Sunday, 29 September 2019

Laura Lee

Supreme Soul Diva: Backbeats Collection

Woman's Love Rights/Wedlock Is A Padlock/Love And Liberty/It's Not What You Fall For, It's What You Stand For/Since I Fell For You (Parts 1 & 2)/Two Lonely Pillows/Her Picture Matches Mine/I Can't Make It Alone/Don't Leave Me Starving For Your Love/We've Come Too Far To Walk Away/I Need It Just As Bad As You/Crumbs Off The Table/Rip Off/If I'm Good Enough To Love (I'm Good Enough To Marry)/Guess Who I Saw Today/If You Can't Beat Me Rockin' (You Can Have My Chair)/You've Got To Save Me/I'll Catch You When You Fall/At Last (My Love Has Come Along)/Mirror Of Your Soul  

This is another excellent compilation from soul's Backbeat Records. Laura Lee was from Chicago and signed for the legendary Chess label in the late sixties and then for Holland-Dozier-Holland's Hot Wax/Invictus label and subsequently released some of her best material in the early seventies. Her voice was strong and gospelly, as you would expect and the backing music to much of her material was muscular and funky in a Stax meets Blaxploitation sort of way. Although Northern, Lee's soul is very Southern in style. Lyrically, like Shirley BrownBetty Wright and Millie Jackson, her songs are very much in the "my man gone done wrong again" mode.

Like her ex-lover, Al Green, Lee later became ordained as a minister. 
Woman's Love Rights is a big, chunky "stand up and fight for your love rights" call-to-arms for Laura's sisters to say no more cooking and sewing until their love rights are acknowledged. Right on, sister. It is full of funky soul and Laura's vocal is superb. 

Wedlock Is A Padlock continues in the same theme of female empowerment in the face of feckless men. Laura sounds a lot like Martha Reeves on this vibrant piece of sublime seventies soul. "Wedlock is a padlock when you're married to a no-good man..." she sings. You tell it like it is. 

Love And Liberty is a similarly rousing protest number calling for female emancipation. The vocal performance is sensational, and the rhythm is punchily appealing, as are the horn breaks. The backing vocals soar. This is a wonderful track. These three are the most lively, "in your face" pieces of militant female soul on the album. They get it off to a barnstorming start.

It's Not What You Fall For, It's What You Stand For is a supremely hot, slow-paced funky number with a bit of a hint of label-mates Chairmen Of The Board in its refrain. The gospelly vocal/percussion interplay in the seven minute song's last two minutes is seriously good. 

Another lengthy track is Since I Fell For You (Parts 1 & 2) which emerges from its spoken intro to a piece of late night sweet soul. 

Heartbreak is expressed on the yearning Two Lonely Pillows. More suspicion, sadness and mistrust is found in Her Picture Matches Mine, which is another stately, immaculately delivered passionate and soulful song. After the two long numbers earlier, the ambience of the collection has turned to one of dignified, mid-pace Stax-ish soul. I Can't Make It Alone fits the same bill.

A bit of a Philadelphia-style string orchestration backs the sumptuous slow rhythm of Don't Leave Me Starving For Your Love. A slowed-down Millie Jackson vibe dominates We've Come Too Far To Walk Away. As on all the tracks, the bass line is deep rumbling and resonant and the drums are constantly full-on fatback. 

The pace ups a bit on the driving, pulsating beat of the brassily funky I Need It Just As Bad As You where says her needs will lead to her being unfaithful as well, if she has to due to the infidelity of her current lover. "I had to do what I had to do..." she confesses. Beneath all this there is a serious point being made about sexual equality.

Crumbs Off The Table reminds me a bit of Chairmen Of The Board's Finders Keepers in its funky, infectious clavinet and wah-wah backing. The music throughout this one is intoxicating. 

Now, the beat really ups it again on the delicious groove of Rip Off. There are more Chairmen Of The Board echoes on here and Laura's vocal is excellent, as, of course, is the bass. This is a wonderful track. It is not quite fast enough to be a Northern Soul song, but it has that feel about it. It just lifts your soul. Another sumptuous bass line kicks off the infectious If I'm Good Enough To Love (I'm Good Enough To Marry). Listening to this just makes you wonder why Laura Lee didn't make it really big as her voice is sensational - effortlessly soulful and powerful.

An obvious Millie Jackson/Shirley Brown is to be heard on the spoken narrative of Guess Who I Saw Today. It follows the familiar theme of the song's protagonist seeing her husband with another woman. 

Time for some funk after that, I think. We get it on the cookin' If You Can't Beat Me Rockin' (You Can Have My Chair)which positively drips with down 'n' dirty soul. The wah-wah and bass near the end is the business. Some copper-bottomed gospel comes next in the vibrant strains of You've Got To Save MeI'll Catch You When You Fall is another gospelly, but slower number with Laura saying she will take her lover back despite his infidelity - make up your mind! 

At Last (My Love Has Come Along) is a soaring vehicle for Laura's vocal while Mirror Of Your Soul is a saxophone-driven number reminiscent (musically) of David Bowie's Young Americans album.

You can't go too far wrong with this collection and the sound quality is really good too. Nice, warm seventies bassy stereo. One thing I would say about this compilation is that from tracks 6-10 it gets bogged down a bit by continuous slow numbers, not that they aren't good, but some variety can be gained by playing the music on "shuffle".

