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Mark Barry "Mark Barry"
"...Words I Want To Hear..." - B.M.F.A. EP by Martha Wainwright
, August 22, 2014
It's rare that you hear a song (or singer) who stops you in your tracks - hits you with a tune so filled with pain and truth that it feels like some sort of musical open wound. "B.M.F.A" is such a song.
Like many I kind of stumbled on this American 5-track EP CD single around the time of its release (on Zoe 021 432 007-2) and I've been quietly in love with it since 2005. Stylistically its part k.d. Lang - part Shawn Colvin - part Rosanna Cash - part Beth Orton - a wonderful set of songs. "B.M.F.A", "I Will Internalize", "When The Day Is Short" and "It's Over" are originals with "How Soon" being a cover of a 1947 Jack Owens classic ballad (lyrics above)...
Strange, moving and gorgeous...pick it up soon...
"...Remember When You Were Mine..." - For The First Time (and Love Has Lifted Me) by STEPHANIE MILLS (2014 BBR CD Remaster)
, August 22, 2014
This is a clever reissue - lumping together her 2nd solo album "For The First Time" on Motown (produced, arranged and written by BACHARACH and DAVID) with more Bacharach/David Songs that later appeared on the desirable 1982 album "Love Has Lifted Me". Here are the ways to San Jose...
UK released August 2014 on Big Break Records CDBBRX 0301 (Barcode 5013929060135) - Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "For The First Time" released October 1975 in the USA on Motown MS-227VI and March 1976 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 12017. Tracks 11 to 17 are the album "Love Has Lifted Me" released 1982 in the USA on Motown 6033ML (total playing time 62:36 minutes).
The 12-page booklet has excellent and detailed liner notes by STEVEN E. FLEMMING, Jr that include photos of US Motown 7" singles, publicity photos of Mills (one as the lead part of Dorothy in the musical "The Wiz") and recording info. But the big news as always with BBR releases is the stunning remaster. KEVIN REEVES at Universal (whose been involved in huge numbers in the Soul and Jazz "Originals" series) did the initial remaster with more touches by BBR's resident tape wizard WAYNE A. DICKSON. The sound is wonderful.
This is not necessarily Soul - the 1975 album is lovey-dovey Bacharach/David songs with a Soulful Lady leading the charge. But I find a lot of it overdone with sappy lyrics that are hard to take in 2014. The Soul and Funk kicks in with the pricey "Love Has Lifted Me" album from 1982 - an all-together more satisfyingly Funky affair. The sound quality on the ballads "I Don't Want To Be Reminded" and "You Are The Melody Of My Life" is fantastic as is the new muscle on the desirable title track "Love Has Lifted Me".
With two albums worth and the great new sound - for fans this is a must buy...
"...Hard Luck And Trouble..." Born Under A Bad Sign by ALBERT KING (2013 "Stax Remasters" CD)
, August 22, 2014
I've been collecting and reviewing this "Stax Remasters" series since they first started to appear in May 2011 - and this is only release number 9 - but what a total belter it is.
USA released June 2013 on Concord Music Group STCX-34334-02 (Barcode 888072343344) - Tracks 1 to 11 give us the album "Born Under A Bad Sign" by ALBERT KING. The original issue first appeared in August 1967 on Stax Records S-723 in the USA. Tracks 12 to 16 are Previously Unreleased Bonuses:
12. Born Under A Bad Sign (Take 1 - Alternate)
13. Crosscut Saw (Take 1 - Alternate)
14. The Hunter (Take 1 - Alternate)
15. Personal Manager (Take 15 - Alternate)
16. Untitled Instrumental
The 16-page booklet has typically insightful and fun liner notes from Chicago's resident Blues and R'n'B writing genius BILL DAHL - a man whose talent and passion for the music has graced literally hundreds of reissues and major Box Sets. The following pages reproduce Michael Point's observations from the 2002 CD reissue - the final pages the original notes on the back of the 1967 LP - and finally musician/reissue credits. JOE TARATINO has handled the remaster (as he has for the whole "Stax Remasters" series) and it's superb - full of life and clarity. There's hiss (as there always is on Stax sessions) - but it doesn't detract from the listen - if anything - it feels more live-in-your-living-room for it.
"Born Under A Bad Sign" opens with that title track winner (surely his signature tune) and follows it with another - "Crosscut Saw". Real fast you notice the tight and uber cool band - Stax House players BOOKER T & THE M.G.'s (Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr and Booker T. Jones) themselves backed up by the fabulous MEMPHIS HORNS (Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love and Joe Arnold). It's as classic Stax Blues as you can get (Soul too). "Kansas City" still sounds slightly out of place but "The Hunter" turned FREE on and "Personal Manager" is just genius. Unappreciated gems include his cover of Fenton Robinson's "As The Years Go Passing By" and his barroom bluesy take on the crooner stalwart "The Very Thought Of You" (a 1934 classic).
With the CD having only 47:00 minutes playing time - the 7" single edit of "Personal Manager" (which excludes Albert's guitar solo) could easily have been tagged on - especially as it's actually one of the best tracks on here. But what we do get is a genuine thrill for King fans - a unreleased take. You can see why it was canned though - it runs a tad too fast and looses that fabulous Bluesy feel the master take has. And I love the song's slyly salacious lyrics "I want to be your milk man every morning...and your ice-cream man when the day is through..." In fact the other Take 1 Alternates are brilliantly recorded - really clear - you can catch that he's getting a feel for the songs but the power on each is there right from the start. Even the short but untitled 'instrumental' is a winner.
