Reviews

BARBARA BROWN: 'Got To Be Somebody' (Ace/Kent)

Thursday, 13 June 2019 08:30 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                             altThe history of soul music and rhythm and blues is littered with forgotten singers that possessed real talent, made some great singles but never got the breaks they deserved and subsequently faded into obscurity. Cult soul heroine Memphis-born Barbara Brown falls into this category. In the 1960s and early '70s she recorded a clutch of fine, mostly indie label, 45s both as a solo artist and with her siblings (as Barbara & The Browns) but she never made an LP and after a few years trying to make it, her once promising recording career petered out. Now, though, we get an idea of how a Brown album from 1968 might have sounded, thanks to compiler, Dean Rudland, who brings together thirteen sides from different labels to create Brown's first ever vinyl LP,  'Got To Be Somebody.'

For connoisseurs of southern soul, this album is mandatory listening. It omits Brown's early '60s singles for Wil-mo and Stax and focuses on the Charles Chalmers-helmed recordings she made for Gene Lucchesi's XL label, some of which ended up on the Cadet, Atco, and Tower imprints (a number of other songs were left in the can, but were exhumed for the 2007 Kent collection, 'Can't Find Happiness' and several of them also appear here).  

Blessed with a declamatory but richly expressive voice, Brown was raised on gospel hymns and unsurprisingly, the DNA of African-America church music can felt in everything she recorded. Many of her songs tackle the classic southern soul themes of  heartbreak, being cheated on, and facing loss. Highlights include the strident, brassy, Stax-like  'Plenty Of Room' (one of four Barbara & The Browns' tracks on the LP);  the funereal and haunting 'Can't Find Happiness' (an Atco single from '68); and a plaintive paean of desire called 'I Don't Want To Have To Wait,' where Brown's passionate but nuanced delivery is framed by sweetly-harmonised background vocals and euphonious horns. Though slow songs were her undoubted forte, on the sassy 'I'm Gonna Start A War,' Aretha-esque 'Man About The House,' and stomping 'You Don't Love Me,' Brown shows that she can handle uptempo material just as well as aching, storytelling ballads.   

Sadly, Barbara Brown died in 2010 but the release of superlative, respectfully-compiled  collections like this mean that her music will never be forgotten. On this evidence, she certainly was somebody.

(CW) 4/5

 

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2019 14:47

 

LETTUCE; Elevate (Regime/Membran)

Wednesday, 12 June 2019 19:32 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLettuce is a six piece band – Adam Deitch (drums), Adam Smirnoff (guitar), Erick Coomes (bass), Ryan Zoidis (saxophone), Eric Bloom (trumpet) and Nigel Hall (keys) – who since coming into being back in 1992 as college boys have staunchly fought against being pigeon-holed. They describe their music as "funk/jazz/soul/jam/psychedelic/ hip-hop/art rock/ambient/avant garde/eclectic and experimental!" Take your pick! Indeed dip into anywhere on this new 11 tracker and match any of those adjectives with each track. Yes, 'Elevate' is all that and more.

Interestingly, the band, before expanding their vision, did begin as a funk outfit and on the early Tower of Power influenced cover of Cold Blood's 'Ready To Love' you can hear those funk roots. 'Royal Highness' offers a Princely version of funk while the version of the soul standard 'Love Is Too Strong' (vocal from Marcus King) is reasonably authentic Southern soul. It, like the rest of the LP, was recorded near Denver, Colorado. though.

Elsewhere, 'Shmink Dabby Kane' is sort of Latin rock, 'Krewe' melds Afrobeat with Blaxploitation, 'Trapezoid' mixes reggae with space age electronics and 'Gang Ten' (all 13 minutes of it!) is a synth rock meander. One of the album's most accessible cuts is cover of Tears For Fears 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World'. Its relative simplicity adds to the album's eclecticism. Note the word "relative"... it does evolve beyond the Tears For Fears version. And talking about "eclectic"... what about that cover art?

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 June 2019 19:49

 

CHERYL LYNN: 'Got To Be Real: The Columbia Anthology' (SoulMusic Records)

Tuesday, 11 June 2019 15:02 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

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Big-voiced Los Angelino Cheryl Lynn (real name Lynda Cheryl Smith) burst onto the US music scene like a tornado in September 1978 when her debut single, 'Got To Be Real,' topped the US R&B charts. She was only 21 at the time and had come to the attention of record company bosses after a stunning performance on the amateur TV talent contest, The Gong Show, in 1976 where she received perfects marks. Atlantic Records seemed in pole position to sign her but when the label's boss, Ahmed Ertegun, missed a scheduled meeting with the singer, Columbia stepped in and made an offer she couldn't refuse. She spent eight years with the company and her time there is chronicled by this excellent 2-CD retrospective which contains 31 of her best tracks.

The set begins with Lynn's cameo on rock band Toto's catchy hit, 'Georgy Porgy,' from 1978 (the band's keyboardist, Marty Paich, went on to her debut LP) and then proceeds to explore the singer's back catalogue. A perennial dance floor favourite, the anthemic 'Got To Be Real' still stands out as the defining song in Lynn's repertoire though this compilation includes many other moments of high quality - in particular, the five tracks taken from 'Instant Love,' her album produced by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller, show Lynn hitting a giddy artistic peak. That album's dance-oriented title song and the funky 'Look Before You Leap' are superb while the ballads - the dreamy, flute-laced 'Day After Day' and an impassioned duet of Marvin Gaye's immortal 'If This World Were Mine' with Luther Vandross show that Lynn was much more than a mere disco singer.

