February 2018: Reissue Reviews

February 2018: Reissue Reviews

Here’s the next anthology in this much respected series from SoulMusic Records and instantly I zoned into a pair of major titles which elevated the group onto the international platform. The first, of course, is the beautifully crafted “Everybody Plays The Fool”, nominated for a Grammy award in the Best R&B category, shifting sales exceeding gold status, and their biggest selling single. With sweet, cool vocals, the song is high in melody and chorus: just beautiful. And the second, “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely”, in much the same stylish vein. Originally recorded by Ronnie Dyson, this single marked their only UK chart entry, peaking in the top thirty. Previously recording under the name The Poets – a trio comprising Tony Silvester, Donald McPherson and Luther Simmons – for Leiber and Stoller’s Red Bird label, and later as The Insiders for RCA Records, the group underwent a further name change to The Main Ingredient, having seen the phrase on the side of a Coco Cola bottle. The opening track here, “You’ve Been My Inspiration” was the first to hit the US R&B top thirty, and a year later “I’m So Proud” (the group’s take on The Impressions’ song) and “Spinning Around (I Must Be Falling In Love)” hit the top ten.

During 1971, Donald McPherson died from leukemia, to be replaced by Cuba Gooding Snr who, incidentally, already performed with the group when Donald was too ill to appear. With Cuba in the membership, the guys enjoyed their first serious hit with “Everybody Plays The Fool”. When, in 1973, the group felt they were ignoring their R&B audience, their fifth album “Afrodisiac” was deliberately aimed at the funk/soul music market. To further push home their intention, they recorded a trio of Stevie Wonder compositions, “Superwoman”, “Where Were You When I Needed You” and “Something About Love”, and with Syreeta Wright, “I Am Yours”, “Girl Blue” and “Something Lovely”. This current release from a group that was probably overlooked in the grand scheme of musical things, is a welcome reminder of just how talented they were.
Rating: 8

According to the accompanying blurb, this is the very first time fans can purchase such a comprehensive collection of songs from the Ohio Players, taking in as it does, releases spanning their first company, Capitol, through to Arista and Boardwalk. In other words, an entire overview of this funk band who, for a time, secured a successful niche in this particular market, which later haemorrhaged groups playing this musical genre. Anyway, this is a three CD package, where the first, “Early Years” visits their Capitol stay, before moving to Westbound and the group’s first R&B charttopper “Funky Worm” was released. With its blending of early hip hop and synthesiser solos, it was hard to ignore. “Pleasure”, “Pain” and “Ecstasy” likewise carry this company’s logo. The last two titles were lifted from their debut Mercury album “Skin Tight”, namely, the album’s title and “Jive Turkey”, which indicated their future musical path.

Onto the second CD, “The Golden Years” where the highlight “Fire” was considered to be the group’s signature song, with the catchy “Love Rollercoaster” following. The former track, liked by Stevie Wonder, includes an authentic fire engine siren and a guitar solo that’s been ‘borrowed’ numerous times over the years, while the latter, uses the fairground attraction to describe the yo-yo effect of relationships, with the sliding guitar funk riff neatly sewing up the song. A wah wah guitar (bring on Shaft!) leads into the jumpy “Body Vibes”, until tight vocals take over, then the beat changes level, making the voices looser. Hah, caught out with “Happy Holidays”, a seasonal ditty, complete with spoken words to enhance the Christmas message. OK: why not. “Who’d She Coo?”, naturally, is the highlight, representing as it does, the Ohio Player’s only UK hit at number 43 in July 1976.

