Reviews

THE DOGGETT BROTHERS: Colours (Ashwood Records)

Friday, 27 May 2016 12:41 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1doogdWe first heard Great Yarmouth's Doggett Brothers (Greg and Carl) back in 2010 when they were featured on one of the 'Soul Unsigned' albums. That exposure gave them the confidence to issue a full LP - 'Daylight' which became Jazz FM's "album of the week"!

For the past several months they've been working on a new album and leaked tracks have made their way onto all the credible UK soul charts. Most notable was 'You Make Me Feel' which featured good old Kenny Thomas (the new "comeback kid", given his equally new, excellent work with Cool Million), though the more conservative modern soul crew seemed to go big on 'Lover' – a lovely slab of retro which the Doggetts have fashioned on the chassis of all those great 80s weekender anthems. Vocalist on that one by the way is Laura Jackson.

Well the album, 'Colours', has just won release and the good news is that those two fine cuts aren't the only goodies on offer. Let's start with the first single – 'Outa Control'. It's a lovely, light beater with a jazzy vocal from Arnob Basit. I'm told that the top DJs have all signed up for the upcoming Opolopo remix of the cut. 'Our Time' (Laura Jackson again) is another with just a touch of lounge jazz about it; this time the flavour's almost Latin. Laura's out-front on the title cut too... another Latin-inflected romp and she's also lead on the tougher 'Hotter', the mid-tempo 'Our Time' and the sparse 'Why'.

The other featured vocalists are Stacy Stuart ('You And I' and 'Fill My Cup') and debutant Dominic Uppiah who handles the album's big ballad, 'Two in My Life' with real maturity. Simple and uncluttered, this one proves there's more to the Brothers Doggett than beats for the feet! The instrumental interlude,'2 am' is another revelation with some fine Donald Byrd style horn from Davie Howes.

'Colours' is available on iTunes from 20th May and via selected stores. Find out more @ www.thedoggettbrothers.co.uk

(BB) 4/5

 

VARIOUS: Mainstream Modern Soul (Kent)

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 10:43 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1mainsMainstream was a New York indie label founded in 1964 by jazz guitarist Bob Shad. Prior to that Shad had played countless sessions, produced numerous indie jazz recordings and worked for the Mercury and Decca labels as well as fronting his own imprints (like Shad, Time and Brent). Given his background, no prizes for guessing that he intended Mainstream to be a jazz label, but market place pressures meant that he ended up recording and releasing pop, rock and, of, course, soul and on this new compilation, Ace/Kent offer a wonderful 24 cuts from the Mainstream soul archive.

Like many indies, the Mainstream roster boasted few big names, but Shad's past activities allowed him to sign jazz great Sarah Vaughan. Her contribution to this collection is a smooth '74 recording 'I Need You More'.... a far cry from her usual jazz vocal acrobatics but quite, quite lovely. The song had originally been recorded by crooner Lenny Welch (remember 'A Taste Of Honey'?), another past Shad connection. Welch recorded a number of sides for Mainstream and his selection here is the dancer 'A Hundred Pounds Of Pain' – a cut that eventually found favour at the Wigan Casino.

The other name that leaps out of the album credits is The Dramatics. This Dramatics line up featured original Detroit group members Elbert Wilkins and William Howard and their tune is a gritty, Philly-flavoured dancer, 'No Rebate On Love'. It seems that the "the other Dramatics" (Ron Banks et al) aimed some kind of action at Wilkins and Howard, 'cos for their next single they changed their name to "The Dramatic Experience"! Whatever, 'No Rebate On Love' is a great soul group artefact as are 'Come Back part 1' from the Fantastic Puzzles, 'You're A Friend Of Mine' from Words Of Wisdom and 'Let The People Talk- from the Steptones.

Other featured artists include Linda Perry, Nia Johnson, Charles Beverley and Alice Clark who offers the Bobby Hebb-penned 'Don't You Care'. Little wonder the cut became a monster on the the UK underground soul scene. As ever, the sleeve notes tell you everything you need to know about Alice and the rest of the Mainstream gang.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 10:56

 

Teddy Pendergrass: 'TP' (bbr)

