March 2017: Reissues and New Music Reviews

March 2017: Reissues and New Music Reviews

a-woman417ROZETTA JOHNSON: A WOMAN’S WAY – THE COMPLETE ROZETTA JOHNSON 1963 – 1975 (KENT)

This compilation seems to have slipped through the net and for that my apologies. However, as they say – better late than never. The lady from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who carved a place for herself in music history through her slices of southern soul, is more than amply represented here with her releases from the sixties and seventies. I was surprisingly impressed at the way Rozetta effortlessly wanders through the hopelessness of unreturned love, stirring up a gamut of emotions, while, on the other hand, ruthlessly persuades her listeners that she’s not to be messed with. Or, perhaps she’s a blank canvass that can be coloured in from track to track. Anyway, it seems her first documented single “I Understand My Man” b/w “Willow Weep For Me” was released under the name Rosetta Johnson and the Organettes on NRC, before she switched to the Jessica imprint with “That Hurts”, a more mainstream sound, and “It’s Nice To Know You”. She then left the recording scene behind her to concentrate on live dates until signing with Moonsong/Clintone to score a pair of top three R&B hits with her first two releases, namely “A Woman’s Way” and “Who Are You Gonna Love (Your Woman Or Your Wife)”, written by Sam Dees, with whom she recorded her best work. Alongside regular releases, there’s the extended version of “I’ve Come Too Far With You” complete with alternate vocals, plus previously unheard support and lead vocals on “I Can Feel My Love Comin’ Down”. The fact that Ms Johnson is no longer with us, makes this compilation more vital to her fans, and connoisseurs of authentic soul music.
Rating: 8

<./td>

pied-piper419 VARIOUS ARTISTS: PIED PIPER FINALE  (KENT RECORDS)

This is the last in the trilogy of this Pied Piper series, and we have Jack Ashford to thank because the titles come from his  personal collection. Among the gems here is the previously undocumented Lorraine Chandler song “Ease My Mind”, co-penned by the aforementioned Funk Brother and the singer. And it’s quite something too. Jack recruited members of the Funk Brothers to play on these sessions, and, I believe, many of the Pied Piper releases.  Wonder what Berry Gordy made of this!  However, their involvement does make this compilation that more interesting.  I instantly zoned in on the tracks by the Pied Piper Players, notably “The Bari Sax”, with its total funky groove, which kick starts this compilation. The Hesitations’ “Soul Superman”, a much-needed R&B top fifty hit, is equally compelling, plus the couple from The Metros, namely “No Baby” and “Sweetest One”.  Add into the mix Reggie Alexander’s “It’s Better” and Freddie Butler’s “Deserted”; both are prime exponents of a kindred soul spirit.  Then there’s “Gambler’s Blues”, another diamond in the mine. Although this song by Nancy Wilcox was included in the first of this series, the ungraded version here was discovered on master tape in Mr Ashford’s collection.  Ady Croasdell wrote in his excellent CD notes – “The rare soul world is indebted to Jack Ashford, Shelley Haims and the Pied Piper singers, musicians, arrangers, producers and songwriters for making such enthralling and inspiring soul music.”  And so say all of us!
Rating: 8

manhattansoul3416VARIOUS ARTISTS: MANHATTAN SOUL 3 (KENT)

This compilation is the ninth of Scepter/Wand and Musicor/Dynamo recordings issued by Kent, and the standard never slips. The two New York labels were linked by Luther Dixon who put Scepter on the success path with the likes of The Shirelles and Dionne Warwick, before switching to Musicor to work with Tommy Hunt and The Platters, among others. So, the resulting compilation covers most musical genres, for instance I’m listening to Johnny Moore’s “Haven’t I Been Good To You” which, for the world, sounds like The Temptations’ “I Know I’m Losing You”. The CD opens with Dan and The Cleancuts’ “Open Up Your Heart (And Let Me In)”, a super smooth, intense soul sound, while the previous unreleased Shirelles’ “Two Stupid Feet” is so cute – and two twee for the ladies who made such a huge name for themselves on the R&B scene. Still smiling! Van McCoy’s “What’s The Matter Baby” is also heard here for the first time. Yet again, it’s a strange one. Lots of galloping music and a piano break. Thankfully, Melba Moore returns to normality with a traditional ballad formula in the shape of “Does Love Believe In Me”. Add these to tracks from Big Maybelle, which sounds a little off key but hey; Billy Adams, Tommy Hunt and Brook Benton, it’s an extremely credible compilation and one that I’ve enjoyed playing, although when I first started out I had a few reservations. Persistence is the key!
Rating: 8

