Reviews

CHERYL LYNN: 'Got To Be Real: The Columbia Anthology' (SoulMusic Records)

Tuesday, 11 June 2019 15:02 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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Big-voiced Los Angelino Cheryl Lynn (real name Lynda Cheryl Smith) burst onto the US music scene like a tornado in September 1978 when her debut single, 'Got To Be Real,' topped the US R&B charts. She was only 21 at the time and had come to the attention of record company bosses after a stunning performance on the amateur TV talent contest, The Gong Show, in 1976 where she received perfects marks. Atlantic Records seemed in pole position to sign her but when the label's boss, Ahmed Ertegun, missed a scheduled meeting with the singer, Columbia stepped in and made an offer she couldn't refuse. She spent eight years with the company and her time there is chronicled by this excellent 2-CD retrospective which contains 31 of her best tracks.

The set begins with Lynn's cameo on rock band Toto's catchy hit, 'Georgy Porgy,' from 1978 (the band's keyboardist, Marty Paich, went on to her debut LP) and then proceeds to explore the singer's back catalogue. A perennial dance floor favourite, the anthemic 'Got To Be Real' still stands out as the defining song in Lynn's repertoire though this compilation includes many other moments of high quality - in particular, the five tracks taken from 'Instant Love,' her album produced by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller, show Lynn hitting a giddy artistic peak. That album's dance-oriented title song and the funky 'Look Before You Leap' are superb while the ballads - the dreamy, flute-laced 'Day After Day' and an impassioned duet of Marvin Gaye's immortal 'If This World Were Mine' with Luther Vandross show that Lynn was much more than a mere disco singer.

'Instant Love' came out in 1982 and two years later, Lynn dramatically changed her sound after hooking up with two rising R&B songwriters/producers from Minneapolis, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, for the album 'Preppie.' She scored her second US R&B chart-topper with 'Encore,' which is presented here in its extended dance version. The 12-mix of 'Preppie's' title cut - a curious fusion of electro and new wave styles - is also featured and there are also a couple of rare, non-album soundtrack items: the mid-tempo ballad 'Goodbye For Now (Theme From "Reds"),' where Lynn joins flautist Hubert Laws as a guest, and the MOR slow jam 'At Last You're Mine,' from the soundtrack to Heavenly Bodies. For those that think that Cheryl Lynn was a one-song wonder, this stellar collection - showing that she was not only a great singer but also an artist of real depth - will put them right.  

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2019 14:47

 

JAMES AND BOBBY PURIFY: I’m Your Puppet (SoulMusic Records)

Thursday, 06 June 2019 15:33 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn many soul histories James and Bobby Purify are often dismissed as "the poor man's Sam and Dave". True they didn't enjoy as high a profile as the Stax/Atlantic duo but (in various pairings) the Purifys enjoyed a decent run of hits – most whilst pacted to Bell Records. As testament to what they achieved, SoulMusic Records have here collected all their Bell recordings – 38 tracks, across two CDs, spanning the years 1966 – '69.

Like many modern pop groups, "James and Bobby Purify" were the creation of a music biz svengali... in this case Florida's Don Schroeder. In 1965 he paired singer James Purify with singer/guitarist Robert Dickey (who was Purify's cousin) in an attempt to cash in on the success of soul duos – Sam and Dave, Mel and Tim. The Sims Twins, the Knight Brothers, Maurice and Mac et al. He dubbed his pairing James and Bobby Purify and took them down to FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. The first fruit of the sessions – the Southern classic 'I'm Your Puppet' - became an instant smash hit. Oddly, though, we're told that despite selling over a million copies, James and Bobby hated the song!

Whatever, it kick started their career and more hits followed – a cover of 'Shake A Tail Feather' and 'Let Love Come Between Us' amongst them. A hit act had to have back up albums and Bell had them in the studio on a regular basis and you can enjoy all that output here.

Amongst this set's 38 cuts there's all the hits and plenty of classic 60s southern flavoured soul. To fill out the albums Schroeder had his charges cover plenty of soul and pop hits, including several from Sam and Dave's back catalogue and the Purify's versions stand up well in their own right. Amongst the highlights are covers of the Tams' 'Untie Me', Sam Cooke's 'Soothe Me' and the outstanding take on Barbara and the Browns' ballad 'I Don't Wanna Have To Wait'.

The Purifys' last single on Bell was the oddly named 'Section C' on which "Bobby Purify" was actually Buddy Grubbs. Dickey had left for health reasons but very quickly Grubbs was replaced by Ben Moore. The Purify's best days though were over; but a re-recorded version of 'Puppet' became a 1976 UK hit. Despite that the group soon folded and sadly in the 80s James Purify was jailed for sexual offences. He is thought to be still alive. Robert Dickey died in 2012 while Ben Moore is now a member of the Blind Boys of Alabama.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2019 15:45

 

VARIOUS; If You’re Not Part Of The Solution... (Ace/BGP)

Thursday, 06 June 2019 14:02 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe Joe Henderson Quintet's ' If You're Not Part Of the Solution, You're Part Of The Problem' is the opening and title tack on a new 10 track compilation from Ace/BGP that offers a snapshot of US jazz between 1967 and 1975 – a period that commentators see as crucial to jazz development. The argument is that the sophistication of soul in the late 60s alongside the evolution of what some call "intellectual rock" had made inroads into the traditional jazz audience. Equally it was a period of social and political unrest as more and more black Americans turned to more radical ideas for solutions to problems that no one previously had been prepared to tackle. Serious jazz musicians reacted to all this by moving in newer directions hoping to catch the prevailing mood and reflect the melting pot of ideas of the era.... hence the title of Henderson's epic 11 minute opener here.

