JEANETTE JONES: Dreams All Come True (Playback)

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 16:03 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altJeanette Jones is one of soul's great enigmas. She's revered by a coterie of deep soul buffs even though little is known about her (no one's even sure if she's still alive). Equally she was never prolific as a recording artist. There are maybe a dozen tracks credited directly to her though she also fronted several gospel ensembles who made records... and right away that word "gospel" should tell you why those who've heard her revere her. Yes when it came to church-reared, committed testifying Ms Jones had it all.

Anyway, here's what we know about her. Young Jeanette Jones, it seems, was "discovered" by Leo Kulka- owner of San Francisco's Golden State Recorders. She was the lead voice in the 60 strong Voices Of Victory gospel choir and in 1965 the choir hired Kulka's studio to make some recordings to sell at their concerts and services. Kulka was immediately impressed by Ms Jones and he tried to get her signature on a solo contract. At first she refused; she wanted nothing to do with the devil's music but in 1967 encouraged by Jay Barrett (later her manager), she put pen to paper. Recording mainly Barrett-penned songs, Jeanette believed a successful career beckoned but Kulka wasn't too impressed with the results and failed to place the recordings with any established labels.

Ever-persistent Mr K then had Jeanette put vocals over pre-recorded backing tracks – one from H B Barnum. no less. But still success remained elusive. Then the singer was set to work with singer/songwriter Wally Cox and two cuts were issued as a single on Golden State, even though Kulka lacked a distributor. Eventually Kent/Modern showed a little interest – but the interest bore no fruit.

Through all this Jeanette Jones was still fronting the Voices Of Victory who were to cut more sides at Golden State but as that ensemble lost momentum, it seems that Jeanette quit to join Mike Bloomfield's Mill Valley Bunch project before voicing an ad campaign for (oddly) Swiss Colony Wine! Then nothing... even with the wonders of the internet soul detectives have failed to uncover much more.

What we do have are the Golden State Recordings and over the years Ace/Kent, who own the rights, have issued odd Jeanette Jones tracks on various compilations while more recently they issued a vinyl LP of the lady's 12 solo songs. Now Australian label, Playback, treat us (on CD) to what they believe is the whole of her catalogue. That's to say, the 12 solo songs, the six she fronted with the Voices of Victory and a couple she cut with the Mill valley Bunch.

Outstanding track is the deep soul classic 'What have You Got To Gain By Losing Me'. The Gerry Goffin/Barry Goldberg song is a perfect vehicle for Jeanette Jones' gospel-reared, true soul voice. Wally Cox's 'The Thought Of You' offers more of the same passion and pathos but in truth, dip in anywhere here and hear a remarkable voice ... a voice that so impressed Leo Kulka so much back in 1965. What a pity he lacked the resources and contacts to do really big things with it!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 June 2017 16:11


TY CAUSEY: Tyangles (Tyvonn Records)

Friday, 23 June 2017 13:43 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSoul folk in the know, know all about Ty Causey. Without huge hype the Indie soul producer/singer/songwriter/performer has steadily built up a coterie of fans since he debuted in the late 90s working with Najee.

His own debut solo set was 2004's 'N-tysing' and since then his releases have continued to impress discerning soul fans who appreciate proper songs, sung in the old fashioned way but with a hint of the contemporary about them.... maybe a bit Maxwell-ish, though with a musical menu that's a whole lot more accessible. A classy, classic soul man would be a good definition of Mr C though he prefers his nickname "Mr. Consistent".

Over the last couple of months we've been treated to a flow of singles from the man's album, 'Tyangles' and now the long player is officially available this side of the pond. Those singles 'Rock With Me' and 'Ya Something Kind Of Wonderful' are still standouts but there are plenty more cuts here that are just as polished, smooth and sophisticated. 'Won't You Be My Lady' has the same easy-going vibe as the early singles while 'Be A Man About It' veers more towards the smooth jazz arena – sax courtesy of the wonderful named matt Cashdollar. He's there too on the bumpier 'Let Me Ride'. However, maybe the best cut to sum up the art of Ty Causey is the lovely 'Hot Tonight Medley' – not too sure about what it's a medley of (don't have the benefit of sleeve notes) but it sums up perfectly the attraction of modern soul in general and Ty Causey in particular.

By the way, this European release comes with the bonus of a special extended UK mix of 'Rock With Me' -perfect for the modern soul room.... but you could say that about the whole album!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 23 June 2017 13:47


VARIOUS; Nothing But A House Party (Kent)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 15:01 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altEven the most casual of soul fans know about the importance of Philadelphia in the evolution of the genre. However, most of 'em will only know about Philly's golden age.... the period of Philadelphia International's dominance. But proper soul fans know that the City Of Brotherly Love has a soul history that predates the imperial reign of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. To satisfy those discerning fans and to bring others up to speed Ace/Kent have just released this splendid 24 tracker that surveys the Philly soul scene just prior to the establishment of Philadelphia International. The music here spans the years 1967-71 and most of it was recorded in what was to become Philly's most important studio – Joe Tarisa's Sigma Sound.

The compilers know that over just 24 tracks it's impossible to offer a full portrait of early Philly soul; that said, they have included plenty of key cuts. Amongst them is 'Every Day Is A Holiday' from the Intruders. That group (as all Philly connoisseurs know) were favourites of Gamble and Huff and the duo took them wherever their corporate musical journeys took them. Recorded in 1969, 'Every Day Is A Holiday' was the B side to 'Old Love' and it's a perfect definition of the early Philly soul sound.