random418RETROSPECTIVE FOR LOVE: RANDOM ACTIVITIES OF A HEART (WORMFOOD RECORDS)
Um, wasn’t quite sure what to expect when this CD arrived as I reckoned it could well be outside my comfort zone. However, there’s something about this new sound that’s captured me, and wanting more. Hailing from Sicily, Davide Shorty (vocalist, musical director and producer) wanted to bring back the love, and to do this gathered around him a family of similarly soul-centric musicians from his homeland, together with others including Parisian co-vocalist Leslie Phillips. The group is now based in London, the obvious place to be seen and heard, and this, their debut release embraces a wide range of genres, from smooth smouldering soul, into a little jazz and slices of hip-hop. I also spotted a smattering of Coldplay melodies in the mix too. Honest. The pace is set with the opening track “The Picture You Show Me”, an easy, almost moody sound, then it goes a little haywire into “Water N Dust” and “Wanna Get To Know Ya”. What follows though is a mass of changing music, covering love lost and found, with some of the music stripped down only to be built up again. The promise of better things to come is so relevant as the listener is lifted into another musical world that’s so easy to get lost in, while enjoying the isolation. No doubt about it, the music is unique, often raw yet crafted with considerable thought, with the sole aim of pushing home a pot pourie of sounds. Well done to all concerned, and this debut is certainly one I’d highly recommend.
Rating: 8

northernsoulreimagined415PAUL STUART DAVIES: NORTHERN SOUL REIMAGINED (PSD)

With support vocals from Annette and Rosalind, the original Vandellas, and the Voice of Africa, Paul Stuart Davies revisits the very heart of the music heaven lovingly tagged by Dave Godin as Northern Soul, with the release of his “Northern Soul Reimagined”. With his interpretations of “Long After Tonight Is All Over” and “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”, a couple of high ranking soul slices, Paul adds a positive, clear attitude as his voice takes command of these classics. Recording live is, I’ve discovered, a rather dicey procedure, but he’s got this covered as well with resulting excitement and atmosphere. Check out “You Don’t Love Me” and, of course, that almighty NS favourite “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” which, of course, is the title of the charity record spearheaded by Paul and featuring, among others, Chris Clark and Tommy Hunt. Recently released, their aim is to raise much needed funds for the Jon Bates appeal. Anyway, back to the subject in hand, “Northern Soul Reimagined” is a brief – yeh, too short Paul! – but, my, did fond memories of my too-rare visits up North return. Am still smiling! (Available from Paul Stuart Davies)
Rating: 7

LATEST REISSUE REVIEWS

LATEST REISSUE REVIEWS

MELBA_MOORE_ANTHOLOGY

MELBA MOORE: STANDING RIGHT HERE: THE ANTHOLOGY – THE BUDDAH & EPIC YEARS (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

A fabulous musical trip in two halves. Firstly, we’re invited to remember Melba’s Buddah years in 1975 when she began her journey into stardom. Here we are heavyweight in hits via the international smash “This Is It”, hotly followed by the equally compulsive and mesmerising dance hits “So Many Mountains” and “The Greatest Feeling”. All are disco classics, with a driving beat that can’t be ignored. The hooklines in all are instant, vital and stay in the mind for hours afterwards (particularly “So Many Mountains” for me – just can’t shake it, but no bad thing!) However, there’s others here that spring out, and “Natural Part Of Everything”, with its fascinating melody, is one. There’s so much Van McCoy here – he was responsible for several of the songs – and it’s wonderful: his sound is so recognisable. Singer and producer are a perfect match. With a gospel feel, Melba changes pace with “Lean On Me”, although the musical backdrop is too low keyed for me. A more full blooded presentation would have heightened the dramatic approach that the song lacks. Mind you, when the lady sings, my, she really lets rip. Into the Epic CD now from 1978, where one of the decade’s biggest disco hits roars from the speakers – “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance”. With “You Stepped Into My Life” a close second. This side highlights tracks from Melba’s three Epic albums, with producers ranging from McFadden & Whitehead and Pete Bellotte. Of the ballads, there’s the delicious “There’s No Other Like You”, very plush; while “Where Did You Ever Go” is a little on the dark side. A touch of disco funk with “Miss Thing”, which surprised me as it seemed out of place here, but, hey, it’s interesting. This is a first-of-its-kind package, covering Melba’s career between 1975 – 1980, reminding us of the Moore excitement that contributed to the changing music scene of that period. And, it was during this time that I met and interviewed the lady. Instantly smitten was I. Highly recommended.
Rating: 9

