Reviews

TED TAYLOR, REUBEN BELL & EDDIE GILES: 'Sound City Soul Brothers' (Label: Soulscape)

Wednesday, 09 January 2008 11:10 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

TED TAYLOR, REUBEN BELL & EDDIE GILES: 'Sound City Soul Brothers'

For some listeners, Ted Taylor's distinctive high-pitched tenor voice with its dramatic, keening quality might be something of an acquired taste but that didn't stop the man from Okmulgee in Oklahoma cracking Billboard's R&B Top 30 on three occasions in the '60s and '70s. Taylor's biggest smash was 'Stay Away From My Baby' for Okeh in 1965 and although the going got tougher chart-wise in the '70s, he scored a minor chart-entry with 'Steal Away,' one of several strong cuts recorded at a Shreveport company called Alarm run out of Sound City Studios by music entrepreneur, Jim Lewis (incidentally, Alarm rose out of the ashes of the Soul Power label, which gave the world the marvellous Tommie Young). Taylor's 'Steal Away' from 1976 is one of several fine and largely forgotten tunes on this superb 24-track compilation (subtitled 'The Untold Story Of Shreveport Soul') that also showcases recordings by label mates Reuben Bell and Eddie Giles. There are eight songs in all by Taylor, including the funky 'Everybody's Stealin'' and the wonderful ballad, 'I'm Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning,' one of three fine numbers co-penned by the redoubtable Sam Dees. Unlike Taylor, Texas singer Reuben Giles (whose easy-on-the-ear vocal style sounds like an amalgam of Bill Withers and Johnny 'Guitar' Watson) was unable to score a chart hit while at Alarm in the mid-'70s (he did, however, make the R&B lists in 1972 with 'I Hear You Knocking' for DeLuxe). There are seven of Giles' recordings here, including the gospel-infused 'Asking For The Truth,' and an excellent orchestrated ballad, 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.' Concluding the collection is Eddie Giles, a Shreveport native, who was born Elbert Wiggins Giles. After recording for the indie labels Murco and Silver Fox, he joined Alarm in 1973. Nine of his songs are featured here, including the strident 'Are You Living With The One You're Loving With' and gutsy, uptempo 'How Many Times,' where Giles' energetic, soulful vocal is punctuated by Stax-style horns. The pleading, Sam Cooke-esque slow ballad, 'How Many Times' is also strong and illustrates that Giles was much more than a Wilson Pickett-style soul shouter. Paul Mooney's informative liner notes fill in the necessary background detail, rounding out what is a vivid and rewarding snapshot of a small Southern soul label and its three principal male artists.
(CW) 4/5

 

SANDRA PHILLIPS & BETTY WILLIAMS: 'Swamp Dogg's Southern Soul Girls' (Label: Kent)

Wednesday, 09 January 2008 11:06 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

SANDRA PHILLIPS & BETTY WILLIAMS: 'Swamp Dogg's Southern Soul Girls'

Adultery was a big money-spinner in the 1970s - at least in relation to soul music, which spawned a slew of risqué records focusing on adulterous love triangles, steamy ménage a trois and clandestine sexual liaisons. Everyone was doing it - or at least in seemed that way, what with Billy Paul extolling the joys of infidelity on 'Me & Mrs. Jones,' Bill Withers asking 'Who Is He And What Is He To You?' and a lust-crazed Luther Ingram proclaiming '(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right.' Women, too, got in on the act, with the likes of Millie Jackson, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, and Shirley Brown (to name a few) all chipping in their pennyworth. This new double-header from Kent is jam-packed with heart-rending tales of illicit love and lust and focuses on the work of two obscure female singers who worked under the aegis of legendary Southern Soul producer, Jerry 'Swamp Dogg' Williams. Cult songstress Sandra Phillips cut an album with Williams at the helm for Wally Roker's Canyon label - home also to Doris Duke and her classic album, 'I'm A Loser' - amusingly titled 'Too Many People In One Bed,' which came out in 1970. It appears in its entirety here. Dominated by Phillips' passionate vocals and featuring excellent arrangements and first class material penned by Williams, it proves to be a forgotten tour de force of Southern Soul. Highlights include harrowing confessional ballads like 'To The Other Woman (I'm The Other Woman)' - as good as the original cut by Doris Duke - 'She Didn't Know (She Kept On Talking)' (which became a US hit for Dee Dee Warwick later the same year), the thumping Aretha-like 'Some Mother's Son' and a super-soulful remake of The Supremes' 'Someday We'll Be Together.' Besides Phillips' 12-track Canyon LP, this compilation includes 9 cuts by recondite chanteuse, Bette Williams. Little is known about the mysterious husky-voiced singer, but amongst her meagre recorded output are some fine performances - notably the gospel-infused stomper, 'He Took My Hand,' the funky, strident 'A Feeling (For Someone Else Has Grown),' and the memorable cheatin' songs 'If She's Your Wife (Who Am I),' and 'Another Man Took My Husband's Place.' Also included are two previously unissued cuts, making this 21-track CD an essential purchase for aficionados of gritty, tell-it-like-it-is, sock-it-to-'em Southern Soul. Absolutely unmissable.
(CW) 5/5

 

THE DELLS: 'The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke's Greatest Hits' (Label: Dusty Groove America)

Friday, 04 January 2008 10:51 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

