on December 26, 2000
Junior Walker is a Motown star who recorded his music under his own name (which actually was Autrey De Walt). The "All Stars" name came when at a show a fan screamed "These guys are All Stars!" He worked and died in Battle Creek, MI (where I lived for 3 years) in 1995. (Trivia: he's buried very close to the Kellogg family.) This album faithfully recalls his best work, of which my favorites are "Pucker Up Buttercup" (if you can't dance to this you are dead), "Way Back Home" (a powerful walk down memory lane, the lyrics conjer vivid images), "These Eyes", "Roadrunner", "Shake and Fingerpop", "Home Cookin' " "Hip City" "Do You See My Love" and of course, his most popular, "Shotgun." He also recorded some Motown standards ("Come See About Me", "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You") which he made his own with his approach to the song. His sax work is genre defining, highly copied today, and puts him amongst the best of the best of all time. His voice is scratchy, soulful, and his hootin' and hollerin' are what make him so soulful. This record will get you movin', make you happy, and put a smile on your face. Junior Walker & The All Stars probably belongs best in your car stereo crusin' down the highway on a summer day. Junior Walker -- you are sadly missed.
on November 13, 2002
Berry Gordy had only one order when Harvey Fuqua included Jr. Walker and the All Stars with the package when folding his Harvey label into the Motown stable around 1964: "Leave him alone. Let Walker cut the way he is." And for the most part, that is precisely what Junior and the boys did. Assigned to Motown's new Soul label (set up to compete with the embryonic but rising hard Southern soul), they didn't just jump off the grooves, they exploded them. And though Walker's unmistakeable tenor saxophone style - that deep-breathing, high-wailing sound where the rural backroads of his roots meet the backstreets of his working life - is the no-questions-asked calling card, you'd be very hard pressed to suggest Walker would have worked as effectively had he been backed by a different band. The All Stars' aged-in-sweat feel is precisely the right support system for that incandescent sax.
Anyone who planned on going to his grave mistaking Walker for a two-trick pony on the basis of the gutbucket classic "Shotgun" or the urbane soul of "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)," the two hits with which he remains most identified, is going to have to change his plans hearing this set, the elemental anthology Walker has long deserved. Just begin with "Shake and Fingerpop," the second track. From the thwapping drum kickoff and that insane-in-the-brain ludicrous-high C saxophone squeal to the heartpunching guitar-bass riff, this makes "Shotgun" resemble a dirge. (The heavy mental meatheads and hip-hop slops only wish they had something this dangerous to crank.) Aside from "Cleo's Mood" (and its surprisingly effective answer track, "Cleo's Back"), you have "Tune Up" (probably the single least inhibited single ever to spring from the 1960s Motown stable, if you don't count the Contours' earlier "Shake Sherrie") "Satan's Blues," "Last Call," even "Pucker Up, Buttercup" proving these guys were as much the sons of the blues as anything else. They even got Motown's most stylised writer-production team to loosen up: Holland-Dozier-Holland got in on the fun by writing and producing for them "(I'm A) Road Runner," and it didn't exactly leave them scarred for life.
"What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)," the best-selling single of Walker's career, wasn't as offbeat a turn as might have been thought considering Walker's image until that point. (Motown chronicler Nelson George pretty much nailed it when he described "Shotgun" as having "the kick of a bull and the greasy feel of a pig's feet dinner.") Walker's saxophone style was actually deep enough to knit with the sauteed polish of the fabled Funk Brothers house musicians. And they put depth to spare into composer/producer Johnny Bristol's slightly stylised soul balladry. They got some decent mileage out of the mode, not to mention (just listen carefully to "Do You See My Love For You Growing," "Take Me, Girl, I'm Ready," and the beautifully moody "Walk In The Night") opening the door toward disco (though you can't blame Junior for that genre's worst excesses of metronomic banality). But the pair also had enough anchorage to take a kind of subversive liberty with Motown's underpinnings, and it resulted in the most jarringly affecting record of Walker's career in 1972.
Getting sociopolitically relevant (as began to happen with the label's music in 1967-68) was one thing, but it was something else again to bump against the history Motown's very existence sought (and usually successfully) to transcend. Bump against, take on, and all but wave it in its own face with a shocking affirmation is precisely what Walker did with "Way Back Home" (which Bristol co-wrote with Gladys Knight, whose own "Midnight Train To Georgia" would suggest a similar tortuous homecoming from another vantage). In three minutes of bristling music with gospel overtones and the most passionate vocal Walker ever cut in his life (not to mention perhaps the most controlled heat he ever breathed through his sax), he stared down the cold reality of his Southern root at the outset, then slapped it right to one side to remember what was simple, affecting, enduring ("Have ya ever been swimmin' in a muddy creek/with nothin' on your body from your head to your feet/like way back home?"), and unstolen by even the worst of the old South no matter where his life had since taken him. This may have been too raw to let "Way Back Home" become a huge hit even in 1971-72, but it has dated far, far less than most topical protest music, thanks to the shameless soulfulness applied with no small irony by Motown's own Mr. Life Of The Party.