veryfinelove409

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: A VERY FINE LOVE: EXPANDED COLLECTOR’S EDITION (SFE)
Little did anyone know when this album was first issued in 1995 that it would be Dusty’s last. Having bought it the first time round, I feel I know it inside out, yet when I received this latest CD, it was like hearing it for the first time. Strange? Well, kind of. Recorded a year earlier than its release date, and originally intended to be titled “Dusty In Nashville” as a tie in with the 25th anniversary of “Dusty In Memphis” masterpiece, it was re-named because her record company feared the public would think it a country and western release. While recording it, the lady suffered from laryngitis and other undiagnosed illnesses, and when she returned to the UK, she faced her worst nightmare, her cancer had returned. With the immediate future being devoted to further http://www.ourhealthissues.com treatment, the album was delayed to enable Dusty to promote it, which she did, with great courage. With Tom Shapiro as producer, the album is true to her. From the opening track “Roll Away”, into the CD’s title, the scene is set. Distinctive melodies, wistful vocals, as she meticulously adapts her voice to blend in with the music, with material provided by some of her much loved composers, like Diane Warren who penned the single “Wherever Would I Be”, her duet with Daryl Hall. Both powerful and feisty. With its haunting, melancholy feel, “Go Easy On Me”, typifies all that’s great about Dusty, while with “You Are The Storm” she delivers an epic whirlwind that wraps itself around you. With a commitment, that’s almost chilling, Dusty’s intenseness shows in “All I Have To Offer You Is Love”, leaving the uptempo, almost chirpy, “Lovin’ Proof” to change the mood. “Where Is A Woman To Go” is magnificent on every level, leaving the listener dry mouthed. It oozes with the Springfield magic from its winding melody to her compassionate, soulful delivery, which is sometimes cautious, or is it defiant? However, there are two things I must mention which aren’t musically related: the sound of her spoken voice at the close of the CD which almost caused me heart failure, and the visuals in the booklet. While I appreciate why they’ve been included, they show a desperately ill singer. Just look at Dusty’s eyes because no matter now upbeat she seems, the battle she fought against this dreadful disease is all too apparent. Like so many cancer stricken ladies, Dusty put on a hugely brave fight to beat the monster, but tragically lost it in 1999. If I have to say anything more to close this review, it’ll be this. “A Very Fine Love” is the ideal, or perfect, finale to a career that spanned decades, from our very own, homegrown soul singer who defied all the rules throughout her lifetime and stood up for what she believed in. A legend in more than one way – and I miss her still.
Rating: 10

newyorkcity411

NEW YORK CITY BAND WITH LUTHER VANDROSS: NEW YORK CITY BAND (WIENERWORLD)

One of the seventies top session singers, Luther went on – following his first album “Never Too Much” – to carve a huge niche for himself in music as a top R&B singer on a global basis. His voice was warm, welcoming and oh so, seductive. Anyway, back to the plot, here his vocals front the New York City Band on the soundtrack for the 1979 film “Sunnyside” which I’d not heard of until now, so it must have slipped off the radar somehow. Sadly, there’s only one commercial highlight here, namely, “Got To Have Your Body”, a hot dance inspired song that demands attention. With this title being so vital, the others seem uninviting by comparison. Having said that, the fact that this CD is now available, only adds credence to the foundation of a career that soared into the sky, thanks to Luther’s innate ability to turn a song into a masterpiece. His personal stylish presentations are legendary. And Luther’s multi-million selling albums, said to be 35 million-plus, during the eighties and nineties, are indicative of his unmistakable talent, with the Grammy awards he won during his career recognising that. You don’t need me to tell you that Mr Vandross was also an brilliant commercial composer and producer, working with the likes of David Bowie (he worked on David’s “Young Americans” album), Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Diana Ross, and the list goes on. I’m sure we all have our favourite Luther track but for me it’s, um, “Dance With My Father” – what a song! Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but thank goodness we have a vast, rich catalogue to remember him by, and as for this CD, its historical value will delight Mr V’s fans.
Rating: 6

LATEST REISSUES REVIEWS

LATEST REISSUES REVIEWS

GLADYS_KNIGHT

GLADYS KNIGHT: THE SOLO COLLECTION EXPANDED EDITIONS (SOULMUSIC.COM RECORDS)

