CD REISSUE REVIEWS - August/September 2019

CD REISSUE REVIEWS – August/September 2019

HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUENOTES: BE FOR REAL:THE P.I.R. RECORDINGS (1972-1975) (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

Without wishing to go into a lengthy history lesson because 1) soul fans don’t need reminding and 2) I’d soon run out of space, suffice to say these guys were originally known as The Charlemagnes, and unsuccessfully recorded for several labels before hooking up with Philadelphia International where their story really began in earnest. Their membership had changed constantly until Harold Melvin recruited Teddy Pendergrass as lead singer, previously of The Cadillacs. Joining Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International launched Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes on an incredible career across several decades, marking them as the first group to achieve international success within the first year of the company’s trading. So, let’s get started.

With the unexpected success of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, the “I Miss You” album, the group’s debut for Philadelphia in 1972, was later re-marketed under the name “Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes”. Anyway, originally penned by Gamble & Huff for Labelle, the single was chosen as one of the Songs Of The Century by the RIAA: rightly so. Steeped in warm, emotional stylings, musically supported by a sympathetic orchestra, it was an authentic soul classic, and marked the group’s debut in the UK chart where it peaked in the top ten. Such was the power of the song that it’s been re-visited by many including the UK unit, Simply Red, where another hit was enjoyed. However, while this song is so powerfully attractive, there’s others on “I Miss You”: “Be For Real” for starters, with its interesting diversion, and their take on Billy Paul’s “Ebony Woman”.

In 1973, “Black & Blue” arrived with another block busting title lifted for single release – “The Love I Lost”, a song that was conceived as a ballad but re-arranged to make it attractive to the growing lucrative disco market at the time. A second UK hit but in the top twenty this time. And, my, that solid, driving beat exemplified the changing Philly sound with the arousing unison of soul voices. “Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back)” followed, a top forty UK hit, while you can’t ignore “It All Depends On You” and “I’m Weak For You”. Next out, the “To Be True” album, the first of two issued during 1975, where you instantly zone in on “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon” because of Sharon Paige’s involvement. The young singer toured with the group and had released her first single “Let’s Get Together Soon”, later recorded By Dusty Springfield on her “Brand New Me” album. Other notable slices of soul included on “To Be True” are “Bad Luck” and “Nobody Could Take Your Place”. So, onto the “Wake Up Everybody” album (the last to feature Teddy Pendergrass) which kick starts with “Where Are All My Friends”, but once again, among the powerhouse titles, two immediately catch on – the album’s title and, of course, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. Both were UK hits at no 23 and no 5 respectively. The latter track competed against Thelma Houston’s version which, although a much deserved hit for the lady, she lost out to the group’s version by peaking at no 13. Listening to these CDs now, apart from a few hiccups, music doesn’t get much better than this, and to chose a particular favourite is nigh impossible for this ol’ lady. Enjoy!

Rating: 9


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THE EMOTIONS: DON’T ASK MY NEIGHBORS/ THE COLUMBIA/ARC RECORDINGS (1976-1981) (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
I don’t know about you, but when I see one of these colourful boxes arrive in the post, I feel my spirits lift. Not only are they great value but the music within has been well researched and lovingly presented. Well, that’s earned me a few brownie points if nothing else! Together or singly The Emotions have worked with the best including Earth, Wind & Fire, Smokey Robinson, Nancy Wilson and George Duke. As recording artists they were nominated as one of the most influential female groups of all time. With a changing membership over the years, they first stepped on the public platform as a gospel group named the Hutchinson Sunbeams, before hitting the R&B market building up a staunch following in their home state Illinois. As The Emotions, they joined the Volt label during the late sixties, working with David Porter and Isaac Hayes, to release their first album “So I Can Love You”. The title track hit the R&B top ten and top forty mainstream listing. Here we have the ladies’ Columbia and Arc recordings spanning 1976-1981, covering five albums on this 54-track, three CD box set. It was in 1976 that The Emotions hooked up with EW&F’s Maurice White and his Kalimba Productions with the resulting “Flowers” album, when “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” elevated them into the dance market. For me the highlight is the melancholic “How Can You Stop Loving Someone” and the gospel tinged “God Will Take Care Of You”. Into the chart topping “Rejoice” album and the global runaway hit “Best Of My Love” which, apart from being a multi-million seller, won the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Grammy in 1977. Check out as well, the placid “Key To My Heart” and “A Long Way To Go”.

