Reviews

JERRY BUTLER: 'The Ice Man Cometh' (Mercury/Elemental)

Sunday, 21 July 2019 10:33 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                                altJerry Butler's decision to leave The Impressions in 1958 to pursue a solo career after a short spell with the fledgling Chicago soul group was vindicated when he topped the US R&B charts in 1960 with 'He Will Break Your Heart.' Throughout the remainder of the 1960s, the Mississippi-born singer  with the honeyed baritone voice proved a consistent hit-maker, racking up a raft of charting singles, initially for Vee-Jay and from 1967 for Mercury. But his second No. 1 single proved elusive until late 1968 when Mercury released the infectious 'Hey Western Union Man,' written and helmed by rising Philly production team, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. As well as topping the charts, 'Hey Western Union Man' ushered in a new, urbane and sophisticated,  soul style and established the blueprint for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia sound.  The track was the lead off song on Butler's groundbreaking third LP for Mercury, 'The Ice Man Cometh,' which is now remastered and reissued as a limited edition CD and 180 gram LP by Elemental.

'The Ice Man Cometh' is one of soul music's all time essential records: a landmark LP that should be revered alongside the likes of Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On,' Aretha Franklin's 'I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,' Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together,' and Curtis Mayfield's 'Superfly.'  The 11-song set also contained Butler's third and final US R&B No. 1, the anthemic 'Only The Strong Survive,' which like 'Hey Western Union Man' was co-written by the singer with Gamble & Huff, as was the Top 5 US smash, 'Never Give You Up.' Other singles from the album, though they were less successful, were the brassy dancer, 'Lost,' and the string-drenched impassioned beat ballad 'Are You Happy.' Orchestral strings also feature prominently on the gospel-inflected 'I Stop Heaven,' a heartbreak tale called 'Go Away - Find Yourself,' and the mid-tempo, '(Strange) I Still Love You,' where female background singer counterpoint Butler's pleading lead vocal. Interestingly, the album's arrangers include Thom Bell and Bobby Martin, who would both go on to play an important role in the genesis of the Philadelphia sound, which would come to dominate soul music in the 1970s.

Connoisseurs of '60s - or indeed Philadelphia - soul music will probably already own this in one form or another, but if it's not in your collection, you should acquire this album right now. You won't be disappointed. And it just might change your life...

(CW) 5/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 July 2019 18:58

 

TONY LINDSAY: Something Beautiful (via CD Baby)

Friday, 19 July 2019 17:51 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altWithout being a household name, Tony Lindsay is something of a soul veteran. Though from Kingston, New York, his career really began when he moved west in 1980. In San Francisco he formed his first band Spangalang, then went on to work with The Soul Soldiers, Black Magic, and the Ray Charles Project. Twenty five years ago he was spotted by Carlos Santana who brought Tony into his band. With Santana, Mr L featured on seven albums, won 11 Grammys and toured the world. In Santana downtime he's a songwriter – his tunes have been recorded by people like the Whispers, Tevin Campbell and Howard Hewett while he's also an in-demand session and background singer working with a remarkable list of names. Quite an impressive CV for sure; then there's Tony's solo albums - this one 'Something Beautiful' will be his fifth and it's already winning plenty of friends in the smooth, sophisticated, modern soul world.

Cut getting the big thumbs right now from the soul tastemakers is 'Find The Day' It begins with some gentle piano figures before the introduction of sweet, cinematic strings floating over subtle Latin rhythms. There's a definite Santana flavour here –for obvious reasons. Lyrically, 'Find The Day' has a gospel message – a celebration of divine love and the optimism that true faith can deliver. The album's title track, though not as overtly "gospel" in its message, also speaks of finding happiness ("something beautiful") by stepping out of your comfort zone. Sound wise, it's has a lovely, laid-back modern room feel. I'm guessing, though, that the album's opener, 'Sweet Love' is the one which the rug cutters will head for... sophisticated beats and a feel good feel!

'In My Shoes' is another busy bustler while for ballad fans there's the dramatic 'It's For The Love' (check the 'This Guy's In Love With You' intro) and the simpler 'So In Love' . Add to those the hands-in-the air anthem 'Victory', another Santana-flavoured cut - 'Set Me Free' and a rock inflected ballad 'Against All Odds' and you have a varied bill of fare held together by Tony Lindsay's remarkable voice.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 19 July 2019 17:59

 

G G; Kintsugi Heart (via Simply soul)

Thursday, 18 July 2019 19:04 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altOver the last several years, GIGI HAROLD has won plenty of followers in and around the London music scene with her special take on blue-eyed soul with a hint of jazz. Her 2018 album '4am Angel' was particularly well received and GG (the name she uses professionally) has just released the follow up collection – the oddly name 'Kintsugi Heart'.

Superficially "odd" but the explanation is (we think!) this. GG tells us that the 14 tracker is "written from her heart" and that the songs "weave stories of love and loss". Well "kintsugi", we've learned, is an ancient Japanese tradition, that encourages people who accidentally break something precious – an ornament, a vase, a glass ... whatever, to piece it together again. Maybe not perfectly – but there are special crafts people who will take on the job. They put the objects together again and leave the repairs visible – often spraying them with resin – even powdered gold. The result is, we're told, beautiful. Kintsugi means "golden joinery" in Japanese and (we think) GG's album is the story of a broken heart being put together again, but leaving some scars and traces of the past relationship.

