Reviews

UNE: Une (Label: Native, Unet Music)

Wednesday, 05 December 2007 13:50 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

UNE: Une

Don't know much about Mr. Uné, save that his name's pronounced 'You Nay', that his record label's based in Pasadena and that he possesses a fine smooth soul voice - reminiscent of Dennis Taylor (now what's happened to him?). To hear Uné's voice in full flow go to the LP's closer, the gospel-tinged acapella song 'I Won't Complain' - you'll be left in no doubt about the man's vocal prowess. But it's a fact of the music biz that to score the hits and achieve album sales, artists need more than a decent voice. I know it's obvious, but good songs and sympathetic productions are essential, and sadly on this set there just aren't too many good songs, while too many of the productions are built around drum programmes and synthetic instrumentation. To compound matters, Uné's people seem to be confused as to whether he's a full on soul man or an R&B contender. 'Hit Da Shaw' for instance is formulaic 'get your party on' R&B complete with limp rapping, while stuff like 'Baby Stop Frontin' and 'I Really Love You' are dreary teen ballads of the type you associate with Mario or Chris Brown. That said, the opener 'I Can't Remember' is a half-decent modern soul tune - but some might find it repetitive, while 'One More Time' is OK - but lacks imagination - how many tunes, for instance, start with a breathy phone conversation and lyrically we're going over the same old clichés… pity really 'cos like I said up top Uné has a great voice. If you want to find out more go to www.soulchoonz.com
(BB) 3/5

 

THE DELLS: Always Together (Label: Shout)

Saturday, 01 December 2007 10:34 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE DELLS: Always Together

Any Dells' compilation is always welcome and this new 21 tracker is particularly pleasing because it focuses on what most soul commentators believe is the veteran group's forte - articulating passion through the soul ballad. Here compiler (and soul veteran himself), Clive Richardson has been let loose on the Chess archive, and using his intimate knowledge of the group, he's chosen some obvious tunes, some lesser known gems - and, to his credit, he's unearthed a couple of real rarities. Let's deal chiefly with those. First there's 'You Changed My Life Around' which dates from 1972 and till now has never been released. It's a typical Charles Stepney/Dells' collaboration, featuring searing lead vocals and those magically ethereal harmonies and vocal counterplays… why its been allowed to lie dormant all these years beggars belief. It's a soul treasure - as is the second, 'Since I Found You'. That one's a beautiful Skip Scarborough song and has only ever been available on a now-deleted 1992 compilation. Both those inclusions make the album a must for Dells' fans. Said fans will probably have all the other cuts countless times over - but when you hear old favourites in a new ordering it somehow offers them a vitality. Biggest surprise with this collection is the omission of 'Stay In My Corner' - surely the defining Dells' ballad. Clive explains its absence by saying that he wanted his collection to complement and not duplicate the Dells' Universal double album from earlier this year. Fair comment, but why then do we get 'Always Together', 'I Can Sing A Rainbow' and other cuts that were also on the Universal set? A small point, granted - and, thankfully, one that doesn't detract from the beauty of what's on offer here… an unmissable collection from one of soul music's most enduring acts.
(BB) 5/5

 

VARIOUS: Can't Be Satisfied (Label: Kent)

Saturday, 01 December 2007 10:33 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Can't Be Satisfied

Ace/Kent's latest slab of Southern soul archiving is this wonderful 22 track look at the work of Memphis hustler Gene Lucchesi who, like many of his business neighbours, marvelled at the success of the legendary Sam Philips. The logic was , if Sam could do it, why couldn't Gene… so he started up his own little label - XL, and, like the Sun man, he recorded mainly local acts in the hope that one of them might break out. He hit pay dirt in 1965 with the novelty pop of Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs' 'Wooly Bully' and with the profits he built the Sounds Of Memphis Studio and launched a second label, using the studio's name. Further success was elusive but the quality of the two labels' soul output is unquestionable …as evidenced by this selection. Sound-wise, most of the music is as you'd expect - steamy and "southern" - soul with a nod to the blues and country. Spencer Wiggins' 'I Can't Be Satisfied' (the album's overall title) is arguably XL/Sounds of Memphis' signature sound. Amongst the selection though there are some cuts that don't comply strictly with the southern template. The two George Jackson tunes ('Talking About The Love I Have For You' and 'Walking The City Streets'), for instance are comparatively light while Lou Roberts' 'Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Love' and the Minits' 'Still A Part Of Me' are almost uptown. They're all good cuts, but if its southern soul you want, then it's here in abundance and if you doubt the quality, then know that Lucchesi's house band were eventually poached by Jerry Wexler who eventually dubbed them the Dixie Flyers.
(BB) 4/5