Their gold status “Sunbeam” album opens with “Smile”, upbeat and instant; “Spirit Of Summer” hints at jazz and “Walking The Line” is wonderfully delicious. So, a pot pourie of sounds, indicating that once again, no style is alien to these ladies. Unfortunately, “Come Into Our World” failed to reach its predecessors’ heady heights. The idea behind the release was to move forward with changing musical public demands, but somehow, apart from a handful of tracks like the R&B hit “What’s The Name Of You Love”, The Emotions had lost their impetus. Finally, the album “New Affair” from 1981, a poor seller yet it spawned the up tempo “Turn It Out” and the EW&F influenced “Here You Come Again”. It was also their final Arc release.

Following a short interlude, The Emotions recorded an album for the Red label in 1984, before releasing the one off album “If I Only Knew” for Motown in June 1985. From this, “Miss Your Love” and “If I Only Knew Then (What I Know Now)” were issued as singles. All were only moderate sellers, despite the power of Motown behind them. Rounding off this box set are various bonus tracks including “I Should Be Dancing”, “Flowers”, “Boogie Wonderland” with Earth, Wind & Fire. What’s there not to like?
Rating: 9

 
 

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BILLY OCEAN: REMIXES AND RARITIES  (CHERRY POP)

During the eighties Billy Ocean was the most popular Trinidad/British R&B singer to hit the UK chart.  After a shaky start, “Love Really Hurts Without You”, lifted from his self-named album in 1976, stormed into  the UK top two.  “L.O.D. (Love On Delivery)” and “Stop Me (If You’ve Heard It All Before)” followed to peak in the top twenty.  The next year, Billy enjoyed a solitary hit with “Red Light Spells Danger”, another top two single.  From here he struggled a bit with “Are You Ready” and “Stay The Night”, then came the new decade when his star began to rise again.  During 1984, his album “Suddenly” spawned a single that remains as popular today as when first issued – “Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)” – compelling hooks and singalong chorus.  “Loverboy” was next, top twenty, until the album’s title, the smooth sounding “Suddenly” was issued to become a top four seller, paving the way for “Mystery Lady”.

Billy’s star had not only risen but was shining brightly.  “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” (the theme from “The Jewel In The Crown” movie)  hit the top in January 1986, with “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” stalling in the top twelve.  Two further top fifty hits followed this year – “Love Zone” (the title track from the double platinum album) and “Bittersweet” – with the ballad “Love Is Forever” and “Get Outta My Dreams Get Into My Car” , hitting the top forty and top three respectively. The latter track’s lyrics sat uneasily with some and I must admit I was concerned.   A pair of singles in 1988 charted but sales were sluggish. By any stretch of the imagination, Billy’s career was the envy of many. So, yeah, he  was definitely one of the defining voices of the eighties, and now we have a number of these titles wearing different musical overcoats – dub, club, 7th Heaven and instrumental mixes. There’s driving rhythms, heavy percussion and hard cutting sequences steering the songs, adding a new dimension to the original recordings.  Drum riffs blast out, Billy’s voice is often distorted and the relentlessness of the music drives the in-demand alternate versions, some appearing on CD for the first time.  Anyone liking Billy’s music the first time around, will welcome this totally new take although I do confess some of the extended versions just don’t know when to stop!

