VARIOUS: Zell's Girls (Label: Ace)

Friday, 19 October 2007 08:04 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Zell's Girls

Zelma 'Zell' Sanders was a Harlem/Bronx-based music entrepreneur who through the fifties and sixties ran a number of labels - notably J&S, Zells and Dice. She began in the business way back in 1955 when she managed The Hearts who recorded for the Baton label. Interestingly the Hearts featured the talents of Baby Washington and the skills of Rex Garvin as chief accompanist; a couple of their vintage sides are featured here. But the bulk of the 28 cuts come from Sanders' own labels and as the title suggests the artists are the various girl groups and odd solo chanteuses that Zell seemed to favour. Most famous of the groups is the Jaynetts - best remembered for their 'Sally Go Round The Roses'. That particular song isn't here - it was licensed to Abner Spector's Tuff label, but they do get a generous half a dozen cuts . Musically, it's the classic NY girl group sound that just predates the soul era and though none of the songs are truly special (Zelma wrote most if them for the royalties) there's no denying they have a certain innocent charm. Try the Jaynetts' 'Peepin' In And Out The Windows' and Taffie Lee's early Motown-esque 'Stay Away From My Baby' to get the feeling. The CD's notes come courtesy of girl group expert Mick Patrick and he fills in all the relevant details and even manages to make some sense of the tortuous comings and goings within the groups' ranks. A typical Ace issue this - one with real appeal to collectors.
(BB) 3/5


VARIOUS: Wants List 3 (Label: Soul Brother)

Friday, 19 October 2007 08:03 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Wants List 3

As the titling indicates, this is the third Soul Brother Wants List compilation and the brothers behind the label claim it's the best to date - happily I have to agree. Here you get a very generous 17 rare groove 70s cuts from right across the soul spectrum and there really is something for every true soul fan. Anoraks will already know stuff like the Modulations' swirling 'It's Rough Out Here' and Arnold Blair's rightly-loved 'Trying To Get Next To You'. Diggers and seekers will delight in the Barry White-produced 'Just As Long As We're Together' from the underrated Gloria Scott and the ultra-rare 'Feels Good' from Michelle Wiley. My first few listens put that cut as the standout. It's a real roller of a song that really does make you feel good. Repeated listens, though, made me realize that there are no standouts here - everything is of the highest calibre and cherry picking becomes redundant. Worthy of brief mention however are Carl Davis's 'Show Me The Way To Love' (the veteran producer doing his own Johnny Bristol thing) and Ernie Hines' Curtom-esque 'Electrified Love'. Two other great and distinctive soul voices are on display too - Betty Everett with the lovely 'Wandering' and Archie Bell's with his 'Harder And Harder'. Other featured artists include Betty Wright, the Fatback Band, and Ken Williams. George and Gwen McCrae, Passion and William Bell - and vinyl collectors should note that the set comes in a limited edition vinyl pack too.
(BB) 4/5


TONY BORDERS: Cheaters Never Win (Label: Soulscape)

Friday, 19 October 2007 08:01 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

TONY BORDERS: Cheaters Never Win

Soul doesn't get much more esoteric than Tony Borders. In fact, not much is known even by the genre's elite cognoscenti about this raw-throated Southern soul singer whose recording career began in the early 60s when he cut a clutch of 45s for obscure US indie labels like Delta, TCF, Hall and Hallway. This magnificent new 18-track archival compilation entitled 'Cheaters Never Win' on Soulscape Records doesn't shed any illuminating biographical light on soul's mystery man, but it does confirm the depth and scope of his talent. The CD chronicles Borders' three-year tenure (1967-1970) with the Alabama-based Quinvy studio/label owned by producer Quin Ivy (who later quit the music business to become a university accounting professor). Some of Borders' Quinvy 45s were leased to major label MCA but due to poor or indifferent promotion failed to gain the singer the wider exposure his talent deserved. And judging from his superlative performances on the country-tinged title track, the dynamic Otis-style 'Polly Wolly' and funky 'Lonely Weekend' Tony Borders possessed finesse and style as well as raw talent. A must-have release for serious soul connoisseurs.
(CW) 4/5



Friday, 19 October 2007 07:59 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF


The Three Tenors Of Soul - now there's a more than intriguing moniker… so let's cut straight to the chase and reveal that the 'three' are Philly legends Russell Thompkins Jr., Ted Mills and William Hart. Throughout the seventies, with their respective groups - the Stylistics, Blue Magic and the Delfonics, the sweet-voiced threesome were responsible for leading on some of Philly's best ever recordings. Earlier this year another Philly legend, Bobby Eli, got all three into the studio to recreate the classic Philadelphia sound on a dozen new recordings and though the set doesn't break new ground it will delight Philly fans everywhere. What makes the set so delightful is the combination and quality of the voices and the timelessness of the songs. Of the ten songs, only two are originals. They are the sweet ballad 'Grateful' (penned by Eli and Vinnie Barrett) and the title cut which was provided by Daryl Hall and John Oates. H&O add vocal support, and their 'I Can't Go For That' also gets makeover from the team. Other covered classic include 'Caravan Of Love', 'A Love Of Your Own', 'Fantasy' , 'That's What Friends Are For' and 'Where Are All My Friends'. The standouts, though, are the Thompkins-led versions of the Bee Gees 'Too Much Heaven' and the Spinners' 'How Could I Let You get Away'. Listen quietly and it's as if time's stood still - and I know that some will argue that soul must move on … and, yes, I agree, but there's nothing wrong with nostalgia every now and then - especially when it's as classy and soulful as this.
(BB) 4/5


SILJE NERGAARD: Darkness Out Of Blue (Label: Emarcy, Universal)

Friday, 19 October 2007 07:57 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

SILJE NERGAARD: Darkness Out Of Blue

This Norwegian songbird started out as a wannabe pop singer (she scored a minor UK chart entry for EMI in 1990 with the single 'Tell Me Where You're Going') before cannily re-inventing herself as a jazz chanteuse a few years ago. Blossom Dearie aside, Nergaard's fragile, child-like voice is not the type normally associated with jazz and probably accounts for her reluctance to sing standards. Instead, she prefers to pen her own material with the help of long-time collaborator, lyricist Mike McGurk. Over the course of three albums ('Port Of Call,' 'At First Light,' and 'Nightwatch') Nergaard has formed a potent songwriting partnership with McGurk, and on this fourth opus for Emarcy, their collaboration has undoubtedly reached a new creative peak. Nergaard's forte is dreamy, ruminative jazz-pop ballads, of which there are plenty here. 'Wastelands' is exquisite, closely followed by 'The Beachcomber' and the album's mournful finale, 'Let Me Be Troubled.' As good as these are, they don't come close to matching 'When Judy Falls,' a stupendous uptempo slice of catchy soulful pop that mutates into an orchestrated jazz-funk groove that sounds like it was produced by the Mizell brothers back in the 70s. Undoubtedly Nergaard's most impressive work yet.
(CW) 4/5


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