Reviews

ROZETTA JOHNSON: Personal Woman: The Legendary Clintone Sessions 1970-1975 (Label: Soulscape)

Saturday, 20 October 2007 08:29 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

ROZETTA JOHNSON: Personal Woman: The Legendary Clintone Sessions 1970-1975

Hailing from Tuscaloosa - the small Alabama town where the great jazz/blues diva, Dinah Washington was born - Rozetta Johnson must have thought Dame Fortune was on her side when her debut 45, 'A Woman's Way' snuck into the Billboard R&B Top 40 in December 1970. Co-helmed by budding R&B tunesmith Sam Dees, the record - a striking, plaintive mid-tempo ballad - was issued on producer Clinton Moon's Clintone label, then distributed by mighty Atlantic Records. Johnson followed up her debut chart entry with an even stronger Dees-penned song, 'Who Are You Gonna Love (Your Woman Or Your Wife),' a spouse's heartfelt plea to her cheating husband. One of several outstanding tracks on this new 16-track compilation, 'Who Are Gonna Loveā€¦' for all its musical merits failed to crack the R&B Top 40 on its release and sadly, all subsequent 45s that Johnson cut for the label in the next few years sank without trace. A cult favourite in the eyes of the UK soul cognoscenti for some time, this gospel-reared singer finally has her small body of work anthologised on CD. It's a fantastic collection, comprising all of the singer's Clintone 45s and their flipsides. There are also two previously unissued cuts, 'For That Man Of Mine' and 'Mama Was A Bad Seed.' The material and Johnson's performances are consistently strong, with her original version of '(I Like Making That) Early Morning Love' - later covered by Gwen McCrae - catching the ear along with uptempo workouts like 'I Can Feel My Love Comin' Down' and the disco-tinged 'You Better Keep What You Got' (recently available as a 45 on Shotgun). This compelling cache of '70s Southern soul is undoubtedly one of the year's best soul compilations. Miss it and weep.

(CW) 4/5

 

ANN NESBY: This Is Love (Label: Shanachie)

Friday, 19 October 2007 08:17 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

ANN NESBY: This Is Love

The ever-dependable Ann Nesby is a real soul heroine. However, most agree that since the milestone Perspective album 'I'm Here For You', the lady's not quite fully delivered again. Yes we've had odd tracks ('Put In On Paper' for instance) and uplifting gospel dance workouts, but now, I can happily report, she's back to her very best. Put simply, 'This Is Love' is stuffed with quality modern soul music and there's truly something for everybody. For modern room people there's the year's best cut - 'I Can't Explain'. It's one of those rare outings where everything's right. For those who prefer the steppers beats, there's the predictably named 'Step', while if you want high-energy dance there's the supercharged 'It's So Easy Lovin'. Then, of course, there are the ballads where that special voice really does cut loose. 'I Apologise' is as good as anything Aretha recorded at her peak; 'Special Occasion' has a real jazzy atmosphere to it; while on the closer 'See U Cry' there's an almost country feel. Here's the 2007 album to prove to the doubters that REAL soul is still being made while for a 2007 peak you won't beat 'I Can't Explain It'.
(BB) 5/5

 

JILL SCOTT: The Real Thing, Words and Sounds Volume 3 (Label: Hidden Beach)

Friday, 19 October 2007 08:16 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

JILL SCOTT: The Real Thing, Words and Sounds Volume 3

It's been seven years since this honey-throated Philadelphia songstress emerged with her much-lauded debut platter, 2000's 'Who Is Jill Scott?' Initially, some observers perceived Scott as little more than a sound-alike acolyte of Erykah Badu, who pioneered jazz-infused neo-soul in the late-'90s. It soon became apparent, though, that Scott boasted a much bigger talent than Badu's - not only in terms of her voice, which is richer and more sonorous, but also both the melodic and lyrical content of her music. Discounting the live album 'Experience Jill Scott 826+' and last year's disappointing stop-gap compilation, 'Collaborations,' this is only the chanteuse's third album proper. On first listen, it's not as adventurous as 2004's 'Beautifully Human' - and indeed, there's nothing quite as stunningly infectious as the killer cut from that album, 'Golden' - but with repeated listens, 'The Real Thing' reveals it has plenty of noteworthy moments. The best of these is the sumptuous slow ballad, 'Whenever You're Around' featuring a keyboard solo from jazz-fusion doyen, George Duke. Other highlights include a couple of slow-jams 'Insomnia,' and 'Come See Me' plus the sprightlier 'Crown Royal,' though the latter track is disappointingly brief. There's no doubting that there are moments of great sonic beauty here but it doesn't disguise the album's one fatal flaw: tempo-wise, the music sounds stuck in second gear much of the time, with ponderous, mid-tempo ballads predominating. This helps create a relaxed, sensuous ambience, of course, but also verges on being soporific at times - a tad more variety would have made for an even better album. All in all, though, a strong and appealing set.
(CW) 4/5