Rating: 8

CD REISSUE REVIEWS - July 2019

CD REISSUE REVIEWS – July 2019

GROVER WASHINGTON JR: SACRED KIND OF LOVE:THE COLUMBIA RECORDINGS  (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

A saxophonist of many talents in the soul/jazz and jazz/funk field and considered by many to be one of the founders of jazz fusion, this cracking 5-CD package focuses on Grover Washington Jr’s Columbia tenure. Already established in his field, he signed with the company in 1986 after spells with Kudu and Elektra Records. “Strawberry Moon” is self-produced barring two titles: “Summer Nights” where Marcus Miller takes production credit and “I Will Be Here For You” co-produced by Grover and Michael J. Powell.  The former was released as a top four R&B single, while the actual album was his first in three years and his debut for Columbia.  Worth checking out here is B B King’s contribution to the mid-paced “Caught A Touch Of Your Love”, while one of Bacharach and David’s finest emotive ballads “The Look Of Love” features the unequaled Jean Carn.  She’s featured on the more upbeat “Keep In Touch” as well.

Released in 1988, “Then And Now” moved away from his recognizable R&B sound, to feature Herbie Hancock and Tommy Flanagan on keyboards.  I zoomed in on a pair of ballads, “Just Enough” and “Something Borrowed, Something Blue”; both pure magic.  Recorded in Philadelphia with a studio full of musicians, “Time Out Of Mind” offers some credible dance titles, including the funk-slanted “Split Second (Act II The Bar Scene)”. That aside, feel the Latino beat in “Nice ‘N’ Easy”, or relax to the reflective “Protect The Dream”. However, not to be missed is the mid-paced “Sacred Kind Of Love” featuring the wonderful Phyllis Hyman on vocals.  “Summer Chill”, co-penned by Grover’s son and nominated for a Grammy, is a feature on his 1992 release “Next Exit”. This time a trio of guest vocalists are major attractions.  On the soulful  “Till You Return To Me”, you’ll hear the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs; Nancy Wilson on the slow paced “Your Love”, and Lalah Hathaway on the string based “Love Like This”.  Excellent teaming of voices and music.

The 1994 “All My Tomorrows” was, at the time, considered to be Grover’s first all-acoustic album, returning to his roots as he plays soprano and tenor sax with the help of several A-liner musicians, including Hank Jones and Eddie Henderson.  A couple of immediate highlights here; Grover’s take on Nat King Cole’s “When I Fall In Love” and the slowie “For Heaven’s Sake”, where Cole’s younger brother Freddy duets with Dizzy Gillespie’s daughter Jeanie.  Almost unrecognisable is Grover’s jazz re-working of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” which is a pity.

The final CD in this box set but not his last for Columbia – “Soulful Strut” from 1996 – is probably more commercially slick than the others, while Grover hangs on to his soul/jazz groove. He mixes hip/hop and jazz/funk with “Uptown”, while takes on a laid back seam on “Mystical Force”.  In this musical pot pourie, jungle sounds introduce  “Poacher Man” and immediately grabbed my interest as Grover (rightly) condemns illegal rhino and elephant hunting in Africa.  Authentic African voices close his heartfelt protest. There are extensive notes by our respected Charles Waring tucked away in this rather lavish package, and a personal tribute from David Nathan, re-issue producer and founder of SoulMusic.com.  Congratulations to all concerned.

Rating: 10

 
 

================================================================================VARIOUS ARTISTS: MASTERPIECES OF MODERN SOUL VOLUME 5 (KENT)

What an impressive selection of tracks, covering most music genres from major and less-major artists. I was instantly grabbed by the opening song – The Mighty Whites’ “Given My Life”. Smooth as silk, with a lifting chorus and well-crafted vocals. According to the blurb, the unreleased master was originally issued as an inferior title under the Brotherhood moniker in 1978. Anyway, Millie Jackson’s “I’ll Continue To Love You” took me by surprise; a previously unissued dance edit, and, my, does she strut her stuff. From the start, you’re immediately in the groove – another favourite. Likewise, “Mrs So And So’s Daughter” from Loleatta Holloway; again an unissued edit from a lady whose voice often defied gravity. Such an under-rated artist in commercial quarters.

