Monday, 19 August 2019

The Undisputed Truth - Law Of The Land (1973)

  

Released in 1973

Running time 42.11

Norman Whitfield first tried out his psychedelic soul numbers on The Undisputed Truth before finding chart success with them via the Temptations. Quite a few of them appear on this album, and many of the other tracks are covers of other artists' songs given the distinctive Undisputed Truth male/female gospel-influenced vocal treatment, over a solid, infectious, often funky backing. This was The Undisputed Truth's third album, and the last recorded with their original line-up. Original members Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce Evans left after this one had been released. On this one, though, they join once more with fellow vocalist Joe Harris and are backed by several highly competent Motown musicians.

The album differs from the previous two (especially the second one) in the comparative brevity of the tracks. There are no lengthy, big production workouts on this offering. Most of the tracks could conceivably have been released as pretty good soul singles.

TRACK LISTING

1. Law Of The Land
2. Papa Was A Rolling Stone
3. Girl You're Alright
4. Killing Me Softly With His Song
5. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
6. This Child Needs Its Father
7. Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing (Don't Say No)
8. Feelin' Alright
9. Love And Happiness
10. With A Little Help From My Friends
11. If I Die
12. Walk On By
13. Gonna Keep On Tryin' 'Till I Win Your Love              

"Law Of The Land" doesn't quite match The Temptations' peerless, uplifting version, but this one is good too, with some impressive gospelly vocals and brass sections. It is funkier than The Temptations' one too, with some space-funk sound effects. Up next is another original version of a Temptations classic - the iconic "Papa Was A Rolling Stone". This one is definitely the inferior version, lacking that wonderful extended bass intro that so characterised The Temptations' version. Mind you, if this was the only version you had ever heard, its concise, deep, harmonious, soulful vibe would certainly impress. "Girl You're Alright" is a deep but sweetly soulful ballad that just sounds so typical of early seventies soul. Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song" is covered pretty authentically, full of slow, sensual soul.


The Temptations' big hit, "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" suffers from a not-too convincing female vocal in this case. It is too high in pitch for me. Maybe I am just too used to The Temptations' version. Again, standing alone, it is still a good soul offering. "This Child Needs Its Father" had been recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips and is a slow, sombre warning backed by some dark string/brass orchestration. "Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing (Don't Say No)" is one of the album's best tracks - a cookin' piece of upbeat, brassy seventies, urban soul with some seriously good vocal interplay between the three vocalists.

Traffic's "Feelin' Alright" is slowed down and given an appealing gospel makeover. "Love And Happiness" was an Al Green song. It still has Green's distinctive, seductive Memphis sound.

So many sixties and seventies soul albums had a Beatles cover. Here we get "With A Little Help From My Friends", which has always lent itself to a soul interpretation. "If I Die" is a Marvin Gaye-style yearning, meaningful number, with a thumping bass and brass backing. Isaac Hayes/Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By" is covered in regulation soul fashion. "Gonna Keep On Tryin' 'Till I Win Your Love" is a Temptations cover with a vocal that sounds very like David Ruffin.

I will always enjoy anything by The Undisputed Truth, but they did have a problem with creating an identity for themselves, possibly because most of the material was either a cover version or a song that The Temptations did better with. It was a shame because their vocals and the backing used were uniformly excellent.

B-

Led Zeppelin - Coda (1982)

 

Released on 19 November 1982

Running time 33.04 (original album)

"Coda" was a retrospective compilation of rarities released two years after Led Zeppelin's split in 1980 after drummer John Bonham's death. The best version of it is the latest one, which features several more bonus tracks than the original album did.

TRACK LISTING


1. We're Gonna Groove (from 1969/live in January 1970 with guitar overdubs)
2. Poor Tom ("Led Zeppelin III" outtake 1970)
3. I Can't Quit You Baby (live "rehearsal" January 1970)
4. Walter's Walk ("Houses Of The Holy" outtake 1972 with possible later overdubs)
5. Ozone Baby ("In Through The Out Door" outtake 1978)
6. Darlene ("In Through The Out Door" outtake 1978)
7. Bonzo's Montreux (from 1976)
8. Wearing And Tearing ("In Through The Out Door" outtake 1978)

BONUS TRACKS (not on original album)

9. Baby Come On Home ("Led Zeppelin" outtake 1968)
10. Travelling Riverside Blues (live in June 1969)
11. White Summer/Black Mountain Side (live in June 1969)
12. Hey Hey, What Can I Do ('b' side of "Immigrant Song" single, 1970)  
13. Sugar Mama (recorded in October 1968)     
14. St. Tristan's Sword ("Led Zeppelin III" outtake)  

There are also "alternative mixes" of "If It Keeps On Raining" ("When The Levee Breaks"); "Four Hands" ("Four Sticks"); "Desire" ("The Wanton Song") and "Everybody Makes It Through" ("In The Light"). 