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Tommie Young

Tommie Young was a soul singer from Texas who recorded most of her music in Shreveport, Louisiana in the early seventies. Her voice was strong, soulful but gospel-influenced, like Betty WrightShirley BrownFreda Payne and Candi Staton. She has been relatively forgotten, which is a shame cause she laid down some seriously quality seventies soul.

Shreveport Soulstress: Backbeats Compilation

That's How Strong My Love Is/Everybody's Got A Little Devil In Their Soul/You Came Just In Time/Hit And Run Lover/Midsummer Dream/Do You Still Feel The Same Way?/You Brought It All On Yourself/That's All A Part Of Loving Him/She Don't Have To See You (To See Through You)/Do We Have A Future?/You Can Only Do Wrong So Long/Take Time To Know Him/Get Out Of My Life/I'm Not Going To Cry Anymore/One Sided Love Affair/You Can't Have Your Cake (And Eat It Too)  

This is an excellent compilation from the impressive, reliable Backbeats label. The sound quality is superb.

The horn backing is dominant throughout the material as are the churchy backing vocals. I think you can get the picture - powerful vocals, emotive songs, big brass backing - all the usual ingredients from the era.                 

That's How Strong My Love Is is very different-sounding to the version that is more commonly heard - by Otis Redding and The Rolling Stones for example. Young's version is slowed down to walking pace and it becomes a late night soul ballad, although some horns are still there on the backing, they are not as "hooky" as on the more popular version. It is, however, a bit of a cult hit among soul music fans, apparently.

Everybody's Got A Little Devil In Their Soul is a marvellously catchy, upbeat piece of gospelly soul with lots of call-and-response vocals and fast, funky guitars. It is a rousing track.

You Came Just In Time is a very typically early seventies soul number - mid-pace, attractive melody, sumptuous horns and an uplifting vocal. It is a bit reminiscent of some of The Supremes' seventies output. Hit And Run Lover is a Betty Wright-esque punchy number. 

Midsummer Dream sees the pace slow down for a classic-sounding soul ballad. Do You Still Feel The Same Way? is a stately, heartfelt piece of horn-powered gospel soul. It was a hit on the US soul chart.

A gem is the delicious slow burning groove of You Brought It On Yourself. Its lyrics are familiar ones of male fecklessness and infidelity. That is all forgotten about in That's All A Part Of Loving Him as Tommie forgives her man anything on an attractive funky, grinding and bassy number. It has a bit of a Northern Soul feel to it, although the beat is probably just a bit slower. It also features some nice flute enhancements. It is the type of track that Paul Weller might have covered during his Studio 150 phase. Ok he didn't but he just may have...I'm sure he would have liked the track.

She Don't Have To See You (To See Through You) has Tommie warning other women off her no-good man. Man, he is a no-good low-down whatever. Do We Have A Future? is a deep, lively and pulsating number with a funky vibe to it. 

You Can Only Do Wrong So Long is another Betty Wright style song and it is a most infectious one too, with an addictive rhythm and a killer vocal. This is absolute quality soul and really deserved more critical credit than it ever got.

Take Take To Know Him is a Percy Sledge cover and it has that irresistible organ-driven slow Atlantic groove that Sledge gave us on When A Man Loves A Woman. Check out that beautiful bass line and backing vocals on the "I didn't listen to mama.." part. Sublime soul. "Girls can you dig this..." sings Tommie. Ummm hmmm. Sure we can, sister.

Get Out Of My Life has the first sings of a bit of a disco beat creeping in with its punchy horns and "chicka-chicka" guitar riff backing. Tommie copes with the demands of disco/soul admirably. I'm Not Going To Cry Anymore is a Detroit Spinners-style orchestrated fast-ish soul number. One Sided Love Affair is a big production but slow paced ballad. The strings are being used a lot more on these last few tracks.

The familiar Memphis, Stax-ish sound returns on the cookin' soul of You Can't Have Your Cake (And Eat It Too). This is a fine end to a very impressive and uplifting collection of seventies soul. The fact so much of this material slipped under the radar is a pity.

Friday, 27 September 2019

The Flying Burrito Brothers

The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969)

Christine's Tune/Sin City/Do Right Woman/Dark End Of The Street/My Uncle/Wheels/Juanita/Hot Burrito #1/Hot Burrito #2/Do You Know How It Feels/Hippie Boy     
The "country rock" genre was ushered into fashion, amongst others, by Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding and The ByrdsSweetheart Of The Rodeo in 1968 and continued in May 1969 by Crosby, Stills and Nash. In February 1968, and comparatively unnoticed, was this album by ex-Sweetheart Of The Rodeo era Byrds member Gram Parsons' new group, The Flying Burrito Brothers. It is my favourite of that bunch of albums and has a subtle, warm-sounding ambience about it that I find most appealing. I have always had a bit of a weakness for The Rolling Stones' country-influence material (like Far Away Eyes) and Elvis Costello's Almost Blue. There is plenty of obvious influence on this album regarding both of those, including one actual song (Hot Burrito #1/I'm Your Toy) that Costello covered on that album.

