A little late into the month but with Soul Essence just around the corner, I’m motivated to get some reviews onto the website. Enjoy!!.
First off, the deeper side:
Paul Williams; “Once you had a heart”
We all know that feeling, you hear a song that just stops you in your tracks but you can’t find out a great deal more about it, so it was for me when Richard Searling played this on his Sunday morning show for Jazz FM up in Manchester many, many moons ago. It was only listening to some Temptations tracks on You Tube that I finally found it. Many of you will know it can only be found on The Temptations Anthology “One by one” (the best of their solo years). Williams grew up with Eddie Kendricks and with Kell Osbourne they formed the Primes and when Otis Williams was looking to bolster his group the Distants. Eddie & Paul were recruited. However things were not to stay good for Paul as he started to take less of a presence as lead singer and then his drinking habits caused the group to bring in Richard Street. This track seems so reflective of the hurt he was going through at the time as he sings about the lost love of his life, a beautiful arrangement and a great song for us to remember his life and contribution to our music, such a pity it never made it onto vinyl.
Freddie North; “Oh Lord, what are you doing to me” (A-Bet 9436)
Yes, another version of the Big Maybelle track, this time from the small Nashville label. Great records always have a certain specialness when covered by a man or a woman and this is a typical one where, no matter who is singing it, it will hold its own resonance. Here Freddie’s strong vocals take this to a high level, you can almost taste the tears etched on his face as he tells of his tale of lost love. Like Big Maybelle’s version the musical arrangement is a sheer joy. Also to be found on his “Cuss the wind” LP
Norman Scott; “Baby don’t go” (Way Out 01)
Off to Cleveland Ohio for this early cut from the label that has offered us so much whether it’s ballads or dancers. A great track with Scott’s delicate vocals being accompanied by a sparce backing track of shimmering cymbals and piano. Also covered in a similar style by the Occasions (Big Jim 3273) on the flip of “There’s no you”.
Jimmy Dotson; “Heartbreak avenue” (Mercury 72801)
Baltimore born Dotson recorded a small but mostly superb number of sides in the mid-late 60s and early 70s. His first “Grapevine’s talking” for the Philly based Nicetown label is nice, as for me, is his “I got to be a loser” getting a release on Volt but it’s this superb cut of “Heartbreak Avenue” that is the one to go for. Opening with a Hammond organ and wha-wha guitar Jimmy comes in with his pleading tale of woe. Dotson opens his heart to us as he reflects upon his lost love, but vows to search on looking for that “special one” and getting over his current heartbreak.
King Davis House Rockers; “We all make mistakes sometimes” (Verve 10492)
A side I’ve championed for years, particularly in the “Jim Wray Lounge” at Soul Essence. First heard on the essential “Deep Soul Discoveries Vol 2” CD compilation, a track I just had to have on vinyl. Lead vocalist Richard Thomas really nails this melodic ballad with atmospheric female backing vocals. Probably known to most readers/listeners to Soul Discovery, but if not, try to grab a listen on You Tube.
Sugar Pie DeSanto “The feeling is too strong” (Soul Clock 106)
Sugar Pie started her recording career in 1955 on Federal before working her way to Checker (via Wax, Gedinsons and Veltone). Sides for Argo, Checker and Cadet followed with two issues on Brunswick before landing at Soul Clock for this one.
A wonderful double sider (see Dancing sides below) A drum roll sets us off before Sugar Pie’s oh so soulful vocals come in as she reflects over her man giving her the big “heave ho”, there seems greater maturity in her voice since her Checker days. But the rasping voice is still there punching its weight into the grooves.
True Movement; “What a lovely way to meet” (Mystic Insight 1101)
Our first true vocal group ballad, and another from Cleveland Ohio and I note one L (Lou?) Ragland on Production credits although Lou is not listed as a member of the group at any time. This is one of those lovely dreamy sweet soul group ballads that you can just close your eyes to and drift away for 3.37 secs.
The 45 label cites a self-titled LP, anyone got a copy?
Oscar Perry; “Come home to me” (Peritone 101874)
Up until this release Perry had mainly released more uptempo sides, not only for this, his own label but the rare Feron northern track “Face reality” and then some cuts for Backbeat. I had some correspondence with him in the early days of Peritone but probably blew it when I gave him my opinion about “My Bionic man” a bland disco side he sent me, his first for Peritone. But he certainly continued the wonderful sides he had cut with Mercury with his following Peritone releases, including this lovely side. A really laid back opus kicking off with yet more subtle wha-wha guitar and Oscar’s gentle almost spoken intro. Then the song builds until he starts moving the vocals up just a notch, then we get some wonderful strings coming in to support the guitar & percussion. Also released on Phil LA of Soul 380.