Finally, the third CD, “The Later & Solo Years” covers the group’s Arista and Broadwalk Records period. Stand out tracks here include “Everybody Up” in its full length version, together with Junie Morrison solo outings, like “Love Has Taken Me Over (Be My Baby)”, and Sugerfoot’s 1985 take on “Fire”. The Ohio Players weren’t a group I’d taken much notice of at the time, and while I enjoyed a fair percentage of this trio of CDs, cannot say I was overwhelmed.
Rating: 6

I didn’t know how I was going to cope with this – four CDs crammed with heavy funk. How wrong I was. Sure there’s a lot of the weighty hitting sounds, but, hey, there’s also some compelling ballads to break the beat – like a welcome oasis in a blistering hot desert. A little background first though. Formed during 1966, the Bar-Kays were a studio session group, supporting Stax acts, until Otis Redding grabbed them as his own. As an independent musical unit, their first single “Soul Finger” in 1967 was a crossover US hit. The success was shortlived when, tragically, Otis and two thirds of the group died in December 1967 when their plane crashed into Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin. In time, the band reformed to play on sessions with several Stax artists including Isaac Hayes’ “Hot Buttered Soul” album, and when the Stax/Volt label folded during 1975, the Bar-Kays joined Mercury Records to forge a different, and this time more successful, career playing their own brand of funk music. Now, this heavyweight package of four CDs span 1980 and 1984 while under Mercury’s umbrella.

Starting with “As One”, a top ten US R&B title, it holds the pattern used in all four albums here with a mixture of dance and smooch; the latter being typified by “Take The Time To Love Somebody” which is both powerful and gentle. For dancing, the opening track “Boogie Body Land” fits the bill, with its mellow funk positive beat. I can’t move on without mentioning the final cut “Deliver Us” with its climaxing lush chorus of voices. Quite exceptional, and surprisingly exciting. A year following the release of “As One”, “Nightcruising” hit the shops in 1981 to earn the accolade as their best album yet. Not only did it also peak in the R&B top ten but passed gold status, thanks in part to their changing musical approach into a more current funk styling with the prolific use of synthesisers, so loved by artists like Stevie Wonder. Here the outstanding track for me was the unexpected “Feels Like I’m Falling In Love”, a gentle mover, so engaging with a full vocalled styling. Does it for me every time!

The third (and first on the second CD) “Propositions” from 1982, featured three hits, namely, the stomping funker “Do It (Let Me See You Shake)”, “She Talks To Me With Her Body” with its techno-funk feeling, and the gloriously touching, late night grooved ballad, “Anticipation”. However, one track irritated me beyond words – “(Busted)”, far too busy and cluttered – so moved on to the last CD in this package, “Dangerous” released in 1984, and my least liked. Having said that, “Freakshow On The Dance Floor” with its fast driving beat interrupted by splashes of sweet funk, rightly deserved its top two placing in the R&B chart, and top eighty crossover hit. Or, it could be that being featured in the 1984 movie “Breakdance:The Movie” (“Breakin’” – its American title) gave it a massive heave up. Calming down the pace, a pair of credible cuts ease and weave through the music, “Lovers Should Never Fall In Love” and “Make Believe Lover”. This is a fabulously priced package from a group that rose from the ashes of tragedy to keep their music alive.
Rating: 7

December 2017: Reissue Reviews

December 2017: Reissue Reviews


Following on from a trio of her re-issued albums on SoulMusic Records, here’s the next, focusing on the Pittsburgh-born Ms Hyman’s Buddah and Arista Records era, a rich period in her recording career, lovingly encompassing two CDs. It’s a totally biased review this time because there’s very little not to like here from a lady who was taken from us far too early, yet whose voice and music continues to make her presence felt in our lives, and through compilations like this, new audiences will be attracted to rejoice in her sophisticated vocal styling that elevated her well above others.

From the opening track “Baby (I’m Gonna Love You)”, you realise you’re in for a very special musical journey.  The title track from her third album, “You Know How To Love Me”, a dancer with a Quiet Storm feel, was one of her several hits, likewise her version of Exile’s “Kiss You All Over” – a cheeky little number from a sensual woman with love in her voice. A song I never tire of listening to since its original outing, having the wow! factor tenfold.  The same feeling envelopes the epic “Loving You, Losing You” featured here in its full 12” single format.  Another that’s never far from my turntable – yup, still playing the vinyl when I can – and, of course, the dynamic,  commanding “Riding The Tiger”, with the final track on the compilation, a take on The Spinners’ “I Don’t Want To Lose You” which is pure magic to these ears.

