Reviews

TONY BORDERS: Cheaters Never Win (Label: Soulscape)

Friday, 19 October 2007 08:01 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

TONY BORDERS: Cheaters Never Win

Soul doesn't get much more esoteric than Tony Borders. In fact, not much is known even by the genre's elite cognoscenti about this raw-throated Southern soul singer whose recording career began in the early 60s when he cut a clutch of 45s for obscure US indie labels like Delta, TCF, Hall and Hallway. This magnificent new 18-track archival compilation entitled 'Cheaters Never Win' on Soulscape Records doesn't shed any illuminating biographical light on soul's mystery man, but it does confirm the depth and scope of his talent. The CD chronicles Borders' three-year tenure (1967-1970) with the Alabama-based Quinvy studio/label owned by producer Quin Ivy (who later quit the music business to become a university accounting professor). Some of Borders' Quinvy 45s were leased to major label MCA but due to poor or indifferent promotion failed to gain the singer the wider exposure his talent deserved. And judging from his superlative performances on the country-tinged title track, the dynamic Otis-style 'Polly Wolly' and funky 'Lonely Weekend' Tony Borders possessed finesse and style as well as raw talent. A must-have release for serious soul connoisseurs.
(CW) 4/5

 

THE THREE TENORS OF SOUL: ALL THE WAY FROM PHILADELPHIA (Label: Shanachie)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:59 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE THREE TENORS OF SOUL: ALL THE WAY FROM PHILADELPHIA

The Three Tenors Of Soul - now there's a more than intriguing moniker… so let's cut straight to the chase and reveal that the 'three' are Philly legends Russell Thompkins Jr., Ted Mills and William Hart. Throughout the seventies, with their respective groups - the Stylistics, Blue Magic and the Delfonics, the sweet-voiced threesome were responsible for leading on some of Philly's best ever recordings. Earlier this year another Philly legend, Bobby Eli, got all three into the studio to recreate the classic Philadelphia sound on a dozen new recordings and though the set doesn't break new ground it will delight Philly fans everywhere. What makes the set so delightful is the combination and quality of the voices and the timelessness of the songs. Of the ten songs, only two are originals. They are the sweet ballad 'Grateful' (penned by Eli and Vinnie Barrett) and the title cut which was provided by Daryl Hall and John Oates. H&O add vocal support, and their 'I Can't Go For That' also gets makeover from the team. Other covered classic include 'Caravan Of Love', 'A Love Of Your Own', 'Fantasy' , 'That's What Friends Are For' and 'Where Are All My Friends'. The standouts, though, are the Thompkins-led versions of the Bee Gees 'Too Much Heaven' and the Spinners' 'How Could I Let You get Away'. Listen quietly and it's as if time's stood still - and I know that some will argue that soul must move on … and, yes, I agree, but there's nothing wrong with nostalgia every now and then - especially when it's as classy and soulful as this.
(BB) 4/5

 

SILJE NERGAARD: Darkness Out Of Blue (Label: Emarcy, Universal)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

SILJE NERGAARD: Darkness Out Of Blue

This Norwegian songbird started out as a wannabe pop singer (she scored a minor UK chart entry for EMI in 1990 with the single 'Tell Me Where You're Going') before cannily re-inventing herself as a jazz chanteuse a few years ago. Blossom Dearie aside, Nergaard's fragile, child-like voice is not the type normally associated with jazz and probably accounts for her reluctance to sing standards. Instead, she prefers to pen her own material with the help of long-time collaborator, lyricist Mike McGurk. Over the course of three albums ('Port Of Call,' 'At First Light,' and 'Nightwatch') Nergaard has formed a potent songwriting partnership with McGurk, and on this fourth opus for Emarcy, their collaboration has undoubtedly reached a new creative peak. Nergaard's forte is dreamy, ruminative jazz-pop ballads, of which there are plenty here. 'Wastelands' is exquisite, closely followed by 'The Beachcomber' and the album's mournful finale, 'Let Me Be Troubled.' As good as these are, they don't come close to matching 'When Judy Falls,' a stupendous uptempo slice of catchy soulful pop that mutates into an orchestrated jazz-funk groove that sounds like it was produced by the Mizell brothers back in the 70s. Undoubtedly Nergaard's most impressive work yet.
(CW) 4/5

 

SHARON JONES AND THE DAP KINGS: 100 Days 100 Nights (Label: Daptone)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:53 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

SHARON JONES AND THE DAP KINGS: 100 Days 100 Nights

As if from out of nowhere, Sharon Jones and her consistently wonderful Dap-Kings burst upon us way back in 2005. Since then they've built up a huge and diverse following for their authentic and organically soulful funk sound. Such is the universal quality of their music, that they appeal to both trendies who dig the likes of Lou Reed and Mark Ronson (indeed Ronson often uses the band in the studio) and to died-in-the-wool soul purists who feast on the likes of Stax. The good news is that this new LP will continue to delight Sharon's fan base and, with some kind of radio exposure (though I wonder where), she could well trawl in more devotees. What's good about this album (indeed so good about the outfit's whole catalogue) is the consistency. Sharon and the guys do what they know they do best. They play the funk - but are astute to know that funk does have its own shadings and here most are offered. 'Nobody's Baby' for instance is bass-heavy, while 'Be Easy' has its roots in the blues - though you'll detect shades of the whole Lee Dorsey/Allen Toussaint thing too. 'Something's Changed' will ring the classic Stax bell and for those who like to dance 'Keep On Looking' will fit the bill - even our Northern brothers would like this one. Ballad -wise, the pleading 'Humble Me' and the Millie J-a-like 'When The Other Foot Drops, Uncle' show Sharon knows her licks. Ten cuts and its all over - but in itself that's a virtue too. True funk is sparse and never overplayed, and like I said this outfit knows what it can do - and delivers.
(BB) 4/5

 

RONNIE McNEIR: Ronnie Mac and Company (Label: Jupiter Island)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:51 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

RONNIE McNEIR: Ronnie Mac and Company

UK soul hero Ronnie McNeir's now a well-established member of the Four Tops but the top Top Duke Fakir is flexible enough to allow Ron to pursue a solo career too and this new album should delight the big Mac's countless fans. They'll know what to expect - and they get it. So, no big blockbusters; rather, the set's a gentle 15 tracker of sophisticated, laid back, mature soul with more than a hint of cool jazz. Hear the flavour to best effect on the loose 'Look At The People'. The vocal may remind you of Al Jarreau, while the multi-note piano-chords are homage to one of Ron's big influences, jazz man Les McCann. Here that Les McCann influence even more on the very loose and leggy 'Don't Need Nobody'. The title of the set indicates that Ronnie's here working with others and of 'The Company', there's no bigger name than sax star Kirk Whalum. Kirk works his proverbial socks off on 'I'm In the Mood'. Kathy Lamar is another guest; She adds a sultry, spoken intro to 'Summertime Medley' and duets with Mr. M on 'Ain't It Good To Know That You've Got A Friend'. The other big name is fellow Four Top, Theo Peoples who helps out on the gospel-esque 'I Really Need Your Help Father'. Fans of Ronnie will recognize the re-working of 'Down In The Neighbourhood' and if you know anything about Ron's career you will understand why the LP closes with a personal tribute to his old mentor, Obie Benson, adding to the album's atmospherics.
(BB) 4/5

 

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