perhaps we could become good friends. I imagined an expensive Manhattan restaurant where we’d talk late into the afternoon, she regaling me with show-biz anecdotes, touching my hand occasionally.

I called soon after I’d checked in to my New York hotel.
“Who?” came the response after I’d said my name.
“Jeff, the journalist. I interviewed you a few weeks ago,” I repeated disbelievingly. She seemed to have completely forgotten who I was. We’d spoken for over an hour. She’d confided some of her most personal feelings. She told be about her distress when her close friend, songwriter Linda Creed died of cancer shortly after penning one of her signature songs, “Old Friend”. She spoke of her ex-husband and of course her love life. I hung up the hotel phone, convinced that she may have mistaken me for someone else. I called her manager, Glenda who listened to me with, I felt, a sense of resignation. A few minutes later Glenda, called back and told me to head over to Phyllis’ midtown apartment.

I met the singer downstairs in the lobby. At 6ft 2” in flats she wasn’t easy to miss. Instead of inviting me up she suggested I walk with her while she ran some errands. We strolled along Broadway to Times Square. I attempted to start a conversation but it was as if I wasn’t there. She hardly responded. It wasn’t long before she was spotted as she left the bank where she’d deposited a check.

“Oh my God! Phyllis Hyman,” the fan, a black woman in a business pant suit gushed. “I know you hear this all the time but I adore your music,” she went on. Other people slowed their strides, aware that someone famous was in their midst but not exactly sure who. “Girl, it’s Phyllis Hyman, the best singer ever!” the woman exclaimed to a passer by. Hyman seemed bothered by the adulation and responded with the merest of acknowledgements, trying to brush her admirer off. I couldn’t help but think that Phyllis could have been warmer, said a thank-you and engaged her in a little conversation. When we left she turned to me and said, “She needs to check herself, running up on me like that.” By now I also got the feeling that Phyllis didn’t want me around her either. She’d barely said a word. But it wasn’t her aloofness that struck me on that cloudy Spring afternoon. It was that she seemed so out of it. Stoned, high, vacant. Something wasn’t right. The only time she seemed interested in anything around her was when she spotted jazz drummer Max Roach on the street. She introduced herself. Roach was polite but didn’t seem to know who she was. Then, bizarrely as we passed someone handing out flyers for a strip club with pictures of nude women, Phyllis took some, looked at them and put them in her pocket.

I followed meekly behind her as we approached her apartment building. I felt like I was wearing a pair of too tight jeans on a scorching day at the beach. I wanted to get away from her so I could relax. But what could I say? We rode the elevator in silence to her apartment. It was small and messy with old style parquet floors. Phyllis went straight to the fridge taking out a gallon bottle of Coke, taking slugs without a glass. She then sat down on a bench in front of a wall of photos of her in her scintillating ’70’s and ’80’s prime, all disco gloss, legs, lips and hair. The contrast couldn’t have been more marked. She was swaying on the seat, overweight, slurring her words, her ample chest threatening to spill out. I didn’t know where to look.

“So I’m supposed to get you somethin’ eat something right?” she said, finally acknowledging me.
“Oh no, that’s ok. I ate something earlier,” I bluffed.
“Skinny people always say that,” she said. She stood up, went to a draw and took out a Chinese take out menu and handed it over. “You wanna order?” Earlier I imagined we’d be at a dimly lit five star restaurant. Now I was given a menu with $5 chicken and broccoli to eat alone.
“No that’s ok. I’m really not hungry,” I said.
“Ok. Well I can’t really chat. I’ve got my personal trainer coming over soon,” she said unconvincingly.
I stood up, relieved to have been given an excuse to get out of there. As I walked down the corridor I didn’t feel upset for myself. Just saddened. It was evident that Phyllis Hyman was a desperately unhappy person.

I was living full time in New York a couple of years later when on June 30th 1995 I turned on WBLS to hear the news that she’d committed suicide, an overdose of sleeping pills. It wasn’t her first attempt. I couldn’t say I was that surprised. An excellent biography was published about her 2007, “Strength Of A Woman,” detailing her ongoing battle with drugs, alcohol and her bipolar disorder. It shocked so many people in the music industry because suicides amid black entertainers were so rare. Donny Hathaway, who battled depression and schizophrenia, was the other notable casualty.