Alongside the solo hits, there’s a selection of stunning duets and pairings, like the awesome “Can’t We Fall In Love Again” and “We Both Need Each Other” with Michael Henderson;  the utterly irrepressible “Betcha By Golly Wow” with Norman Connors, and their often overlooked “Just Imagine”.  From the Broadway musical “Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies”, the standard “In A Sentimental Mood” which earned Phyllis a Tony nomination during 1981, stands tall next to the dance hits.  What more can I say?  Pure perfection from start to finish.

Rating: 10


Released alongside Phyllis Hyman’s magnificent “Deliver The Love:The Anthology” comes this compilation from Ruby Turner, one of the UK’s most celebrated of soul stylists. Focusing on her stay with Jive Records, where her debut album, “Women Hold Up Half The Sky” in 1986, here’s the sultry, smooth duet with Jonathan Butler, a take on the Staples’ “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)”, her first UK top thirty entrant.  Among the three extracted singles from this album was her amazing interpretation of “I’d Rather Go Blind”, a resounding highlight in her live performances.  Both are included here, likewise six tracks from her second album from 1988, “The Motown Songbook” which, upon its original release, I treated quite warily yet grew to enjoy. A brave move by anyone, but recruiting the help of the Four Tops on “Baby I Need Your Loving” was a stroke of genius.  Their warm support voices just naturally melted with the lady’s soulful delivery.  Then the blissful unions of The Temptations with her on “Just My Imagination”, and Jimmy Ruffin for “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted”, were inspiring.  This latter title and Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” both dented the chart, while the mother album shot into the top thirty, once again re-affirming Ruby’s selling power as an A-line artist. Born in Montego Bay, as a child she moved with her family to Birmingham during 1967. Raised on music, she secured her Jive recording contract after a stint as a backing vocalist for Culture Club – and never looked back.  Her third album, “Paradise” launched in 1989, is also represented here via seven tracks including the stylish “It’s Gonna Be Alright” which, incidentally, hit the top of the American R&B listing, making her one of the few British acts to do so.  Four other titles followed, with the album’s title from the “Dancin’ Thru The Dark” movie, being one.  And finally, half a dozen songs have been liberated from Ruby’s last Jive album “The Other Side” to round off this extremely compelling compilation.  On a personal note, more so than usual,  I absolutely love her version of “Only Women Bleed” – the song itself is awesome, thought provoking, and, oh my,  those lyrics….

As well as singing, Ruby’s unique talents have been recognised on television and in films, like “Hotel Babylon” and “Love Actually” respectively.  She’s also trod the boards in London’s West End, being nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for her role in “Simply Heaven”.  Musically speaking though, she’s found the perfect niche by working with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra – a job for life I’d have thought.  Having said that, I’ve a feeling this Anthology may surprise some folks who, perhaps only associate Ruby with Mr Holland, not realising she has per own catalogue behind her.  My, aren’t they in for a satisfying, exciting musical adventure!

