Reviews

WILLIE HIGHTOWER: Out Of The Blue (Ace)

Thursday, 16 August 2018 13:42 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altWillie Hightower is a real soul veteran. Well, he is 77! Born down in Gadsden, Mississippi he came to soul music via the oft-trod gospel route and in a lengthy career he's recorded for labels like Fire, Fury, Capitol, Fame and Mercury. All the singles he recorded for those labels are revered by serious Southern soul collectors; some of Willie's singles even became reasonable hits – 45s like 'It's A Miracle' and Willie's version of 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes'. However, even Mr H's devoted fans would admit that he never (sadly) became a soul major leaguer. But the man's still working – playing the clubs and bars in and around his hometown. He's also in demand at soul festivals and it was on the festival circuit that he hooked up with veteran producer Quinton Claunch (yep, the Goldwax man). Big Q (he's a sprightly 96, by the way) is still working the business and he had a hunch that it was time Willie Hightower got back to making records. The pair decamped to Muscle Shoals' Wishbone Studios and with top notch musicians like Billy Lawson, Clayton Ivey and Travis Wammack they set to work cutting tracks and the finished long player is set to be released at the end of this month by Ace Records and without wanting to sound too hyperbolic I can tell you there won't be a better, proper, authentic soul record released all year. In short, this is classic, good-time, old school soul – the stuff that young shavers like James Hunter and Van Morrison (sometimes) try to create. But the original is still the greatest and here, enjoy some great music.

The album opens with a gorgeous 'I Found You' – brassy, melodic, sweet Southern soul and ends with 'Who Who Who' – more sombre but every bit as "authentic". In between there's plenty more excellence – try 'Raining All The Time' and 'Somewhere Dry' – two classic, heartbreaking Southern "story songs" in the 'Rainy Night In Georgia' vein. Then there's 'Everybody Wants My Girl' and 'You Can't Love Me (Better Than You're Loving Me Now)' – standouts on any album. Willie and the team even make a remarkable job of Andy Kim's pop hit 'Rock Me Gently'.

Despite the years, Willie's voice has lost none of its attraction and charm and each track just grooves along effortlessly; here there's nothing forced or gimmicky... just sweet soul music as it was and as it should be and 'Out Of The Blue' is such an apt title. The album has come, it seems, from out of nowhere. Till hooking up with Claunch and Ace, Willie had just about given up hope on ever recording again! Remarkably, despite a six decade career, 'Out Of The Blue' is only Hightower's second long player! Fingers crossed it's not his last.

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 August 2018 13:53

 

DAVID GARFIELD: Jammin’ Outside The Box (OTB)

Monday, 13 August 2018 13:37 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLooking for a rather special soul and soul/jazz album... one with a stellar line up? Then look no further that David Garfield's 'Jammin' Outside The Box'. Assiduous sleeve readers will recognize Garfield's name straight away... well he's been in the business for 50 years! The keyboardist, you see, began way back working with jazz icon Freddie Hubbard; he then worked on numerous projects that took him deep into other musical genres. More recently he's been the faithful MD for George Benson while he's also collaborated with Smokey Robinson. Clearly jazz and soul has always been where David's most comfortable and earlier this year we spotlighted his 'Jazz Outside The Box' album. He now follows that up with this 'Jammin' Outside The Box'... a soul, soul/jazz set which brings us to that stellar line up. For the 14 tracker Mr G has drafted in, wait for it.... amongst others – Kirk Whalum, George Benson, Smokey Robinson, Michael McDonald, Eric Marienthal, Marcus Miller, Oleta Adams, Phil Perry, Rick Braun, John Klemmer, Kenya Hathaway, Bill Champlin, David Sanborn, Ray Parker Jr and Tower of Power's Doc Kupka!

With such a line up, it's difficult to know where to start. Maybe we should begin with something that might be familiar – a version of Rufus' 'Stay'. This new take, which features sometime Rufus drummer and the song's writer, Moon Calhoun on vocals, won plenty of airplay when released as a single earlier this year. Easy to hear why. It's incendiary! George Benson and David Sanborn trade solos, by the way.