Major Lance’s “That’s The Story Of My Life” and Freddie Scott’s “I Guess God Wants It This Way” are also compulsive listening, while Lee Porter & Peaceful Persuasion’s “Nobody’s Doin’ A Doggone Thing” is an interesting insight into social commentary without being dictatorial. Eddie Floyd, The Headliners, The Independents, and the recently-discovered C.J. & Co’s re-visited “Rainmaker”, previously recorded by The Moods, are compelling on several levels. In fact, this is a wonderfully rounded compilation and one that will instantly appeal to collectors of rare soul items, but not, I’d have thought, to commercially-slanted buyers.
Rating: 8

 
 

SOUL TALKIN' with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: SOULMUSIC RECORDS REISSUES: BILLY PAUL, SHIRLEY MURDOCK

SOUL TALKIN’ with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: SOULMUSIC RECORDS REISSUES: BILLY PAUL, SHIRLEY MURDOCK

In this edition of Soul Talkin,’ David Nathan and Kevin Goins discuss the latest releases from SoulMusic Records – one being a compilation of classics from BILLY PAUL – ME & MRS. JONES, THE ANTHOLOGY, the other an expanded edition of the 1986 debut album by SHIRLEY MURDOCK, which features her biggest hit, “As We Lay”. All this and more reissue talk with David and Kevin!

 

CD REISSUE REVIEWS - MARCH 2019

CD REISSUE REVIEWS – MARCH 2019

REGINA BELLE: SHOW ME THE WAY – THE COLUMBIA ANTHOLOGY (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
What a wonderful melting pot of sounds this 29-tracker is from this remarkable songstress. Drawn from four albums between 1987-1995, this package holds the original album versions of ten American hits, kicking off with the likes of “Show Me The Way”, “So Many Tears” – paying homage to Billie Holiday – and “How Could You Do It To Me” from her debut album “All By Myself” released in 1987. Two years on, “Stay With Me” was crammed with top selling items, including her beautifully crafted duet “All I Want Is Forever” with James Taylor, “Baby Come To Me” and “What Goes Around”. The set also spawned her first British hit “Good Lovin’” before the album passed gold status in America. “Dream In Colour” is taken from her third album “Passion”, while “Love T.K.O.” is the only single from 1995’s “Reachin’ Back” album. In between these, there’s a couple of stylish duets – “I Can’t Imagine” with Peabo Bryson and “Better Together” with Johnny Mathis. Having played these CDs over and over I was hypnotised by the Regina’s commitment to easing every emotion from the lyrics whether she’s being defiant, passionate or fervently devoted to the love of her life. Her voice combines resilience and vulnerability, while being surprisingly restrained in guarded musical moments. Music for the soul from the soul.
Rating: 9

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GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: ON AND ON – THE BUDDAH/COLUMBIA ANTHOLOGY (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
Well, what can I say about this 2-CD release that you don’t already know. Suffice to say, the hits are here! From the group’s Buddah years, we’re treated to the poignant “Try To Remember”/”The Way We Were”; the soulful upbeat “Midnight Train To Georgia” through to the impacting “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” – and that’s all before you can draw breath. Then we’re thrown into the absolute idyllic musical dream with “Baby Don’t Change Your Mind”, “Come Back And Finish What You Started” and “It’s A Better Than Good Time”. Pure bliss while evoking memories of rather wonderful times in the past, but, having said that, they’re as relevant today as they were when originally issued. With her Pips, Gladys Knight brought home the goods every time with the most potent of songs that covered the whole emotional gamut, in her easy, relaxed way. Turning now to the Columbia years where the hits continued with the likes of “Landlord”, “Taste Of Bitter Love”, “Save The Overtime (For Me)” and, of course, the irrepressible “Bourgie, Bourgie”. This package is an innovative and comprehensive collection of pure diamonds and among the 22 American hits over a twelve year period, there’s a selection of first –rate tracks given that special GK touch, including a special version of “Wind Beneath My Wings”. As I’m going to see Gladys at the Royal Albert Hall in June, this is a timely reminder, if I needed it, of the remarkably talented soulful and grounded superstar whose music has been a backdrop of my life for as long as I can remember. And, believe me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rating: 10