Rating: 9


A very late review here as somehow the CD got lost in the pile of paperwork on my desk.  But, hey, better late than never, as they say: whoever ‘they’ are. Knowing the bulk of the songs inside out from listening to the original versions back in the day on vinyl release, one now wonders why tamper with perfection?  Anyway, when I first played “ A Brand New Me” , one track always skipped over was the album’s actual title because I loathed it, and even Dusty couldn’t change my mind.  So how sad is that.  However,  the remaining lazy paced material, with her warm, soulful vocals easily followed her groundbreaking “Dusty In Memphis”. Not to out do it, of course, as that was an impossibility, but rather to show that teaming up with Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, who would later mastermind the Sound of Philadelphia, was a brilliant move.  The first ten tracks here epitomise the best of that coupling, while the seven extra titles, destined for a second album which Dusty couldn’t fulfil due to other commitments, appeared to have been abandoned at birth until the CD era began in earnest. From “Never Love Again” and “Bad Case Of The Blues” we’re transported back to the day when Dusty was at her very finest, as she effortlessly and emotionally sang her way through sweeping, sympathetic melodies, leaving a slight change of tempo to take over with the upbeat “Lost” and its compelling chorus. With “Joe” she meanders into a mellowness that is almost poignant to listen to, leaving “Let’s Get Together Soon” – which originally closed side one of the vinyl release and included Dusty coughing (and in tune) – to show a buoyant singer, despite her feeling ‘she could have done better’.

Tracks not featured on the 1970 release, are confusing.  “I Wanna Be A Free Girl”, where Thom Bell partnered Linda Creed for the first time to write, the mood changes to a more biting sound against positive lyrics of being free to see the world. The complex “Something For Nothing” would worry any singer, but Dusty did it, against a backdrop of swirling orchestra, later lending itself as an instrumental for MFSB.  It’s clear why Dusty intended to re-cut her vocals on “Summer Love” but perhaps even that wouldn’t have saved this mundane track, likewise “Cherished” and “The Richest Girl Alive”. The former being rather jumpy with chord changes and, of course, high notes don’t become her, while the latter skips along and is far too twee for the likes of this fan.  The closing track here, the previously unreleased “Sweet Charlie” is softly presented, haunting even, lacking that midas touch associated with the recording sessions for “A Brand New Me”.  I’m sure Dusty would have preferred it to remain unissued. Anyhow, as the song was never finished, it appears the backing track was later utilised on Jackie Moore’s version.

Although not of the same high calibre as “Dusty In Memphis” from a song viewpoint, “A Brand New Me” easily stands on its own merit, showing as it does, her ability, albeit initially rather shakily, to be ranked alongside others in the exclusive soul market. A position she always felt she didn’t deserve. Thom Bell remembered her as “…a very sensitive girl…an angel”.  Kenny Gamble agreed, adding, ”I’m so proud that I was able to work with her…I loved her.”   They should know!

Rating: 8


Apart from being one of the grooviest guys on this planet, I can’t believe Ray Parker Jr is celebrating 40 years in the business.  My, it seems only like yesterday….

Before enjoying the public spotlight as an artist, Ray was an in-demand guitarist, and was mentored by Stevie Wonder, who invited him to join his band on The Rolling Stones 1972 American tour. (And still the live album hasn’t been commercially released) Writing for Rufus and Chaka Khan, later Barry White, led to Clive Davis offering Ray a contract with Arista Records to record in his own right. He  formed the group Raydio, whereupon  “Jack And Jill” was the first single, followed by “Is This A Love Thing” and “You Can’t Change That” – a trio of gold plated sounds, with dynamic harmonies, solid driving grooves, all wrapped up in a full sophisticated production. Didn’t get much better than this, but, of course, it did when, with a name change to Ray Parker Jr with Raydio during 1980, the hits intensified with “Two Places At The Same Time”, and the R&B chart topper “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)”, among the titles.

Two years after forming Raydio, Ray took the solo trail to release one of the best selling pop singles ever – “Ghostbusters” from the movie of the same name, and debuting here in the rare 12” “Searchin’ For The Spirit” remix.  The song was instantly catchy, memorable and carried a chugging hypnotic beat that wouldn’t let up, elevating Mr Parker Jr into the stratosphere. Even today, once the opening bars are heard, people sing out loud and dance the silly steps; what incredible staying power!  However, soul fans knew there was more to the man than ‘spiritual’ gimmicks because they basked in the soulful glory of his catalogue and his last hits under the Arista umbrella –  “Jamie” and the endearing “Girls Are More Fun”.  Switching to  Geffen, the hits continued, first with “I Don’t Think That Man Should Sleep Alone” in 1987 (a top twenty UK hit), followed by his duet with Natalie Cole “Over You”.  As this CD’s title indicates, this is the essential collection for any fan. Covering 35 tracks and an interview with the man himself, the many aspects of Ray’s talent spanning dance, soul and funk, have been given a new lease of life.  And what a joy it is!