Mental illness in black entertainment circles is hardly discussed. In a merciless industry, the ravages of racism, dysfunctional families, corrupt, abusive business practices left many icons clinically depressed and near destitute, hitting the self destruct button hard. It’s often overlooked how many black entertainers die young. It seems like a whole generation has gone prematurely. And now, of course Prince, perhaps the most shocking of all. Scrolling through my iPhone these days can take a toll. Instantly I remember dozens of interviews with so many great artists, some of whom became friends, that are no longer here.

Whenever I hear “You Know How To Love Me” playing on the radio I often think back to my afternoon with Phyllis Hyman and wonder why there has to be so much sadness behind the soul.

Latest classic soul Reissue Reviews - September 2016

Latest classic soul Reissue Reviews – September 2016



My first introduction to this group was with the truly exciting soul masterpiece “Wear It On Our Face” in 1968, followed by “Stay In My Corner” and “I Can Sing A Rainbow – Love Is Blue” , a top 15 UK hit in 1969. Wonderful, priceless music with no sell by date. So imagine the thrill having this double header to listen to – “We Got To Get Our Thing Together” (1975) and “No Way Back” (1976); the first never available on CD before, with the second only previously available as a limited edition Japanese reissue. Opening with the laid back, mellow single, and CD’s title, its melody change is quite inspiring. “Strike Up The Band”, a fast paced take on the Gershwin composition, is more befitting the nightclub stage than my office, yet not unattractive. Thankfully, “Reminiscing” returns me to the Dells’ groove; the drifting melody is unpretentious as the singers join and part in song. Another single, “Love Is Missing From Our Lives” features The Dramatics, transforming the balled into more powerhouse performance, albeit on a gentle level. With its spoken introduction, “The Power Of Love” chugs along at an easy pace, and would have befitted The Temptations as well, while the closing track on the first album, “You Don’t Care” is beautifully performed in a lazy style.

Into the second disc, “West Virginia Symphony” lifts the groove into a dance high, and the pace appears to be set. “When Does The Lovin’ Start”, mildly funky against a driving beat, leads into The Dells being introduced on stage before “I’ll Make You My Girl” oozes into life; the group at its very best, for sure. Seven plus minutes of “Ain’t No Black And White In Music” with its hard hitting lyrics, drives home the political message of gross unfairness. By comparison, “No Way Back” is barely three minutes long yet it’s packed with a lush funk feel, while “You’re The Greatest” kicks up a steady dance pace. The deliciousness returns with “I’ll Try Again” leaving “Slow Motion” to close the set, again with its spoken word introduction, that leads into another typical group ballad, crammed with voices that caress the heart and soul. Ignore at your peril!
Rating 10


The internet has practically boiled over waiting for the release of this solo project from ex-Supreme Scherrie Payne. When the day was looming near, the first single “Remember Who You Are” was lifted. A laid back, comfortable ballad, delivered so easily in the lady’s creamy, rich voice. It almost wraps itself around you. However, it was a song she was reluctant to record but was persuaded in the end by her daughter. Wise move. Although a taster for the pending album, the song isn’t really representative of the music within. Covering a Diana Ross classic – who herself covered the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell original, although nobody could pretend the songs were anywhere near the same – Scherrie bravely takes on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, inspired by Diana’s musical interpretation. There’s more earthiness to Scherrie’s delivery, which of course is damned near perfect, while the song slowly drifts along, gradually building until it explodes with a plethora of voices. “Hope” has to be one of my favourites with its essential soul searching and gospel feel; heartfelt and sincere. By the way, this was intended as the follow-up single to “One Night Only” and recorded at the same session. On the other hand, Scherrie whips up some sharp funk with “Crumbs Off The Table”, transferring The Glass House version on to another musical high. Whether she’s singing the disco slanted “I’m Not In Love” and “Chasing Me Into Somebody Else’s Arms”, or an a capella version of the single which is the opening track, Scherrie is fearless in her approach. It’s taken awhile but the album is finally in our hands. I take my hat off to Rick Gianatos and Ian Levine for their production skills, to the ladies whose voices support Scherrie so sympathetically, and to the lady herself. She may be slight of height but her voice is as big as her huge heart. And she treats recording as she does life by grabbing the moment!
Rating: 10