Other vocal highlights include Smokey Robinson on his own song, 'One Like You' which, I think, was originally recorded by George Benson. Smokey's voice is as sweet as ever... c'mon Bill... what about a new album of your own!!! Then there's a duet between Oleta Adams and Phil Perry on the Isleys' 'Highways Of My Life' which features a surprising mood change mid way through. The Lilliana de los Reyes vocalised version of Minnie Riperton's 'Lovin' You' offers a similar surprise as does a cover of Bobby Caldwell's 'What You Won't Do For Love'. Vocalist on this, by the way, is someone called Lamont Dozier. Amongst the instrumentals are inspired versions of Stevie's 'Go Home', Adele's 'Chasing Pavements' and Sting's 'Fragile'. All are delivered with the professionalism and perfection you'd expect.... but also expect a few surprises!

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Monday, 13 August 2018 14:08

 

VARIOUS: The Contempo Story (B/G)

Sunday, 12 August 2018 18:10 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altOnce upon a time a long time ago there was a soul music fanzine called 'Home Of The Blues'. It was the creation of soul fanatic John Abbey. The hand produced mag soon morphed into the glossy 'Blues And Soul'.The timing was perfect; B&S chimed with the explosion of soul and it soon became the genre bible – not just in the UK but worldwide. Abbey and the subsequent editor, the genial Bob Kilbourn, knew the business and also loved the music and they employed writers who shared the knowledge and the passion – people like Dave Godin, Ralph Tee, Richard Searling, David Nathan, your truly and my esteemed Soul And Jazz And Funk colleague, Charles Waring. Indeed for many years Charles and I were the magazine's chief soul writers and reviewers.

Sadly as the internet age dawned and evolved, like many music magazines, B&S went bankrupt and folded. The B&S "brand" relaunched some years ago as a web site and occasional magazine. The new owners admitted they knew little about soul and indeed in the soul world the "new" B&S is regarded as lightweight – a very pale shadow of its famous former self.

When it was its "former self", B&S was a byword for excellence in soul journalism; it enjoyed a large readership and soul artists and labels fought for inclusion in its pages. Back then, though, hard to believe, much of the music that was featured in B&S was impossible to find. Only selected soul records were ever released in the UK, imports were expensive and, of course, the digital age was eons away! Logical, therefore, for B&S to help make soul more readily available. Abbey began by working as a consultant for labels but then hit on the idea of having his own B&S linked label... first there was the short lived Mojo and eventually Contempo.

The Contempo label existed between 1973 and 1977 and served the soul public admirably, issuing over 150 singles (a few LPs too). This new 3 CD box set Contempo retrospective offers 63 of the very best Contempo releases - some are soul reissues of hard-to-find classics, some were licensed from US labels and some were specially recorded to meet a demand. Amongst the reissued classics are soul masterpieces like Bob and Earl's 'Harlem Shuffle' and Bettye Swann's 'Make Me Yours'. They're featured cheek by jowl with rarities like Richard Temple's 'That Beatin' Rhythm' (the "Jimmy Conwell" backing track to it, 'Cigarette Ashes' is also included by the way) and Juggy Jones' quirky instrumental, 'Inside America' – a far cry from the sounds on his groundbreaking Sue label from an earlier era.

Maybe the most interest comes from the tracks that Contempo commissioned themselves. Amongst those are cuts from soul icons Major Lance, Sam & Dave, Oscar Toney Jr and JJ Barnes all of whom Blues and Soul/Contempo brought over to the UK to perform and record. Anoraks/collectors and all shades of soul lovers will find loads to enjoy and intrigue... for instance 'Cross The Tracks' by "The Massai' is actually a recording by the JBs while if you want real rarities, try 'Jump The Gun'. This is the only known recording by Mike Conteh.... bother of world boxing champ John Conteh! Then there's the Phil Perry-led Montclairs with 'I Need You More Than Ever'. The excellent sleeve notes from the aforementioned David Nathan gives you all the details.... great stuff, great memoires.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 August 2018 18:50

