Arthur Prysock is one of black music’s most neglected talents – a fact explained by a number of reasons. Firstly, his career crossed a number of musical eras and styles and it’s hard to categorize him; secondly, for much of his career he worked as the front man for various big bands and, usually, the band leader, not the vocalist, got the kudos; then, when he went solo, the big, big hits eluded him and sadly many remember him only for his superb vocal on an iconic Lowenbrau beer advert.
Born in South Carolina in 1929, Arthur Prysock possessed a remarkable baritone voice that owed much to the great Billy Eckstine. In 1944 he was signed as singer for the Buddy Johnson big band and after a run of band hits he went solo working for Decca, Old Town and Verve. His biggest hit was 1955’s ‘I Didn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night’ but soon he was back working in the big band context – most notably with his brother, Red, and Count Basie. During the 60s soul boom, his smooth crooning style went out of fashion and his career seemed like petering out. Then in 1976, his label, Old Town – inspired by the work that Lou Rawls and Jerry Butler had done in Philadelphia – had the idea of recording Prysock in the City Of Brotherly Love. The result was the 8 track album ‘All My Life’ which has just been reissued for the first time on the bbr label.
Produced by Philly veteran John Davis (of Monster Orchestra fame) and featuring luminaries like Don Renaldo, Barbara Ingram, Carla and Evette Benson, the LP is a great piece of smooth Philly soul and for those who love the Lou Rawls sound (and those great Billy Eckstine Motown albums), the set is a must.
The collection’s highlights are two wonderful Gamble-Huff songs – ‘I Wantcha Baby’ and ‘When Love Is New’. They seem to have been created from reassembled elements of songs like ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’ and ‘See You When I Get There’ – but that’s no bad thing. They’re ultra smooth and slickly sophisticated. On the album’s title cut the palette is more Barry White than Lou Rawls. The Bobby Eli-penned ‘This Is What You Mean To Me’ would have been a great vehicle for the Spinners while ‘One Broken Heart’ is a great Stylistics’ style ballad. Yes – all very derivative – but all very enjoyable and a great 70s Philly soul artefact.