It didn't sell well at the time, yet retrospectively it has gained considerable critical kudos and, as I said above, it has had a fair old influence. Bob Dylan, incidentally, said "boy I love them - their first record really knocked me out..." So there you go.
Christine's Tune has an early Beatles feel about it, you know, the sort of tune Ringo would have loved doing. It it carried out of its sixties feel, however, by some excellent fuzzy, buzzy rock guitar from Chris Hillman. Chris Ethridge's bass is superb on this and throughout the album - nice and full and "rubbery".


Sin City is a twangy, mournful but melodic piece of country. Elvis Costello no doubt loved this and it also really reminds me of The Stones' Far Away Eyes in its vocal refrain. I am sure Parsons' vocal was the country tone that Jagger tried to imitate.

Oddly, up next is a cover of Aretha Franklin's Atlantic soul classic Do Right Woman given a slow country makeover and with no gender-changes made to the lyrics. Listened to as a country song it is appealing, but compared to the original it doesn't quite stack up. Check out that lovely, sumptuous bass line, though. 

Another cover is of James Carr's Dark End Of The Street. This one is the better of the two covers, with Parsons delivering a sensitive vocal over a stately piano, bass guitar and drums backing.

My Uncle is a finger-picking, lively number that hides a more sombre message about getting a letter from the military draft board ("Uncle Sam"). Parsons says he's off to Vancouver. I don't blame him.

Wheels is a fetching, slow country ballad enhanced by more of that buzzy guitar. 

Juanita is another one that really reminds me of The Stones. I could really imagine Mick Jagger singing this. It could have come off Beggars' Banquet.

Hot Burrito #1/I'm Your Toy was covered very nicely by Elvis Costello on Almost Blue as I'm Your Toy, but this original is sublime, with an emotional vocal, great guitar and more of that peerless bass. It is the best track on the album, for me. Also impressive are the rockier tones of Hot Burrito #2 which has slight hints of Argent's Hold Your Head Up in its riff (maybe Rod Argent had been listening to this). It is the album's most "rock" number and again features that very early seventies buzzy guitar, like The Carpenters used on Goodbye To Love.

Do You Know How It Feels returns to the steel guitar and melodic piano of more traditional country. Hippie Boy is narrated by Chris Hillman, the words spoken over a slow country melody and describes counter-culture drug-dealing experiences going wrong (as far as I can make out). Apparently it is about the 1968 Chicago riots but I struggle to get that from the lyrics, but if they said it was, then it was.

Overall, I much prefer this to Sweetheart Of the Rodeo, for example, and to Dylan's Nashville Skyline too. It is one of the best examples of late sixties/early seventies country rock.

Burrito Deluxe (1970)

Lazy Days/Image Of Me/High Fashion Queen /If You Gotta Go, Go Now/Man In The Fog/Farther Along/Older Guys/Cody, Cody/God's Own Singer/Down In The Churchyard/Wild Horses   

After an excellent, most appealing debut in 1969's The Gilded Palace Of SinGram Parsons' country rock outfit returned with a more upbeat, rocking offering. Unfortunately, the group's impressive bassist Chris Ethridge had left the group, taking a great sound with him, and apparently the group were having problems coming up with material. New guitarist Bernie Leadon had this to say, retrospectively:-

"...We started getting together – Gram, Chris, and I – at the A&M lot and trying to write songs. We spent three or four months doing this. It was like pulling teeth. We knew the mechanics of writing music, but the stuff that we did were not Gram's best songs...."

Guitarist Chris Hillman added:-

"....After the brief initial burst Gram and I couldn't seem to hook up again. Burrito Deluxe was recorded without any of the feeling and the intensity of the first album...."

Reading that, you would imagine the album to be pretty poor, which it is not, it is not quite as good as the debut album. What it is, though, is far more rocking and more fun. It is not without its merits. The sound is not as good as one the first album, though, sounding just a bit "lo-fi" in places.


The album is notable in that the cover of The Rolling StonesWild Horses was the first recording of the song, a year before it appeared on Sticky Fingers. Apparently Keith Richards gave it to Parsons to record after a brief falling out, something that was unusual in that The Stones didn't make a habit of giving great songs like that away.
Lazy Days is a lively piece of pulsating bar-room style rock to start the album on an exciting note, with the band sounding like a country Dr. Feelgood, although country melancholia soon appears on the violin-backed mournful strains of Image Of Me. The latter is very much a continuation of the material from the first album. 

High Fashion Queen is a steel guitar-driven fast slice of typical country rock. The vibrancy carries on in a rousing, frantic cover of Bob Dylan's If You Gotta Go, Go Now. It features some excellent rocking guitar.

Man In the Fog is a Cajun-style romp powered along by some infectious accordion. Farther Along is a mid-paced, harmonious country take on a traditional gospel song.

Older Guys is one I really like - a pounding thumping number, while Cody, Cody has some nice harmonies on the vocals and a very Byrds-style sound. 

God's Own Singer is a song in a more traditional lachrymose country vein. I'm sure Elvis Costello would have loved this one.

Down In The Churchyard is an energetic number that rocks infectiously throughout. Then there is Wild Horses. The country nature of the song is played up to the fore on this interpretation. It would seem that Mick Jagger based his delivery of the song very much on this one. Incidentally, Leon Russell plays piano on this, and on Man In The Fog.

