Reviews

GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: '2nd Anniversary' (Elemental)

Saturday, 09 December 2017 08:39 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                         altDespite scoring a raft of hits for Motown, including three US R&B number ones, Gladys Knight & The Pips believed that the label's supremo, Berry Gordy, regarded them as a second tier act and consequently, they left his Detroit company for Buddah Records in 1973. At Buddah, Gladys and the Pips received the attention they felt they deserved and hit new commercial heights, scoring big US pop smashes with 'Midnight Train To Georgia,' 'I've Got To Use My Imagination,' and 'Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.'  This reissue of the group's fourth long player for Buddah, catches up with them in 1975 when they went in the studio as co-producers working alongside noted singer/songwriter/producer, Gene McDaniels, and production duo, Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise.

There are four McDaniels-helmed tracks, the first of which the message song, 'Money,' was a #4 US R&B hit and showed the group heading in a funkier, blaxploitation-style musical direction. The quartet also served up a six-minute version of the McDaniels'-penned 'Feel Like Makin' Love,' which had been a big hit for Roberta Flack in 1974. They do it totally differently, slowing it down to a sensuous simmer, with Gladys doing her own inimitable thing vocally, aided by gospel-like responses from the Pips.  Another McDaniels' tune, 'Summer Sun,' is more sturdy, direct and earthy, seasoned with rousing gospel cadences. Arguably the most interesting McDaniels' cut is the socially-aware 'Street Brother,' which is significant because all of the lead vocals are handled by the Pips sans Gladys - the first verse is sung by Edward Patten, the second by William Guest, and the third by Bubba Knight.

Other highlights include a finely-nuanced interpretation of Bread singer/songwriter David Gates's 'Part Time Love,' which was a #4 R&B hit in 1975, and a jazzy, atmospheric take - complete with a voiceover intro by Gladys - on Hoagie Carmichael's 'Georgia On My Mind.'  A similar vibe defines the mournful ballad, 'You And Me Against The World,' while Rusty Young's pining steel guitar adds a country feel to the heartbreak ballad, 'Where Do I Put His Memory' (written by Mississippi tunesmith, Jim Weatherly, who wrote several big hits for Gladys and the Pips, including 'Midnight Train To Georgia').

A solidly soulful rather than stunningly spectacular album, '2nd Anniversary' - which is now remastered and available as a limited edition release in a mini replica gatefold LP sleeve - should nevertheless be at the top of your shopping list if you're a fan of one of soul music's greatest ever groups.

(CW)  3/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 December 2017 16:42

 

EDDIE KENDRICKS: 'Vintage '78' (Elemental)

Saturday, 09 December 2017 08:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                     altThe sweetly-soulful falsetto foil to raspy-voiced David Ruffin in the original incarnation of the Temptations, Eddie Kendricks quit the Motown vocal quintet in 1971, three years after Ruffin had been replaced by Dennis Edwards. Alabama-born Kendricks stayed with Motown to launch his solo career, and scored seventeen US R&B hits (including three number ones) for Berry Gordy's label between 1971 and 1978 before leaving for Clive Davis' Arista imprint where he released his debut LP for the company, 'Vintage '78,' later the same year.

Kendrick's short tenure with Arista - he only stayed for two albums before departing to Atlantic - tends to be eclipsed by his longer Motown stay. That's understandable, given the number of hits that the Birmingham-born singer racked up for Berry Gordy's label in the early '70s, but as this fine reissue reveals, Kendricks was still making solid records away from Detroit, though they often didn't get the attention they deserved. 'Vintage '78' (the first of two albums for Arista) adheres to a similar formula that characterised the singer's Motown output, blending propulsive disco grooves with plaintive, storytelling ballads. Kendricks is at his most expressive on the latter and on this particular album, the pleading 'Your Wish Is My Command,'  'Maybe I'm A Fool To Love You,' and the elegant 'The Best Of Strangers Now' (the latter a Top 50 R&B hit) stand out as shining examples of the singer's gift for balladry. The biggest hit from the album was 'Ain't No Smoke Without Fire,' a thumping, richly orchestrated disco groove over which Kendricks' seraphic voice floats sublimely, punctuated by earnest female background vocals. Also on the dance front, 'Whip' impresses with its mirrorball energy, anthemic chorus, and blend of sinewy bass line and blaring horns. While it's not an absolute, indispensable classic, it is, nonetheless, a solid, enjoyable set that's well worth hearing, especially if you're an aficionado of '70s soul.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 December 2017 16:43

 

JAMES CARR: The Best Of James Carr (Kent)

Wednesday, 06 December 2017 09:57 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altJames Carr is the undoubted soul man's soul man. Little known in the mainstream, he's revered by connoisseurs – especially of the Southern persuasion. Much of that (deserved) reverence stems from his monumental and original reading of the iconic 'Dark End Of The Street'. That Dan Penn/Chips Moman song is the aural definition of Southern soul and 2017 is the 50th anniversary of Carr's Goldwax recording of the melancholic tale of illicit love. What better way to celebrate than with a retrospective of the very best recordings that James made for Quinton Claunch's Memphis imprint? Now we know that reissue specialists, Ace/Kent have made all of Carr's Goldwax recordings available already, but here, on this new 20 tracker we have the definitive overview of Carr's art. It's a perfect introduction to anyone who wants to become familiar with the singer and for those already in the know, it serves as a quick reminder of why he's so revered.