E G Taylor & the Sounds of Soul; “Pick yourself up” (Val 1025)
From Pittsburgh comes this great slowie. Someone posted the northern side( “You made me mad”) a few weeks ago on a group soul club Facebook page and that lead me to the record room to pull out this side for a spin. Starting off with some guitar picking and organ before Eugine comes in with his fine vocals. A track reflecting how we might feel when our loving relationships die, with the advice that we just have to “pick yourself up”. Great vocals and a great record. Another on You Tube for those not familiar with it.
Lee Moses; “I can’t take no more chances” (Front Page 2301)
Memphis rules yet again with this one being distributed via Stax and definitely recorded/produced there. Horns, guitar and those steady staccato drums lead us into a wonderful side as Lee plans what he needs to do to keep his true love by playing things straight with his lady.
Essence; “Broken promises” (Ronn 70)
Not one known to burn the floor up but with a gentle melody and mid-tempo, it’s a good early doors side that could tempt a few onto the floor.
Serenade; “When love is gone” (Out Front 105)
Now this one really does skip along, from Ferndale, Michigan I seem to recall this being an early 80’s release from Soul Bowl, can anyone confirm? The group’s first outing on the label is a good double-sider with “Maybe this time” a nice Modern soul track partnered by the more boogie-styled “Canteen”. First time buyers of either “beware” for some reason the label says 33 & 1/3 RPM!!
Stanley Williams; “Count the days” (Hotline Music 4500)
Another for the crossover crowd, a similar tempo to Essence above Williams is offering his lady some advice, he’s had enough and it ready to leave her, obviously she doesn’t think he’ll go through with it…but Stanley’s has other ideas. I love the final line towards the run out groove “just watch my footsteps in the snow”!! A 1985 release from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Lee Bates; “Overnight sensation” (Magnolia 300)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Lee Bates, he’s one of those dependable artists who always deliver and this from 1981, is up there with his best for me. Another crossover winner as Lee reflects on his career as a singer, some experiences probably shared by many of our heroes from the soul music world.
William Branch; “Smiling eyes” (Rainbow 202)
Probably know to most reading this from 1987 the tiny label from Birmingham, Alabama is a dancer’s delight, light guitar work permeates William’s great vocals as he tells us all about his lady and her “smiling eyes”.
Tommy Yates & Imperial Show Band: “Darling something’s gotta give” (Verve 10556)
Ok well let’s state this first, we know this to be another of our heroes Tommy Tate masquerading with, for some reason, a subtle change of moniker. But irrespective it’s another great track, again one that isn’t going to attract the 60’s northern crowd as far as the dancefloor is concerned but, the backing is a simple guitar and organ riff with Tommy’s powerful vocals taking us along for almost 3 minutes of musical pleasure.
Donn Thomas: “How can I help but love you” (Myrrh LP 1144)
A couple of gospel album tracks next and first up with have this from Donn Thomas. I seem to recall it receiving a few spins at those venues able to see past the rarity of pricey 45s. Donn’s fine vocals pay homage to his Maker in this great dance track.
Leon Portillo “I’ll never stop loving you” (Myrrh LP 6711)
I tend to play these two tracks next to each other when I’m in the record room. As with Donn’s track above we find Leon in a thankful mood to his God. Some great backing and strings take this floating across your mind and your feet towards the dance floor. Lovely picture of Leon, his wife and youngsters on the rear cover ☺
James Hunter Six: “I don’t wannna be without you” (“Whatever it takes” LP Dap-Tone 051)
I was lucky enough to obtain his first LP “The Hard Way” back in 2008 with the wonderful track “Tell her” and James continues since his move to Dap-Tone to come up with tracks totally suited to our scene. This opener reminds me of the Esther Philips track “Just say goodbye”. Recently pulled from the LP and released as a 45
The title track kicks off just like Robert Tanner’s monster “Tell me your name” and continues to deliver throughout the track. Track 4 “Mm-hmm” drops the tempo slightly but provides us with a wonderful laid back side which I could see gaining spins at the Yarmouth early sessions.
Sharon Jones & Dap-Kings “These tears (no longer for you)
(“Soul of a Woman” Dap-Tone LP 050)
OK certainly not a dancer but a wonderful track to go out on this month. The whole album is a sheer joy with its mixture of styles. If you don’t know any of Sharon’s catalogue I can heartily recommend you seek this one out. Sadly the world lost Sharon in 2016 but she left us a memorable legacy through albums like this one. Try Simply Soul website where you’ll be able to listen to all the tracks.
Until next time!