Two months after the release of the album, Parsons was fired from the band he helped to create for drunkenness and general unreliability.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations

Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations (1968)

Try It Baby/I Second That Emotion/Ain't No Mountain High Enough/I'm Gonna Make You Love Me/This Guy's In Love With You/Funky Broadway/I'll Try Something New/A Place In The Sun/Sweet Inspiration/Then/The Impossible Dream                           

This was a fun, upbeat, joyful album collaboration between two of Motown's most successful singles groups - Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations. The album was notable in that it marked the first appearance of Dennis Edwards on vocals for The Temptations, in place of David Ruffin.

Try It Baby is a jazzy, lively piece of enjoyable fluff. It sounds much better in the album's stereo than on the single version, which was in mono. The voices are spread out by the stereo and the effect, and indeed the whole sound, is far superior, in my opinion. Indeed, for 1968, it is truly superb stereo. 

The massive hit single, Smokey Robinson's I Second That Emotion is wonderful, outdoing Robinson's original for verve and vitality. The vocals are simply superb on this. Diana Ross was never my favourite Motown female vocalist, (I always preferred Martha Reeves and Gladys Knight), but she is towering on this one. 

Their version of Ain't No Mountain High Enough is excellent, too. Again, I prefer it to Diana Ross's melodramatic famous recording of the song.

The even bigger hit, the timeless I'm Gonna Make You Love Me keeps the quality coming. It is possibly the best of all the Motown collaborations. 

This Guy's In Love With You was an example of Motown's tendency to go a bit "cabaret" on albums, with a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "easy listening" classic. They do it pleasantly enough though. The track fades in to the fuzz guitar of Funky Broadway and The Temptations cook up a funky recipe that is probably the most credible on the album. Even Diana Ross manages to strut her funky stuff.

Smokey Robinson's I'll Try Something New is both punchy and delicious. Stevie Wonder's A Place In The Sun has a big, bassy backing and Diana Ross's lead vocal handles the song beautifully. 

Sweet Inspiration is a rhythmic, gospelly number. The quality on this album has been surprisingly good. One may have expected it to be just the two big hits and some schmaltzy cover versions, but it has not been the case.

Then is a forgotten corker of a song. Recorded in the mid-sixties by The Four Tops, the lads and lassies breathe new life into it. Apparently, it had been originally intended as a single. It would have been a good one. Diana Ross suits the diva-esque show song glamour of The Impossible Dream down to the ground. This sort of song was often put on to albums like this to lure "adult" record buyers as well as pop-loving teenagers. It is delivered perfectly, but it does seem a bit incongruous amongst all the Motown majesty of earlier.

Together (1969)

Stubborn Kind Of Fellow/I'll Be Doggone/The Weight/Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing/Uptight (Everything's Alright)/Sing A Simple Song/My Guy, My Girl/For Better Or Worse/Can't Take My Eyes Off You/Why (Must We Fall In Love)    
After their excellent debut album from the previous year, this marriage of two huge Motown groups had one more outing. Again, it was a pleasant, enjoyable mixture of mainly cover versions of other Motown songs and assorted classics. Any combination of this voices will be a success, it has to be said. The album has excellent stereo sound too, which always brings Motown material to life.

Diana Ross takes the lead on an impressive Stubborn Kind Of Fellow with Eddie Kendricks backing her up, while a great cover of Smokey Robinson's I'll Be Doggone sees Paul Williams aided by Ross. Two good ones to kick off with. 

Covering The Band's iconic country rock of  The Weight was probably not a good idea, however. However great their voices are, it doesn't work, I'm afraid. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing is tailor-made, however, and works a treat. Stevie Wonder's Uptight is slowed-down somewhat to turn into soulful Temptations-style groove. Again, though, it works and is quite infectious.


Sly & The Family Stone's funky Sing A Simple Song is given a "psychedelic soul" makeover to great effect, sounding all Ball Of Confusion before it had even been conceived. 

The merging of My Guy/My Girl has a great sound to it, although the two songs don't quite mesh. The join sounds a bit clumsy. The backing on it is superb though.

For Better Or Worse is a bit schmaltzy, however. Frankie Valli/Andy WilliamsCan't Take My Eyes Off You doesn't hold a candle to either previous recording, it has to be said. 

Why Must We Fall In Love is a joyous singalong that would have made a great single, with Diana Ross on fine vocal form.

This is a pleasant, enjoyable half hour's listen, excellently-played and sung. Nothing spectacular, but worth digging out every now and again.

Also of interest are these bodies of work (click on the image to read the reviews) :-
Diana Ross
The Supremes

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Wattstax - The Concert (1972)

Can you dig it, brothers and sisters....


Recorded live in Los Angeles on 20 of August 1972

Wattstax was a benefit concert performed on August 20, 1972, organised by Stax Records on the 7th Anniversary of the Watts riots in Los Angeles The concert took place in the Los Angeles Coliseum and tickets were $1 each, ensuring many African-Americans could attend. 112,000 duly attended. The crowd was most African-American and it was policed by African-American officers.

The music was soul, funk, blues, gospel, r 'n' b n jazz and a lot of it had a theme of conscious, aware positivity for black Americans. This compilation is the most comprehensive and includes most of the show. Some songs from previous compilations from the show do not appear, though, like Eddie Floyd's Lay Your Loving On Me, several Isaac Hayes tracks and some others. Either way, it plays like one continuous show.

