Reviews

MARVIN GAYE: 'Here, My Dear' EXPANDED EDITION (Label: Hip-O Select)

Friday, 25 January 2008 11:04 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

MARVIN GAYE: 'Here, My Dear' EXPANDED EDITION

Out of the ugliness of Marvin Gaye's acrimonious divorce from Anna Gordy in 1977 something beautiful emerged: 'Here, My Dear,' a warts 'n' all autobiographical album that graphically chronicled his failed marriage to Berry Gordy's sister, a woman 17 years his senior. Given that Gaye wasn't going to profit financially from the album - he had agreed with the authorities to hand over the proceeds to his ex-wife to settle spiralling divorce costs - he surprisingly poured his heart and soul into the project to create an inspired, frank, confessional that grew into a sprawling, epic, double album. Ironically, Marvin's musical efforts largely fell on deaf ears and the album, despite being attired in an eye-catching cover designed by Michael Bryan, sold poorly in comparison with the singer's previous long players (it didn't even spawn a hit single). Its ignominious commercial failure aside, over the years this over-looked and under-appreciated suite of songs has grown in stature with fans and critics alike and is now regarded as one of the keystones in the Marvin Gaye canon. This expanded 2-CD edition features a remastered version of the original LP on the first disc and a clutch of new mixes on the second one. Now sounding fresher than ever, it's easy to see - and hear - why 'Here, My Dear' continues to captivate soul fans. Marvin's multi-layered vocal performances are among his best ever and both the songs and arrangements are top drawer. The key track is the plaintive 'When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You,' which is heard in three different incarnations during the course of the album, each appearance denoting a new significance as Marvin's disintegrating relationship with his spouse unravels. 'Here, My Dear' for all its thematic negativity isn't wholly dominated by romantic angst. There are dark moments, certainly - like 'Anger,' wrapped in a spiky, insidious, funked-up groove; 'Is That Enough,' a mesmeric track brimming with irony and cynicism; and the brutal, businesslike, sexual politics that infuse 'You Can Leave But It's Going To Cost You.' But thankfully, the darkness is leavened with light - there are refulgent shafts of sunshine that punctuate the dark clouds of divorce, exemplified by 'I Met A Little Girl,' which is a sweet, doo-wop-infused ballad reflecting Gaye's early infatuation with Anna Gordy. And who can forget 'A Funky Space Reincarnation,' the dirtiest, slice of low down sex-funk that Gaye ever recorded? Then there's the euphoric penultimate track, 'Falling In Love Again,' where the promise of a new love affair (with teenager Janis Hunter) gives Gaye a sense of optimism and acts as a balm to heal old wounds. The new mixes on disc two might seem redundant to some, but in actual fact they shine a light on Gaye's creative processes, bringing into the foreground musical elements that were buried in the original mixes or even left out altogether (to his credit, reissue producer, Harry Weinger, didn't allow the remixers to resort to overdubs, samples and contemporary studio trickery). Those allowed to tweak the multi-track tapes in a decidedly old-school fashion include Bootsy Collins, Leon Ware, Marcus Miller, Prince Paul, DJ Smash, Salaam Remi and James Poyser, and the results are largely fascinating. Thirty years ago, 'Here My Dear' was met with critical and commercial indifference - today, though, the album is heralded by some commentators (including liner note writer, David Ritz) as a masterpiece. Rightly so, to my mind - and if this album, by any chance, has passed you by, there's no better time to get acquainted with it.
(CW) 5/5

 

RAHEEM DeVAUGHN: Love Behind The Melody (Label: Jive)

Friday, 25 January 2008 09:52 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