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CHARLES EARLAND: COMING TO YOU LIVE/EARLAND’S JAM/EARLAND’S STREET THEMES (ROBINSONGS)
The sun is shining through my office window and this double-CD package is playing in the background, setting the mood for an idyllic afternoon. Born in Philadelphia, this extraordinary jazz musician, nicknamed ‘The Mighty Burner’ mastered the saxophone while in high school. At the age of 17 years he played tenor sax with Jimmy McGriff and during the early sixties formed his first band, before learning the organ to play with Pat Martino. From here he joined Lou Donaldson’s group for a year until 1969 when he hooked up with Grover Washington Jr. So that’s set the scene for the first album released in 1980 where the stand out has to be its title track with its soulful vocals and jazz funk riffs followed by “I Will Never Tell”. Other titles like the opening “Cornbread” introduce what would be known as smooth jazz which, I have to say, sums up the entire release here, except for the scorching “Take Me To Heaven”. Moving on two years with “Earland’s Jam”, another slice of intoxicating jazz based tracks like the outstanding “The Only One” plus there’s interesting takes on the Doobie Brothers’ “You Belong To Me”, Barry Gibb and Barbra Streisand’s “Guilty” and “Never Knew Love Like This Before” from Stephanie Mills. A musical cocktail here, where most interpretations work beautifully. The final album, “Earland’s Street Themes”, from 1983, moves on a pace to take inspiration from urban music and contemporary R&B which infiltrated the opening track “Be My Lady (Tonight)”. Others to check out include the dance/funk slice of upbeat in “Go All The Way” and the gospel discharges apparent in “Walk With Me”. Also, among the several bonus tracks included here, is the 12” version of his only UK hit “Let The Music Play” in 1978. Well, it wasn’t the afternoon I’d planned yet, thanks to Mr Earland’s unhurried, gentle approach to his music with the occasional lively bite, it was a rewarding couple of hours. And the sun is still shining!

Rating: 8

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: LOWRIDER SOUL (KENT)
To be honest I’ve not heard the phrase ‘lowrider’ before now but I’m led to believe it’s derived from American automobiles which are customised to cruise the streets of South Carolina. Or to be more precise, a customised vehicle with hydraulic jacks that allow the chassis to be lowered nearly to the road! Anyway, this compilation features some of the music played from these vehicles which originated from Mexico, South and Central America. Covering the period 1962-1970 we’re treated to doo wop and sweet mid tempo outings like The Four Tees’ “One More Chance”. Artists so familiar to soul fans including Barbara Mason, The Whispers and Brenton Wood are featured with a trio of gems. Mason’s “Oh, How It Hurts” overflows with emotional angst, while The Whispers’ low-key, doo wop “As I Sit Here” is a joy, leaving Benton’s “Where Were You” simply begs for attention. And let’s not forget William Bell with “Crying All By Myself”, a stylish performance; The Vows’ “I Wanna Chance” who, with a changed membership, recorded “Buttered Popcorn” for Motown’s VIP label in 1965 or “Second Hand Happiness” from Jimmy Conwell, a wonderful slice of deep soul. As always with Kent’s compilations, an informative, full-coloured booklet is on hand and, while an education for me in the nicest possible way, think this CD would appeal only to soul connoisseurs.