There are actually three different compilations from the show, so by sourcing all three you can get all the songs covered.

The sound quality is pretty good for an outdoor 1972 live recording, as, of course, is the music. The concert took place at the height of the early seventies funk/soul era and we get a lot of it too - wah-wah guitars and horn breaks all over the place.



1. Salvation Symphony
2. Introduction - The Reverend Jesse Jackson
3. Lift Every Voice And Sing - Kim Weston
4. Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom) - The Staple Singers*
5. Are You Sure*
6. I Like The Things About Me*
7. Respect Yourself*
8. I'll Take You There*
9. Precious Lord, Take My Hand - Deborah Manning
10. Better Get A Move On - Louise McCord
11. Them Hot Pants - Lee Sain
12. Wade In TheWater - Little Sonny
13. I Forgot To Be Your Lover - William Bell
14. Explain It To Her Mama - Temprees
15. I've Been Lonely For So Long - Frederick Knight
16. Pin The Tail On The Donkey - The Newcomers
17. Knock On Wood - Eddie Floyd                                  


1. Peace Be Still - The Emotions
2. Old Time Religion - The Golden 13
3. Lying On The Truth - Rance Allen Group*
4. Up Above My Head*
5. Son Of Shaft/Feel It - The Bar-Kays*
6. In the Hole*
7. I Can't Turn You Loose*
8. Introduction - David Porter*
9. Ain't That Lovin' You (For More Reasons Than One)*
10. Can't See You When I Want To*
11. Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)*
12. Niggas - Richard Pryor*
13. Arrest/Line Up*
14. So I Can Love You - The Emotions*
15. Show Me How*                                                     


1. Open The Door To Your Heart - Little Milton
2. Backfield In Motion - Mel & Tim
3. Steal Away - Johnnie Taylor
4. Killing Floor - Albert King
5. Pick Up The Pieces - Carla Thomas*
6. I Like What You're Doing To Me*
7. B-A-B-Y*
8. Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)*
9. I Have A God Who Loves*
10. The Breakdown - Rufus Thomas*
11. Do The Funky Chicken*
12. Do The Funky Penguin*
13. I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To - The Soul Children*
14. Hearsay*
15. Theme From Shaft - Isaac Hayes                  


The Staple Singers (pictured) perform an excellent five song set, as you would expect, including I'll Take You There and Respect Yourself and Roebuck "Pops" Staples doing a rap where he praises the achievements of black people throughout history. Stevie Wonder expanded on this on his Songs In The Key Of Life album in 1976. Louise McCord's Better Get A Move On was a solid, muscular piece of wah-wah-driven soul/funk.

Lee Sain's Hot Pants is a copper-bottomed slice of seventies funk telling us all about how good hot pants looked - very early seventies. Little Sonny's blues harmonica/brass take on Ramsey Lewis's Wade In The Water is marvellous - lively, bluesy and deliciously funky. William Bell delivers a beautifully soulful I Forgot To Be A Lover. Reggae artist George Faith later covered this. The Temprees' Explain It To Her Mama is an uplifting, high-voice powered soul number. Frederick Knight provides more rousing soul and The Newcomers some Jackson 5-style lively bubblegum-ish fun. Gospel is delivered suitably inspirationally by Deborah Manning and Motown's Kim Weston.

The CD finishes with Atlantic soul legend Eddie Floyd giving us a stonking, horn-driven Knock On Wood.


The CD opens with The Emotions' nine minute gospel/soul of Peace Be Still. The vocal performances are outstanding and there is a palpable live atmosphere as you hear the crowd getting involved. For me, though, it goes on a few minutes too long, although that is a bit of a nit-pick. The Golden 13 lift everyone high up with some classic upbeat, hand-clapping gospel in Old Time Religion. The Rance Allen Group were a group I was unfamiliar with, and they provided a couple of infectious pieces of funky, soulful jazzy stuff.

The Bar-Kays (pictured) deliver some superb early seventies funk with the lengthy workout Son Of Shaft/Feel It. Their set was one of those bits in a show like this when everything comes even more alive. In The Hole is almost psychedelic rock meets Stax - far out man. Their cover of Otis Redding's I Can't Turn You Loose is cookin' hot. Stax songwriter composer David Porter contributes some punchy, typically Stax-y soul - full of rumbling bass and strident brass. His Can't See You When I Want To is incredibly drawn out, though, Isaac Hayes style. Richard Pryor brings some of his ground-breaking observational comedy to the stage for a few minutes. It is very much of its time but in 1972, its power cannot be underestimated.

The Emotions return with some sumptuous, sweet soul in So Can I Love You and Show Me How. The singers introduce themselves by name and star sign in true seventies style.


Little Milton's take on the Northern Soul classic Open The Door To Your Heart is a delight, with some great improvisation at the end, while Mel & Tim's Backfield In Motion is also really brassily appealing. I get the feeling that Southside Johnny would have loved this at the time. I love the duo's spoken bit at the song's climax too. Great stuff.

The bigger names of Stax are up next - Johnnie Taylor with the funky soul of Steal Away, legendary bluesman Albert King who gives us a searing, guitar-driven blues track in Killing Floor and Carla Thomas, who performs five songs, sounding a lot like Ronnie Spector, including her big hit B-A-B-Y before it is Rufus Thomas (pictured) time. Time to flap our wings and get all unnecessary. Yes it's The Funky Chicken. Up next is The Funky Penguin - not much different from the chicken, except I guess you shuffle as penguins can't flap their wings....