RAHEEM DeVAUGHN: Love Behind The Melody

DeVaughn's debut album, 'The Love Experience,' announced the arrival of an interesting soul talent. Now with the follow up, 'Love Behind The Melody', to that "interesting" we can add "major". This new set, you see, is a cleverly thought-out affair on which producers like Mark Batson, Scott Storch, Kenny Dope and Kwame have crafted cuts that not only bring out the best in Raheem's emotive voice but which have appeal right across the back music spectrum. Truly there's something for everyone here - a fact best illustrated by the lead single, 'Woman'. Rightly Grammy-nominated, it's ultra-catchy … but more - its tight beats will satisfy the modern room dancers while its broody feel will surely appeal to the R&B brigade too. Elsewhere thing are more defined and less hybrid but there's still enough to satisfy all kinds of congregations. 'Energy' - with sinister bass runs that call to mind Gnarls Barclay's 'Crazy' - offers an R&B dance groove, underlined by the inclusion of Big Boi's rap while the stuttery 'Customer' will please those who dig the R. Kelly approach. Neo-soul is represented by cuts like 'Butterflies' and the Amp Fiddler-ish 'Try Again' and if you like slinky balladry there's plenty on offer. Catchy pop-soul? Well grab a listen to 'Friday (Shut The Club)'. Sampling the Temptations' 'My Girl', I immediately dismissed it as lightweight gimmickry. But, several listens later, its appeal had grown - if the label need a chart hit, this is the one. Away from the gimmickry, Raheem shows he can "do real soul" on 'Mo Better' and 'Four Letter Word'. The former is a long, 7-minute ramble with a real maturity; the latter is great old skool ballad. If that's not enough the LP boasts a tremendous Kenny Dope-produced central section. It begins with a spoken word piece from Malik Yusef and finishes with a Floetry collaboration called 'Marathon'. In between the multi-layered harmonies, the intricate rhythms and vocal whoops of 'Desire' and 'Midnight' will, believe me, remind you of Mr. Gaye and though it's not credited, 'Flying High In The Friendly Sky' is the clear inspiration. Like I said up top, Raheem DeVaughn is now much, much more than interesting …worthy of serious investigation this.
(BB) 4/5

 

JOHNNY ADAMS: 'Heart & Soul' (Label: Vampisoul)

Friday, 25 January 2008 07:43 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

JOHNNY ADAMS: 'Heart & Soul'

Big Easy-born soul singer, Johnny Adams, possessed a magnificent set of pipes - his athletic, gospel-reared voice was rich, resonant and wonderfully expressive - but fate, combining with the perplexing vagaries of the music business, conspired to prevent him from becoming a household name. Adams scored his first Billboard US chart entry for the New Orleans indie RIC as far back as 1962 with the Top 30 R&B smash, 'A Losing Battle' but another six years passed before Adams was able to make another successful foray into the higher reaches of the R&B lists. By then he was signed to entrepreneur Shelby Singleton's SSS International label based in Nashville. It was while he was with SSS that he scored his biggest smash, 'Reconsider Me,' which broke into the R&B Top 10 in the summer of '69. That fabulous country-infused ballad with its pleading refrain appeared on Adams' solitary LP for the company, 'Heart & Soul,' which now gets a welcome reissue courtesy of the Madrid-based label, Vampisoul. As well as the original 11-track album from 1969, six bonus tracks from the same timeframe have been added, making this a rewarding package for soul connoisseurs. The album kicks off with a magnificent opener, 'Georgia Morning Dew,' which marries soul with a distinctive country feel (not surprising given SSS's Nashville connection). Adams also delivers a brilliant soul-infused performance of the old country hit, 'Release Me,' which was an R&B chart-topper for Esther Phillips in 1962 and also a big pop smash for kitsch lounge crooner Engelbert Humperdinck in the UK. As well as striking ballads, there are some strong uptempo numbers on the album - like the funky 'You Made A New Man Out Of Me,' originally a non-album flipside, and the propulsive groover, 'South Side Of Soul Street.' Sadly, Johnny Adams - who resurfaced as a blues singer in the '80s and '90s - died from cancer in 1998 aged 66, thereby depriving the world of one of soul music's most compelling and passionate male voices. For those who are unfamiliar with the man dubbed 'the Tan Canary,' this compilation provides an essential introduction.
(CW) 4/5

 

VAN MORRISON: Reissues (Label: Polydor)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008 05:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

