Reviews

Kim Tolliver: 'Come & Get Me I'm Ready' (Label: Reel Music)

Monday, 19 May 2008 03:13 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Kim Tolliver: 'Come & Get Me I'm Ready'


Nashville-born/Cleveland-raised singer/songwriter Dorothy Kimberley Tolliver is an unsung Southern Soul heroine to many collectors of rare and antique R&B records. Blessed with a powerful and tremendously expressive set of pipes, Tolliver began her recording career in 1967 with a single called 'Get A Little Soul' for the Sureshot label. Failing to see any chart action, Tolliver moved to another small indie, the New York-based Rojac label, where she waxed several sides between 1968 and 1970. With success proving elusive, Tolliver recorded a one-off 45 for Superheavy in the guise of 'Big Ella' in 1971. That too bombed. However, it wasn't all doom and gloom as Tolliver - who had married songwriter/producer Fred Briggs, author of The Dells' 'Strung Out Over You' and Mavis Staples' 'You're Driving Me Into The Arms Of A Stranger' - collaborated with her husband on Margie Joseph's two Volt LPs, 'Margie Joseph Makes A New Impression' and 'Phase II.' After that, the couple then worked together on Tolliver's debut album (which was credited to Kim Briggs) called 'Who's Kimberley' for their own label. In 1973, Tolliver landed at Chess, where she cut 'Come & Get Me I'm Ready,' which sadly, turned out to be her final long player. Now released on CD for the first time - thanks to the new US reissue label, Reel Music - 'Come & Get Me I'm Ready' proves to be a genuine soul masterpiece. Kim Tolliver's vocals, which swoop and soar majestically, are dark and sultry. Her singing possesses the rawness and visceral attack of the blues and yet also displays the subtle expressive nuances that jazz singers customarily employ. In soul terms, it sounds a little like Stax meets Motown. The opening number, the self-penned 'The Other Side Of Town,' with its passages of spoken narrative, is a tour de force of confessional Southern-style balladry. It's a classic 'other woman' cheating song and Tolliver's cathartic performance, while histrionic at times, is grippingly dramatic - so much so that her sense of heartbreak, betrayal and loss is almost palpable. Following this is a superlative interpretation of Clarence Reid's 'She Don't Know You Like I Do.' The title cut is another winner - a mid-tempo tale about misunderstanding and stubbornness that boasts a great chorus and superb string and horn arrangements. 'The Way He Used To' is a slow ballad about loss and nostalgic reminiscence featuring a rich, throaty vocal from Tolliver and an arrangement that builds to a passionate climax. Impressive in a different way is a medley, which combines the cinematic funk of 'I Need You (Come As You Are)' with the Motown-style 'Drop Whatever You're Doing.' By contrast, 'Taking A Woman's Stand' has a pronounced country-soul feel and a big, rousing chorus. Despite its high quality in terms of performance, material and production, sadly 'Come & Get Me I'm Ready' didn't see any chart action and sank without trace soon after its release. It's been championed by soul collectors for many years and now, finally, is granted a new lease of life that with any luck, will result in an army of new admirers. Go and get it while you can…
(CW) 5/5

 

JAMES HUNTER: The Hard Way (Label: Fantasy, Universal)

Sunday, 18 May 2008 14:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

JAMES HUNTER: The Hard Way

James Hunter isn't your typical soul man. Pass him on the streets of his native Colchester and you'd be forgiven if you took him for a bank clerk or a high school teacher - albeit trendy ones. But hear the man sing or see him perform and you'd revise your misplaced first impressions immediately. Hunter, you see, has a remarkable soul voice. It's grittier and a tad rougher than Sam Cooke's but in Hunter's phrasing and laconic delivery you'll hear much to recall soul's true founding father. More, Hunter's wistful guitar playing and his uncluttered song writing will call to mind early period Curtis Mayfield, when the Gentle Genius and his fellow Impressions were laying down one of soul's most enduring templates. With such credentials, it's little wonder that, when available, the Grammy-nominated Hunter is support artist of choice for people like Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Van Morrison. Surprisingly, though his previous album - 'People Gonna Talk - was critically acclaimed as one of 2006's best LPs, Hunter still remains something of a soul secret. With the release of this new set, however, that secret shouldn't stay secretive much longer. Recorded in London's famed Toe Rag Studio with analogue equipment, the music here is for real - no posing or posturing, but simple passion - soul as it was meant to be. The set begins with the busy, light, lilting title tune. Featuring zippy strings and Allen Toussaint on keys, the confection is Sam Cooke for the 21st century. Toussaint features on a couple of other cuts - the bluesy 'Til The End' and the rumba-funk of 'Believe Me Baby'. That one's a real foot-tapper as are the jumpy 'Don't Do Me No Favours' and 'She's Got Away' which calls to mind Ray Charles' rockier moments. Hunter's in more restrained mood on the summery and harmonic 'Tell Her', the almost Caribbean-flavoured 'Carina' and the just-guitar-accompanied 'Strange But True.' That one provides this deceptively simple soul set with a low key, but sweet ending which will make you wonder why Hunter and his music have remained so secret for so long.
(BB) 4/5

 

THE OVATIONS: One In A Million (Label: Kent)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008 10:27 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE OVATIONS: One In A Million