I Don't Know What The World Is Coming To from The Soul Children is a wonderful piece of uplifting, pulsating gospel/soul. So too is their Hearsay. Finally, Isaac Hayes takes to the stage. Unfortunately, you only get the one cut from him here - The Theme From Shaft. A pretty good choice, though.
I have supplemented this album by sourcing the missing tracks from elsewhere, but even without them, it is an excellent listen.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Carole King

Tapestry (1972)

I Feel The Earth Move/So Far Away/It's Too Late/Home Again/Beautiful/Way Over Yonder/You've Got A Friend/Where You Lead/Will You Love Tomorrow?/Smackwater Jack/Tapestry/(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman  

Leading the burgeoning female singer/songwriter boom in the early seventies was Carole King (already a veteran of many sixties hits, written with her ex, Gerry Goffin), with this album - one that could be found in the record collections of many female students throughout the seventies. It is one of the best selling albums of all time but, at the time, it was not an album my early teenage self was interested in but as many years have passed, so my tastes have matured.

A nice bit of trivia for you here - King's cat on the cover was called Telemachus.
I Feel The Earth Move. Contrary to the album's well-known laid-back ambience is the opener, which is a bit of a powerful piano, bas and drums-driven bluesy rocker. It is full of excellent guitar, bar-room piano and rumbling bass. It is a rousing rock start to the album. 

So Far Away - reflective ballads are what the album is known for, however, and we get the first one in this attractive song. Like Bread's output from the same period, the album's rock sensibilities are greater than one may have presumed - the bass and drums on here are very slow rock in their sound and delivery. In a lot of ways this is far less of a wishy-washy bedsit album and far more of a slow, deep rock/soul one. It has surprised me over the years in that respect.

It's Too Late was album's first well-known classic is. Its deep, sumptuous backing is very, very similar to that used by Carly Simon on her No Secrets album from later in the same year. She had obviously been listening to this. It is a lovely bass/drum guitar/acoustic hook line and a similarly attractive tenor saxophone. King's vocal is beautifully melodic and ideally suited to a hot summer's afternoon.

Home Again is a slow, meaningful ballad, once more featuring that infectious bass, piano and drum backing. Billy Joel must also have listened to this a lot. It is so like some of his mid-seventies material, both lyrically and musically. There is also a bit of a slow country rock feeling to the song. 

Beautiful is a quirky number that sounds a bit like a song from a musical. The lyric is uplifting and King addresses her listener personally. The piano is again superb, she really could play.

Way Over Yonder is a slow gospel-influenced number with impressive backing vocals from Merry ("Gimme Shelter") Clayton. Another good piece of saxophone is to be found on here. 

You've Got A Friend was a big hit for James Taylor. Most people know it by now, especially the "winter, spring, summer or fall..." refrain. It is a song that can be instantly sung along with, whether you have this album or not. Long before I had this album, I knew this song.

Where You Lead is almost Stax-y in its lively, deep soulful beat. It is one of the album's best examples of its unexpectedly soulful rock. Carole certainly had far more soul than she was sometimes given credit for.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow - next up is King's take on her sixties composition for The Shirelles. She does it in a much slowed-down way, turning into a piano-driven lament as opposed to the fairground-style early sixties Motown-ish rock'n'roll of the Shirelles' hit version of it.

Smackwater Jack is a delicious piece of lively, bassy blues, showing King's versatility again. It shows that Carole could rock and once more goes against the cliché that this is a light, airy-fairy, acoustic laid-back album. 

In Tapestry we have a plaintive, thoughtful piano and vocal ballad that exemplifies the sort of material one may have thought the whole album was populated with. As it is, it is one of the album's few songs in this vein. 

(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman - then there is this all-time classic. Of course, the definitive version is surely Aretha Franklin's one, but Carole King wrote it and here she sings it beautifully and with not a little soul herself. Great stuff. It has been remembered as one of the great songs of all time.

The latest remaster of the album gives it a nice, warm, bassy sound for probably the first time ever.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Carly Simon

No Secrets (1972)

The Right Thing To Do/The Carter Family/You're So Vain/His Friends Are More Than Found Of Robin/We Have No Secrets/Embrace Me, You Child/Waited So Long/It Was So Easy/Night Owl/When You Close Your Eyes    

The early seventies was a good time to be a female singer/songwriter - Carole King's Tapestry was everywhere, then there was Joni Mitchell and later on Janis Ian. There was also Carly Simon, who has been a bit forgotten about. This was her biggest selling album and is worth revisiting. Oh, and there was every teenage boy's dream of a cover that made this a popular album to look at in the record shop - Carly proudly and clearly braless, nipples like chapel hat-pegs. Lordy.

The Right Thing To Do is one of Simon's best known songs, this was an easy-listening, laid-back AOR classic. Simon's voice is up there with that of Karen Carpenter in its beautiful tone. It was a huge hit, deservedly so, it is a truly lovely song. It has a similar instrumental backing to You're So Vain.