For the first time, these are the surviving 1964-1967 King recordings in their entirety by one of R&B’s most endearing artists, Hank Ballard. This release focuses on a period where he fell under the musical radar, when soul music replaced raw R&B, and funk was being born, a revolution spearheaded by his King label mate, James Brown. And while the music scene was changing, Hank didn’t, finding it increasingly hard to get his music heard in the mainstream market place, yet the high standard of his recordings never wavered. A state of affairs that befell several artists of his ilk, and some, unfortunately, never recovered and moved into daily jobs to earn a living. This is a musical sweet shop of differing sounds, most of which have never been reissued previously, and although it’s now easy to hear why Hank fell from favour in the musical changeover, it kinda ridicules the feeling that there’s room for all out there. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyway, Hank and The Midnighters disbanded in 1965 as groups like The Temptations made their huge presence felt in the commercial market, enabling Hank to embark upon a solo career in an attempt to carve a place for himself. It didn’t go to plan. However, during the mid-eighties he reformed the group to play the club circuit across the world, until he died in 2003. While hit records didn’t come his way, this compilation shows he could easily have joined the A-team had the circumstances been different.
Rating: 7


Considered to be one of the greatest composers of his generation, Mr Penn enjoys a second release of tracks excavated from the Fame Records’ vaults. His early years at Fame where he cut his musical teeth during the mid-sixties, was a period of the faceless and nameless, from songwriters, producers, session musicians and, often, the singers themselves. Dan, originally lead vocalist for the Mark V, Nomads and Pallbearers, now takes the solo stage, visiting R&B in its purest form, Southern Soul, across to the Motown backbeat and uptown New York. “I liked Stax…I liked the records that were coming out of Memphis…They were a big hunk of our soul supply, along with Motown and all of New Orleans” so said the man himself. Plus, he believed black singers to be the best (song) interpreters because they didn’t, among other things, sacrifice a song to suit themselves. Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, and so on, are prime examples. So, here’s history in the making from a man behind the scenes who was responsible for some great material which we were able to enjoy from others voices. Get stuck in!
Rating: 7


This was such a significant release for Dusty in 1990 because it was the long awaited ‘comeback’ album, following the top two hit “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”, her collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys. This surprise uniting of musical giants was unpredicted, yet a glorious combination that injected a huge renewal in the lady’s then stagnant career (except of course, for the constant plundering of her magical back catalogue) and, of course, elevated the Pets into a different stratosphere, working with a British soul icon. In her inimitable fashion Dusty was quick to praise the duo for believing in her, and presenting her with the vehicle to return to the business she loved so dearly, even with some reservations! From this near-chart topper, Dusty returned with “Nothing Has Been Proved”, the musical tale of the Profumo Affair which rocked the British government during the sixties, followed by “In Private” written solely for her, for inclusion in the “Scandal” movie. In the end it was dropped but “Nothing Has Been Proved” remained. Both songs were personally interpreted by the singer, drifting from suggestion to power, teasing to directness, while all the time, the underlying soulful delivery could be detected. Two further hits of varying degrees followed – “Reputation”, with its dramatic introduction, leading into a heavy, meaty track with Dusty’s voice strong and true, totally in command of the busy musical backdrop. And “Arrested By You”, which is as smooth and silky as you can get, with a strong melody guiding her soft voice as she weaves and drifts through the lyrics. Dan Hartman’s “Time Waits For No One” skips along while “Born This Way” offers some Springfield rappin’ against a semi-funk support that hits the spot. Much in the same vein as “Arrested By You”, “Daydreaming” glides along, again with some soft rapping, resulting in a beautifully constructed song that conjures up pictures of mist covered fields. On the other hand, her take on Goffin/King’s “I Want To Stay Here” lends nothing to the Eydie Gorme version but rather is taken at a skipping pace and, well, Dusty-ised. This rather special 3-disc package contains various 12” versions, remixes and B-sides, plus five promotional videos – a positive ‘wow’ for Dusty fans of course, and also a wonderful introduction to those who may not have caught up with her yet. We’ll never forget this lady’s huge contribution to soul music, not only with her voice, but, among other things, standing up against apartheid in South Africa and subsequently being booted out of the country for her beliefs, and for her persuasive ways in ensuring our beloved Motown artists hit the small screen in 1965. Will say no more.
Rating: 10





SOULMUSIC HALL OF FAME Nominations now open for voting!

SOULMUSIC HALL OF FAME Nominations now open for voting!

We’re pleased to announce the latest round of voting for nominees for induction into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame is now open.  It’s free to vote, no registration required.  Poll ends September 30! Categories are, Male and female artists, Groups, Instrumentalists, Producers, Songwriters, Lifetime achievement, Legacy award, Pioneer, UK artist and of course Motown. We congratulate our inductees into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame, our permanent online acknowledgement of the contribution of the artists, musicians, producers, songwriters and arrangers who have contributed to the timeless genre known as soul music.

Just click the link!