And you'll want this CD's selection because they were mastered from the original singles; Motown was only too notorious for cutting just-so-slightly-different versions for its albums, and Walker especially should be heard even now as he intended it to be heard on the radio or in the jukeboxes: undiluted and untaxed. (Ideally, he of all the Motowners should be represented by a live album, but the three released on him back in the day were so haphazardly recorded, and so drastically mixed the guts right out of the man's music, that they remain unlistenable.) He recorded sparingly at best in the years since his Motown hitmaking run dried up (though it's long been a cliche that he put the whomp into Foreigner's "Urgent"), and it might seem a waste, but (as Allan Slutsky's booklet notes illustrate) Walker didn't exactly live for the recording studio in the first place. It showed when, like most Motowners of the time, was compelled to take a crack at a labelmate's hit (really: we could live quite nicely without his versions of "Come See About Me," "Money," and "How Sweet It Is"), but even playing his own music he played like he was running fifteen minutes late getting to the next roadhouse and the next sweaty gig. Almost forty years after "Cleo's Mood" started it all, Walker's music still sounds that way - lucky us.
on October 27, 2002
"I took my loved one over 'cross the tracks
So she could hear my man a-wailin' sax.
I must admit they have a rockin' band.
Man, they was blowin' like a hurricane.
That's why I go for that rock and roll music."
Chuck Berry wrote those lyrics in 1957, but he sounds like he's talking about the 60's Motown group Junior Walker and the All Stars. The opening blast of "Shotgun" literally starts things off with a bang. The song is a rock and roll classic, featuring vocals alternating with the saxophone, which became the trademark sound of Junior Walker. That sound works to best effect on the pop standard "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)." "Satan's Blues" is a scorching blues instrumental, while "Cleo's Mood" and "Cleo's Back" are instrumentals that combine both blues and jazz elements. "Do The Boomerang" and "Twist Lackawanna" are dance songs in the tradition of Chubby Checker. "Shake And Fingerpop" is a rhythm and blues tune in which the singer urges his girl to "Kick off your shoes baby, and get in the groove, cause when you hear the music your feet have got to move." Junior Walker's music has that affect on all his listeners. The 1972 song "Walk In The Night" has some disco elements, but with a lot of soul, courtesy of Junior Walker's sax. His version of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" sounds like it was recorded at an after hours nightclub, as does "Last Call," which ends this collection on a strong note. As evidenced on this compilation, Junior Walker and the All Stars crossed and combined many genres of music. If I had to categorize their music, I would call it GREAT!
on May 8, 2001
Junior Walker was the mainstay of Motown's Soul imprint. He recorded for the label from 1964-1976 (He later recorded on the main Motown label in the early 80s). This CD has all of his great, great hits, and many other outstanding performances. You will find all of his classic, burn-up-a-dancefloor blowfests, ("Shotgun" "Do The Boomerang" "Shoot Your Shot" "Road Runner") as well as his sultry excursions into mellow soul ("What Does It Take" "These Eyes" "Gotta Hold On To This Feeling"). Junior had amazing success when he covered material that topped the charts for other Motown acts ("How Sweet It Is" "Come See About Me"). "Sweet Soul" was a "killer" B-side! But I really appreciate a lot of Junior's hits that didn't do as well on the Pop charts, like "Hip City" and "Do You See My Love." During parties at my house in New York City in 1968 --I was just a kid, but do I ever remember!-- my brothers played both sides of the "Hip City" single. Part 1 would get everyone on the floor and get everyone ready for Part 2, which was the hit single! It was nearly 6 minutes of bedlam, and you never saw a record flipped over and resumed so fast! I'd say no more than 5 seconds ever passed before Junior's sax faded in (wailing away) to the start of "Hip City, Part 2"! If you want Part 1, you have to find a copy of the "Home Cookin'" album. This collection is Junior at his very best. The only thing more complete is a comprehensive anthology ("Nothin' But Soul") that is a two-disc set, but is out of print.
on July 22, 2004
One of Motown's most underappreciated acts, Junior Walker & the All-Stars were consistent hitmakers for the label in the 60's and early 70's. They scored no less than 18 Top 20 R&b singles including 13 Top Tens. Not limited to just the R&B charts they also charted 13 songs on the Pop Top 40. They were already seasoned musicians by the time they arrived at Motown in 1964 and the first album JW & the All-Stars put out was "Shotgun" in July of 65. It contained 5 Top Ten R&B singles including the title track which topped the R&b chart and climbed to #4 on the pop side. Unlike most Motown acts JW & the All-Stars weren't put into the H-D-H or Smokey Robinson assembly hit line. Instead they continued recording gut bucket rhythm and blues.