 

VARIOUS: Larry Banks' Family Album (Label: Kent)

Saturday, 01 December 2007 10:31 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Larry Banks' Family Album

Soul researchers will know all about Larry Banks. The Korean War veteran was a major player on the U.S. East coast 60's soul scene - recording, writing and producing for a number of labels - but it wasn't until he struck up a friendship with the UK soul journalist Dave Godin that his work became known over here. Godin had contacted Banks because of the usurpation of the Banks' penned song 'Go Now' by Brummie beat group, the Moody Blues. Dave, rightly, believed that the original by Larry's wife, Bessie, was far, far superior and, through Godin's advocacy for the original, the pair became friends. Dave long harboured a wish to issue a compilation of songs that Larry had been associated with, but his untimely death put the project on hold. For the last couple of years Kent's Ady Croasdell worked on the case and this esoteric 24 tracker is the result. The album offers a cross section of soul styles, ranging from the deep passion of Jaibi's 'What Good Am I' through to the Northern froth of the Devonnes' 'Doin' The Gittin' Up' (more than a hint of the Esquires' 'Get On Up' on that one). Other featured artists include Larry himself, the Hesitations, the Dynamics, and Kenny Carter whose 'You'd Better Get Hip Girl' ' is one of the album's highlights. Good though it is, it comes nowhere near Bessie Banks' monumental 'Go Now' which rightly kicks off proceedings. Now well over 40 years old, it still stirs my emotions and, I hope, yours.
(BB) 4/5

 

LULU: The Atco Sessions 1969-72 (Label: Rhino)

Saturday, 24 November 2007 08:31 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

LULU: The Atco Sessions 1969-72

Joss Stone wasn't the first teenaged white girl to try her hand at singing American R&B. Back in 1964 a wee 15-year-old Scottish lass blessed with a huge voice made a sensational impact on the UK charts with a high-octane revamp of the Isley Brothers' gospel-soaked stomper, 'Shout.' Her real name was Marie Lawson, though the public knows her as Lulu, of course. After four smashes for Decca, Lulu signed to Columbia in 1967. Although the hits continued, in the liner notes to this new anthology the diminutive singer says she was frustrated by the bubblegum material served up by her then producer Mickey Most. So when her contract with Columbia came up for renewal in 1969, it was no surprise to music biz insiders, perhaps, that Lulu jumped ship to the Atlantic subsidiary, Atco. There, she teamed up with the label's premier production team comprising Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd, and recorded her first sessions at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Creatively, it seemed the right move for the chanteuse - for the first time in her career she had a say about the songs she recorded - but commercially, her three-year tenure with the company only yielded a solitary UK chart entry, 1970's 'Oh Me Oh My (I'm A Fool For You Baby).' Long overlooked, Lulu's two Atco albums ('New Routes' and 'Melody Fair,' both released in 1970) are reissued for the first time in a delightful 2-CD package that includes a host of previously unissued cuts and rare non-album 45s. As its title implies, 'New Routes' showcased Lulu moving in a different musical direction - and one that probably perplexed the majority of UK pop pickers expecting something along the lines of 'Boom Bang-A-Bang.' The album represents a credible attempt by the Glasgow singer at gut bucket Southern Soul - its sense of authenticity is aided by sterling ensemble work by a Muscle Shoals session band comprising stalwarts Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, David Hood and Roger Hawkins. The fact that the band is augmented by guitar luminaries Duane Allman, Eddie Hinton and Cornell Dupree, highlights Atco's commitment to the project. Hinton, in fact, contributes a couple of numbers - 'People In Love,' and 'Where's Eddie.' Overall, 'New Routes' is a solid set graced with soulful vocals from Lulu, who really shines on the funky 'Feelin' Alright.' A few months later, Lulu recorded her second Atco LP, 'Melody Fair.' It was cut in Miami in tandem with the Dixie Flyers and Memphis Horns - and to underline the quality of the album's contributors, the Sweet Inspirations supply backing vocals. It's probably the stronger of her Atco sets and arguably a tad more adventurous than its predecessor. Highlights include the excellent 45, 'After The Feeling Is Gone,' and a compelling gospel version of Leiber & Stoller's 'Saved.' The second CD in this package is stuffed with outtakes, many of them available for the first time. Although Lulu is patently no Dusty, there's no doubt from listening to this 39-track collection that she is one of the most soulful singers the UK has produced. Well-worth tracking down.
(CW) 4/5


 

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