A wonderful reissue of a top album (and it's dirt cheap too). Great stuff - and a must buy...
PS: "STAX REMASTERS" Series to August 2014 are (all reviewed):
1. Green Onions - BOOKER T & THE M.G.'S (1962)
2. McLemore Avenue - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S (1970)
3. Woman To Woman - SHIRLEY BROWN (1975)
4. Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get - THE DRAMATICS (1972)
5. Born Under A Bad Sign - ALBERT KING (1967)
6. I'll Play The Blues For You - ALBERT KING (1971)
7. Be Altitude: Respect Yourself - THE STAPLE SINGERS (1972)
8. Taylored In Silk - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (1973)
9. Do The Funky Chicken - RUFUS THOMAS (1970)
“…Is That You?” - Abraxas by SANTANA (2008 Mobile Fidelity ULTRADIC DISC II Audiophile CD Remaster)
, August 19, 2014
There is a long line of classic Rock albums given multiple CD reissues with each issue claiming to be sonically better than the last - and Santana's 2nd album "Abraxas" from 1970 is no different. To my knowledge this is reissue number 4 - a 1980's basic version best forgotten, a 1991 Mobile Fidelity ULTRADISC II audiophile CD remaster (UDCD 552), followed by a 2003 Song Legacy CD with 3 bonus live tracks and a proper Vic Anesini Remaster - and now this - a second MOFI "Original Master Recording" audiophile CD in 2008 using their GAIN 2 SYSTEM transfer. Here are the naked lady details...
US released April 2008 on Mobile Fidelity UDCD 775 (use Barcode 821797077569 in the search bar to locate the right issue) - their Santana's "Abraxas" comes in over-sized hard-card repro packaging that mimics the September 1970 original US LP - gatefold sleeve and all (37:30 minutes). It was originally released September 1970 in the USA on Columbia KC 30130 and November 1970 in the UK on CBS Records S 64087 (in a single sleeve without a poster - American originals had a beautiful black and white foldout poster of the six-piece band that is unfortunately AWOL in this repro). This Mobile Fidelity CD is a 24-Carat Gold Audiophile issue - itself housed in a protective gauze sleeve within a black and gold gatefold card inner that gives detailed information about their ULTRADISC II range and their patented GAIN 2 SYSTEM of remastering from the first generation Original Master Tape. It's a limited edition and numbered on the rear in gold (up to 10,000).
Mobile Fidelity used to only use 'lift-lock' jewel cases with barely any reference to the original packaging - but in the last six or seven years - most of their ULTRADISC II releases now come in these aesthetically pleasing card repro sleeves that at least give some recognition of the original artwork. It has to be said MOFI's improved efforts still don't really hold a candle against the superlative Japanese reissues on SHM-CD, SACD and now Platinum SHM-CD (they seem to have card repros down to a very fine art). The most obvious thing about this new issue is that you can barely read the album title on the famous and striking MATI painting that adorns the cover. The wordless colour photo that spread across the inner gatefold of original American LPs is here (with some new wording on it) but what would it have taken to reproduce the lovely poster as a separate foldout inlay? Instead we get a pointless gatefold colour repro of the album artwork again (albeit 'without' the album title and with more readable songwriting credits).
ROB LoVERDE and SHAWN R. BRITTON carried out the remaster at Mobile's studios in Sebastopol, California using their GAIN 2 SYSTEM. According to the Net and discussion forums the big news is (although it doesn't say this anywhere on the packaging) that a mastertape has been found that precedes all others and apparently has for the first time the 'right' STEREO channel separation on it (left and right) - whereas all previous issues (including their own) used the old 'wrong' version with the channels arse-about-face. Certainly the sonic results are impressive - especially in the dense bottom end of Bass and Percussion.
The opening piano, high hat and percussion tinkles rattling out of "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" (written by the band's Conga player Mike Carabello) is newly clear and when the rhythm section kicks in - the bass and congas are fabulous. It segues into the double cover version of "Black Magic Woman" (Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac) and "Gypsy Queen" (a Gabor Szabo song). The vocals are great and that big guitar break half way through is now muscular as it assaults your speakers. The funky single "Oye Coma Va" (a Tito Puente song) is sonically probably best on here - second only to that great shagging song "Samba Pa Ti". "Samba..." is hissy but still full of extraordinary presence (millions of babies ahoy).
Both the Jose "Chepito" Areas songs "Se A Cabo" (the rough translation from Spanish is "its over") and the album finisher "El Nicoya" have fantastic rhythm section definition even as Carlos lets it rip. The more rocky Gregg Rolie songs - "Mother's Daughter" and "Hope You're Feeling Better" break up the Latin rhythms nicely - and as the band starts to boogie - the guitars are suitably chunky and the vocals good too.
This is an impressive release - and makes me want to invest in the MOFI reissues of their 1969 debut and especially 1972's "Caravanserai" with its gorgeous "Song Of The Wind" track.
Worth the few extra quid/bucks? I'd say so...