VAN MORRISON: Reissues

Given the treatment that has been meted out to Van Morrison at the hands of the mainstream rock press over the years - he's been praised and vilified in equal measure - it's no wonder he's a reluctant interviewee and acutely suspicious of the media. After all, perhaps it's right he should feel hard done by, especially if he's been unfairly painted as some kind of eccentric, charmless, Victor Meldrew figure by people that he's never met or who don't actually know him as a person. The trouble is, so much has been written about Van Morrison's life and music by obsessive journalists trying to make a name for themselves that it's sometimes hard for us mere mortals to see past the myth-making hyperbole and see the real man. However, it's much easier to glimpse the real Van Morrison than you might think - just listen to his music and then you'll be able to sense someone who's committed to his art and fiercely passionate in the way he expresses himself. For these reasons, I believe Morrison is a bona fide soul singer - and perhaps the best 'blue-eyed' exponent of the genre, too. Certainly, in terms of his declamatory vocal style, it's possible to detect traces of Ray Charles, Solomon Burke and James Brown in there. Where Morrison's true genius lies, though, is the way he absorbs and filters those black music influences through his own personality and experiences to produce a unique style that has been captivating audiences since the mid-'60s when he rose to fame fronting the group, Them. The past forty years, this Belfast-born troubadour-turned-mystic has carved out a unique niche in popular music with what some observers have called 'Celtic Soul' - a seamless blend of soul, rhythm and blues, pop, country, jazz and folk. Novices seeking a career-spanning introduction to the man's music should seek out the recent Best Of compilation, 'Still On Top,' as it functions as an excellent entrée. However, those who wish to delve deeper should seriously investigate a new batch of remastered titles on Polydor. Almost all of Morrison's back catalogue titles - except his early Warner LPs, including the seminal 'Astral Weeks' and 'Moondance' - are due for reissue during the next year. Just out are seven titles - with 22 to follow - all remastered and expanded. The oldest is 'Tupelo Honey,' originally released on Mercury in 1971. Representative of his 'Caledonia Soul' period, to my mind it's one of Van Morrrison's best works, almost up there with his perceived magnum opus 'Astral Weeks.' It's immensely varied, yet cohesive too. Mood-wise, the material ranges from upbeat numbers like 'Wild Night' - an energetic dance floor stomper driven by Stax-style horns - and the equally pulsating, passionate '(Straight To Your Heart) Like A Cannonball' to the beautifully tender love song, 'You're My Woman,' and the glorious title track (recently covered by jazz singer, Cassandra Wilson). There are two bonus tracks - an alternate version of 'Wild Night' and a live rendition of 'Down By The Riverside.' Some of Morrison's best-known numbers appear on the 1974 live double album, 'It's Too Late To Stop Now,' where the singer is accompanied by the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. The set include versions of his classic 'Brown Eyed Girl' (previously unissued) and 'Into The Mystic' plus lusty renditions of Them's 'Gloria' and 'Here Comes The Night.' It provides a vivid snapshot of Morrison's exciting live shows in the mid-'70s. Next up is 1978's 'Wavelength,' a strong album whose chief highlight is 'Kingdom Hall' (a live rendering of the song is one of two bonus cuts). A year later, Morrison unleashed 'Into The Music,' which is also expanded by two alternate takes. The key track here is 'And The Healing Has Begun.' 1984's 'A Sense Of Wonder' features the brilliant 'Crazy Jane On God' while 1989's impressive opus, 'Avalon Sunset,' features the UK smash, 'Whenever God Shines His Light,' an infectious duet with Cliff Richard and a wistful, quasi-poetic reminiscence called 'Coney Island.' The best cut, though, is the pensive romantic ballad, 'Have I Told You Lately That I Love You.' The final album in this first batch of reissues is 1999's 'Back On Top,' another terrific set that is distinguished by the incantatory 'Philosopher's Stone' and poignant string-steeped ballad, 'When The Leaves Come Falling Down.' Seven superb reissues then to choose from here - but for neophytes seeking an entrance into the huge and sometimes daunting Morrison canon, 'Tupelo Honey' is as good a starting place as any. Life-enriching music and then some…
(CW) 4/5

 

CHERI MAREE: Pure Voice (Label: Celebrity Music Group)

Monday, 21 January 2008 15:01 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

CHERI MAREE: Pure Voice

I know nothing at all about Cheri Maree save that, vocally she really does live up to the title of this album. The lady, you see, really does have a great set of pipes that betray a possible gospel apprenticeship and maybe some jazz influences. That jazz feeling is most apparent on the almost scatty opener 'Hold Me Up', but the lady shows her versatility with the purest soul delivery on the following cut 'I Love…' Yes, lyrically, we're not treading new ground - but the song's simple sentiment is perfectly matched to Cheri's sincere, low-key delivery. The LP's best cut Is 'Talk To Me' - a ballad on which she fuses the jazz and soul, while there's more of the same on 'September' though I could have done without the rap interlude … maybe the lady's people are looking to get something out of the R&B brigade with it. 'Because Of You' is another good tune that might appeal to modern room dancers - the more sedate ones that is… and like all half decent soul music it's difficult to say what exactly brings the appeal - but it's certainly there. The big problem with this album is that it's one of those cheap-looking, low budget indie affairs that are so often dismissed or just overlooked. However, with a voice like this you shouldn't really need big budgets and glossy superficials to make inroads. A diligent internet search will allow you to at least grab a listen and make up your own minds.
(BB) 3/5

 

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