Rating: 9


Produced by Philly main man Bobby Eli, this debut set by Southern Soul songstress Jackie Moore, for Columbia Records kicks off with the top fifty 1979 UK hit “This Time Baby”.  Sadly, it was her only one, but the driving dance floor favourite is crammed with hit ingredients and for a time introduced Jackie to the British mainstream record market.  The album, also issued during 1979, also housed another couple of memorable disco titles, “How’s Your Love Life Baby” and “Wrapped Up In Your Lovin’”. The former pulsates a strong dance delivery, while the latter adds some cheeky funk into the mix, with each holding a catchy chorus.  The only version of “Joe” I’ve heard is Dusty Springfield’s poignant take, but here’s the original with a different, more plush feel. However, both hold that certain magic. Upon its first release, this album charted in the R&B top fifty, and as such would surely qualify for a worthy re-issue as it stood. But no, the BBR guys have gone the extra mile to include six bonus tracks including a 12” remix, single version and instrumental of “This Time Baby” to attract buyers.  It has to be said that Jackie’s warm, soulful voice is so very easy to listen to, adapting as it does effortlessly through disco and ballad – the harder edged tracks and the smooth stylings – which, of course, makes it all the more annoying that her British success was so limited.

Rating: 8


It’s incredible to believe that songs adopted by a particular market are still relevant today some forty-plus years later. And this record label is a forerunner in the field, dedicated to keeping the sound alive, delivering as it does now a mix of beat and ballad. It’s nearly three years since the last volume in this series, so this 24 track package will, undoubtedly, be welcomed by Northern Soul fans. Kicking in with Peggy Woods’ “Love Is Gonna Get You” (being, I’m told, the correct brass-filled version),  into “You Won’t Say Nothing” from Tamala Lewis, co-penned by George Clinton, and also recorded by The Parlettes, the mood is set.  There’s also a few previously unissued items here, like, the Gene Page arranged “I Only Cry Once A Day Now” from The Fidels, and an alternate version of Maxine Brown’s “One In A Million”. I won’t go into too much detail about the tracks here as this is excellently covered in Ady Croasdell’s accompanying notes.  Although some of the time I’m out of my depth, not having heard of the artists (shame on me) so it’s quite a relief to hear early tracks from later established names like The Detroit Emeralds, J.J. Barnes and, of course, Carla Thomas, who closes the set with “Little Boy” which she remembered was her third single – but was canned.  These compilations are an education for me and, although I may not like all I hear, it’s musical history and as such should be respected.  Or, as Ady noted – “it’s a collection of treasures”.

Rating: 8


This twenty tracked CD houses all James’ charting singles, with one in particular at the top of the pile.  His original version of “The Dark End Of The Street”, recorded during 1966,  and later much covered, introduces this collection of songs.  Often revered as one of the greatest vocalists the Southern Soul scene produced, James Carr struggled to enjoy the success of his contemporaries like Otis Redding, yet his limited material recorded for Goldwax is considered to be the musical blue print for the label. Son of a Baptist preacher, James was born in Mississippi, then moved with his family to Memphis.  As a six year old, he sang solos in church, and three years later became a member of the gospel group, The Harmony Echoes.  From here, he branched out as a solo artist, later hooking up with Goldwax Records in 1965.  “You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up” was his debut R&B hit, followed by “Love Attack” and “Pouring Water On A Drowning Man”.  However, it’s said James was difficult to work with due to health issues which reflected on his complacent attitude towards his career, perhaps sabotaging his rise to stardom. Another thing, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the somewhat iconic “The Dark End Of The Street”, so what better way to celebrate than with this selection from the underrated, yet pivotal, soul man in the development of Southern Soul.