"...Sack Full Of Dreams..." - Never My Love: The Anthology by DONNY HATHAWAY (2013 Rhino 4CD Box Set)
, August 17, 2014
Back in 2010 - I reviewed the first ever multi-disc Box Set on the wonderful American Soul Artist DONNY HATHAWAY. It was issued by Rhino France and called "Someday We'll All Be Free" (see detailed review) - and even though it had great newly remastered sound quality - its liner notes were in French - not a lot of good to anyone outside of Paris. Well at last - along comes an English-language Box Set in 2013 - a superb 4CD 'companion' piece to "Someday We'll All Be Free" that boasts two whole discs of exclusive previously unreleased material. Here are the 'everything is everything' details...
UK released November 2013 on Atco/Rhino 8122796543 - "Never My Love: The Anthology" is a 58-track 4CD DigiBook Box Set and breaks down as follows...
Disc 1 (79:10 minutes):
Tracks 1 and 2 are "I Thank You Baby" and "Just Another Reason" - a 1969 USA 7" single on Curtom CR-1935 credited to JUNE & DONNIE. It was reissued in 1972 as "I Thank You" on Curtom CR-1971 - re-credited to JUNE CONQUEST and DONNY HATHAWAY
Tracks 3 and 4 are "The Ghetto Part 1" & "The Ghetto Part 2" - a 1969 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6719 (the album version is one long track - the single edits are unique)
Track 5 is "Thank You Master (For My Soul)" - a 1970 A-side Promo-Only Edit on the USA 7" single Atco 45-6759. The album version is 5:47 minutes - the edit here is 3:26 minutes.
Tracks 6 to 9 are "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)", "Tryin' Times", "To Be Young, Gifted & Black" and "I Believe To My Soul" - all 4 tracks taken from his debut LP "Everything is Everything" released October 1970 in the USA on Atco SD 33-332
Track 10 is "This Christmas" - the A-side to a non-album 7" single issued November 1970 in the USA on Atco 45-6799
Track 11 is "A Song For You" - the A-side of a 1971 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6828
Track 12 is "Magnificent Sanctuary Band" - the B-side of "Take A Love Song" - a 1971 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6817 (new to CD in Mono)
Track 13 is "Giving Up" - the non-album A-side of an USA 7" single issued 1972 on Atco 45-6884
Tracks 14 and 15 are "Come Back Charleston Boy" and "Little Ghetto Boy" (Studio Version) - both from his June 1972 Soundtrack album "Come Back Charleston Blue" on Atco SD-7010
Tracks 16, 20 and 21 are "Valdez In the Country", "Love, Love, Love" and "Someday We'll All Be Free" - all 3 tracks taken from his 5th album "Extension Of A Man" released July 1973 in the USA on Atco SD-7029
Tracks 17 and 18 are "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" and "Lord Help Me" - the A&B-sides on a 1972 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6903
Track 19 is "Come Little Children" - a non-album A-side to a 1973 USA 7" single on Atco 45-6951
Track 22 is "You Were Meant For Me" - a non-album A-side to a 1978 USA 7" single on Atco 7092
[Tracks 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 17 and 18 are MONO - all others STEREO]
Disc 2 - Unreleased Studio Recordings (70:00 minutes):
1. Never My Love (November 1973)
2. A Lot Of Soul (November 1973)
3. Let's Groove (January 1974)
4. Latin Time (1974)
5. Tally Rand (February 1975)
6. Memory Of Our Love (1974)
7. Sunshine Over Showers (December 1975)
8. After The Dance Is Done (September 1978)
9. Don't Turn Away (1968)
10. Always The Same (Recording Date Unknown)
11. Brown Eyed Lady (1974 Instrumental)
12. The Sands Of Time And Change (Recording Date Unknown)
13. Zyxygy Concerto (aka "Life, Parts 1-4") (October 1973)
Disc 3 - Live At The Bitter End, 1971 All Previously Unreleased (77:28 minutes):
1. What's Going On
2. Sack Full Of Dreams
3. Little Ghetto Boy
4. You've Got A Friend
5. Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)
6. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
7. Jealous Guy
8. I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know
9. Hey Girl
10. The Ghetto
THE BAND: Donny Hathaway on Keyboards, Cornell Dupree and Mike Howard on Guitars, Willie Weeks on Bass, Fred White on Drums and Earl DeRouen on Conga
Disc 4, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway Duets (62:45 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 10 are the 1972 album "Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway" issued in the USA on Atlantic SD-7216
Track 11 is "The Closer I Get To You" from the Roberta Flack album "Blue Lights In The Basement" - issued 1977 in the USA on Atlantic SD-19149
Tracks 12 and 13 are from "Roberta Flack featuring Donny Hathaway" - issued 1979 in the USA on Atlantic SD-16013
The 28-page booklet has fantastically detailed liner notes by noted Blues & Soul Writer CHARLES WARING with a proper break down on each disc (could have done with more photos though). Long-time Rhino Engineer BILL INGLOT did the Tape Research and CHARLES BENSON the remastering and the sound is superb. These are not audiophile recordings - so there's hiss on many songs - but the remasters let them breath and the clarity is wonderful.