 

BETTY LAVETTE: Scene Of The Crime (Label: Anti)

Friday, 19 October 2007 08:10 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

BETTY LAVETTE: Scene Of The Crime

In terms of chart success, this 61-year-old raspy-voiced chanteuse hailing from Muskegon, Michigan, hasn't had the best of careers. In fact, her biggest smash came way back in 1962 when she broke into the Top 10 with the Atlantic 45, 'My Man - He's A Lovin' Man.' Success-wise, though, things could have been different for LaVette if Atlantic (during her second stint at the label) hadn't inexplicably shelved a promising 1972 album, 'Child Of The Seventies,' cut in Muscle Shoals (it was only recently issued by Rhino Handmade). But these setbacks seemingly haven't deterred the singer one iota, whose comeback started with the album, 'A Woman Like Me,' in 2004. The album scooped a Grammy and a year later, LaVette signed to Anti- where she recorded the critically lauded 'I've Got My Own Hell To Raise.' The title of this new album refers to the fact that LaVette has gone back to FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where she originally cut the lost 'Child Of The Seventies' some 35 years ago. There's no similarity between the two albums, though, apart from the recording location. 'Scene Of The Crime' is dark, sombre, raw and visceral. And there's nothing half as good as 'Your Turn To Cry' on it. Despite that, LaVette's astringent vocals are magnificently compelling - though Patterson Hood's austere production sound (his band, The Drive-By Truckers, provide the backing) and choice of material leaves something to be desired. This album tends to follow the same route that Solomon Burke adhered to when he cut 'Don't Give Up On Me,' a few years ago. There's more rock than soul, as the presence of material by Elton John ('Talking Old Soldiers') will attest. In fact, it's the kind of record that rock fans will embrace but soul fans (especially in the UK) will probably ignore. The real crime, I think, is that LaVette didn't get to work with more imaginative musicians and better quality material.
(CW) 3/5

 

WALTER JACKSON: Speak Her Name , the Okeh Recordings Volume 3 (Label: Kent)

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

WALTER JACKSON: Speak Her Name , the Okeh Recordings Volume 3

There are few male voices in soul as luxuriously opulent and caressingly smooth as Walter Jackson's resonant baritone. The Florida-born singer spent most of his life on crutches - he suffered from polio - and tragically, died while only in his mid-forties back in 1983. Fortunately for soul fans, he left a rich musical legacy behind that includes recordings done for the Brunswick, Chi-Town, Cotillion and Columbia labels. Arguably, though, his most significant sides were cut for Okeh in the mid to late '60s. Ace's Kent imprint - and in particular compiler/annotator, Tony Rounce - has done a tremendous job in reissuing Jackson's neglected Okeh output on CD. This, the third and final instalment chronicling the final phase of the soul singer's Okeh tenure, is arguably the best. The first ten tracks belong to Jackson's 1967 LP, 'Speak Her Name,' which included the R&B smashes 'It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom,' 'After You There Can Be Nothing' and 'A Corner In The Sun.' The album - an amalgam of smooth uptown soul and Tin Pan Alley covers - also includes the lovely Bacharach-David tune, 'They Don't Give Medals To Yesterday's Heroes,' which Jackson imbues with a mellow poignancy. There are ten bonus tracks: a collection of non-album 45s and their flips plus a brace of unreleased tunes. Jackson's two Epic singles from 1969 are also present, making this an excellent, value-for-money collection that dedicated soul fans shouldn't ignore.
(CW) 4/5

 

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