Oh my – how I remember these albums on their first outing, where the elegance of the lady is matched only by her warm, soulful deliveries that cover all emotions, with a defining edge that has often been imitated but never replaced. Gladys’ voice is one of the most recognisable in the business; her personal stylish presentations manifest themselves across most music genres, whether it’s ballad, funk, dance and in between. With the Pips, her Motown history of success and failures is well documented, so let’s get straight to the point with tracks from her two solo albums – “Miss Gladys Knight” released by Buddah in 1978, and “Gladys Knight” from Columbia a year later. “You Bring Out The Best In Me” is a hi-octane dancer which she effortlessly deals with, while the opening track “I’m Coming Home Again” is unpretentious, yet powerful. Against rolling strings that weave across the melody, her sumptuous vocal expressions are softly determined. At the other end of the spectrum, she hits the dancefloor, blasting across the speakers with the brassy “It’s A Better Than Good Time”. Then, hitting you between the eyes, “We Don’t Make Each Other Laugh Anymore” hugs relentlessly at the heart strings. The mournful orchestra tries to placate an almost tortured singer, with the overall effect of a masterpiece. “I Just Want To Be With You” follows along the same lines, except there’s full blooded support vocalists uplifting the chorus: musically mesmerising. There’s little to dislike here, and is a credit to the lady because when she originally recorded this she was locked in legal hassles with record companies, and fielding off multi million dollar law suits. Into the second CD, and a step further into mainstream music. Check out “For All We Know” for instance, it has a free and commercial feel to it. Likewise the two versions of “You Bring Out The Best In Me” and the extended single mix of “It’s The Same Old Song”. “Maybe, Maybe Baby” is an updated take on the B-side of their 1964 Maxx single “Giving Up”. Nice touch. And before that, with its spoken introduction, “Am I Losing You” , a gentle, mid-pacer that is so typically Gladys. Lovely. Informative accompanying booklet with notes penned by the highly respected Charles Waring, rounds off this wonderful re-issue just nicely. Full marks for sure!

Rating: 10

teddy318

TEDDY PENDERGRASS: TEDDY EXPANDED EDITION (BBR)
What a satisfying time I’ve had playing this re-issue over and over. “Teddy”, his third album, followed a pair of platinum releases, and has been called a collection of ‘bedroom ballads’ akin to Marvin’s “Midnight Love” set. Don’t know about that, but can see why the connection was made and will leave it at that. Mr Pendergrass was Philadelphia Records’ biggest star, and this release proves the statement wasn’t misguided. Kicking off with “Come Go With Me”, we’re in for a passionate, emotional ride where his vocal performances can, on occasion, reduce listeners to jelly. Oh my, “Turn Off The Lights” does it for me every time, as he seduces and cajoles against a sweeping melody. Both are flawless examples of the man’s distinctive voice that has graced so many titles. “I’ll Never See Heaven Again” and “All I Need Is You” are further testament of his persuasive ways with their melting lyrics. With its mellow introduction, moving along at an easy pace as the melody takes hold, giving way as the main beat hits the groove, “Set Me Free” is launched. Perhaps the big build up is a little excessive but, I suppose, it does set the scene. The tempo is lifted to a light disco with “If You Knew Like I Do”, while “Do Me” is rather sexy on the funky side. So we’ve got get-down smoothies hand-in-hand with touches of funk/dance, accompanied by the best musicians the record company has to offer, all under the production control of Gamble and Huff, except where indicated on the inlay notes. What more could we ask for?

Rating: 9

grover406

GROVER WASHINGTON JR.: GROVER LIVE (WIENERWORLD)
To my shame, although in my defence jazz isn’t my first love, I initially came across Grover’s music with “Reed Seed” released via Motown in 1978. Unfortunately, it was a music genre the company was incapable to promoting to its fullest extent although jazz fans supported this and his subsequent Motown releases. So, here we have one of his last live performances recorded at the Paramount Centre For The Arts in New York during 1997, and it’s thanks to his wife Christine and Jason Miles (who restored the DAT tapes of the show) that we’re able to hear this highly influential jazz player at work. Kicking off with “Winelight” into “Take Five” and “Soulful Strut”, this has a calming effect as there’s nothing rushed; even Grover introducing his group is laid back. This 80-minute set is a showcase to Grover at his career peak; he was one of the most popular saxophonists of our time and considered by many to be a forerunner in bringing jazz into the commercial arena. An interesting eight-song medley is included here that includes “Black Forest”, “Inner City Blues” and “Jamaica”. I’m not a great lover of ‘live’ CDs but have to say, the sound here is excellent; almost up to studio standard. This is a wonderful tribute to this late musician accompanied by an informative booklet, with notes penned by a certain Mr N!