Eagle-eyed fans will notice from the listing about that there's only 4 tracks from his 10-song debut LP "Everything Is Everything", none at all from his 2nd album "Donny Hathaway" and only 3 from 1973's fabulous "Extension Of A Man" album (his last proper studio outing). The stunning "Live" set from 1972 is absent entirely - replaced obviously by the Previously Unreleased Concert on Disc 3. There were also 5 previously unreleased studio cuts and two live songs on the "Someday We'll All Be Free" Box - none of which are on here either. As that French box set contains 'all' those albums, a smattering of the "Come Back Charleston Blue" Soundtrack and those unreleased in remastered form - throwing out that 2010 4CD set isn't an option just yet.
What is cool about "Never My Love: The Anthology" is to finally get those non-album 7" single versions - most of which have never appeared on compilations prior to this. But the real prize has to be Disc 3 and 4 - 13 Previously Unissued Studio cuts and a full 10-track gig circa his classic "Live" album from 1972 (one of my favourite Soul albums ever). As fans will know from 1974 right through to 1978 (before he tragically took his own life in January 1979 by jumping out of a hotel window) - represent the wilderness years for Hathaway - plagued as he was with inner personal demons and a creative crunch. To find a stash of unreleased recordings mostly from that time frame is little short of astonishing. Also - the "Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway" duet album from 1972 hasn't been remastered since 1995 - so a 2013 upgrade was long overdue as well.
The unreleased studio tracks on Disc 2 are a very mixed bag alternating between the sublime and the dismissible. Fans may ask why Rhino decided to call this entire compilation after an unreleased song - because the Disc 2 opener "Never My Love" is beautiful - a gorgeous love song and a true find. Where has this been all these years? The countrified "A Lot Of Soul" is unfortunately awful Hicksville and the vaudeville "Let's Groove" not much better. "Latin Time" is an interesting six-minute funky instrumental that feels like a run-through towards something to be completed at a later stage and "Tally Rand" the same. After a slew of mediocre outtakes "Memory Of Our Love" comes as a refreshing `song'. But then we get to the other gem on here "Sunshine Over Showers" - another languid ballad sung as only he could. "After The Dance Is Through" is a horrid fast-paced Disco song. It's followed by a brass-blasting 1968 outtake called "Don't Turn Away" that's more gritty Stax than mellow Atlantic - it's excellent. "Always The Same" is another uptempo brass belter with a late Sixties Motown feel. You're then hit with two gorgeous slow instrumentals - "Brown Eyed Lady" and "The Sands Of Time And Change" - both clearly going to make great ballads had he gotten round to filling them with words. It ends with the entirely instrumental melancholy of "Zyxygy Concerto" or "Life Parts 1 to 4" - a Strings and Soul monster sounding to me like the opening track "I Love The Lord, He Heard My Cry (Parts I & II)" on "Extension Of A Man" - but in full form. A long-lost Soundtrack of sorts - it lasts a huge 20 minutes plus and is monumentally good.
The live gig features a slowed down "What's Going On" and the lovely Grady Tate song "Sack Full Of Dreams" and his cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy". When he gets into "Voices Inside (Everything is Everything)" the show ignites - it's a stunning 16-minute band funky workout like the 12-minute version of "The Ghetto" - what a wow!
In the annals of Soul there are giants - Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and for me there's always been the curtailed genius of Donny Hathaway. What a legacy he left and what a loss. Be with the angels you beautiful spirit...
"...Lifting Me Higher..." - Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966 - 1975 (July 2006 USA 2CD Remasters)
, August 15, 2014
While Motown, Stax and Atlantic usually steal all the plaudits for supplying us with quality Sixties and Seventies Soul music - here comes a blindingly great 2CD compilation putting a case for that other wildly underrated slugger of a label - Brunswick Records. And trimmed of any fat on either disc - what a corker this superbly put together compilation is...
"Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966-1975" was USA released July 2006 as a 2CD set on Brunswick 33016 and breaks down as follows:
Disc 1 (60:23 minutes):
1. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher - JACKIE WILSON (August 1967, Brunswick 55336)
2. Wack Wack - THE YOUNG HOLT TRIO (December 1966, Brunswick 55305)
3. Can I Change My Mind - TYRONE DAVIS (December 1968, Dakar 602)
4. I'm Gonna Miss You - THE ARTISTICS (December 1966, Brunswick 55301)
5. Follow The Leader - MAJOR LANCE (July 1969, Dakar 608)
6. Have You Seen Her - THE CHI-LITES (October 1971, Brunswick 55462)
7. Am I The Same Girl - BARBARA ACKLIN (March 1969, Brunswick 55399 A)
8. I Had It All The Time - TYRONE DAVIS (March 1972, Dakar 4501)
9. (I Can Feel Those Vibrations) This Love Is Real - JACKIE WILSON (December 1970, Brunswick 55443)
10. Wait A Minute - THE LOST GENERATION (November 1970, Brunswick 55441)
11. Are You My Woman (Tell Me So) - THE CHI-LITES (December 1970, Brunswick 55442)
12. Just Ain't No Love - BARBARA ACKLIN (December 1968, Brunswick 55388)
13. Love Uprising - OTIS LEAVILL (September 1970, Dakar 620)
14. A Letter To Myself - THE CHI-LITES (February 1973, Brunswick 55491)
15. For Your Precious Love - JACKIE WILSON and COUNT BASIE (March 1968, Brunswick 55365)
16. The Girl Don't Care - GENE CHANDLER (March 1967, Brunswick 55312)
17. The Coldest Days Of My Life (Edit) - THE CHI-LITES (July 1972, Brunswick 55478)
18. Without You In My Life - TYRONE DAVIS (March 1973, Dakar 4519)
19. Gotta Find Me A Lover (24 Hours A Day) - ERMA FRANKLIN (April 1969, Brunswick 55403)
20. Think Twice - LaVERN BAKER and JACKIE WILSON (January 1966, Brunswick 55287)
Disc 2 (61:48 minutes):
1. Oh Girl - THE CHI-LITES (March 1972, Brunswick 55471)
2. The Sly, Slick & The Wicked - THE LOST GENERATION (June 1970, Brunswick 55436)
3. I Love You - OTIS LEAVILL (November 1969, Dakar 614)
4. Baby Boy - FRED HUGHES (December 1969, Brunswick 55419)
5. Love Makes A Woman - BARBARA ACKLIN (July 1968, Brunswick 55379)
6. Turn Back The Hands Of Time - TYRONE DAVIS (March 1970, Dakar 616)
7. Soulful Strut - THE YOUNG-HOLT UNLIMITED (December 1968, Brunswick 55391)
8. Whispers (Getting Louder) - JACKIE WILSON (October 1966, Brunswick 55300)
9. There Was A Time - GENE CHANDLER (September 1968, Brunswick 55383)
10. (For God's Sake) Give More Power To The People - THE CHI-LITES (April 1971, Brunswick 55450)
11. I Get The Sweetest Feeling - JACKIE WILSON (July 1968, Brunswick 55381)
12. Girl I Need You - THE ARTISTICS (April 1967, Brunswick 55315)
13. After You - BARBARA ACKLIN (November 1969, Brunswick 55421)
14. Turning Point - TYRONE DAVIS (December 1975, Dakar 4550)
15. Talking The Teenage Language - THE LOST GENERATION (July 1971, Brunswick 55453)
16. Stoned Out Of My Mind - THE CHI-LITES (July 1973, Brunswick 55500)
17. There It Is - TYRONE DAVIS (July 1973, Dakar 4523)
18. You Got Me Walking - JACKIE WILSON (February 1972, Brunswick 55467)
19. The Funky Chicken (Part 1) - WILLIE HENDERSON (February 1970, Brunswick 55429)
20. From The Teacher To The Preacher - GENE CHANDLER and BARBARA ACKLIN (December 1968, Brunswick 55387)
Listening to these two CDs - you're struck by two things - the incredible hit ratio Brunswick had (great song after great song) - and the stunning sound quality. Engineer BRUCE SWEDIEN cut his producing chops at Brunswick (5 times a Grammy winner and nominated 13 times) and later went on to be instrumental with Quincy Jones in Michael Jackson's epoch making "Thriller" in 1982. Man did Swedien do a good job back in the day.
The remastering here is fabulous. Stuff like the lesser-heard "Talking The Teenage Language" by The Lost Generation sounds just huge - and not in a way that drowns you out either. Every track is enhanced by his magic touch - the warmth of Eugene Record's melodies for the Chi-Lites, the sheer class of Barbara Acklin's voice (never mind her song-writing talent) and the expert framing of that dynamic duo of Brunswick Soul Men - Tyrone Davis and Jackie Wilson.
Sample fiends will know the brass backing of Gene Chandler's "There Was A Time" and the same goes for "Am I The Same Girl" by Barbara Acklin which is simply the instrumental "Soulful Strut" by The Young-Holt Unlimited with lyrics added - both are Sixties Soul genius and have turned up in countless movie soundtracks as a way to lift the mood skywards.
Forgotten classics and undiscovered nuggets include the fabulously upbeat "I Love You" - it was written by the dynamic trio of Barbara Acklin, Eugene Record (of The Chi-Lites) and Carl Davis and it sounds like a Marvin Gaye outtake but sung in that unique falsetto Otis Leavill was able to reach. Another is a dancing belter - "Baby Boy" by Fred Hughes - which features an irresistibly hooky brass backing track as it chugs along. "Turning Point" by Tyrone Davis sounds out of time in 1975 but it's none the less brilliant for it (it recently showed up on the Godlike Bear Family's "Sweet Soul Music: 1975" compilation - see 15 separate reviews for 1961 right through to 1975). And there are so many more...
Talk about a deuce that fell from a marked deck - "Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966-1975" is the kind of compilation that shouldn't have slipped through the reissue cracks and yet somehow it has. Well I'd argue you should notice this one.
Take a punt Soul Lovers - you'll be lifted up so much higher when you do...
PS: This review is dedicated to Eugene Record who died aged 64 in 2005 from cancer - thanks for the memories and the wonderful musical legacy
"...Taking Care Of Business..." - Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul by ARETHA FRANKLIN
, August 15, 2014
Jerry Wexler: "It started to get good in there..."
Aretha Franklin: "Yes it did..."
For Queen Of Soul fans - and lovers of Atlantic Records and their talent-nurturing genius - listening to a clearly enamoured Jerry Wexler talk to Aretha Franklin from the control booth during the Demo recording of "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" is a truly gobsmacking thing - like eavesdropping on magic. This fabulous and long-awaited plunder of her historic sessions at Atlantic between 1967 and 1974 is a dream come true. Here are the `what it is' details...