The Carter Family is a wry, observational Carole King-Janis Ian-style song that highlights Simon's ability to write a clever, character-driven song. It is actually a meaningful song about not missing people until they are gone - from Simon's childhood neighbours (The Carter family), to her Grandma and finally an ex-boyfriend. It has a nice bit of late sixties Beatles-style bass on it too.

You're So Vain. The other "big one" was this - a sensual, confessional song from a songwriter honestly confessing that "you had me several years ago, when I was still quite naive...". This was quite strong stuff in 1972. Who was it about? Everybody said Mick Jagger. Then they said Warren Beatty. Simon actually said it was about three men, although the only one she has ever named was Beatty. Jagger, by the way, sings some backing vocals on the track. It is a superb song, both musically and lyrically.

"Your hat strategically dipped below one eye, your scarf it was apricot...". Simon has sometimes copped a bit of stick for the verbosity and possible clumsiness of lyrics like these, unfairly. Yes, it is a mouthful, but they are also pretty clever too.

His Friends Are More Than Fond Of Robin is a perplexing, plaintive song, sung in a quiet voice over a gentle piano. It is a nice song, but it sounds somewhat undercooked. In fact, both this and The Carter Family seem to have a markedly different production to the rest of the album. They sit a bit incongruously due to their more lo-fi, muffled sound. 

On We Have No Secrets the more full, solid rock sound of You're So Vain is back, however, on this one. It is an attractive, very typically early seventies number that features some excellent acoustic guitar and drum interplay.

Embrace Me, You Child has an impressive vocal and some enticing orchestration. The bass on here is once again very good, played by John Lennon's mate, Klaus Voorman. The drums throughout the album are played by ex-Sly & The Family Stone drummer Andy Newmark.

Waited So Long. "Daddy, I'm no virgin..." sings Simon on this, another confessional, slightly country-ish and upbeat bluesy song. It was a song that showed Simon to be singing as a mature, confident woman. Why is that important?  Well, in 1972, it was actually pretty rare for solo female artists, amazing as though it sounds. There is a Janis Joplin style of chutzpah on this, despite its relatively laid-back ambience.

It Was So Easy is a pleasing, almost folk-rock sounding number with Simon providing a most melodic and winning vocal.

Night Owl is a grinding, bluesy rocker that shows that Carly could give us a gin-soaked vocal when she felt like it. It features a good saxophone solo too.

When You Close Your Eyes. This short album finished with the peaceful, reflective Carole King vibe of this song. All very soothing and tranquil.

This was a most appealing album, I have to say, immaculately played and sung, with a bit of depth to the themes in the songs. It is worthy of the occasional check-out.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Blind Faith

Blind Faith (1969)

Had To Cry Today/Can't Find My Way Home/Well All Right/Presence Of The Lord/Sea Of Joy/Do What You Like         

Blind Faith was a short-lived "supergroup" consisting of Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker from Cream and Steve Winwood from Traffic, with additional help from Rick Grech of Family. It was a short, six-track album of quality blues rock, as you would expect, that achieved notoriety for its original cover of a topless barely pubescent girl. Quite what the intention behind that was is unclear. It has since been replaced by a cover with a picture of the group on it (as shown here).

The group actually only lasted six months, yet this album was a critical success and remains highly thought of, often making "greatest albums of all time" lists. Funnily enough, although it is only forty-two minutes long, it seems much longer, probably because of the length of some of the songs.
Had To Cry Today is a chugging, Traffic-influenced mid-paced blues rock number. It features some solid bass and drums. Winwood's vocals just remind me of Traffic, unsurprisingly. This sounds very much like the sort of material that would have followed Traffic's eponymous second album. There is some excellent Clapton guitar soloing near the end. It sort of merges Traffic with Cream, which once again is no surprise. It has Traffic's soulfulness and Cream's deep power.

Can't Find My Way Home is an acoustically-driven folky song of the sort that Paul Weller or Ocean Colour Scene would do many, many years later. It is plaintively sung by Winwood. It taps in to the country/folk rock vibe of the later sixties/early seventies. 

A lot of critics didn't have much time for the group's cover of Buddy Holly's Well All Right, which I find puzzling, as I love it. It is big, bassy, upbeat and bluesy. I always enjoy listening to it. It has a great heavy bit near the end - lots of organ, piano, organ and thumping drums.

Presence Of The Lord was possibly Eric Clapton's first great self-penned song and it is certainly an impressive one although I have always felt it suffered a bit from a muffled, undercooked sound. Although this latest remaster is finally an acceptable one after many very poor masterings of the album, no amount of tweaking can make it sound any clearer. However, when Clapton's guitars soars in towards the end I guess it doesn't really matter so much. It has been better over the years in Clapton's many live performances of it. 

Sea Of Joy is an appealing, melodic track enhanced by some nice bass and organ. It is very Led Zeppelin-influenced, with Winwood doing his best Robert Plant. As with many folky blues rock songs of the period, it starts in laid-back style before getting heavier half way through. Rick Grech also contributes some superb electric violin on here.

Do What You Like is a fifteen-minute monster of a track written by Ginger Baker and, although parts of it cater to that late sixties/early seventies creature, the drum solo, there are other appealing bits, particularly early on - a great rumbling bass sound, an insistent, vaguely funky rhythm and a far better sound quality than on Presence Of The Lord, for example. Although it has the obvious feel of a studio "jam" about it, it is certainly still enjoyable. Baker could drum, for sure. Take it for what it is, a child of its time, or just stop it after seven minutes!

