Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Billy Paul - War Of The Gods (1973)
Released November 1973
Recorded at Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia
This album, from 1973, is like nothing Billy Paul recorded before, or subsequently. There are only six songs on it. He freely admits it was his attempt at doing his own “What’s Goin’ On” in response to his friend Marvin Gaye’s classic. He didn’t do badly, either. Assisted by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the is a special album, almost extended psychedelic soul, like The Temptations’ 1973 “Masterpiece” and some of The O’Jays’ 1972-73 work - “Ship Ahoy” in particular. Social awareness and concern for the planet and its future was the name of the game, particularly as the Vietnam War was still going on.
“I See The Light” is a slice of laid-back effortless mid-tempo funky soul with a psychedelic, trippy edge. Billy Paul’s raising, soulful voice dominates it, of course.
“War Of The Gods” is ten minutes of piano and percussion driven funky soul, full of changing pace and ambience and some almost classical piano passages and Billy lamenting the state of the world in general. Some of the jazzy, funky parts are just wonderful. The remastered sound is crystal clear too. Some “spacey” noises on it as well, before some Latin percussion takes you into another piece of mesmerising groove. A great track.
“The Whole Town’s Talking” is one of the most typical pieces of pure soul on the album - an upbeat, punchy, brass and percussion driven groover enhanced by Paul’s effortlessly funky vocal. Great stuff. Slow in tempo and in the “Me & Mrs Jones” vein is the sumptuous and lengthy “I Was Married”. Again, Paul’s control over the song is almost nonchalant. The brass parts on this track are so good, sound-wise. Superb. “Thanks For Saving My Life” is an upbeat slice of typical seventies Philly soul. It just has a joyous feel. “Peace, Holy Peace” is a return to Curtis Mayfield/Marvin Gaye inspired territory, with Paul’s soulful, impassioned vocal soaring over a churchy organ and a gospel choir backing. It just drips with soul. Boy, this guy could sing. He never really got the credit he deserved, not fully.
Incidentally, the inner sleeve had one of those bizarre pics so popular in the seventies - Paul is pictured in a sort of African tribal robe standing in a rocky wilderness, looking quite profound, but incongruous.