UK and USA released in October 2007 - "Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul" by ARETHA FRANKLIN is a 35-track 2CD set on Rhino R2 272188 (USA) and Rhino 8122-79970-3 (in the UK and Europe) and breaks down as follows:
Disc 1 (66:15 minutes)
1. I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) [1967 Demo]
2. Dr. Feelgood (Love Is A Serious Business) [1967 Demo]
3. Sweet Bitter Love ["Aretha Arrives" outtake, 1967]
4. It Was You [a James Brown cover, "Aretha Arrives" outtake, 1967]
5. The Letter ("Aretha Arrives" outtake, 1967]
6. So Soon [a Van McCoy cover, "Aretha Arrives" outtake, 1967]
7. Mr. Big ["Aretha Now" outtake, 1968]
8. Talk To Me, Talk To Me ["Soul `69" outtake, 1969]
9. The Fool On The Hill [Beatles cover, "This Girl's In Love With You" outtake, 1968]
10. Pledging My Love/The Clock ["Pledging My Love" is a Johnny Ace cover - a non-album B-side to "Share Your Love With Me", 1969 USA 45 on Atlantic 2650]
11. You're Taking Up Another Man's Place [an Isaac Hayes/David Porter song, "Spirit In The Dark" outtake, 1970]
12. You Keep My Hangin' On [HDH song, "This Girl's In Love With You" outtake, 1968]
13. I'm Trying To Overcome [an outtake from the "This Girl's In Love With You" and "Spirit In The Dark" sessions, 1968]
14. My Way ["Spirit In The Dark" outtake, Frank Sinatra cover, 1970]
15. My Cup Runneth Over ["Young, Gifted & Black" outtake, 1972]
16. You're All I Need To Get By (Take 1)
17. You're All I Need To Get By (Take 2) [16 and 17 are an Ashford & Simpson song (a hit for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) - they're outtakes from 1970 - alternate versions to the single Atlantic 2787]
18. Lean On Me [Joe Cobb/Van McCoy song, non-album B-side to "Spanish Harlem", 1971 USA 45 on Atlantic 2817 (not the Bill Withers song)]
Disc 2 (72:38 minutes):
1. Rock Steady (Alternate Mix) ["Young, Gifted & Black" outtake, 1972]
2. I Need A Strong Man (The To-To Song) ["Young, Gifted & Black" outtake, 1972]
3. Heavenly Father ["Young, Gifted & Black" outtake, 1972]
4. Sweetest Smile And The Funkiest Style ["Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
5. This Is ["Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
6. Tree Of Life [a Gene McDaniels cover, "Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
7. Do You Know ["Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
8. Can You Love Again ["Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
9. I Want To Be With You ["Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
10. Suzanne [Leonard Cohen cover - "Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
11. That's The Way I Feel About Cha (Alternate Version) [a Bobby Womack cover - "Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" outtake, 1973]
12. Ain't But The One - with RAY CHARLES and DAVE GRUSIN [a Duke Ellington cover]
13. The Happy Blues ["Let Me In Your Life" outtake, 1974]
14. At Last ["Let Me In Your Life" outtake, 1974]
15. Love Letters ["Let Me In Your Life" outtake, 1974]
16. I'm In Love (Alternate Vocal) [a Bobby Womack song and Wilson Pickett cover, "Let Me In Your Life" outtake, 1974]
17. Are You Leaving Me (Demo)
The 24-page booklet has enthusiastic and knowledgeable liner notes by Soul legends - (Original Producer) JERRY WEXLER and (Noted Writer) DAVID RITZ - the text peppered with `in-the-studio' photos of Aretha giving it some welly at the microphone and piano. Rhino's resident tape-wizards BILL INGLOT and DAN HERSCH have done the transfers and remasters - and wonderful stuff it is too - especially on the Seventies tracks where the production values seemed to just go through the roof.
While many with launch straight into those early Sixties classics - what I love are finally getting to hear two stunning B-sides - her truly beautiful rendition of the Johnny Ace classic "Pledging My Love" doubled with a track called "The Clock" and the fabulous "Lean On Me" (written by Joe Cobb and Van McCoy). Fans have been after these for decades. One of my favourite of her Seventies albums is the forgotten and underrated "Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky)" from 1973. How cool is it to see no less than 8 outtakes from its sessions. "Suzanne" (a Leonard Cohen cover) is given an Aretha soulful workout - as is Gene McDaniel's "Tree Of Life". And God is never far from her thoughts - so "Heavenly Father" is filled with emotion as The Sweethearts Of Soul give it in some spirited backing vocals. But proper gorgeous goes to "Can You Love Again" (writer unknown) - what a discovery...
This 2CD set is a triumph - a kind of `dip in' treasure trove - an embarrassment of riches. Is it any wonder that Jerry Wexler stood in awe as she sang - the real deal - the Queen of Soul proving worthy of that crown over and over again...
"...Funky Nirvana..." - Places And Spaces by DONALD BYRD (1997 CD Remaster)
, August 15, 2014
With a near 60-year career stretching back to 1955 (he passed away in 2013) - Michigan's DONALD BYRD was smart enough to see the musical writing on the wall in the early Seventies. He jumped at the chance to move from straight-up Jazz and began a run of peerless Jazz Fusion masterpieces that Funk fans adore to this day.