Sticking with Gamble and Huff, this collection also includes examples of their outside production work, when big labels used the duo to sprinkle some magic soul dust on their artists. Examples here include Jerry Butler's magnificent 'Never Give You Up' and Archie Bell and the Drells' still evocative 'My Balloon's Going Up'.

Other Philly legends who contribute include Thom Bell, Jimmy Bishop, Alan Felder, Jesse James, Bobby Martin, Norman Harris and the underrated Len Barry. Blue-eyed soulster, Barry is best remembered for his hit '1-2-3' but his career goes back to the fifties when he performed with the Dovells before his solo success. Barry was also a key backroom boy, writing and producing all over Philly but he's featured here as a singer with his version of Archie Bell's 'Girl You're Too Young'.

Amongst the other featured artists are Cliff Nobles (with 'Love Is All Right' –the vocal version of 'The Horse') , Honey and the Bees, Lou Jacksons, Freddie Scott, Winfield Parker, Barbara Mason and the Showstoppers whose 'Ain't Nothing But A House Party' gives this excellent album its title.

(BB) 4/5


GWEN McCRAE: 'Lay It On Me - The Columbia Years' (P&C/Reel Music)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 14:54 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                       altGospel-reared Florida soul singer Gwen McCrae scored her biggest US hits for Henry Allen's Miami-based Cat label (a subsidiary imprint of TK) between 1973 and '76, the biggest of which was 'Rockin'' Chair' in 1975. McCrae's recording career began in 1970 at major label Columbia where she just failed to crack the American R&B Top 3 with 'Lead Me On,' a simmering slice of sultry southern soul. Four more Columbia 45s followed during the next two years but failed to crack the charts, resulting in the singer and the record company parting ways. A few years ago, soul indie Reel Music combined all of McCrae's Columbia sides (which comprised eleven tracks in all) into an album called 'Lay It On Me,' which after being deleted, has now been reissued.  

'Lay It On Me' contains some of Gwen McCrae's most potent work. She recorded all the tracks in Memphis in the company of the celebrated Memphis Boys session group with Steve Alaimo in charge of production. 'Ain't Nothing You Can Do' is a great opener to this collection but flopped as a single. It's hard to see why. The song's strong, the arrangement is top notch (reminiscent of Elvis's 'Suspicious Minds,' that the Memphis Boys also played on) and Gwen McCrae's performance is magnetic. The Elvis connection is even more tangible on McCrae's soulful version of  his 1972 hit, 'You Were Always On Mind' (co-penned by Mark James, who wrote 'Suspicious Minds').  'Goin' Down The Road' is a delightfully slice of rolling country-soul while 'Leave The Driving To Us' is a pro-feminist anthem with funk undertones that recalls Aretha Franklin's finest Atlantic work. 'Been So Long' with its thumping back beat and declamatory vocal is similarly strident. More mellow is the hypnotic 'I'm Losing The Feeling,' boasting soft horns, bluesy guitar licks and a subtle but steady funk undertow. Ballad-wise, there's some good stuff here too - the piano-led slow jam, 'He's Not You,' is tenderly romantic and augmented with orchestral strings. Much overlooked, Gwen McCrae's short stint at Columbia yielded some great music that deserves wider exposure - with any luck, this superlative reissue will help spread the word. Get it while you can. 

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 June 2017 20:30


JAMES DAY: Songs, Soul And Spirit (Song King Records)

Friday, 09 June 2017 19:36 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altJames Day is the modern soul connoisseurs' soul man of choice. The super songwriter and uber producer is well known to the savvy soul crowd and despite a serious listening disorder, James has won numerous awards - most notably the Songwriter's Hall of Fame Award for Songwriting Excellence which was presented by Hal David... someone who knew a good tune when he heard it! Day makes no secret of the fact that songwriting craftsmen like Bacharach and David are his particular musical heroes. They have taught him what a proper song should be; equally he reveres the art of Quincy Jones – a producer who knows how to get the very best out of the material in front on him – be it through a particular arrangement, a quirky nuance or, simply, matching the song with the right singers and musicians.

Indeed that special matching of material to artist has been James' forte on his past albums and on this new 10 tracker he shows that he's a master of that particular skill. Helping him deliver on 'Song, Soul And Spirited' are people like Glenn Jones, Tony Terry, Tim Owens, U-Nam, Sandra St Victor, Lin Rountree, Maysa and Lalah Hathaway... all handpicked (or so it seems) to offer something very particular.

The lead single from the long player was the quite lovely 'Speak Love' – a cool and sophisticated groove that dominated the soul airwaves on release. That one featured many of Day's team and his fans recognized the song right away. It originally appeared on his 2009 album 'Natural Things'. Here, though, it's given a makeover and comes on like a whole new tune. And why not recycle excellence? The aforementioned Burt B was big on re-imagining his work and what's good for Burt is sure good enough for Jimmy!

'Speak Love' is one of four songs that have appeared before. The others are the ethereal 'Dreamland' with Lalah Hathaway up front; 'It's All Divine' here in a classic Boogie Back remix that totally respects the Trina Broussard vocal; and the Maysa-vocalised 'We Dance' that is showcased in a typical Cool Million mix.

Elsewhere one of the cleverest songs is the Gordon Chambers' collaboration, 'Forgiveness' while the sweetest ballads are 'Stand On My Shoulders' (lovely sax work from Walter Beasley) and Tony Terry's 'Who Can Tell The Heart'. Then there are the big, big productions like 'Battlegrounds', 'No Son Of Mine' and 'Love Is My Bible' –all totally different to each other and much more complex than the simpler fuel for the feet of, say, 'It's All Divine', but they combine to show the range of James Day's art and his dedication to the craft of making proper grown up music in the tradition of the maestros who've gone before.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 10 June 2017 08:08


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