Rating: 7

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: ON THE DETROIT BEAT/MOTOR CITY SOUL UK STYLE 1963-67 (ACE RECORDS)
As much as I applaud these artists for paying homage to Motown, I’m angry because they could have denied the originators a place in the British charts. Then, looking at the situation from a different angle, perhaps Motown would have suffered a longer non-identity without them. Or, which is possibly more relevant, maybe we weren’t ready for this raw, young sound from Detroit preferring to enjoy our own tried and tested music with the occasional interruption from established American acts. Then, on top of this, of course, was the dictating British radio which steered its programmes towards adult listening until Bill Haley swept all sense of respectability from under its feet. Whatever the reasons, and I guess I’m thinking out loud here, Motown and its artists did smash through the barriers and into our charts – eventually. It goes without saying that the sterling work done by Dusty Springfield in promoting this new cult sound was invaluable to its growth here, culminating in the iconic “The Sound Of Motown” television show screened in April 1965, and often referred to as the longest music advertisement ever! And she paid her respects to several company acts during her career, kicking off with The Supremes’ “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” on her debut album. In the same breath, The Beatles were also trailblazers when they too rifled through the Motown catalogue for their second album, yet none are featured here. At the height of their career, the Fab Four not only recorded company songs but also requested Mary Wells join one of their UK tours, and Brenda Holloway on their second American tour. Where The Beatles went, others followed, hence fellow Liverpudlians like Cilla Black and Sounds Incorporated recording Jr Walker and the All Stars’ “Shotgun”, and Billy J Kramer, “I’ll Be Doggone”, the Marvin Gaye classic. An adventurous Helen Shapiro took on “You’re My Remedy”; Bill Kenwright and the Runaways tried “I Want To Go Back There Again”, while The Hollies tackled “Mickey’s Monkey”. When Motown’s artists began infiltrating our charts in their own right, the cover-versions more or less ceased, except for Springfield of course, who regularly included one or two on her albums. However, let’s face it, nobody could match, let alone emulate that glorious young Detroit sound, either vocally or musically because, to be honest, our musicians were certainly no match for the Funk Brothers. Although this type of CD isn’t normally reviewed here, I couldn’t really let it pass because, at the end of the day, our acts were saluting a record company that defined our musical backdrop for decades. So that should count for something.

Rating: 5

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: SOLAR SOUL (SOLAR RADIO)
Wasn’t sure what to expect with this collection of tracks from artists who have enjoyed airtime on Solar Radio over the past two years but I have to confirm it’s exactly what it says on the tin – 21st century soul. I believe this is the second project, the first in 2001 released under “The Soul Sound Of Solar Radio”, and the formula is the same – supporting artists who have hit the station’s Sweet Rhythms Chart, plus remixes and recent favourites. Randy Muller featuring Carolyn Harding’s “Beautiful Feeling” which begins the musical adventure was one I instantly gravitated towards with the percussion steering the mid-paced tempo, allowing Carolyn to weave in and out the melody, interrupted only by stabbing strings or something similar. “Roma” is another that grabbed my interest. Hannah White’s vocals highlight this dance-slanted mover, which does, remarkably, err on the side of a continual laid-back feel through to the Donna Summer interlude, which is a slice of musical ingenuity. Then there’s the smooth saxophone (I think) introduction on “Latino Girl” from Mather & Kingdon which is replaced by a decisive melody with an unexpected key change part-way through. Or the quirky Ray Hayden track “Things Will Get Better” which, to be honest threw me a little, as was unsure where it was going. Never fear, it settled down under an atmospheric overcoat with an infectious melody. A couple more to mention: “Mystified” from Bashiyra with its lovely chugging feel and double-tracked vocals, and Groove Association featuring Georgie B’s “Feeling Happy” where the clipped beat, warm vocals and catchy hookline exude a certain kind of magic. Packaged in a gatefold sleeve and 8-page booklet, this was one surprise I actually enjoyed.
Rating: 9

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RECENT REISSUE REVIEWS - May 2018

RECENT REISSUE REVIEWS – May 2018

THE POINTER SISTERS: THE POINTER SISTERS/THAT’S A PLENTY  (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

Oh yeah! This is wonderful and it feels good to hear both these albums again.  Released in 1973 on Blue Note, the Sisters’ first album has always been a huge favourite in my collection. Cleverly packaged and marketed, it shot to the top of the US R&B chart, passed gold status, proving they were here to stay and this debut was testament to that. The imaginative use of vocals from Bonnie, June, Ruth and Anita which are often combined, sometimes scat and jazz-tinged, but always with an edge.  They drive and wail, pitch and touch their voices in and around tracks that are excitingly divine.