Other featured cuts that patently reflect the era are veteran Hammond player Johnny "Hammond" Smith's 'Black Feeling', Azar Lawrence's 'Warriors Of Peace' and Gary Bartz's 'Africans Unite'. Other featured artists include Johnny Lyle, Harold Vick and obscure Philly group Catalyst whose cosmic 'Celestial Bodies' explores another strand to the era's experimental jazz. Though even with experimentation, these "new age" jazzers still honoured the past giants. Here the Clifford Jordan Quintet pay homage to Coltrane with 'John Coltrane' while Eddie Jefferson offers his take on Miles Davis' 'Bitches Brew'.

'if You're Not Part Of The Solution...' is out now on Ace/BGP

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2019 14:20

 

VARIOUS: STAX SOUL EXPLOSION (UMC/Concord)

Monday, 03 June 2019 17:57 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn soul's storied annals a clutch of labels stand head and shoulders above all others in the importance and evolution of the genre. Amongst that select group is Stax – the leading bastion of Memphis soul. This is not the place to recount the history of the iconic label, save just to say in the label's story, 1969 was a key year. It was then that Stax ended its distribution and licensing deal with Atlantic to go solo, as it were. Though there was a little problem. Original owners brother and sister Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart had naively, some would say, signed over the rights to much of their music to Atlantic. So, out on their own and brimming with optimism, Stax had little back catalogue of its own to promote. Enter young Turk, Al Bell. Brought in by Stewart and Axton as a CEO, he was tasked with taking Stax onwards an upwards. His first job was to create a new "back catalogue". He began by commissioning a massive 27 new LPs to be cut in just a few months. Commentators dubbed the idea "the Soul Explosion" and Bell agreed that that was exactly what he was intending.

Heading the "explosion" was a compilation LP – a sort of shop window showing what the new look Stax was all about It was an immediate best seller (compilation LPs were so, so popular back then... remember 'Motown Chartbusters'?) but it was soon out of print. Now – 50 years after the event – the wonderful album is back with us in all the desired formats, including vinyl.

The album offers all the original tracks – most of 'em well known tunes like Johnnie Taylor's 'Who's Making Love' and Booker T and the MG's 'Soul Limbo'. To tempt collectors, the reissue also includes loads of rarities and lesser known items from Stax stalwarts like Ollie and the Nightingales, the Mad Lads and Judy Clay.

Remember too that 'Soul Explosion' was a shop window for Stax and Bell was keen to show that the label offered more that Southern soul... so here, there's blues from Albert King, gospel from the Staple Singers and psychedelic rock from Southwest FOB (who, anoraks will tell you, later morphed into soft rockers England Dan and John Ford Coley).

The 28 tracker is a wonderful homage to Stax and if you want more, many of those aforementioned 27, 1969 "new age Stax" recordings are being reissued too.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Monday, 03 June 2019 18:07

 

KING LOUIE ORGAN TRIO; It’s About Time (Shoug)

Friday, 31 May 2019 18:27 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altContemporary jazz fans will know that "King" Louie Pain' is a modern Hammond B3 maestro- keeping alive the spirit of Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Brother Jack McDuff et al. Louie's been around a while with a number of acclaimed albums under his belt, all celebrating Hammond-led, old school soul, blues and soul-jazz. However, he's never released an album in the classic trio style – till now – hence the title 'It's About Time'. The two other members of the band are drummer Edwin Coleman III and sax man Renato Caranto. Mr P's worked with the pair before, of course, but this is the first time that the threesome have called themselves a formal "trio" – not that that matters too much.... the Louis Pain sound on 'It's About Time' is essentially the same as on his other albums – old school soul-jazz all the way!

Get the flavour on the delicious, bluesy 'Big Brothers' which has a kind of 'Dimples'/'Baby Please Don't Go' thing going on. But dip in anywhere here and hear and enjoy the same flavours. All 13 tracks have been generated by the band and we're told that each one was inspired by someone dear or influential to the writer. For instance the aforementioned 'Big Brothers' is dedicated to Pain's two siblings, Lincoln and Duncan while 'Blues For Pierre' was inspired by his step brother. From a musical inspiration viewpoint, 'Chester McGriff' offers double respect to two of Louie's organ heroes - Chester Thompson and Jimmy McGriff while 'Mel Brown' is homage to the drummer with whom Louie worked for many years. Mel even guests on the track. The LP's other guests are guitarists Bruce Conte and Dan Faehnle (the former was with Tower Of Power in their heyday, while the latter has worked with amongst others Diana Krall). Guests and core players have a wealth of experience and totally understand the genre. Result – authentic soul-jazz

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 31 May 2019 18:37

 

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