I wouldn't say that this is one of the greatest albums of all time but it has something about it and it very representative of its era.

** There are several non-album tracks that have surfaced on the "deluxe edition". They are:-

Sleeping In The Ground is an upbeat, Clapton-driven slice of archetypal blues rock. I guess these days room would have been found for more of this material to be included on the album. It is livelier in ambience than most of the original album's songs. There bonus tracks also include a slowed-down blues version of the track, which is also impressive. 

Can't Find My Way Home (electric version)The acoustic number from the original is enhanced here with some buzzy Clapton guitar, to great effect as well. I think I prefer this version, actually. Something punchier about it. The guitar brings that to it. It is now a rock song as opposed to a folk/country rock song. 

Acoustic Jam is appealing enough, but it goes on for fifteen minutes and is only really worthy of a listen as background music while you're putting up a shelf or painting a room, let's be honest!

Time Winds is a more urgent, lively feel is to be found on this organ-powered instrumental. There is some nice bass on it too.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Love Affair

The Love Affair were a considerably underrated rock/soul group from the late sixties that caught on to the Small Faces/Amen Corner/Spencer Davis/Traffic psychedelic rock in places but with far more of a catchy, soulful pop sensibility to their sound with a robust brass section and young singer Steve Ellis's magnificent vocals.

The Best Of Love Affair

Bringing On Back The Good Times/Hush/Everlasting Love/A Day Without Love/Handbags And Gladrags/Rainbow Valle/So Sorry/The First Cut Is The Deepest/Let Me Know/Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday/Baby I Know/60 Minutes (Of Your Love)/Someone Like Me/One Road/I'm Happy/Tobacco Road   
Bringing On Back The Good Times is a horn-drenched piece of poppy soul with one of those killer late sixties choruses. 

Hush is a track that showed the group's liking for latter-era Small Faces-style psychedelia. It is full of swirling, crazy sixties organ, man, rumbling bass, buzzy guitar and general freaked-out vibe.

Then, of course, there is Everlasting Love. This song is up there in my top ten songs of all time. I was ten when it came out and I loved it and I still do. If any song sums up the sixties for me, it is this. From the introductory huge drum beat, to the throbbing bass, the massive punch of the horns and then Steve Ellis's remarkable, soulful voice. For a lad of eighteen it was a phenomenal achievement. When I hear this, I am always nine years old, playing football in the playground. It is simply wonderful.

Just check out the video of this. Everything about it screams "1968", even down to the graphics on the front of the drum. I absolutely love it. What is the girl in the bowler hat up to? Far out, man. I love the typically sixties "go-go" dancer as well. Great stuff.

A Day Without Love is in the same vein as Everlasting Love, with more sumptuous horns, another great Ellis vocal and a Northern Soul thump to the beat. This is quality sixties pop. If there was one song tailor-made for Ellis's rasping voice, it is Mike D'Abo's Handbags And Gladrags. Ellis's harpsichord-backed Stonesy take on it is easily up there with Rod StewartChris Farlowe and Kelly Jones of The Stereophonics' versions. 

Rainbow Valley also has some of the same horn backing and vibe of Everlasting Love. Its chorus is uplifting in that rising, dramatic way. It also has a typically hippy feel to it in its lyrics.

So Sorry has a big, bassy thump to it and some infectious congas on the backing. This has the group going a bit Blood, Sweat & Tears in the powerful, bluesy soul sound. It has a great psychedelic-ish/freakbeat guitar solo. 

Ellis's interpretation of Cat StevensThe First Cut Is The Deepest is one of the best ever of the song. It is freaking superb. He really is one of the great underrated British soul/rock vocalists of the period. 

The group show that they could do upbeat bluesy rock too in the impressive Let Me Know, which is very Spencer Davis in its sound. It is full of superb guitar and it goes without saying that the vocals are peerless, Ellis sounding like Robert Plant in places. The same applies to the the gritty, slow white soul of Gone Are The Songs of Yesterday. Ellis sounds very like Chris Farlowe on this one.

Baby I Know has a lot of the sound of Handbags And Gladrags to it, in both its backing and vocal. The chorus is big and catchy. There is something of Tom Jones in here too. 60 Minutes (Of Your Love) is a massive, pounding piece of Small Faces-influenced psych-ish rock. It is really good, considerably removed from the pop of Everlasting Love too.

Someone Like Me is a slow, piano and bass-backed soul ballad. It has something of Every Little Bit Hurts to it. One Road is again very Small Faces-esque and is a rhythmic, orchestrated, acoustic and melodious number. The group were moving now to that very late sixties/early seventies big soul sound.

I'm Happy is a short slice of freakbeat-inspired stuff. More Small Faces influences abound, together with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, particularly in the drum sound. It is very short but contains some excellent, hazy guitar. 

Tobacco Road is one of those songs that many late sixties/early seventies groups covered. It starts very slowly before easing into some quality blues a minute or so in. Many other covers of it were much faster.

This is an excellent compilation from a group who were a lot better than they were ever given credit for. It is enjoyable late sixties soul/pop/rock/soul and well worthy of a listen. The sound quality is surprisingly good too, considering its date of recording - full, bassy and in nice stereo.