The collection begins, of course, with 'Dark End Of The Street' and it's still gripping. It's one of those very few recordings where everything seems to come together perfectly; timeless and truly universal. Carr fans, of course, will tell you that there are lots more recording in the man's repertoire just as searing – try 'These Arms Of Mine', 'Life Turned Her That Way' or 'A Man Needs A Woman' for starters.

Oddly, I think, for a Southern hero, James Carr also carved himself a niche on the Northern soul scene with tunes like 'That's What I Want To Know' and 'Freedom Train' and those, of course, are included here.

'The Best Of James Carr' CD is out now – just perfect as a soul stocking filler - and we're told that for those who like the modern way it also comes in that new fangled vinyl as a 12" LP. There's also a special 7" pressing of 'Dark End Of The Street' with 'You Got My Mind Messed Up' on something called a B-side.

The sleeve notes offer a great pen picture of Carr while the art work evokes the spirit of the 60s/early 70s... soul perfection!

(BB) 5/5

 

VARIOUS; The Craig Charles Funk & Show 5 (Freestyle)

Thursday, 30 November 2017 16:42 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altCraig Charles' regular soul and funk compilations have become something of a permanent feature in the UK soul calendar. Now volume 5 is with us just in time for the big party season and once again the actor/DJ serves up his usual blistering mix of (largely) indie soul and funk tunes all guaranteed to crank up the optimism factor and fill floors everywhere.

The set kicks off with The Traffic's take on Rick James' 'Superfreak' (loping bass line and crazy brass) and ends with Daytoner's funky, shuffling 'I Get By'. In between there's music from people like Tamika Charles, Australia's best - Kylie Auldist, Lack Of Afro and dear old Charles Bradley – so sadly taken from us in September this year. The Bradley inclusion is the searing 'Change For The World', proper old school soul – passionate and challenging. Less challenging, maybe, yet still passionate and old school is Nicole Willis' 'Everybody Do The Watusi'. Ms Willis, like a number of her contemporaries, now works out of Europe where old school values are still respected and nurtured and even if you can't actually do the Watusi, you won't be able to resist the temptation to at least tap those feet. The Nightshifters' 'Show Me What You Got', though a little lighter, is another clarion call to the floor. Mellower is veteran Hammond meister Brian Auger's look at Marvin's 'Inner City Blues'. The tune has been covered dozens of times, of course, but it never ceases to enthral and here Auger's jazzy B3 offers a fresh perspective on the familiar.

Different again is 'Nawa' from Ginger Johnson and his African Messengers. You can guess, I guess, from the billing that here we go deep into Afrobeat territory and nowt wrong with that – it sits perfectly within the confines of soul n' funk... and that's always one of the attractions of CC's compilations – you always get what is says on the proverbial tin (i.e. lashings of funk and soul) but you're always guaranteed something a little less expected to get you out of that comfort zone.... and out on the floor!

Watch out for our upcoming Craig Charles interview.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 November 2017 16:51

 

LOU RAWLS: 'All Things In Time' (Elemental)

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 14:45 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                         alt

With his rich, resonant tone, Lou Rawls possessed one of the most immediately recognisable voices in soul and R&B music. Reared on a diet of church music in his native Chicago, Rawls sang in several noteworthy gospel groups in the 1950s, including the Highway QCs, where he replaced Sam Cooke, before embarking on a solo career. He enjoyed a lot of success at Capitol Records  in the mid-1960s - scoring a chart-topping R&B single in the shape of 'Love Is A Hurtin' Thing' - but when he joined the roster at Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff's Philadelphia International label in 1976, he was 41-years-old and perceived by many as a singer whose career was on the wane. But it was this album, 'All Things In Time,' now reissued in a limited edition replica gatefold mini-LP artwork, that kick-started his career renaissance.

The first singer on P.I.R. to have enjoyed substantial success prior to joining Gamble & Huff's label, Rawls got off to a flying start with 'All Things In Time,' which is not only one of the singer's best ever albums but also undoubtedly represented a major musical milestone for its producers and record company. Indeed, the combination of Rawls' smoky baritone with Gamble & Huff's silky Philly sound was a musical marriage made in soul heaven. As well as classy arrangements (many by the redoubtable Bobby Martin), the set was also distinguished by strong, top quality  material. The icing on the cake, though, was Rawls' spectacular vocals. He had a sound that oozed class and charisma.

'You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine' is the killer cut; a chugging disco groove that explodes into life with an anthemic chorus. It's no surprise that the song topped the US R&B charts in June 1976. Other highlights on the album  include a great take on the late Bunny Sigler's disco groove, 'From Now On,' plus 'Groovy People' and 'This Song Will Last Forever.' The bluesy swinger, 'You're The One,' is also a standout while Rawls shows his skill as a storytelling balladeer on 'Time' and 'Need You Forever,' the latter combining blues-inflected guitar with slick horns and strings. Rawls also serves up a mesmeric rendition of Anthony Newley and Lesley Bricusse's 'Pure Imagination,' a song first heard in the movie based on Roald's Dahl's children's book, Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Lou Rawls recorded six more albums for P.I.R. but as good as they were, they never quite reached the heights of 'All Things In Time,' which 41 years later, has lost none of its allure and potency. Timeless.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 14:55

 

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