VARIOUS: Lowrider Soul 1962 - 1970 (Kent)

Monday, 11 February 2019 16:11 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIf there's one thing most soul fans love it's categorization! They love to put their music into neat pigeon-holes, genres, sub divisions, flavours, all kinds of everything! In something like 50 years of writing about soul I thought I'd come across every soul sub genre... how wrong I was! You see those awfully nice people at Ace/Kent have just come up with a new one (well, new to me!) ... "lowrider soul". It seems that lowrider soul began in Mexican, Central and South American migrant areas in and around East Los Angeles. In their clubs and bars, they preferred to play and listen to a very particular kind of soul – sweet and nostalgic love ballads (modern people, I think call 'em "slow jams"!). The "lowrider" tag come from the fact that many members of this slow soul loving community often cruised the streets (windows down, radio playing) in classic US autos – lowriders! However, the best way to define a music genre is with the music- not with words, and here Ace/Kent offer 24 wonderful examples of lowrider soul. We can be sure that these sonic definitions are bob on because the album has been compiled by a pair of genre experts.... UK DJ Sean Hamspey and California's Ruben Molina. Sean runs the Diggin' Deep soul label while Ruben, who operates in the lowrider heartland (South California) , has written the definitive book on the genre and fronts the Southern Soul Spinners DJ collective.

So, to the music –as the man said, it's what's in the grooves that counts. However, it's hard to know where to start because there's so much soul excellence here - so we'll cop out and begin with the biggest name amongst the 24... William Bell. His contribution is his 1965 Stax outing 'Crying All By Myself'. On it he's backed by the Astors (of 'Candy' fame) and while we're banging on about genres, I guess we could pigeon-hole this as "deep soul". There are several more "deep" items amongst the 24 (notably Reuben Bell's 'It's Not That Easy' and the Webs' 'It's So Hard To Break A Habit') but by and large the music here is mainly sweet and smooth – typified by Barbara Mason's classic 'Oh How It Hurts'. Other highlights include the Charmels' doo-wop flavoured 'I Wanna Chance', 'As I Sit Here' from an early incarnation of the Whispers and 'No Doubt About It' from the massively underrated Esquires.

To conclude, let's go back to genres, another man (same as the other one!) said there are only two kinds of music... good and bad. 'Lowrider Soul'? All good!

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Monday, 11 February 2019 16:19


CHARLIE FAYE AND THE FAYETTES; The Whole Shebang (Bigger Better More)

Friday, 08 February 2019 11:21 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altTexan songstress Charlie Faye has enjoyed a varied career. She made her solo recording debut back in 2009 with 'Wilson St.' which was followed in 2011 by 'Travels With Charlie Faye'. Both had a distinct indie pop sound with a whiff of Americana. However, Ms Faye soon changed musical direction. She'd always said that the 60s were her favourite musical era – a time when pop was fun, catchy and innocent but, when the occasion demanded, could still deliver a hefty, hard-hitting message. Determined to bring back the fun and deliver the occasional message, Charlie found like-minded spirits in Betty Soo and Akina Adderly and so Charlie Faye and they Fayettes were born – a trio determined to bring back the classic girl group sound of the 60s.

Their 2016 eponymous album lived up to their mission statement and was moderately well-received. and now the girls are back with a new 12 tracker which carries on where that first album left off. In between releases the Fayettes and their team have clearly been listening long and hard to all kinds of 60s pop 'cos on almost every track here, you can hear a distinct reference point. It's obvious from the start. The opener, '1, 2, 3, 4' is clearly based on the work of Holland-Dozier-Holland', coming in on a loping 'Heatwave' drum intro. Sadly though the rest of the song doesn't live up to what that promises. The whole thing is just a little too cute and poppy . Things get better with the next track... 'I Don't Need No Baby'.... a clever take on the Phil Spector/Ronettes sound. It's so close to that sound that if I was the writer of 'Be My Baby' I'd be consulting a plagiarism lawyer!

Elsewhere 'Baby We'll Be OK' offers more of the Spector Wall Of Sound, 'Tonight's The Night' channels a classic doo-wop sound, 'Say Those Words' rides in on a mighty Duane Eddy twanging guitar (c'mon you do remember Duane Eddy?) while the title cut is a Brill Building pastiche. The most soulful outing is 'Riding High'. Embellished with Memphis horns, it's an album highlight but it's not soul as we know and love it. Charlie Faye delivers but her vocals are a little too light – like we said up top, "cute". But given the trio's mission statement, there's nothing wrong with that. 'The Whole Shebang'... simple, uncluttered, undemanding, retro pop.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 08 February 2019 11:27


REGINA BELLE: Show Me The Way (SoulMusic Records)

Wednesday, 30 January 2019 21:00 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altNew Jersey's Regina Belle broke through in 1987 after being discovered working with the Manhattans. A wonderfully church-reared, emotive singer, Ms Belle never quite made the major leagues, despite considerable chart success and a faithful cohort of fans. Not that that now bothers Ms Belle. After a 2009 major health scare, she's happy to work with her husband, John Battle in their Atlanta New Shield Of Faith Church. Surrounded by her children and grandchildren, I wonder does she ever think back to her late 80s hey-day when she was an ever-present chart contender via her work with major label, Columbia.