Rating: 7

Book Review: FLORIDA SOUL: From Ray Charles To KC and The Sunshine Band by JOHN CAPOUYA

Book Review: FLORIDA SOUL: From Ray Charles To KC and The Sunshine Band by JOHN CAPOUYA

While a number of US cities have long been associated with soul music – think Memphis, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, New Orleans and Los Angeles – Miami isn’t an automatic add to that list. Not that the city hasn’t produced its fair share of hitmakers: for most soul music lovers, Miami and other cities in the ‘sunshine’ state of Florida figure in there somewhere – but likely no one major label was based there in the ‘60s and ‘70s (other than Henry Stone’s T.K. Records and its subsidiaries and imprints) in quite the same way that Memphis was home to Stax, Detroit to Motown and Chicago to Chess and Brunswick.

John Capouya’s recent tome, “Florida Soul” begins to set the record straight in regards Florida’s place as the birthplace of a number of key performers (think Ray Charles, Sam Moore among others) as well as site for some of the greatest recordings ever cut in the world of soul music. Think any number of Betty Wright recordings, classics by James & Bobby Purify (“I’m Your Puppet”), Timmy Thomas (“Why Can’t We Live Together”), Jackie Moore (“Precious, Precious”), Latimore (“Let’s Straighten It Out”) and a string of international hits by K.C. & The Sunshine Band.
There are naturally chapters devoted to Charles and Sam Moore but perhaps of more interest to keen followers of R&B and soul music, the likes of Jackie Moore, blue-eyed songstress Linda Lyndell, Willie Clarke, Helene Smith and others who never achieved consistent mainstream success have the opportunity to have their stories thoroughly documented and in particular, make fascinating reading for soul connoisseurs.

Henry Stone and the TK family of artists are given a couple of chapters that are essential to the history of soul music in the state which – via Miami’s Criteria Studios and producers like Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro – became a hive of activity in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, hosting sessions for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Brook Benton, Esther Phillips, Dee Dee Warwick and many others. As a historical account of the importance of Florida in the history of soul music, John Capouya’s book is essential reading.

David Nathan
Founder, www.soulmusic.com

August 2017: Soul Music Reissue Reviews

August 2017: Soul Music Reissue Reviews

Now this is interesting, for me anyway, because I just love Wilson’s voice. It’s so rasping, almost on the raw side, and, my, can he turn a song into something else. And this CD is a fine example of his immense talent that perhaps is overlooked sometimes. From the blurb, the material here covers 1966 – 1968 when he recorded 17 songs by Mr Womack, then a rising composer/singer. Of course, he was destined to bask in his own public spotlight but that would take a while yet. So, it could be argued, that Wilson Pickett helped Bobby on his way. Anyway, I’m bouncing across the tracks, loving as I do the high octane ballad “People Make The World (What It Is)”, followed by a chunky “I’m A Midnight Mover”, saturated in brass, interrupted by shrill support vocals, portraying the man at his finest. Wilson’s ability to whip up a whirlpool of R&B emotion, whether tackling a fast mover or sweeping ballad is, to be honest, rather special. “It’s A Groove” and “I’m Sorry About That” fit the latter. However, “I’ve Come A Long Way” ups the anti to beat both mentioned ballads hands down! He wails and moans, telling the story against a full background of musicians and vocalists. Extremely inspiring. A song that’s high on my list of all time greats is “Bring It On Home To Me”, and here Wilson pays respect to its creator, Sam Cooke. It’s an easy and relaxing version too. Also included, as a bonus, are both sides of Bobby Womack’s solitary Atlantic single “Find Me Somebody”/”How Does It Feel”. This CD has been a long time in the making. Cliff White conceived the project in 1984, and the journey took in record company rejections and…..well, it is all explained in the accompanying booklet by consultant Bob Fisher. To hell with it; there’s absolutely nothing to dislike here. It is the perfect combination of the voice and the writer. Resist at your peril!
Rating: 10