Enough of the philosophy – what does the album sound like? Well... classy blue eyed soul with just a garnish of smooth jazz. Best reference point, I guess, is Swing Out Sister. GG sounds nothing like Corinne Drewery; her voice is tougher, more strident – unusual even. But the overall soundscape is similar... most obvious on the lovely 'Why' which features some lovely muted trumpet. It's an album highlight. The beater that is 'Smile On My Face' is another good 'un while the opener, 'Come Along With Me' mines a proper cool, soul groove. 'Take Some Time' is more experimental while he closing 'Souvenir' offers some variety. This is a stately Latin-inflected cut with some French lyrics... tres bien!

Production's down to GG's partner Mark Harold and amongst the musicians are plenty of UK soul "names" - Kenny Wellington [trumpet] David Baptiste [sax], Brian Harris [guitar/sitar], Mike Goodman [guitar, ]Michael Henderson- Grant [flute +sax] and Andy Goodall [ drums].

'Kintsugi Heart' truly embraces the beauty in the broken but if you want to investigate, you'll need to be quick – the album is out now – but it's limited to just 300 physical copies!

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 July 2019 19:20

 

VARIOUS: Trip To The Moon (Tramp)

Monday, 15 July 2019 19:53 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIt's probably not escaped your attention, but its fifty years since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the occasion is being celebrated and commemorated in all kinds of ways. But I'll wager that there is no stranger commemoration than this bizarre and esoteric compilation from German niche label, Tramp. Tramp is known for its left field esotericism. The Tramp team are inveterate crate diggers and they always come up with stuff that's obscure and rare and here, on this 13 tracker, they've come up with the obscurest of the obscure! What holds it all together is the "moon" concept – be it the artists' names (e.g. the Moon Dawgs) or the tune titles (e.g. 'Full Moon', 'Voyage To The Moon' etc) or in one case, both –the Swinging Astronauts' 'Crazy Stockings On The Moon'.

That one kicks things off and its rough and tough vintage R&B and there's plenty more of the same. There's also some crazy funk – try Rev James and Bob Johnson's 'Walking On The Moon', which despite its funky sound, asks the pertinent question why spend billions on moon shots when people are starving?

Elsewhere? Well all kinds of everything – garage rock, psychedelic folk, break beat even a couple of German sourced tunes –notably jazz sax man Ambros Seelos with 'Mondgesicht' which adds to the album's unusual variety.

The Tramp people tell us that the LP's raison d'être is to fund a rescue mission for an African astronaut stranded on the moon (you may have seen the internet spoof) - a great cause for sure! Really though, it's to commemorate that one giant leap for mankind and if you want the oddest memento, this album is out on July 19th. It comes as a 12 track vinyl LP, a 13 track CD and in digital. Most of the songs are released for the very first time!

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 15 July 2019 20:01

 

VARIOUS; Masterpieces Of Modern Soul (Kent)

Thursday, 11 July 2019 13:20 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

alt'Masterpieces Of Modern Soul' is one of Ace/Kent's most popular compilation series and here it reaches its fifth edition and like the previous four it's stuffed with a great cross section of what's dubbed "modern" (by sound rather than age) soul – some relatively well-known and easy to get hold of but plenty, too, that's rare, elusive and collectable.

Let's look first, then, at some of those better known items. First up – a personal favourite.... Major Lance. Always a great uptown stylist, forever linked with the classic 60s Chicago sound, his inclusion here comes from 1972 when he was pacted with Stax/Volt, but his 'That's The Story Of My Life' harks back to his glory days at Okeh. More well-known quality from the Independents (their version of 'Lucky Fellow' –a song more usually associated with Leroy Hutson); John Edwards (his take on Philip Mitchell's 'How Can I Go On Without You'); Eddie Floyd (a previously unissued edit of the lovely 'Can We Talk It Over'); Mille Jackson (a bustling and busy 'I'll Continue To Love You') and Loleatta Holloway (another unissued item – 'Mr So And So's Daughter). Sweetest cut from the "known names" is 'I Guess God Wants It This Way' from Freddie Scott. It's a beautiful recording with the feel of those great Jim Webb classics about it.

Now some of the lesser known inclusions. I don't know much about Reggie Milner but his 1970 Volt recording of 'Hello Stranger' is superb – it should be, it was produced by Ollie McLaughlin! A tad rougher is Lee Porter's 'Nobody's Doin' A Doggone Thing' – which, we're told, is ultra rare. Equally elusive is Chet Ivey's 'Dose Of Soul'. But, of course, rarity and elusiveness should never be the yardstick by which a sound is judged!

Here across a generous 24 cuts you do get plenty of rarities; like we said, they sit alongside better known items; what unifies them is their sweet soul quality.... everyone's a winner!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 12 July 2019 10:09

 

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