"We're Gonna Groove" is an upbeat, vaguely funky piece of late sixties blues rock. It is full of great guitar, drums and vocals. It would have been a fine addition to either of their first two albums. There is confusion over the origin of the song. Many believe it is a stdio recorded outtake from 1969, others believe it is a live recording from January 1970. It sounds like a studio recording to me, although it apparently had some studio guitar overdubs added by Jimmy Page at some point when compiling this album. "Poor Tom" is a marvellous bit of lively blues rock, powered along by John Bonham's sledgehammer drumming. It has similarities to The Rolling Stones' "Prodigal Son" from "Beggars' Banquet", which was in turn based on Reverend Robert Wilkins' 1929 song, "That's No Way To Get Along". It sounds great, though, and would have sat well on side one of "Led Zeppelin III" from whose sessions it was taken.


A storming live version of "I Can't Quit You Baby" from "Led Zeppelin I" would appear to be from an actual concert at The Royal Albert Hall in 1970, although it was credited as being a pre-gig rehearsal. There is no crowd noise either way.

"Walter's Walk" is a solid, muscular rocker from the "Houses Of The Holy" sessions. it is arguably superior to some of the tracks that ended up on that somewhat patchy album. Once more, Bonham's drums are outstanding.

The old "side two" contained three outtakes from "In Through The Out Door". "Ozone Baby" is an infectious little rocker, all guitar, drums and bass and, notably, none of the synthesisers or piano that dominated the album that it failed to make the cut for. It is one of my favourites on here, with a catchy "ooh-ooh it's my love" chorus. "Darlene" fitted in with some of the rock 'n' roll-influenced material that did appear on the eventual album in 1979. John Paul Jones' boogie piano is integral and there is a bit of a Rolling Stones circa 1972 about it. There are also hints of Queen in places near the end, vaguely like "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in its vibe and vocal.

"Bonzo's Montreux" was a sledgehammer drum solo from Bonham, dating from 1976, when he lived in Montreux, Switzerland, as a tax exile. It is the album's tribute to him.

"Wearing And Tearing" was, apparently, Zeppelin's answer to punk, in its breakneck, riffy style. It doesn't sound remotely punky to me, it just sounds like Zeppelin rocking in their own inimitable fashion. I loved punk, but I loved Zeppelin too. The two were different beasts, they didn't need to meet.


From the bonus tracks, "Baby Come On Home" is a slow, slightly rock 'n' roll ballad meets rock number, with a loose, soulful bluesiness to it. It features some Atlantic Records-style gospelly organ too. "Travelling Riverside Blues" is an impressive piece of slide guitar-driven blues rock, taken from a 1969 BBC live in the studio session. It includes the "Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs right down  my leg" lyric used also on "Led Zeppelin II's "The Lemon Song". It is also included on the live album "Led Zeppelin At The BBC". In my opinion, it is remastered better here on "Coda" - fuller and bassier. The version of the instrumental "White Summer/Black Mountain Side" was recorded in London in June 1969. This also appears on the "BBC" album. "Hey Hey, What Can I Do" is an appealing piece of folky rock, typical of Zeppelin's 1970 output. "Sugar Mama" is a cover of a Sonny Boy Williamson song dating from sessions in 1968. It is riffy and lively, with a high-pitched Robert plant vocal. Bonham's drums are engagingly rhythmic on this, despite their ubiquitous thumping power. "St. Tristan's Sword" was a "Led Zeppelin III" outtake. It is a rocking instrumental that would again have suited side one of that album. Also interesting is the "Bombay Mix" of "Four Sticks" called "Four Hands", which has an instrumental version of the track played by Indian musicians, Zeppelin going full-on George Harrison. They do the same to "Friends". This one includes a Plant vocal. "If It Keeps On Raining ("When The Levee Breaks") is bassily addictive too, although this one is a Zeppelin mix, involving no Indian musicians.

Overall, there is some very good stuff on here, not as much as many never-satisfied fans wanted, perhaps, but it is fine by me.

B+