'Instant Love' came out in 1982 and two years later, Lynn dramatically changed her sound after hooking up with two rising R&B songwriters/producers from Minneapolis, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, for the album 'Preppie.' She scored her second US R&B chart-topper with 'Encore,' which is presented here in its extended dance version. The 12-mix of 'Preppie's' title cut - a curious fusion of electro and new wave styles - is also featured and there are also a couple of rare, non-album soundtrack items: the mid-tempo ballad 'Goodbye For Now (Theme From "Reds"),' where Lynn joins flautist Hubert Laws as a guest, and the MOR slow jam 'At Last You're Mine,' from the soundtrack to Heavenly Bodies. For those that think that Cheryl Lynn was a one-song wonder, this stellar collection - showing that she was not only a great singer but also an artist of real depth - will put them right.  

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2019 14:47

 

JAMES AND BOBBY PURIFY: I’m Your Puppet (SoulMusic Records)

Thursday, 06 June 2019 15:33 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altIn many soul histories James and Bobby Purify are often dismissed as "the poor man's Sam and Dave". True they didn't enjoy as high a profile as the Stax/Atlantic duo but (in various pairings) the Purifys enjoyed a decent run of hits – most whilst pacted to Bell Records. As testament to what they achieved, SoulMusic Records have here collected all their Bell recordings – 38 tracks, across two CDs, spanning the years 1966 – '69.

Like many modern pop groups, "James and Bobby Purify" were the creation of a music biz svengali... in this case Florida's Don Schroeder. In 1965 he paired singer James Purify with singer/guitarist Robert Dickey (who was Purify's cousin) in an attempt to cash in on the success of soul duos – Sam and Dave, Mel and Tim. The Sims Twins, the Knight Brothers, Maurice and Mac et al. He dubbed his pairing James and Bobby Purify and took them down to FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. The first fruit of the sessions – the Southern classic 'I'm Your Puppet' - became an instant smash hit. Oddly, though, we're told that despite selling over a million copies, James and Bobby hated the song!

Whatever, it kick started their career and more hits followed – a cover of 'Shake A Tail Feather' and 'Let Love Come Between Us' amongst them. A hit act had to have back up albums and Bell had them in the studio on a regular basis and you can enjoy all that output here.

Amongst this set's 38 cuts there's all the hits and plenty of classic 60s southern flavoured soul. To fill out the albums Schroeder had his charges cover plenty of soul and pop hits, including several from Sam and Dave's back catalogue and the Purify's versions stand up well in their own right. Amongst the highlights are covers of the Tams' 'Untie Me', Sam Cooke's 'Soothe Me' and the outstanding take on Barbara and the Browns' ballad 'I Don't Wanna Have To Wait'.

The Purifys' last single on Bell was the oddly named 'Section C' on which "Bobby Purify" was actually Buddy Grubbs. Dickey had left for health reasons but very quickly Grubbs was replaced by Ben Moore. The Purify's best days though were over; but a re-recorded version of 'Puppet' became a 1976 UK hit. Despite that the group soon folded and sadly in the 80s James Purify was jailed for sexual offences. He is thought to be still alive. Robert Dickey died in 2012 while Ben Moore is now a member of the Blind Boys of Alabama.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2019 15:45

 

VARIOUS; If You’re Not Part Of The Solution... (Ace/BGP)

Thursday, 06 June 2019 14:02 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThe Joe Henderson Quintet's ' If You're Not Part Of the Solution, You're Part Of The Problem' is the opening and title tack on a new 10 track compilation from Ace/BGP that offers a snapshot of US jazz between 1967 and 1975 – a period that commentators see as crucial to jazz development. The argument is that the sophistication of soul in the late 60s alongside the evolution of what some call "intellectual rock" had made inroads into the traditional jazz audience. Equally it was a period of social and political unrest as more and more black Americans turned to more radical ideas for solutions to problems that no one previously had been prepared to tackle. Serious jazz musicians reacted to all this by moving in newer directions hoping to catch the prevailing mood and reflect the melting pot of ideas of the era.... hence the title of Henderson's epic 11 minute opener here.

Other featured cuts that patently reflect the era are veteran Hammond player Johnny "Hammond" Smith's 'Black Feeling', Azar Lawrence's 'Warriors Of Peace' and Gary Bartz's 'Africans Unite'. Other featured artists include Johnny Lyle, Harold Vick and obscure Philly group Catalyst whose cosmic 'Celestial Bodies' explores another strand to the era's experimental jazz. Though even with experimentation, these "new age" jazzers still honoured the past giants. Here the Clifford Jordan Quintet pay homage to Coltrane with 'John Coltrane' while Eddie Jefferson offers his take on Miles Davis' 'Bitches Brew'.

'if You're Not Part Of The Solution...' is out now on Ace/BGP

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2019 14:20

 

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