 

CORNELL CC CARTER ; One Love (cc2000music)

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 18:19 Bill E-mailPrintPDF

altLike many contemporary soul singers California-born Cornell Carter seems to get more love and respect from the UK and European soul fraternity than he does in his homeland. In the States, CC is known as a top session singer – he's graced records and live performances with people like Ray Charles, James Brown, The Whispers, The Temptations, Natalie Cole, Kool and the Gang and most recently Narada Michael Walden. A few years back he decided the time was right to go his own solo route and two albums ('In The Moment' and 'Vindicated Soul') and a slew of fine singles seemed to justify his decision. The albums and the singles (especially in their various remixes) did moderately well Stateside but in the UK and Europe they topped all the credible soul charts. Little wonder, then, that this – Cornell's newest collection has been one of the most eagerly anticipated sets of the year. Two mighty fine singles from the album cranked up the expectation. First there was 'That Feelin'' – a classic and chart-topping modern soul groove; then came 'That's My Baby' – another mini masterpiece. Both tunes, by the way, were produced by Soulpersonna (Morgan Howell) and served as tasty hors d'oeuvres for the album.

Those two songs sit centrepiece on the 12 track LP that is 'One Love' but the good news is that there are plenty more cuts to rival those new classics. Be assured 'One Love' is no one trick pony (or in this case "two trick"!)

For the rug cutters there's plenty to please....'Winners', 'Relax' and the two mixes of 'Something Like' will fill any modern soul room floor. Ditto the pacier 'Badeyah' – a treat for the soulful house crew too, this one.

Fancy some down time.... try the gentle 'Free' and the soporific 'Maybe', while in between tempos there are the lovely 'Life' and the homage to Bob Marley that is the LP's title cut.

In truth, 'One Love' is crammed with great, proper, "old fashioned" soul songs and CC's time in the studio working with some of the biz's biggest names has taught him a lot about presentation and production; then, of course, there's THAT voice – a beautiful instrument (don't take my word.... why would all those big names have used him?) that delivers every time.

This album opens with a concise spoken intro/tribute from BBC radio presenter John Leech. He opines that that CC Carter has "raised the bar" for modern soul with his "textured music" that "cascades and flows beautifully". Bob on Mr Leech! We agree! We're also confident that he'll agree that 'One Love' is one of 2018's very best and as the year draws on, few will albums will match it.

For more info on Cornell and this album go to out interview section!

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 August 2018 18:27

 

ALICE COLTRANE: 'Lord Of Lords' (Superior Viaduct)

Sunday, 05 August 2018 09:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                           altAlice Coltrane's solo career didn't get off to an auspicious start - at least in the eyes of the puritanical jazz police - when she debuted her own music alongside tracks from her late husband on the posthumous John Coltrane album, 'Cosmos,' released in 1968. But those who may have accused her of exploiting her husband's death for her own artistic gain would also, perhaps, have applauded the way she rose out of his considerable shadow to find her own unique musical identity via a series of seven solo albums for Impulse! Records between 1968 and 1972. Her final LP for the label, 'Lord Of Lords,' from 1972, is now reissued on vinyl LP for the first time by US label, Superior Viaduct.  

Like all of Alice Coltrane's recordings, 'Lord Of Lords' is deeply spiritual and draws heavily on eastern culture and religion but what makes this album different from her previous releases is its debt to classical music. The grandiose 'Andromeda's Suffering' and 'Sri  Rama Ohnedaruth' - the latter a tribute to her then late husband, John - both employ massed symphonic strings which soar over a swirling harp and rumbling rhythm section (featuring noted bassist Charlie Haden and drummer, Ben Riley). There's also Alice's own idiosyncratic adaptation (for organ and strings) of Stravinsky's 'Firebird Suite' but arguably the most touching track is her gorgeous rendition of, 'Going Home,' an African-American spiritual, which 80 years earlier had inspired Dvorak's Largo movement from his popular 'New World Symphony.' Transcendent stuff.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 August 2018 18:44

 

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