And the hits rolled in including the rollicking "Pucker Up Buttercup" [#11 R&B, #31 Pop] and "Hip City" [#7 R&B, #31 Pop], covers of Marvin's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" [#3 R&B, #18 Pop] and the Supremes's "Come See About Me" [#8 R&B, #24 Pop], the blues instrumental "Cleo's Mood" [#14 R&B, #50 Pop] and follow up "Cleo's Back" [#7 R&B, #42 Pop] and the free wheelin' "(I'm A) Road Runner" [#4 R&B, #20 Pop].
Junior's trademark wailing sax, driving beat and high flyin' organ were becoming a bit stale by 1968, at least to the pop audience, and the All-Stars went back to the drawing board and returned with their biggest hit "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" which topped the R&b chart, reached #4 on the pop chart and sold over a million copies. It marked the first time female background vocalists were used on JW & the All-Stars records. The hits rolled in once again, "These Eyes" in Oct. '69 [#3 R&B, #16 Pop], "Gotta Hold On To This Feeling" in Jan. '70 [#2 R&B, #21 Pop], " Do You See My Love (For You Growing)" in June '70 [#3 R&B, #32 Pop] and their final hit, 1972's heavenly "Walk In The Night" [#10 R&B, #46 Pop].
It's a shame that Junior Walker & the All-Stars aren't in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. They are one of the most influential artists to emerge from Motown. They put grit into everyone of their recordings even their later "softer" stuff and Junior should be credited for being the first of the modern era's popular sax men (Grover, Gerlad Albright, etc). So if you're into blues, soul or just like good saxophone playing pick this one up.
on May 7, 2005
Junior Walker, as was stated in the liner notes, never considered himself to be a star. Humility gets you places and with a wailing saxophone sound like this; mmm, man! To Motown fans, Junior Walker rarely gets the full spotlight. This completely flawless 25-track set shows you what this guy could do. Not only with that sax but the rest of the band delivering that hot, gritty, get-down sound! "Shake and Fingerpop", for one
example, is a dance classic that deserves more attention. Opening with drums and a prolonged high-pitched vibrato note. The beat, the rhythm and the bass just makes you "get out on the floor and dance like you never could before." Another hot example, "(I'm A) Road Runner"; that's right up there with "Shotgun." This wasn't your typical, stylized Motown soul; this was soul to the nth degree. I hope it won't be too hot for those expecting typical Motown sounds. You've just found one of the most satisfying of the Motown Ultimate Collections.
on November 27, 2012
I'm replacing a beat LP that's been played to death. I love Jr. Walker and this is a great collection, so I got it, but the sound quality is not nearly as good as the original Motown LP. I'm listening with headphones and right from the beginning, Shotgun sounds like it's coming from over a distance and the sound's all in a lump (it's mono). I'm so disappointed, but then I listen to samples of the Definitive Collection CD and it's more immediate and warmer, more of a live sound; and the shot at the beginning of Shotgun goes from the right ear to the left, in stereo just like on the LP. So I break down and download that CD too (like I said I love Jr. Walker's music). The Definitive Collection's a superior recording, and I recommend it over the Ultimate Collection. 5 stars for Jr. Walker's music, but only 3 for this CD.
on December 20, 2004
I have no issues with Motown; Berry Gordy's music became my own. But Junior Walker as far as I am concerned is unto himself in that crowd of talent with his sax play and vocals. "Shotgun" is just an average work for this talent. The rousing music on "What Does It Take?" (used in a small movie called Aloha, Bobby and Rose) really grabs you and my favorite, "Cleo's Mood" takes you skyward toward something you know will be good when you get there. Look no farther; invest in this great package of good stuff today.
on April 7, 2004
Growing up listening to MOTOWN, a select number of JUNIOR'S tunes
got national airplay. Listening to this CD, I hear the tunes that
were not played. WHAT A SHAME!!! Because Junior Walker and them
ALL-STARS REALLY GOT DOWN!! Those of you from back in the day know what I mean, not GET down, but GIT DOWN with the GIT DOWN. I
am so happy that I purchased it. Thanks to the AMAZON marketplace, I got it CHEAP! I will NEVER sell it! OH NO!!
on June 7, 2000
Junior was and is without a doubt, the greatest sax player to ever live...What is sad is that much of his music is NOT on cd....Rainbow Funk, Moody Junior, Anthology, just to name a few....He was and is the king of the soul saxaphone..He also should be in the RockNRoll Hall of Fame...