VARIOUS: Can't Be Satisfied (Label: Kent)

Saturday, 01 December 2007 10:33 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Can't Be Satisfied

Ace/Kent's latest slab of Southern soul archiving is this wonderful 22 track look at the work of Memphis hustler Gene Lucchesi who, like many of his business neighbours, marvelled at the success of the legendary Sam Philips. The logic was , if Sam could do it, why couldn't Gene… so he started up his own little label - XL, and, like the Sun man, he recorded mainly local acts in the hope that one of them might break out. He hit pay dirt in 1965 with the novelty pop of Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs' 'Wooly Bully' and with the profits he built the Sounds Of Memphis Studio and launched a second label, using the studio's name. Further success was elusive but the quality of the two labels' soul output is unquestionable …as evidenced by this selection. Sound-wise, most of the music is as you'd expect - steamy and "southern" - soul with a nod to the blues and country. Spencer Wiggins' 'I Can't Be Satisfied' (the album's overall title) is arguably XL/Sounds of Memphis' signature sound. Amongst the selection though there are some cuts that don't comply strictly with the southern template. The two George Jackson tunes ('Talking About The Love I Have For You' and 'Walking The City Streets'), for instance are comparatively light while Lou Roberts' 'Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Love' and the Minits' 'Still A Part Of Me' are almost uptown. They're all good cuts, but if its southern soul you want, then it's here in abundance and if you doubt the quality, then know that Lucchesi's house band were eventually poached by Jerry Wexler who eventually dubbed them the Dixie Flyers.
(BB) 4/5


VARIOUS: Larry Banks' Family Album (Label: Kent)

Saturday, 01 December 2007 10:31 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Larry Banks' Family Album

Soul researchers will know all about Larry Banks. The Korean War veteran was a major player on the U.S. East coast 60's soul scene - recording, writing and producing for a number of labels - but it wasn't until he struck up a friendship with the UK soul journalist Dave Godin that his work became known over here. Godin had contacted Banks because of the usurpation of the Banks' penned song 'Go Now' by Brummie beat group, the Moody Blues. Dave, rightly, believed that the original by Larry's wife, Bessie, was far, far superior and, through Godin's advocacy for the original, the pair became friends. Dave long harboured a wish to issue a compilation of songs that Larry had been associated with, but his untimely death put the project on hold. For the last couple of years Kent's Ady Croasdell worked on the case and this esoteric 24 tracker is the result. The album offers a cross section of soul styles, ranging from the deep passion of Jaibi's 'What Good Am I' through to the Northern froth of the Devonnes' 'Doin' The Gittin' Up' (more than a hint of the Esquires' 'Get On Up' on that one). Other featured artists include Larry himself, the Hesitations, the Dynamics, and Kenny Carter whose 'You'd Better Get Hip Girl' ' is one of the album's highlights. Good though it is, it comes nowhere near Bessie Banks' monumental 'Go Now' which rightly kicks off proceedings. Now well over 40 years old, it still stirs my emotions and, I hope, yours.
(BB) 4/5


LULU: The Atco Sessions 1969-72 (Label: Rhino)

Saturday, 24 November 2007 08:31 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

