Reviews

MILLIE JACKSON: 'Millie Jackson's Soul For The Dancefloor' (Label: Kent)

Thursday, 08 May 2008 11:44 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

MILLIE JACKSON: 'Millie Jackson's Soul For The Dancefloor'

Raspy-voiced Millie Jackson put the sex into soul in the 1970s with a series of risqué and humorous raps that got progressively more explicit, cringe-worthy and foul-mouthed by the time the 1980s arrived (think 1989's 'Back To The Shit,' with its jaw-dropping front cover of the singer sat on a toilet). Jackson's controversial antics to court publicity have often overshadowed her true abilities as a singer and her sensitivity as a song stylist. Of course, ballads are regarded as her forte - rightly so, given her dramatic, soulful delivery - though as this superb 22-track collection illustrates, tucked away on Jackson's numerous Spring LPs are a plethora of uptempo tracks that have the ability to pack soul dance floors. Compiled by Sean Hampsey and Ady Croasdell, this absorbing terpsichorean collection kicks off with a previously unissued mix of 'If That Don't Turn You On,' and includes classics like the driving yet poignant 'House For Sale,' the Phillip Mitchell-penned 'You Can't Stand The Thought Of Another Man Loving Me,' and strong cover of Don Covay's 'Letter Full Of Tears.' Even when there's a strong hint of disco in the arrangements, the cathartic soulfulness of Jackson's delivery guarantees that her performance transcends the vagaries of ephemeral dance floor trends. A personal favourite is the slower, slinky, mid-tempo number 'Put Something Down On It,' penned by the Womack brothers. Other gems include the brilliantly-titled 'You Can't Turn Me Off (In The Middle Of Turning Me On),' 'Love Doctor,' and a passionate rendition of George Jackson's 'A Little Taste Of Outside Love.' A tremendous, deeply soulful, collection.
(CW) 4/5

 

ROY HAMILTON: Tore Up (Label: Shout)

Wednesday, 07 May 2008 03:18 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

ROY HAMILTON: Tore Up

UK reissue specialist, Shout continue their series on Roy Hamilton with this concise 22 tracker that covers the singer's work right at the end of his career when he was pacted to AGP and RCA. Big voiced and with a gospel background, Hamilton had enjoyed major success in the 50s with songs like 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and 'Ebb Tide' but as the 60s dawned his management and marketing people found some difficultly in finding a style that suited both Hamilton and contemporary tastes. By 1966 he was working for RCA and that very problem was still apparent in the variety of material he recorded. His people still wanted him to record big, dramatic ballads and show tunes like 'The Impossible Dream, 'and 'Walk Hand In Hand', though to hedge their bets they tried him on faster Motown-inspired dancers too - one of which 'Crackin' Up Over You' eventually found acceptance on the UK Northern scene. Better - at least in terms of soul quotient - were Hamilton's stabs at the Burt Bacharach song book and versions of 'Let The Music Play' and 'Reach Out For Me' rival all the better-known takes. To catch Hamilton at his most soulful though try 'Heartache Hurry On By' - a great example of mid-60s uptown soul balladry that will recall the best of Jerry Butler and Walter Jackson. Despite the quality of such tracks, lack of success drove Hamilton out of RCA to AGP where owners Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill recorded him in classic southern soul settings on new songs like 'Angelica' and oldies like 'It's Only Make Believe' and 'The Dark End Of The Street'. Hamilton acquitted himself well - so well in fact that Dave Godin picked up Hamilton's version of 'Dark End' for release on his legendary Deep Soul label. That cut and the B side, 'One Hundred Years', take soul pride of place here, though, as we've outlined above, Hamilton had lots more to offer. Roy Hamilton died prematurely in 1969 while working on new soul material at AGP - though the session tapes seem to have disappeared. The Shout soul sleuths are currently trying to track them down, but in the meantime this 22 track RCA/AGP compilation offers a great snapshot of Hamilton's last years.
(BB) 3/5

 

THE REAL THING: It's The Real Thing (Label: Castle )

Sunday, 04 May 2008 08:37 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE REAL THING: It's The Real Thing

