Reviews

VARIOUS: Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures (Kent)

Friday, 08 November 2019 18:45 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altUK soul pioneer/entrepreneur/advocate and journalist (a colleague of mine many years back on Blues and Soul by the way) needs no introduction here. Amongst his many achievements was making "Tamla Motown" a name in the UK, coining the phrase "Northern soul" and defining another black music sub genre "Deep soul". Dave explained that "Deep soul" was hard to define but it was essentially an adult, tortured music that speaks of pain, heartache, misplaced passion and unrequited love. It's not always an easy listen and the irony is that this often depressing music possesses a stark beauty all of its own. And Dave was always intrigued by the conundrum as to why a music that was so overtly painful could be so inherently and sweetly addictive. As eloquent as he was though, Dave was ever keen to allow the music do the talking and Ace/Kent were happy to allow him to compile four albums worth of "Deep soul treasures".

Now some 15 years later the Kent crew offer us a fifth volume. This one's been put together by Ady Croasdell and to keep the Godin connection strong the accompanying booklet includes an interview with Dave conducted by writer/sociologist Jon Savage in 1997 while there are also briefer contributions from noted soul commentators/DJs like Tony Rounce, Richard Searling and Stuart Cosgrove who add their Godin-influenced ideas on specific tracks and the whole deep soul genre.

But Dave Godin would always say it's what's in the grooves (or whatever there is on a CD) that counts and what we get here are 25 magnificent soul cuts ... no matter how you want to tag them! As with most Ace/Kent compilations the compilers mix well-known names with the not so well-known... so Gladys Knight and Dee Dee Warwick sit cheek by jowl with unknowns like Rene Bailey and Helena Ferguson whose 'Where Is The Party' is an album highlight, described in the notes as "a tremendous slab of pleading female soul"... bob on!

Amongst other personal favourites are The Emotions' 1968 Stax outing 'Someone New', Kenny Carter's stark 'I'm Not The One' and the Chantels' 1958 doo-wop flavoured 'Every Night I Pray'. In truth, though, each of the 25 tracks is a real soul highlight and though the selections here aren't Dave Godin's, he'd be proud of what's been created... an album fit to stand alongside the first four volumes of 'Deep Soul Treasures'.

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2019 18:53

 

BOOK REVIEW

Monday, 04 November 2019 18:49 BILL B E-mailPrintPDF

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Come And Get These Memories... The Genius of Holland-Dozier- Holland

As Motown celebrates its 60th anniversary, fans have been treated to all kinds of goodies – album reissues, TV specials (in the US at least), a major movie and plenty of memoirs. The latest memoir is 'Come And Get These Memories' an absolutely apt title for a book that chronicles the achievements of the mighty Holland-Dozier-Holland.

The 360 page hardback takes us from the projects of Detroit (where the Hollands were brought up by their grandmother and single mother) to the creation of perhaps the greatest song writing triumvirate in music history, crafting countless classics and then onto their falling out with Berry Gordy, the creation of their own labels and the fallout from that – including the Holland brothers alienation from Lamont Dozier.

The book's been put together by Eddie and Brian Holland with help from Dave Thompson, a UK born, US based writer who's a columnist for Goldmine magazine; his work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Mojo, Record Collector and many other major publications. Tellingly, there's no input from either Berry Gordy or Lamont Dozier. Sure they're mentioned (copiously, of course) but because they were such major players in the H-D-H story, maybe we're not getting the full picture especially re. the H-D-H split with Motown and the Hollands' falling out with Dozier. Any legal eagle will tell you that there are three sides to every dispute: the stories told by the two protagonists... and the truth! I guess in this saga we'll never know the truth, especially as there are still plenty of legal writs being thrown about.

That said 'Come And Get These Memories' is a treasure trove for Motown anoraks who'll learn all sorts of things. Like, for instance, on the early Motown revue shows often only the lead singer of the girl groups went on the road... Eddie Holland picked local singers in the tour towns to provide the backing; then, back in 1966 Brian Epstein started negotiations to have Holland, Dozier and Holland come to the UK to produce the Beatles! It never happened (of course) and in fact Eddie and Brian first visited the UK as late as 2004 when they were surprised by the reverence in which they were held. Each chapter turns up intriguing facts like those and for those interested in the personal stuff you get plenty of that too... like Lamont Dozier's dalliance with Mary Wilson and Brian Holland's affair with Diana Ross – leading to a fist fight with his then wife.

There's also plenty of business stuff too – contracts here, negotiations there, writs and counter claims everywhere! As a Motown fan I found this the least satisfying part of the book – but I guess it's part of the story. And in that complex story a few things really stand out. - 1... Without stating the bleeding obvious, H-D-H were hugely talented BUT to get the hits they absolutely needed the Motown artists, the musicians AND Berry Gordy. 2 ... In their rise to prominence and evolution, Eddie Holland called all the shots. 3 ... at Motown Smokey Robinson was the big cheese... Gordy's right hand man and getting first pick of who to work with. The Hollands (especially Eddie) never got over that!

The book is completed with extensive discographies and its stuffed with archive pictures. It's available now and is published by Omnibus Press.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2019 19:13

 

VARIOUS; Los Angeles Soul Vol.2 (Kent)

Wednesday, 30 October 2019 20:53 BILL B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe latest compilation from UK collectors' label Ace/Kent is another dip into the archives of US label group Kent/Modern. Kent/Modern (for whom the UK's Kent label is named) was founded in Los Angeles in the forties by the Bihari Brothers (Saul, Jules and Joe) and till its demise it released countless R&B and soul gems on names big and small. During the 1990s UK's Ace Records (who'd previously licensed plenty of Kent/Modern material) bought the whole catalogue and over the years they've sensitively reissued plenty of the Bihari's material.