THE DELLS: 'The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke's Greatest Hits'

No, the title doesn't contain a typo - back in 1972, when The Dells recorded this amazing tribute to the singer dubbed by European audiences 'the Black Pearl,' Dionne Warwick had added the letter 'e' at the end of her surname on the advice of a numerologist (mercifully, the chanteuse came to her senses not long afterwards). But, to tell the truth, this remarkable album (originally released on Chess's Cadet subsidiary) is more about the work of tunesmiths Bacharach & David than Dionne Warwick - after all, Warwick was little more than a vehicle for the songwriting duo's sophisticated and well-crafted brand of easy listening music. Here, Windy City producer Charles Stepney - who was crucial to the early success of Minnie Riperton, Terry Callier and Earth, Wind & Fire - helps the Dells transform eleven classic Bacharach-David songs made famous by Warwick(e) into stirring Chi-town soul symphonies. In fact, thanks to Stepney's imaginative arranging skills, in some cases the Dells' versions actually transcend the originals. Indeed, it's apparent from the very first track - a rousing, sanctified rendering of 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again' featuring the group's rich vocal harmonies - that this is no mere by-numbers covers album. 'Walk On By' also gets the epic Stepney treatment, with swirling strings combining with the group's impassioned voices to create a rich, kaleidoscopic tapestry of sound that can make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. Stepney's ornate arrangements possess a baroque-like opulence, though they never overwhelm or swamp the Dells' five-part harmonies. Striking and sumptuous versions of 'Close To You,' 'This Guy's In Love With You,' 'I Say A Little Prayer,' 'Alfie' and 'A House Is Not A Home' seduce the ear but perhaps most noteworthy of all is the funked-up, seven-minute retooling of 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself,' with Phil Upchurch's wah-wah guitar featuring prominently. Given how significant this LP is in the Dells' canon, it's mystifying that it hasn't been reissued on CD before - thanks, though, to those discerning folks at Dusty Groove in Chicago (www.dustygroove.com), this magnificent album is available again. Snap it up while you can.
(CW) 5/5

 

TOMMY TATE: I'm So Satisfied (Label: Kent)

Monday, 24 December 2007 14:58 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

TOMMY TATE: I'm So Satisfied

Tommy Tate is a cult soul hero and with more exposure could easily aspire to the status of people like James Carr and Sam Dees… hopefully, this new 20 track Kent collection will set the wheels in motion. What we get here are all the recordings Tate made for the notorious Johnny Baylor's Ko Ko label in the early seventies and they reveal a superb southern soul stylist who could also pen imaginative material as the situation demanded. Take the hugely personal 'School Of Love' as an example. The song uses the whole school graduation/rite of passage/teen pregnancy thing as its theme and despite that, it really is a peach. With a big arrangement that uses horn patterns similar to those Ike Hayes' 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' it was a deserved, if minor, hit. 'If You Got To Love Somebody' is just as delicious - rivalling anything by Sam Dees or Philip Mitchell. But dip in to any of Tommy's solo cuts (many previously unissued) and you'll enjoy southern soul perfection - heavy and intense yes, but though desperation always lurks in the shadows, there's a degree of optimism in Tommy's delivery. As a bonus Kent have added a trio of cuts that Tommy recorded as the temporary lead singer with Stax group the Nightingales - after lead man Ollie Hoskins had flown the coop. All three have that magical, vintage Stax sound and will delight Memphis completists. After Ko Ko, Tate recorded for small labels like Sundance, Juana, and Urgent and wrote prolifically for all kinds of artists, but nothing he did matched the quality of his Ko Ko output - tap into real soul right here.
(BB) (4/5)

 

VARIOUS: Village Soul 2 (Label: Expansion)

Monday, 24 December 2007 14:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Village Soul 2

This is modern soul DJ Terry Jones' second 'Village Soul' compilation for Expansion and just like the first set, Terry uses his experience to prove that when done well, modern soul can offer more variety than some would accept. So here for example there's the full-on retro sounds of Delegation's 'One More Step To Take', the proto-house beats of Michael Proctor's 'Love Don't Live', the freshness of Billy Griffin's 'Like Water' and the lovely sensitive sounds of Randy Brown's 'I'm Here'. Real soul? Well look no further than Aretha's 'It's Just Your Love', ZZ Hill's take on Bettye Swan's 'Make Me Yours' or the Dells in full flow on the mighty 'Bring Back The Love Of Yesterday'. Other goodies amongst the 17 generous cuts include Rose Royce's 'Best Love' and Adeva's 'Don't Think About It' and the imaginative yet simple cover of Gladys Knight's 'Walk In My Shoes' from Bruce Cloud. The album's other big cover version, however, doesn't work so well - it's the in-demand Chuck Jackson's version of Bob Marley's 'Wait In Vain'. Chuck has great voice but the arrangement destroys the song's intrinsic innocence. It does, though, make an interesting inclusion, as too does the Real Thing's 'Love Takes Tears'. As a died-in-the-wool, xenophobic Scouser I championed the song when it was first issued way, way back, but the smarter soul-know-alls dismissed it as lightweight pop… funny how time changes peoples' musical perceptions. Here the song's ensconced as a gem of modern soul - and no way out of place amongst the big soul names I've already mentioned… great song - on another great Expansion compilation
(BB) 4/5

 

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