Sadly, Liverpool's the Real Thing hardly ever feature in soul histories. The reasons, I guess, are obvious... and we've just mentioned one. They came from Liverpool and the Culture Capital is, of course, best known for breezy, mop-top pop than searing soul. Then there's the fact that they enjoyed a decent run of pop hits and some soul people often show distaste for commercial success. Add to that the fact that they were sometimes branded as David Essex's backing vocalists and that their emergence was via the TV talent Show 'Opportunity Knocks' and you might understand why many soul folk steer clear of them. Well, those clear-steerers are missing out on a lot, 'cos the Four From Eight offered a lot more genuine soul than some of their US contemporaries ever did. Let's reveal their soul credentials. First the Real Thing predate the whole 'Opportunity Knocks' thing. Their roots lie in a Liverpool 60s soul quartet called The Chants who emerged from the Liverpool 8 ghetto. Consequently they knew as much about inner city prejudices and deprivations as anyone from Harlem or Watts. Then, in Chris Amoo they had a gritty vocalist whose conviction and passion could match the very best… TV viewers noted that early on in his blistering performance of 'Grazing In The Grass' on that telly talent show I've just mentioned. And the commercial success? Well, surely that's the goal of every performer in any genre and there's nowt wrong with royalties… and when you listen again to the hits like 'You To Me Are Everything' and 'Can't Get By Without You' they're really rather decent. But then dig deeper into the group's catalogue and you'll discover some real soul gems. 'Children of The Ghetto', for instance, has been covered by many soul luminaries and several serious jazzers, while the jaunty 'Love Takes Tears' recently re-surfaced on an Expansion 'Village Soul' collection. Then listen hard to stuff like 'Stone Cold Love Affair',' Lovin' You Is Like A Dream', 'You'll Never Know What Your Missing' and 'Love Is Such A Wonderful Thing' and you'll draw favourable comparison to some of the best Philly vocal groups. Admittedly there are some blatant cheesy moments in the catalogue ('Let's Go Disco', 'Can You Feel The Force'), but hopefully this 39 track collection will help us all to reassess the Real Thing.
(BB) 4/5

 

STARPOINT: 'All Night Long' (Label: PTG)

Thursday, 01 May 2008 11:39 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

STARPOINT: 'All Night Long'

The best thing about the '80s Maryland group, Starpoint, was undoubtedly the alluring vocals of their feline-like front-person, Renee Diggs. A flexible vocalist who boasted prodigious lung power, she could raise the roof with stentorian, Chaka-esque wails on funky dance numbers and yet demonstrated a subtler, more sensitive approach on slower material. The group's fourth long player for Chocolate City was 1983's 'All Night Long' - reissued here for the first time by the Netherlands-based label, PTG - and it features Diggs in both uptempo and ballad settings. She's fabulous on the sensuous title track, a nocturnal slow jam with an addictive chorus that starts off quietly and then builds to a histrionic emotional climax. The song was a minor US R&B chart entry back in the day but really deserved to be an even bigger commercial success. On the dance floor front, you'll find the US hit, 'Get Your Body Up,' though I prefer 'Bring Your Lovin' Back' and 'Show Me' - the first, with its tight, syncopated, bass-heavy groove, has all the components of the classic '80s boogie sound, while the latter is rock-tinged and hints at the more overt crossover sound that Starpoint would embrace on their later records. Although the group would enjoy greater Stateside chart success in the two or three years following this set, 'All Night Long' is probably the most cohesive and consistent album this Maryland quintet created. If you have trouble tracking it down, try www.vinyl-masterpiece.com
(CW) 4/5

 

THE SUPREMES: 'Let The Music Play: Supremes Rarities 1960-1969' (Label: Hip-O Select, Motown)

Thursday, 01 May 2008 11:28 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

THE SUPREMES: 'Let The Music Play: Supremes Rarities 1960-1969'

Compilation producer Andrew Skurow and his enterprising crew of Hip-O Select song sleuths have dug deep into the Motown vaults and exhumed 48 lost tracks cut by the Diana Ross-era Supremes in the 1960s. As avid Supremes' collectors will probably know, there have already been several other Hip-O Select compilations sourced from unreleased Supremes' tracks (for example, the canned LP 'There's A Place For Us,' first issued in 2004) but this new, attractively packaged, limited edition 2-CD set is the most extensive collection yet of the iconic group's forgotten studio sessions. Sequenced chronologically, it begins right back at the start in 1960, with '(You Can) Depend On Me,' co-written by Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson and the fledgling group's Motown version of 'Tears Of Sorrow,' a track they first cut for the LuPine label when they were known as The Primettes. Of more interest, perhaps, is the group's fascinating retooling of tracks by The Beatles and Rolling Stones - the Supremes give the Motown treatment to a perky remake of the Fab Four's 'I Saw Her Standing There' and also 'Not Fade Away,' the Bo Diddley-style blues number co-penned by Buddy Holly which became the Stones' first US smash in 1964. Interestingly, Mick and Keef's self-penned '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' also receives a Hitsville makeover, as does Tom Jones' big '65 smash 'It's Not Unusual.' Listen out, too, for a terrific uptempo version of The Miracles' 'Mickey's Monkey' and a striking rendition of Jimmy Webb's psychedelic MOR epic, 'MacArthur Park.' Other previously unheard gems include a rendering of Bacharach-David's classic 'The Look Of Love,' alternate versions of the late-'60s hits 'Love Child' and 'I'm Livin' In Shame' and a stereo mix of the excellent 'The Beginning Of The End Of Love.' The group's attempts at gospel music are also evidenced by the church-infused songs 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus' and 'Every Time I Feel The Spirit.' As we've come to expect from Hip-O Select, the annotation is diligently-researched and undoubtedly enhances the listener's appreciation of the music. US fans can pick this up at www.hip-oselect.com while UK record buyers can get this in most British retail outlets thanks to Universal's Import Music Services. Snap it up while you can…
(CW) 4/5

 

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