Beginning with his "Black Byrd" album in 1972 on Blue Note, "Street Lady" in 1973 and "Stepping Into Tomorrow" in 1974 - he finally made his way to what I think is his bona-fide masterpiece - 1975's "Places And Spaces". Whenever a copy would turn up in Reckless (even back in the early Nineties) - we'd give it pride of place on the wall - and it would last hours rather than days (priced at £30 back when thirty smackers was a huge amount to pay for a vinyl LP). And the passing decades haven't diminished its Funky impact one jot. In fact it not only stands up as a great overall listen today (2014) - but only seem to get hipper with time.
The vinyl LP was originally released in November 1975 in the USA on Blue Note BN-LA549-G and Blue Note UAG 20001 in the UK. The 1997 CD remaster on EMI is part of their BLUE NOTE RARE GROOVE SERIES and features a mere gatefold slip of paper as an insert. But the remaster is fabulous - full of detail - all that string and trumpet playing hitting your speakers with lovely full-bodied clarity.
The album has only 7 tracks - all of which are Trumpet Fusion Jazz (Flugelhorn too) with some intermittent scatting vocals on the chorus by KAY HEATH and the MIZELL Brothers. With the strings arranged by WADE MARCUS - songwriters LARRY and FONCE MIZELL seemed to give BYRD the fusion tunes he needed to let rip. It opens with the joyous party-time of "Change (Makes You Want To Hustle)" - a playlist winner if ever there was one. Kay Heath's vocals lead the chorus on the upbeat "Wind Parade" and then we're onto one of the album's highlights - a huge funky tune - "Dominoes".
As if it couldn't get any better than a perfect Side 1 - Side 2 opens with the best - the glorious title track. It never ceases to send me - especially the warbling Trumpet solo he does towards the end. "You And Your Music" turns up the funky drums and piano (Harvey Mason and Skip Scarborough) while "Night Whistler" gets all slinky Steely Dan (circa Royal Scam and Aja) with cleverly treated echoes on the lead instruments. It ends on a Temptations cover version - "Just My Imagination" which is oddly the least successful of all the tunes. He would follow "Places And Spaces" with the equally popular "Caricatures" in 1976 (they used its drawing sleeve on his "Best Of" CD).
I've loved "Places And Spaces" for 40 years now - what a winner. In truth I do wish the CD wasn't so basic - and I'd love to hear any kind of outtakes from the sessions - but that's another reissue. In the meantime - get this funky joy into your life real soon.... Yeah baby!
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"...Two Hearts Beating Out Loud..." - I Hope We Get To Love In Time by MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS, JR (2014 BBR CD Remaster)
, August 12, 2014
Both ex THE 5th DIMENSION - Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. had already clocked up 6 Grammy wins by the time they trumped 1st prize again at the 1977 Awards for Best R&B Vocal performance on "You Don't Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)". And along comes this excellent CD reissue to remind us...
UK released July 2014 - Big Break Records CDBBR 0276 (Barcode 5013929057630) gives us the "I Hope We Get To Love On Time" album across tracks 1 to 10 - first released on vinyl LP in August 1976 in the USA on ABC Records ABCD-952 (42:42 minutes). Tracks 11 and 12 are Bonuses - an outtake called "I'm So Glad I Found You" and the 7" Single Version of "You Don't Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)".
The 16-page booklet is the usual classy job from BBR with photos of the duo live and on TV, rare 7" single picture sleeves and liner notes by NYC-based Music journalist Christian John Wikane that includes new interviews with the singers. Big Break's resident tape wizard WAYNE A. DICKSON has handled the remaster and it sounds fantastic - full of detail and bounce.
This is mid Seventies Soft Soul - very Stylistics with a little Disco thrown in - with the ballads like "Nothing Can Stop Me" allowing their voices to shine and the melody rise above the heavy string-arrangements. "Easy Way Out" is a lovely smoocher while the outtake "I'm So Glad I Found You" is a mid-tempo stepper. It's easy to see why the poppy Soul of "Your Love" was released as a single (ABC Records AB-12262).
A quality reissue by BBR and a must own for fans.
"...A Hell Of A Tester..." - Can You Dig It? The Music And Politics Of Black Action Films 1968-1975 (2009 Soul Jazz 2CD Set)
, August 12, 2014
Fans of Funky and Soulful Soundtracks have always had to pay out huge sums of money for certain LPs - many of which are now over 40 years old. Well at last - Soul Jazz Records of London have done them all a fur coat by collating together the very best of the Blaxploitation period. And what a garish piece of audio jewelry it is.
2CDs are housed in a card wrap with a truly sensational 100-page booklet slotted in beside the double jewel case (there are also two VINYL DOUBLE ALBUMS (Disc 1 and 2) which are now sought after in themselves). Released October 2009 in the UK - "Can You Dig It? The Music And Politics Of Black Action Films 1968-1975" on Soul Jazz Records SJR CD214 (Barcode 5026328202143) breaks down as follows...