With the album cover showing them in 40s’ styled clothes, we knew we were in for a treat, starting with their take of “Yes We Can Can”, both sassy and cool.  The quirky full-spirited, energetic “Wang Dang Doodle” and the amusing “Old Songs” with its pounding rhythm steering their voices reminded me of Bette Midler.  Hell.  Should I have written that? With the ability to mix R&B with a fresh approach, and with cover versions rubbing grooves with a couple of Pointers’ compositions – “Jada”  and “Sugar” – this was a brilliantly conceived launching pad for them. Check out too “That’s How I Feel”;  rather zany, with improvised vocals and nonsense lyrics, with their voices used as instruments.

Ragtime starts “That’s A Plenty” with “Bangin’ On The Pipes/Steam Heat”.  Both fast and furious, totally impulsive and crazy because how can a song about a radiator be so deliriously lovely?  With lyrics that mean nothing but rather highlight a scat/bebop vocal which they do so well, “Salt Peanuts” races along like a speeding train over its tracks, taking no prisoners on the way.  Change of style with the country-flavoured “Fairytale” which gave them their second top forty hit, crossing over into the C&W chart enabling them to become the first African-American vocal group to star at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.  The song also won them their first Grammy Award for Best Country Performance.  Glorious tight vocals shine across “Grinning In Your Face” against a steady, unhurried beat, while a young Bonnie Raitt plays slide guitar.

The Pointers’ self penned “Shaky Flat Blues” is followed by “That’s A Plenty/Surfeit USA” crammed with surprises as it shifts from one genre to another in quick succession, and from the sounds of it, great fun and laughter resonated around the studio.  Meanwhile, “Black Coffee” instantly stills the mood with low key, heartfelt Blues, sedately presented.  So cool.  The “That’s A Plenty” album sleeve, while not colourful, does strike an impressive pose in stark black and white, silhouetting the four ladies dancing.  There’s absolutely nothing to fault across these two albums; they’re both steeped in originality whether from a soul, jazz or Blues songbook, and the Pointer Sisters (while probably out of breath most of the time!) are incredible.   Absolutely priceless!

Rating: 10

SHALAMAR: UPTOWN FESTIVAL/DISCO GARDENS/BIG FUN  (CHERRY RED RECORDS)

It was the five bonus tracks on this double CD package that excited me the most.  These single versions of the biggest disco tracks around in the late seventies/early eighties, had my blood pressure rising, adrenalin bubbling and voice singing at full pelt. Let me remind you – “Uptown Festival”, “Take That To The Bank”, “Right In The Socket”, “The Second Time Around” and “I Owe You One”. Know what I mean? Hard driving dance that never lets up, with building chorus and hooklines, they’re so totally addictive and so epitomise the best in disco.  Formed in 1978 by the producer and host of the innovative US music show “Soul Train” and featuring Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley and Gary Mumford, the trio couldn’t sing a bum note as their string of UK hits proved.  OK, so the line-up changed slightly but so long as Jeffrey and Jody were there, we knew we were onto a winner.

On offer here are Shalamar’s first three albums, “Uptown Festival”, “Disco Gardens” and “Big Fun”, and on the first we’re treated to ten Motown tracks sung non-stop over a seventies disco beat.  Two further company songs are given the Shalamar treatment, namely, “Ooo Baby Baby” and “Forever Came Today”.  For “Disco Gardens”, with the membership of Jeffrey, Jody and Gerald Brown, the highlight hinges on the hit “Take That To The Bank”, with occasional inspiring musical moments via “Shalamar Disco Gardens” and “Leave It All Up To Love”.  It’s one long dance party although listening to it now, am sad it hasn’t travelled well.  The third, “Big Fun”, however, boasts the classic membership of the two Js and Howard Hewitt, and is just what it says on the album cover.  Fun!  It also way outsold its predecessor thanks to the included hits, like their biggest seller “The Second Time Around”.   Shalamar have such an instantly distinctive sound, said to be the very heart of Solar Records, and it is true to say their singles are immediately recognisable from the opening vocals, despite some of the cuts falling short of the excellence we came to expect from them.  Nonetheless, a worthy compilation for disco fans.