This lovely 21 tracker is Kent's second look at the work of underrated vocal group The Ovations. Where the first set brought together the group's Goldwax recordings, this one assembles the sides they cut for the Sounds Of Memphis and XL between 1972 and 1978 and though the sound is very much of its time, there's still plenty here that has travelled remarkably well. Those who know the Ovations will know that in lead singer Louis Williams they had a gifted and emotive vocalist whose voice bore an uncanny resemblance to the great Sam Cooke's and indeed it's a Sam Cooke medley that gave the group their biggest US hit. Under the umbrella title of 'Having A Party', the track meshes together five Cooke songs and, like the originals, this medley has an undeniable feel-good atmosphere. Other cuts with a real Sam Cooke feel include the ballad 'Take It From One Who Knows' and the gentle 'Touching Me'. Elsewhere, the rolling 'So Nice To Be Loved By You' has a Bobby Womack flavour to it (hardly surprising since Womack was a Cooke acolyte), while the punchy 'Till I Find Some Way' is a hidden 70s gem. With Williams sterlingly supported by Nathan Lewis and Billy Boy Young, the Ovations were clearly not a one man team. The harmonies are superb throughout and apart from the Cooke link, you'll constantly be thinking of outfits like the Manhattans, the Detroit Emeralds and the Trammps. That Trammps connection Is most obvious on 'Don't Say You Love Me' where there's more than a similarity to 'Hold Back The Night' and if you like that tight discofied sound you'll enjoy the collection's title cut too. Indeed there's nothing here that's not to be enjoyed; it's all good, honest group soul and hopefully, together with Kent's first Ovations' collection, the group will at last achieve a wider notoriety.
(BB) 4/5

 

JACKIE JACKSON: Are You With Me (Label: Evejim)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008 05:56 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

JACKIE JACKSON: Are You With Me

Jackie Jackson is a West Coast soulstress who makes a living working the clubs and lounges of Los Angeles and on the strength of this never-less-than interesting 10 tracker her show could be well worth checking out. Recorded on Leon Haywood's Evejim label, 'Are You With Me' is brand new, contemporary soul but with a decidedly old-fashioned twist that gives it a peculiar charm - a charm increased by Ms J's vocal style - not always note perfect, it's what some might call "rustic". I'd prefer to call it rough, raucous and real and you'll hear it to best effect on the LP's big tune, 'You're Not Slick Enough'. This one's a classic cheating song that will recall the best of Shirley Brown, Laura Lee and even Millie Jackson. It's a mix of killer melody and monologue and it's good to know that honest music like this is still being made. That song's an original, as is the album's title cut which is big on the flavours of Hi and Memphis - hardly surprising since it features Teenie Hodges. For the rest of the album Jackie relies heavily on covers including a pair of Ike and Tina Turner songs - 'Fool In Love' and 'I'm Blue'. Admittedly she doesn't cut it on a version of Eddie Floyd's 'I Ain't Never Found A Man' but there's a remarkable take on Barbara Lynn's 'If You Should Lose Me' and a good reading of the label boss's 'It's Got To Be Mellow'. Haywood features on organ throughout and other featured musicians include James Gadson, Michael Wycoff, Melvin Dunlap with Peggi Blu and Brenda Eager on back up vocals.
(BB) 3/5

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Blame It On The Dogg: The Swamp Dogg Anthology 1968-1978 (Label: Kent)

Monday, 12 May 2008 11:52 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Blame It On The Dogg:  The Swamp Dogg Anthology 1968-1978

To describe Jerry 'Swamp Dogg' Williams as one of soul music's true mavericks is something of an understatement - in a career that stretches back to the 1950s when he modelled himself on rock and roll shouter, Little Richard, and was known as Little Jerry, Jerry Williams has penned and produced pop and country hits as well as R&B smashes; he's also tried his hand at opera (a blues version), supplied music for TV and radio commercials and got nominated for several Grammy awards. According to the man's website, his achievements also include being Atlantic's first African-American in-house producer - in that role, he helmed the Commodores' first record and persuaded Lionel Richie to drop the saxophone and sing - and producing the first ever 12-inch single back in 1971, several years before it became an accepted format. This new 24-track compilation showcases music Swamp Dogg produced for the Atlantic, Musicor, Mankind, Stone Dogg and Fungus labels in a fertile ten-year period. The variety of Swamp Dogg's work here is astonishing, ranging from Gene Pitney's 'She's A Heartbreaker' and Gary US Bonds' throat-shredding stomper, 'I'm Glad You're Back,' to C & The Shells' cult soul side 'On Your Way Home' and The Drifters' 'Your Best Friend.' Also featured are rare sides by Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles, Arthur Conley, Ruth Brown, Eleanor Grant, Slick 'N' The Family Brick, Inez & Charlie Foxx, Tommy Hunt, Kenny Carter, ZZ Hill, Helen Curry, Little Charles & The Sidewinders, and the oddly-named, Wolfmoon (aka Tyrone Thomas). Fittingly, there are five sides by Williams himself - 'Shipwrecked,' 'Your Man,' 'Straight From My Heart,' 'Run Run Roadrunner,' and 'Don't Throw Your Love To The Wind.' A sterling vintage soul collection.
(CW) 4/5

 

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