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 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!
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!
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.
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!
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.