Rating: 8
Sharon Davis

super-duper407

VARIOUS ARTISTS: SUPER DUPER LOVE (KENT)
Kent Records once again introduce the Mainstream label, following their well-received first compilation. This New York indie made inroads during the seventies embracing R&B names like Freddie Scott, Little Richard and Sugar Billy whose driving “Super Duper Love (Are You Diggin’ On Me)” starts this musical visit. Afrique follow with a beaty “Soul Makossa”, the label’s first major hit swiped from the original by Manu Dibango, while Special Delivery featuring Terry Huff calm the somewhat maddening beat with “The Lonely One”. A haunting, sweeping ballad “I Need Someone” via Linda Perry drifts slowly along, allowing Eleventh Commandment’s “Then I Reach Satisfaction” to raise the mood and rhythm into a mid-paced dancer. Lenny Welch’s “Eyewitness News” is twangy and semi-funky, with Chocolate Syrup’s “Just In The Nick Of Time” simmering away on the back burner with liberal splashes of brass adding a dramatic touch. Little Richard’s “Try To Help Your Brother” is passion personified until the driving beat takes a hold. The smooth delivery of The Dramatics on “Feel It” easily slips into this outstanding compilation. Likewise, the final track, “I Need You Back Home” from Sandra Phillips who’s on the phone talking/whispering to her lover, leaving little to the imagination (my, Millie J would be sooo proud!) and making this ol’ lady blush!

Rating: 8

fivespecial400

FIVE SPECIAL: FIVE SPECIAL EXPANDED EDITION (BBR)
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here as knew little about these guys. My, what a wonderful musical trip I was destined to take. First released in 1979, this is the first of three albums credited to the group. Hailing from Detroit, they were raised on traditional R&B which they turned into commercial music for the disco market. With Greg Finlay, Steve Harris, Steve Boyd, Mike Petillo and Bryan Banks in the line-up, they tucked in nicely, forging a place for themselves in this lucrative genre. Bryan was, by the way, younger brother of Ron Banks (The Dramatics) who, during the mid-seventies, took them under his wing, by producing their early material. Signing to Elektra Records, and armed with a few of the A-team including Banks and Wayne Henderson, this album was conceived and released. Enter the mix master Rick Gianatos, fresh from huge success with Gene Chandler’s “Get Down” and Edwin’s “Contact”, to steer the group into the dance groove. Check out their first single “Why Leave Us Alone” which wraps itself around the nightclub scene, compelling the body to move with the beat. A change of tempo came with their follow-up single “You’re Something Special”, the only ballad on the album. Not only do the harmonies cleanse the soul, but it treats listeners to a full orchestra weaving its way through the voices. Just smashing! The driving dance/funk with a mid-tempo feel comes alive with “Do It Baby”, while the smooth “It’s A Wonderful Day” and the disco slanted “Rock Dancin’” are heaven sent. Throughout, the standard is high, with strong choruses climaxing the tracks, all delivered with warm, silky harmonies that melt in your mouth. A couple of hiccups but, hey, who’s counting. Recommended for sure.

Rating: 9

Latest Classic Soul Reissue Reviews - October 2016

Latest Classic Soul Reissue Reviews – October 2016

VARIOUS ARTISTS: LET IT BE – BLACK AMERICA SINGS LENNON, McCARTNEY AND HARRISON (ACE)

letitbe397

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

DAN HARTMAN: INSTANT REPLAY (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
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

EDWIN BIRDSONG: EDWIN BIRDSONG EXPANDED EDITION (BBR)

edwinb395

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

http://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/edwin-birdsong-expanded-edition/

THIS IS FAME 1964 – 1968 (KENT)

fame399

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

THE PINNACLE OF DETROIT NORTHERN SOUL (PIED PIPER)

piedpiper398

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

THE DELLS: WE GOT TO GET OUR THING TOGETHER / NO WAY BACK

(CAROLINE INTERNATIONAL / SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

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 buy phentermine online cheap 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

SCHERRIE PAYNE: VINTAGE SCHERRIE – VOLUME ONE (ALTAIR RECORDS)
vintage382

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

HANK BALLARD & THE MIDNIGHTERS: UNWIND YOURSELF (ACE RECORDS)
hank385

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

DAN PENN: CLOSE TO ME (ACE RECORDS)
dan384

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

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: REPUTATION – EXPANDED COLLECTOR’S EDITION (SFE)
reputation383

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Latest Reissue Reviews - August 2016

Latest Reissue Reviews – August 2016

curtis371 nancy1347

The latest reissue reviews from Sharon Davis….

CURTIS HAIRSTON: CURTIS HAIRSTON EXPANDED EDITION (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
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

NANCY WILSON: JUST FOR NOW/LUSH FOR LIFE (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

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