This new album offers 24 cuts recorded between 1963 and 1972 and represents a cross-section of black music genres -soul, R&B, blues, gospel, funk and jazz tinged flavours sit cheek by jowl as do familiar names and the not so well known. The soul cognoscenti will recognize artists like Johnny Copeland, Lowell Fulson, Clay Hammond, ZZ Hill, Vernon Garrett and Felice Taylor. They may be less familiar with people like Jimmy Bee, the Other Brothers, the Four Tees, Earl Foster and Bobby John – who all came to the Biharis looking for fame and fortune but found both elusive! Indeed contributions from Jeanette Jones, Earl Foster and Chuck Walker represent just one side of their only 45! In the case of Walker we're treated to both sides of what is probably his only single. The cuts are the rough hewn ballads 'I'll Be Standing By' and 'Peace Of Mind' which top and tail this collection. On both the singer is backed by the "the VIPS with Bobby McVay" and though another Chuck Walker single exists... a 1973 outing, the Ace/Kent 'tecs can't be sure if it's the same singer. His "unknown" status, however, doesn't make his contribution to this album any less worthwhile than, say, ZZ Hill's Bobby Bland –influenced 'Where She At'.

Kent's Los Angeles Soul Vol.2 is out now.

(BB) 4/5

 

VARIOUS: 'Music That Inspired The Blues Brother - 75 R&B Classics' (Masters Of Music)

Wednesday, 30 October 2019 13:21 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

 

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Love it or hate it, there's one thing about Jon Landis's 1980s musical comedy movie, The Blues Brothers, that no one can dispute: it was hugely popular and profoundly influential. Starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as a couple of music-mad siblings, it certainly took vintage black rhythm and blues music to a new and younger audience. And though it probably upset the genre's purist brigade, there was nothing disingenuous about the film, both in terms of the love it showed for blues and soul music, and the respect it gave the artists that brought those sounds to the world.

This excellent 3-CD set is packed with original versions of classic tunes (mainly from the '50s and early '60s) that inspired the concept behind The Blues Brothers. Whether you agree with the marketing concept behind this album (promoting authentic black music via a white pastiche act), there's no denying that it contains some superlative music. It opens with Henry Mancini's 'Peter Gun Theme' and also includes Elvis Presley's 'Jailhouse Rock,' Frankie Laine's 'Rawhide,' Tony Hatch's 'Perry Mason Theme' and Gray U.S. Bonds' New Orleans, but apart from those tunes, it's prime grade blues and soul sounds all the way: from John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Bo Diddley to B.B. King, Junior Wells, Bobby Bland, and Buddy Guy. There are some significant soul cuts, too, from a pre-Atlantic Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, the Staple Singers, The Dells, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Ike & Tina Turner, Booker T & The MGs, Little Willie John, The Contours, the Isley Brothers, The Impressions and Etta James. They are all legendary names, of course, and when you hear how fresh and exciting this music still sounds, you're reminded of what an incredibly fertile time the 1950s and early '60s was for R&B music and how it laid the foundations for what we now know as soul. With a UK retail price of around £10, this collection is well worth picking up.  

(CW)  4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 October 2019 13:29

 

DES'REE: 'A Love Story' (Stargazer)

Tuesday, 29 October 2019 13:58 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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Des'ree left the "music business" - an oxymoron if there ever was one - in 2004 when Sony Music decided not to renew her contract. Although she'd been with the label for an unlucky thirteen years and four albums, ultimately the success she had brought the company didn't seem to count for much. Even with hit singles, platinum albums and several awards to her name (including a prestigious Ivor Novello trophy for her anthemic hit, 'You Gotta Be'), Des'ree, then 36, was left on the scrapheap.

Being treated as a commodity had taken its toll and left her feeling weak, used and empty. Her health was suffering, and so rather than get back on the pop treadmill and find a new label, she wisely chose to take a break to recharge her batteries. She discovered satisfaction via other art forms (ceramics, pottery, painting, and designing jewellery) and eventually branched off into the field of alternative medicine. She became a qualified nutritionist and later became a naturopath. Music, it seems, had been put to one side and left simmering quietly on the back burner.

But now, 15 years later, Des'ree is back after an unfeasibly extended hiatus with her fifth album, 'A Love Story.' The music is just like you'd expect from the Croydon singer/songwriter: thoughtful, sometimes poetic, but also deeply soulful and delivered via seductive, storytelling soundscapes. In fact, listening to it, it seems like Des'ree has never been away. The whole thing is beautifully produced and includes elegant orchestral arrangements, which at times elevate the music to a cinematic, almost epic, level. A case in point is the slow-building opener, 'A Call To Love,'  which is deliciously laidback and propelled by an elastic bass groove. In terms of its theme, the track sets the tone for the rest of the album, which meditates deeply on love and life.

'Drunk On Your Kisses' is another highlight of the nine-track set. So too, the more overtly dramatic ballad, 'Honey,' where pizzicato violins pull on the heartstrings. There's a subtle gospel feel to 'Love Me,' a heartfelt plea for affection while 'Nothing I Can Do' focuses on rejection. The best cut, though, is left to the end. It's called 'Fake It' and is a slinky, simmering mid-tempo groove with Des'ree at her most sensuous. It caps a fine return from the talented South London singer, who has got back to doing what she does best. Let's hope that we don't have to wait another fifteen years for a follow-up.  

(CW)  4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2019 14:08

 

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