Sunday, 4 August 2019

Bill Withers - Making Music (1975)



Released in 1975

Running time 43.52

Bill Withers always remained somewhat under the soul radar in the seventies, despite the respect he was held in. He carried on putting out albums every year or so, however. He never succumbed to any urge or advice to "go disco", though, like Curtis Mayfield or Barry White, for example. The music on this album is more brassy and punchy than the often acoustic tones found on previous albums, though. The overall sound has a bit more "oomph" to it, and, actually a bit more slickness and polish about the production. It is one of Withers' most conventionally soulful albums. As opposed to going disco, he has upped the soul vibe a little. Backing vocals are utilised more than on previous offerings.

TRACK LISTING


1. I Wish You Well
2. The Best You Can
3. Make Love To Your Mind
4. I Love You Dawn
5. She's Lonely
6. Sometimes A Song
7. Paint Your Pretty Picture
8. Family Table
9. Don't You Want To Stay?
10. Hello Like Before                                       

"I Wish You Well" begins with some brass backing and wah-wah guitar before Withers' recognisable, slightly nasal voice kicks in. "The Best You Can" is an appealing, soulful but slightly funky number, with also a bit of a Philadelphia-style string backing. The track ends abruptly and we are into the laid-back funky, wah-wah groove of "Make Love To Your Mind", which is also a very soulful track, with Withers' voice on seductive form. There are elements of gospel here, as often on Withers' work and some Stax-y horns too. It ends in superbly upbeat, funky fashion. Some of the strings remind me a lot of The Temptations in the early seventies.


"I Love You Dawn" begins with some typically seventies TV show theme tune type backing before it settles into a tender love song to I am not sure who (his wife was not called Dawn). The slow ambience continues on the sleepy but solid (in parts) "She's Lonely". Withers could always pen a moving, emotive song, and this is one of those. "Sometimes A Song" is a slow burning, chunky, brassy funky groover. Withers could serve up copper-bottomed slow funk at times. This is in the "Use Me" style. It is a really uplifting, powerful number.

"Paint Your Pretty Picture" is a sparse, emotional ballad delivered beautifully by Withers. It is quiet and reflective yet almost anthemically inspirational at the same time. "Family Table" is a mid-pace piece of horn-driven catchy and poppy funk. "Don't You Want To Say?" has a wonderfully deep bass line underpinning it, some sumptuous strings and a soulful vocal. "Hello Like Before" is a delicious number, with a lovely, soothing bass, subtle brass and Withers' vocal making things sound all very reassuring. It also has a nice saxophone solo.

This was another in a series of high quality, but commercially not very successful soul albums from Bill Withers. Time has earned them critical acclaim, however. Sensitive but sometimes funky seventies soul does not really get too much better than this.

B-

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