Monday, 23 May 2016 20:23 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

TeddyTheodore 'Teddy' Pendergrass was a drummer with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes but was promoted to become the band's lead vocalist in 1971 when they signed to Gamble & Huff's fledgling Philadelphia International label. His husky, testosterone-fuelled baritone fronted many classic hits for the group - among them 'If You Don't Know Me By Now,' 'The Love I Lost,' 'Wake Up Everybody,' and 'Bad Luck' - but he was destined to become a star in his own right and it was no surprise when he quit the Blue Notes in 1975 to pursue a solo career. This bbe reissue catches up with Pendergrass in 1980. By that time he had already racked up three platinum solo albums and enjoyed huge US R&B hit singles in the shape of 'Close The Door' and 'Turn Off The Lights.' In an unusual step, perhaps, 'TP' didn't feature any contributions from P.I.R.'s star producers/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. But those who predicted that G&H's absence would arrest Pendergrass's  commercial fortunes were proved wrong when the album's first two singles, the impassioned 'Can't We Try,' and the stupendous 'Love T.K.O.,' were massive hits Stateside. The album, too, emulated the achievements of the singer's previous LPs by notching up enough sales to reach platinum status. This new edition appends the original album with five bonus cuts - three are superfluous single edits but two, a long mix of 'This Gift Of Life' (a Gamble & Huff-helmed non-album B-side) and a disco 12-inch version of the dance floor bubbler, 'Take Me In Your Arms' - a duet with the fabulous Stephanie Mills - are worth getting acquainted with. Mills, of course, is also featured on a sensational duet version of Peabo Bryson's 'Feel The Fire' while another above-average cover, Pendergrass's take on Ashford & Simpson's 'Is It Still Good To Ya,' is also worth singling out. With its superior sound quality, this is a fine reissue from the singer whose nickname was 'Teddy Bear,' and highlights the formidable talent of one of soul music's most distinctive male voices.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 10:54

 

BILLIE RAY MARTIN; The Soul Tapes (Sonnenstahl Records)

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 19:18 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1brBillie Ray Martin is a German singer who's probably best known for her pioneering work in European house and electro music. However, she's always harboured a passion for soul and in 2001 she travelled to Memphis to record her '18 Carat Garbage' album. Now some 15 years later she follows that with what she calls her "pure soul album" and we'll leave you to decide if her description is right or not.

All we'll say is that 'The Soul Tapes' (produced by the famed blues and soul producer, John Tiven) is not your conventional old school soul album. Sure there's lots of Memphis and Muscle Shoals flavours sprinkled generously through the 9 tracker and Billie Ray even covers two proper soul classics – Ann Pebbles' 'One Way Street' and the O V Wright/Otis Redding standard 'That's How Strong My Love Is' (oddly the press release calls that one "a Rolling Stones classic"!) and she acquits herself well on both – more so on 'One Way Street'. Amongst the other soul highlights is 'Strongheaded Woman' – a mid-tempo roller that recalls the best of Willie Mitchell's Hi while the storyline lyric (Las Vegas slot machine addict meets Rhinestone cowboy) is straight out of the country/soul bag. 'The Long And Lonely Fall' offers more of the same.

Elsewhere there's a selection of tortured southern-flavoured ballads like 'Your Ghost Is Right Behind Me' but Ms Martin doesn't quite get them to ignite in the way that, say, Candi Staton can.

Then there are the tunes we can file under quirky.... and none quirkier than 'Skin On The Wheel Of Time'. This is essentially a rocky rumble built on Bo Diddley's rhythms and fuelled by some wild harmonic and wilder wailing. I'm told that Billie Ray didn't like this song but went ahead and recorded it! Whatever, I can't think of any the soul crowd I know calling this "soul"; ditto 'The Glittering Gutter' which is as enigmatic musically as the title.

Billie Ray Martin's 'The Soul Tapes' is out now and she'll be appearing at the Jazz Cafe this Friday, May 20th

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 May 2016 19:25

 

BROOK BENTON: Home Style/Story Teller (Soul Music.com)

Monday, 16 May 2016 18:58 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

1bbNorth Carolina's Brook Benton is responsible for one of soul's greatest moments... his 1969 tear-jerking version of Tony Joe White's 'Rainy Night In Georgia'. Released on Atlantic's Cotillion subsidiary, it remains the definitive reading. Prior to Atlantic Benton had recorded for RCA and Warner Brothers but his most successful time was with Mercury where he enjoyed 30 hits and 14 best selling LPs most in the MOR crooner idiom. When he arrived at Atlantic they attempted to reinvent him as a soul man (albeit with a country slant) and of course, with 'Rainy Night' they patently succeeded. Little wonder then that after that massive success Benton and his Atlantic team decided to plough a similar furrow – recording material that was soul inclined but like 'Rainy Night' with a home-spun, melancholic flavour.

You can hear some of the best of that material on this new twofer reissue from SoulMusicRecords.com. The 21 tracker pairs Brook's 1970 'Home Style' and 'Story Teller' from the following year.

'Home Style' was recorded down in Miami with Arif Mardin in the producer's chair and the Dixie Flyers providing the backing music. The material included songs by people like Bob Dylan, Mac Davis and Tony Joe White (again) and his 'Willie And Laura Mae Jones' (with vocal support from the Sweet Inspirations) is one of the album highlights. Elsewhere a version of Albert King's 'Born Under A Bad Sign' shows the direction Atlantic pointed Benton in while a treatment of the perennial 'It's All In The Game' harks back to his earlier career.

'Story Teller' offered a similar menu – easy on the ear country soul, best typified by 'Shoes' – a classic offering of down home philosophy. Other highlights include a catchy 'Poor Make Believer '(a Homer banks/ Don Davis song by the way) and a cover of 'Save The Last Dance For Me'. This reissue offers one bonus track - the A side to a 1971 single, 'The Black Child Can't Smile'. The song tackles the difficult issue of sickle cell anaemia and is perfectly suited to Brook Benton's lugubrious, melancholic style.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 16 May 2016 19:06

 

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