If she (or indeed any decent soul fan) needs reminding of what she achieved, this new two CD, 29 track album from David Nathan's SoulMusic Records will do the trick. The collection brings together the best of her four Columbia long players and, of course, all the big hits are here. Things like 'Show Me The Way' and 'Baby Come To Me' retain the magic despite the passage of time and as was the way back in the day major labels often had their "big names" perform duets. Here you can enjoy Regina's collaborations with people like James JT Taylor, Johnny Mathis and Peabo Bryson.

The less well known items show that Ms Belle was always a major contender. Try her version of Sam Dees' 'After The Love Has Lost Its Shine' while, though many deride covers albums, the lady's last Columbia LP, 'Reachin' Back' – her versions of Philly classics – yielded many treasures. Here, from that set, the compilers have selected 'Could It Be I'm Falling In Love', 'Love TKO', 'I'll Be Around' and 'You Make Me Feel Brand New'.

Sleeve notes from US writer Kevin Goins will tell you all you need to know.

(BB) 3/5


JOHN MAYALL: Nobody Told me (Forty Below Records)

Wednesday, 30 January 2019 14:46 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThere's an ongoing debate within the British blues community about the relative status of Alexis Korner and John Mayall. With plenty of justification, both can lay claim to the title "Godfather of British Blues". They were both there in the late 50s and early 60s crusading to popularise the genre with real passion, conviction and commitment and both men put together bands which (at different times)were home to players who went on the become major stars . Korner sadly passed in 1984 by which time he'd started to diversify (remember his CCS collective?) becoming an acclaimed broadcaster and voice over man. Mayall, however, stayed true to his mission – to play and popularise raw blues, the way it was, the way it is and the way it always will be. Keeping the faith, since the blues heyday, he's continued to put together bands, to play live and to record  - and now in his mid 80's, he's just released this new 10 tracker.

Given what we've just said, you won't be surprised to learn that 'Nobody Told Me' is a traditional, electric blues album that could have been made in any decade since the 50s... indeed the music was all recorded on a vintage Sound City Neve console (at the Foo Fighters studio by the way) – the same console, we're told, that was used by Fleetwood Mac to record most of 'Rumours'. (Fans will know that Fleetwood Mac's John McVie and Mick Fleetwood all started off with Mayall; Peter Green too... a nice connection).

Key cut on the album is the slow, 7 minute title track. The lyrics and sentiment are apt given that Mayall recently suffered a health scare that made him reconsider all kinds of things. Yes, the song oozes blues melancholy but the LP boasts plenty of "up" moments too – notably 'Like It Like You Do'. More R&R than blues, it's a nifty mover for an 85 year old! Elsewhere expect lots of classic, biting blues in the manner of, say, Albert King. Everything is delivered with passion, flare and respect for the genre. It goes without saying that the musicianship is of the highest order... hardly surprising, the guest list includes people like Todd Rundgren, Little Steven, Rush's Alex Lifeson and Joe Bonamassa while a punchy horn section beefs up many of the cuts.

John Mayall's 'Nobody Told Me' is released on February 22nd.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 January 2019 14:54


GLADYS KNIGHT and the PIPS; On and On (SoulMusic Records)

Friday, 25 January 2019 16:14 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe latest offering from David Nathan's SoulMusic Records is an unusual "twofer" on the ever wonderful Gladys Knight (and the Pips, of course!) Unusual? Well, you see it combines material from her tenure with two big labels – Buddah and Columbia – and with licensing issues and other business machinations it's odd that we have the collection – odd but wonderful.... 37 fabulous recordings across 2 CDs!

All soul fans know that Gladys and her brother and cousins began way back in 1963 as youngsters with hits like 'Every Beat Of My Heart'. A '66 move to Motown brought more success but autobiographies and interviews reveal that the family group never felt entirely comfortable as part of the Gordy empire. We're told that despite some big, big hits Gladys and the Pips felt like Motown second stringers; so, when a chance came to move on, (in 1973), they jumped at it. Where they jumped to was Neil Bogart's Buddah label and there they hit the ground running. Hit followed hit and Knight albums started to impact the charts – something that had only rarely happened at Motown. The first CD in this package offers 20 of those Buddah highlights and though "highlight" is one of those words bandied about all too easily in reviews, how else could you describe heart-stopping performances like 'Midnight Train To Georgia', 'Best Thing That Ever Happened', 'Part Time Love' and the Curtis Mayfield penned 'The Makings Of You'.

In 1979 Ms Knight signed to Columbia Records and the big tunes kept coming and this pack's second CD lines up 17 of the very best.... classics like 'Landlord', 'Taste Of Bitter Love', 'You're Number One In My Book', 'Bourgie Bourgie', 'Save The Overtime For Me' and an early version of what has become a standard, 'Wind Beneath My Wings' (here titled 'Hero') – a song perfectly suited to Gladys' gospel-reared, emotion-tugging approach.

Most of this group's Buddha and Columbia output has been reissued over the years but coupled like this it's a reminder of what a huge talent Ms Knight is... very much present tense. She may not record that often these days but she still tours and many of the tracks on this collection are staples of her live shows...understandably so!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 25 January 2019 16:27


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