JOHN ELLISON: Back (Label: Jamie, Guyden)


Soul people of my vintage will remember with affection the Soul Brothers Six. They had a big hit in 1967 with ‘(She’s) Some Kind Of Wonderful’ and for a time they threatened to be the “next big thing”. Sadly the “thing” never happened and the band disintegrated. They would reform occasionally for oldies tours and some individual members tried their hand at solo stardom – but to little or no avail. John Ellison was the group’s lead guitarist and main songwriter and it’s his gruff voice that fronted their big hit. He’s never stopped working since the group’s heyday and a deal with Philadelphia’s revitalised Jamie/Guyden label has led to this “comeback” album. Over the years, Ellison’s voice has lost nothing of its rough Southern edge and the remake of the big hit isn’t that far removed from the original ’67 version. The remaining 12 songs are all original and – with faster or slower tempos – have the same distinctive guitar-led chug-along rhythm. That’s the album’s consistent sound even though innovative producer/mixer Tom Moulton’s at the controls. The only departure from the basic, rustic, 60s sound that Ellison has perfected comes with ‘Take Your Time’ which has a partly vocoded delivery – but in fairness it doesn’t lift a fairly pedestrian song… and that’s the problem with the album. It’s a charming throw-back kind of affair but there’s nothing here that truly ignites; there are no big moments. The opener, ‘Cell Phone Number’ is simple and tight and ‘Back In The Day’ intrigues with its nostalgia-led lyric, but the ballads are dull and the whole thing just seems to run out of steam half way through. Still if you hanker for the uncluttered, basic sounds of 60s soul then you may want, at least, to investigate and the usual CD outlets will allow you that opportunity.
(BB) 3/5