Seventies soul from Mainstream’s family of labels, headed up by Bob Shad, a jazz producer but a man who knew how to cash in on the growing R&B market. Vocal groups were his preference, where Terry Huff and Special Delivery were the most profitable. To introduce the CD is the rather low-keyed funk sounding “Grass Ain’t Greener”, the first single from Charles Beverly. Its solid beat and robust vocals sustain the regular dance rhythm. Nia Johnson’s “You Are The Spice Of My Life” is a top shelf ballad that drifts along with plenty of back up vocals. Its instant hook is hard to shake. On the other hand, a clipping beat that drops a key, forms the basis of Ellerine Harding’s “I Know Something You Don’t Know”. A little on the busy side for me. An extremely laidback, part singing/talking track “I’ve Got To Tell You” from the flamboyantly named Count Willie with LRL & The Dukes, left me cold. However, love the cute and quaint “Everyone Has Someone”, where Linda Perry has swiped all the ingredients from a fifties’ songbook of also-rans. Yet it has a compelling charm nonetheless. Marking the final single release from Terry Huff, “Where There’s A Will (There’s A Way)”, the song holds a lively rhythm that’s perfect for dancing. Likewise, the pounding Chocolate Syrup’s “You’ve Got A Lot To Give” and Chapter Three’s “I’ll Never Be The Same Pt 1” – a slice of early disco from a female trio who should have done better. Meanwhile, the all male quartet, McArthur, take their “I’ll Never Trust Love Again” to another level, with smooth vocals backing an angst-ridden lead vocalist. Poor love. All the tracks are important in their own way in contributing to the growth of soul music, although there are some that fall below the high standard this specialist market dictated. Nonetheless, for historians, this compilation is a must.
Rating: 7


What a way to kick off this exciting compilation with The Showstoppers taking the CD’s title into their vocal grasp, as the introduction to classic music from the City of Brotherly Love, recorded before the Philly Sound stretched across the world. It’s a sweetshop of multi coloured sounds waiting to be tasted. Executive Suite’s “Christine” holds the promise of a worthy ballad against a chugging beat. Falsetto lead blends easily into a full vocal chorus. Plenty of luscious brass introduces “Love Is All Right” from Alabama-born Cliff Nobles, a soft hitting dancer that allows the drummer plenty of skin time, while Honey & the Bees’ “Help Me (Get Over My Used To Be Lover)” – what a mouthful! – falls directly into the sound category of a seventies girl group. A powerful slice of Archie Bell & the Drells’ magic with “My Balloon’s Going Up” (another strange title) offers a sound that doesn’t let up. Against an intermittent beat, Brenda & the Tabulations saunter through the slow moving “That’s The Price You Have To Pay”. Instantly attractive: Peaches & Herb’s “Let’s Make A Promise”, with its positive melody, is held together by a tight percussion. Then there’s a strong, yet plaintive vocal from Barbara Mason on “You Better Stop It” (a song she also composed) which, in all honesty, is one of the better slower tracks on this set. A familiar, tried and tested, highly danceable “Standing In The Darkness” courtesy of The Ethics, closes the musical journey. It’s fair to say this compilation features some of the earliest recordings from the fledgling Philly company of labels which would, in time, become Motown’s most aggressive competitor. Yet, as was proven, there was plenty of room for both, with space to spare.
Rating: 9




March 2017: Reissues and New Music Reviews

March 2017: Reissues and New Music Reviews


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



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


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

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


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





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


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 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



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





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


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


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


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


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



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

curtis371 nancy1347

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