Disc 1 (56:40 minutes):
1. Coffy Is The Color by ROY AYERS (Coffy, 1973)
2. Blacula by GENE PAGE (Blacula, 1972)
3. Shaft In Africa by JOHNNY PATE (Shaft In Africa, 1973)
4. Brother's Gonna Work It Out by WILLIE HUTCH (The Mack, 1973)
5. Charley by DON COSTA (The Soul Of N****r Charley, 1973)
6. "T" Plays It Cool by MARVIN GAYE (Trouble Man, 1973)
7. Across 110th Street by BOBBY WOMACK (Across 110th Street, 1972)
8. Willie Chase by J.J. JOHNSON (Willie Dynamite, 1973)
9. Down And Out In New York City by JAMES BROWN (Black Caesar, 1973)
10. They Call Me MISTER Tibbs by QUINCY JONES (They Call Me Mister Tibbs, 1970)
11. Keep On Movin' On by MARTHA REEVES (Willie Dynamite, 1973)
12. Theme From Black Belt Jones by DENNIS COFFEY (Black Belt Jones, 1974)
13. Freddie's Dead by CURTIS MAYFIELD (Superfly, 1972)
14. Wilford's Gone by THE BLACKBYRDS (Cornbread, Earl And Me, 1975)
15. Theme Of Foxy Brown by WILLIE HUTCH (Foxy Brown, 1974)
16. Run Fay Run by ISAAC HAYES (Three Tough Guys, 1974)
Disc 2 (65:47 minutes):
1. Shaft by ISAAC HAYES (Shaft, 1971)
2. Pusherman by CURTIS MAYFIELD, Superfly 1972)
3. Theme From Cleopatra Jones by JOE SIMON (Cleopatra Jones, 1973)
4. You Can't Even Walk In The Park by JOHNNY PATE (Shaft In Africa, 1973)
5. Sweetback's Theme by BRER SOUL and EARTH, WIND & FIRE (Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song, 1973)
6. Make It Good To Yourself by JAMES BROWN (Black Caesar, 1973)
7. Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile by ISAAC HAYES (Truck Turner, 1973)
8. Travelling To Get To Doc by GRANT GREEN (The Final Comedown, 1972)
9. Time Is Tight by BOOKER T & THE M.G.'s (Uptight, 1968)
10. Aragon by ROY AYERS (Coffy, 1973)
11. Easin' In by EDWIN STARR (Hell Up In Harlem, 1973)
12. Strung Out by GORDON STAPLES (Mean Johnny Barrows, 1975)
13. Zombie March by NAT DOVE and the DEVILS (Petey Wheatstraw, 1974)
14. Make A Resolution by THE IMPRESSIONS (Three The Hard Way, 1974)
15. The Bus by SOLOMON BURKE and GENE PAGE (Cool Breeze, 1972)
16. Las Vegas Strut by JACK ASHFORD (Blackjack, 1978)
17. Lay In On Your Head by DON JULIAN (Savage, 1973)
18. Ed And Digger by GALT MacDERMOT (Cotton Comes To Harlem, 1970)
DUNCAN COWELL and PETE REILLY did the remasters at London's Sound Mastering and despite the huge number of different licensed sources - the audio quality is uniformly superb - full of detail, bite and great atmosphere. But the booklet is in the stunning Bear Family league at 100-pages. Expertly compiled and wonderfully written by STUART BAKER - as the fat inlay is oversized and actually bound into a mini paperback - the read is great and photos from each of the films a visual blast. Each of the movies gets a couple of pages as do the major players (actors and musicians) - Pam Grier, Sidney Poitier, Jim Brown, Oscar Micheaux, Isaac Hayes, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly - as well as themes like "Pimps And Pushers", "Motown At The Movies", "Stax Action" and "American International Pictures". And not to be outdone by all that black male macho posturing - the dark skinned ladies more than have their day (Pam Grier gets the cover and rightly so). But on pages 24 and 25 there is a two-page colour photo spread of the truly gorgeous and sexy TAMARA DOBSON in "Cleopatra Jones" - what a woman and surely one of the great beauties of the time (sadly lost to us in 2006).
Musically all the big boys are here - Isaac Hayes with his album version of that most iconic of all "Shaft" - Curtis with Superfly, Brown with Black Caesar and of course Marvin with his utterly brilliant "Trouble Man" gem. It's nice to see that the compilers simply didn't load it down more of that obvious quad - but instead went after Dennis Coffey, Willie Hutch, Joe Simon, Grant Green, Galt MacDermot (of "Hair" fame) and Johnny Pate.
I love the way the Instrumentals sit so well alongside the `bad brother on the streets' vocal themes - it makes for a funky and enjoyable boogie (and both discs run to realistic listening times/neither is crammed). Admittedly there are only so many Shaft high-hat rhythms and Blacula wah-wah pedal guitars a body can stand - but overall - the consistency of the movie music on here is deeply impressive. And no mater how many times I hear Booby Womack's wonderfully evocative "Across 100th Street" (lyrics above) I get a kick - and always think of Pam Grier on that airport walkway at the beginning of Tarantino's "Jackie Brown".
"Can You Dig It?" is a truly brilliant compilation - and that it sounds so good and is presented in such an awesome way - makes it all the more impressive.
Besides - you just know your life is half-full and your home a lesser place without a compilation that has the track "Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile" on it.
Yeah Baby indeed...