Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Billy Paul - 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul (1972)


Released September 1972

Recorded at Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia

The late 60s/early 70s was overflowing with inspirational slices of “social comment”/aware songs from black artists - The Temptations, Sly & The Family Stone, The O’ Jays, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, The Undisputed Truth and Marvin Gaye among others. Black consciousness was right at the forefront, and many tracks proved it was possible to be both danceable and funky yet still have something very important to say. Smooth soul singer Billy Paul showed this as well with this excellent album.


1. Brown Baby
2. I'm Just A Prisoner
3. It's Too Late
4. Me & Mrs Jones
5. Am I Black Enough For You?
6. Let's Stay Together 
7. Your Song
8. I'm Gonna Make It This Time

Everyone knows the love-lorn soul classic “Me And Mrs Jones” but the album also contains the “blaxploitation” classic, defiant and questioning “Am I Black Enough For You”, the "make your father proud" funk of Paul's plea to his young daughter in the black-conscious “Brown Baby” and the extended, dramatic plea of “I’m Just A Prisoner”, a song from a character who has served unjust time. These are very credible pieces of work which lift this album above just an average smooth soul one. These early albums on the Philadelphia label were very much in this vein, certainly the first two O'Jays albums are.

Tracks such as "Brown Baby" and "I'm A Prisoner" have a strong feel of Curtis Mayfield's ground-breaking 1970 "Curtis" album about it. The closer, "I'm Gonna Make It This Time" is a passionate slice of slow-paced inspirational soul.

Other tracks on the album are covers. However, they are covers that completely reinvent the original. Elton John’s “Your Song” is virtually unrecognisable in its new form of six-minute soul slow burner. Also, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” is slowed down even more than the original and thus gains a completely new life, as does Carole King’s AOR classic “It’s Too Late”. Paul’s voice is strong enough to breathe a different life into all these tracks. Overall, a most enjoyable album. It also has to be stated that the remastered sound by BBR is superb.


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