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

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





Latest Reissue Reviews - August 2016

Latest Reissue Reviews – August 2016

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The latest reissue reviews from Sharon Davis….

What a wonderful breath of fresh air this re-issue of the 1986 album has turned out to be. A year prior to its original release, Curtis hit the UK top twenty with “I Want You (All Tonight)” which he followed with “I Want Your Loving (Just A Little Bit)” and this CD’s first track “Chillin’ Out”. There’s no fuss or frills here, just honest, well rounded sounds with infectious melodies and choruses. Largely aimed at dancers – check out “The Morning After” or “Let Me Change Your Mind” for starters. The fact that this gifted singer/composer was taken from us at the young age of thirty-four years, left us bereft of what could have been. And it’s this statement alone that makes us treasure this one and only long player recorded as a soloist, having been in the membership of The BB & Q Band. A handful of remixed, extended bonus tracks offer a harder, forceful flavour, particularly on the before mentioned “The Morning After”. Four tracks here were composed by ex-Labelle Nona Hendryx about whom he credited as being a huge influence on him, while I detect there’s a little Rick James influence here also. Although not totally relevant to this review, I’d like to include the following because when his mother recalled her son’s singing debut at three years old, she said “My father had asked Curtis to get up in church and sing. He walked up there, reached up and grabbed the mike like it belonged to him.” That first move was the change his life and as he grew in years, Curtis developed a vocal style akin to Peabo Bryson and Luther Vandross to carve a distinguished career and name for himself in the dance world. Albeit a tragically short one.

Rating 9


Sheer elegance from one of the world’s most celebrated of stylists. And what a total joy it is from start to finish. On the first CD, Ms Wilson aims for adult pop with versions of “Winchester Cathedral”, “Born Free” and “Alfie” among others, before changing course to inject a soulful slant into Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. Several of the songs are associated with Frank Sinatra simply because Billy May was his regular working associate, and was responsible for the bulk of the tracks here. Emotional ballads like “If He Walked Into My Life” bring out the tender, almost desolate side of the singer. So much so, that it’s hard not to be drowned in her torment. Then there’s the second album “Lush Life”, a more engaging, crisper and meatier side to her talent, where she so succinctly fuses adult mainstream with jazz, although this isn’t, to be honest, as spontaneously attractive as the first. A little blues filters in with “River Shallow” , while Ms Wilson treats “Sunny” to a lazy melody. Yet, a direct stab at the heart dispels any thoughts of complacency when she delivers tracks like “(I Stayed) Too Long At The Fair”. The fact that this wonderful singer/stylist, or whatever category you wish to place her, can so effortlessly switch musical track, simply highlights once again her innate talent given to a few. Her voice soars and dips, pleads and teases, and, of course, can reduce us mere listeners to tears in the blink of a note, is testimony to the genius that is Nancy Wilson, the consummate artist.

Rating: 9