Rating: 8

MARLENA SHAW: GO AWAY LITTLE BOY:THE COLUMBIA ANTHOLOGY  (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)

Being the gal I am, I immediately headed for Marlena’s version of “Touch Me In The Morning” – and what a wow! track it is!  Taken at a dance pace, the song dips and rises through this remix, grabbing attention as the Diana Ross ballad is transformed into a disco classic.  Fabulous! So, now calm and my curiosity stemmed, here we have another in SoulMusic Records’ much loved anthology series from Ms Shaw, revisiting her Columbia Records tenure between 1977 – 1980.  Not being too familiar with her musical heritage I researched her background and rise to fame while listening to this diverse collection of music which earned her the title of soul/jazz legend.  Her uncle and jazz trumpet player, Jimmy Burgess, introduced her on stage during one of his performances at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, and from here she studied music.  She dropped out of the course to get married and sang in jazz clubs as and when.  During 1963 she auditioned unsuccessfully for Columbia, before signing to Chess Records to release a pair of albums on their Cadet imprint, followed by five albums for Blue Note.

“Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy” from her Columbia debut “Sweet Beginnings” in 1977 is obviously a highlight on this anthology, soaring into the US R&B chart where it stayed for 11 weeks.  Love her spoken rap here which, by all accounts, she perfected while performing in an upstate New York club. Van McCoy’s beautifully styled ballad “Walk Softly” mixes easily with “Look At Me, Look At You (I’m Flying)”, a lustrous cool jazz item.  Her acapella introduction on “You Bring Out The Best In Me” leads into a compelling song, while the mood changes for “Mamma Tried” with its gospel feel, where Marlena accompanies herself on keyboards. Her first three charting singles for Columbia are here – the lively “The Writing’s On The Wall”, “Pictures And Memories”, upbeat and catchy, and “No Deposit, No Return”, her own composition.  Then the beautifully haunting “Theme From ‘Looking For Mr Goodbar’ (Don’t Ask To Stay Until Tomorrow)” from the 1977 film is quite outstanding.  I may not have known too much about Miss Shaw before hearing this, but now, after listening to this 2-CD package, I feel like we’re old friends.

Rating: 9

Clif Payne 2018 SoulMusic.com Interview

Clif Payne 2018 SoulMusic.com Interview

With the late 2016 release of “No Payne, No Gain,” his duet with the legendary Freda Payne (not related as far as the pair can tell), Harlem-born, Bay Area-based Clif Payne (who has worked with an array of artists over the years including Johnny Mathis, Dionne Warwick, Tony Bennett and Bobby McFerrin) achieved international recognition, particularly in the UK where it became a Top 10 soul hit). Now comes his second CD, “Too” (the follow-up to his debut album “Welcome To My World”), produced by Preston Glass and Larry Batiste and released through SoulMusic Records in association with Platinum Garage Records. Clif shares with David Nathan about the new album (which includes a new duet with Freda, “Yesterday’s Payne, Tomorrow’s Joy”) and more…

CLICK HERE FOR LINKS TO BUY/DOWNLOAD & STREAM “TOO”

CLICK HERE FOR “TOO” AT CDBABY

CLICK HERE FOR CLIF’S WEBSITE

Nadia Cole 2018 SoulMusic.com Interview

Nadia Cole 2018 SoulMusic.com Interview

Eighteen-year old international R&B / gospel recording artist Nadia Cole has been performing since she was five-years-old. She appeared on ” America’s Got Talent” when she was just nine along with her two equally talented brothers Michael & Avery Cole. The siblings known as Voices Of Glory rose above 100,000 contestants to finished as the top five finalists. Her very first solo single, the upbeat “Today” – produced by award-winning music man Preston Glass – has just been released via SoulMusic Records in association with Platinum Garage Recordings. In this interview with David Nathan, Nadia shares all about her surprising musical influences, her career to date and more…

CLICK HERE FOR LINKS TO HEAR “TODAY” AND TO DOWNLOAD IT

CLICK HERE FOR NADIA’S WEBSITE

 

October 2016 SoulMusic Records Releases

October 2016 SoulMusic Records Releases

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

Due on October 7 via Amazon.co.uk and October 14 via Amazon.com:

NATALIE_COLE_READY

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

 

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

 

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

 

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