LULU: The Atco Sessions 1969-72

Joss Stone wasn't the first teenaged white girl to try her hand at singing American R&B. Back in 1964 a wee 15-year-old Scottish lass blessed with a huge voice made a sensational impact on the UK charts with a high-octane revamp of the Isley Brothers' gospel-soaked stomper, 'Shout.' Her real name was Marie Lawson, though the public knows her as Lulu, of course. After four smashes for Decca, Lulu signed to Columbia in 1967. Although the hits continued, in the liner notes to this new anthology the diminutive singer says she was frustrated by the bubblegum material served up by her then producer Mickey Most. So when her contract with Columbia came up for renewal in 1969, it was no surprise to music biz insiders, perhaps, that Lulu jumped ship to the Atlantic subsidiary, Atco. There, she teamed up with the label's premier production team comprising Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd, and recorded her first sessions at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Creatively, it seemed the right move for the chanteuse - for the first time in her career she had a say about the songs she recorded - but commercially, her three-year tenure with the company only yielded a solitary UK chart entry, 1970's 'Oh Me Oh My (I'm A Fool For You Baby).' Long overlooked, Lulu's two Atco albums ('New Routes' and 'Melody Fair,' both released in 1970) are reissued for the first time in a delightful 2-CD package that includes a host of previously unissued cuts and rare non-album 45s. As its title implies, 'New Routes' showcased Lulu moving in a different musical direction - and one that probably perplexed the majority of UK pop pickers expecting something along the lines of 'Boom Bang-A-Bang.' The album represents a credible attempt by the Glasgow singer at gut bucket Southern Soul - its sense of authenticity is aided by sterling ensemble work by a Muscle Shoals session band comprising stalwarts Jimmy Johnson, Barry Beckett, David Hood and Roger Hawkins. The fact that the band is augmented by guitar luminaries Duane Allman, Eddie Hinton and Cornell Dupree, highlights Atco's commitment to the project. Hinton, in fact, contributes a couple of numbers - 'People In Love,' and 'Where's Eddie.' Overall, 'New Routes' is a solid set graced with soulful vocals from Lulu, who really shines on the funky 'Feelin' Alright.' A few months later, Lulu recorded her second Atco LP, 'Melody Fair.' It was cut in Miami in tandem with the Dixie Flyers and Memphis Horns - and to underline the quality of the album's contributors, the Sweet Inspirations supply backing vocals. It's probably the stronger of her Atco sets and arguably a tad more adventurous than its predecessor. Highlights include the excellent 45, 'After The Feeling Is Gone,' and a compelling gospel version of Leiber & Stoller's 'Saved.' The second CD in this package is stuffed with outtakes, many of them available for the first time. Although Lulu is patently no Dusty, there's no doubt from listening to this 39-track collection that she is one of the most soulful singers the UK has produced. Well-worth tracking down.
(CW) 4/5


KEYSHIA COLE: Just Like You (Label: Confidential, Geffen)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007 14:07 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF


California's Keyshia Cole debuted in 2005 with the 'Way It Is' and that album's mix of street R&B tempered with some genuine old school soul immediately drew comparisons with the incomparable Mary J Blige. The fact's not lost on the lady's label who are dubbing her 'the Princess of Hip hop soul' and though there's many a mile to go before she ascends to a higher status, the evidence here proves that she does deserve her place in that soul/hip hop/R&B hierarchy. 'Just Like You' is a lengthy 17 tracker and its opening sequence will have real soul boys wondering why they bothered. 'Let It Go' (the first single) is a big, brash, R&B thumper with a hint of Mtume's 'Juicy Fruit' to salvage it. 'Give It To Me' has no such redeeming feature - being more of vehicle for Sean Paul than Keyshia while 'Didn't I Tell You' is one of those skittering R&B efforts that irritate. Then, things pick up with some pleasing pop-soul ballads like 'Fallin' Out', 'Give Me More' and 'I'll Remember' which features some delightful live strings. Strings are also prominent on 'Got To Get My Heart Back' which samples the O'Jays' 'She's Only A Woman'. Good though it is, it's outdone as standout by 'Losing You' - a searing duet with Anthony Hamilton. This one starts with a doctored sample from Natalie Cole's 'Sorry' before developing into one of the year's sweetest cuts on which Ms. Cole (K, that is) justifies the 'soul' tag in her billing. Hamilton's contribution adds more real soul edge, while the China White/ Ron Fair production maintains the tension. Take away some of this album's blatant R&B (like the Diddy collaboration that is 'Last Night') and you really would have a decent soul album, but I guess the lady's management team know where the potential big bucks are. So, for every soul nugget, you'll need to get past a few thumpers… C'est la vie.
(BB) 3/5


K JOHNSON: Anticipation (Label: tBMB Records)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007 14:06 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

K JOHNSON: Anticipation

K (Kareem) Johnson is the latest soul contender to emerge from Atlanta and his production people - the wonderfully named "the Big Monkey Boys" - have high hopes for him. However my initial response to the album was one of disappointment. The opener is a gratuitous heavy-breather while the second track is a pedestrian R&B thumper with a hint of gangtsa rap. About to reach for eject, my attention was caught the complexities of track 3 - a layered ballad called 'Anticipation' over which Mr. Johnson's voice floated in a Maxwell-ish kind of way. The Maxwell connection was heightened by the double kick beat while the ballad, 'Rated R' had more of that 'Urban Hang Suite' about it. Indeed the use of a cut called 'Slowly' as a prelude and an outro jam called to mind the way Maxwell topped and tailed that magical debut set. Johnson's work though is nowhere near as totally satisfying as 'Urban Hang Suite' was. There's too may nondescript and formulaic cuts (like the bumpy 'IOT') to make it stand clear of the pack, though 'Oh Lady' might appeal to those who dig second division Prince, while the vocal take on 'Slowly' has a real, simple, old school soul charm.
(BB) 3/5


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