Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Bill Withers - +'Justments (1974)


Released in 1974

After two stunning albums of soul with some acoustic, some rock, some funk edges, and a stunning live album, this was the immensely talented Bill Withers' fourth offering. His star was unfortunately fading just a little, and this album disappeared pretty quickly and remained out of print for decades, until recently. That was a shame, because there is some good material on the album, both musically and in its aware messages. The sound quality on the latest remaster to be found in the "Complete Albums" box set is superb, too.


1. You
2. The Same Love That Made Me Laugh
3. Stories
4. Green Grass
5. Ruby Lee
6. Heartbreak Road
7. Can We Pretend
8. Liza
9. Make A Smile For Me
10. Railroad Man                                  

"You" is a rhythmic and funky opener with a deep back beat and Withers' soulful voice at its best, in its "Use Me" style. "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" is classic, Stax-ish, Al Green-influenced soul but without the horns, featuring an intoxicating bass, organ and drum backing. Withers' vocal is bit Stevie Wonder in sound and delivery at times. "Stories" is an emotive, sparsely-backed ballad, while "Green Grass" is typical semi-funky Withers soul.

"Ruby Lee" has echoes of the infectious groove of "Who Is He And What Is He To You". Check out that thoroughly irresistible bass line. "Heartbreak Road" is another chunky, solid number with Withers' band once more sounding great. Lovely sweeping strings on it too. "Can We Pretend" is a Stevie Wonder-influenced, laid-back soul crooner with additional Spanish guitar from the legendary José Feliciano. Again, a sumptuous bass line underpins it.

"Liza" has a spoken intro over an electric piano, a bit like on Gladys Knight's "Help Me Make It Through The Night". It is a sensitive song written by Withers for his niece. "Make A Smile For Me" continues in the same pleasing vein, with the wonderful bass augmenting the song. The rhythmic funk is back for the final number in "Railroad Man". Withers' spoken intro is most atmospheric, while wah-wah guitar and congas cook up an addictive brew.

I love this album, it is up there with the classic soul of the early/mid seventies of Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and The Undisputed Truth. Seventies soul was not only Aretha and Stevie. A most underrated, "forgotten gem" of an album.


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