more soul that has been missed...
The Stylistics - Rockin' Roll Baby / Bloodstone - Riddle Of The Sphinx
Two Seventies albums, released within a year of each other, and both featuring two classic soul vocal groups from that era.
The Stylistics album I was prompted to put up at the site (having seen it gathering dust over the years on the shelves here) by my friend Tim in Santa Monica. Tim had put together a CD for me that included a track from this album entitled 'Payback Is A Dog'. I must say that the writers Thom Bell and Linda Creed ought to be up there with the Bacharach and David's of this world. When the pair of them came together to write their melodies, something really special happened. This album contains some really fantastic melodies including the track already mentioned along with 'Make It Last', 'Love Comes Easy' (covered expertly by Eloise Laws at one time) and 'Let Them Work It Out'. This album also contains my least favourite Stylistics tune (and I know I am going to outrage many soul fans out there by saying this) 'You Make Me Feel Brand New'. I guess that some things just miss me for some reason. What I would say is that whatever was put in front of Russell and the boys, they always gave one hundred percent. Can't ask for more than that can we? A very fine album on Avco Records from 1973.
Bloodstone, in my humble opinion, were one of the most underrated vocal groups of the Seventies and Eighties. Mention their name and most soul fans would say 'Oh yes, the group who did 'Natural High', weren't they?'. In fact, Bloodstone's musical output was quite prolific spanning some 15 albums. Sadly the world lost Willis Draffen Jnr. from the band earlier this year in February. This set, from the groups fine musical canon, came out on Decca Records in 1974. The cover artwork takes on the Egyptian / Ancient Greek feel that following Earth, Wind and Fire albums would turn into an artform later in the decade. This album did produce one R & B hit in the guise of 'My Little Lady', which had a very similar sounding musical style to that of the late Van McCoy. The whole set kicks off with the very 'Natural High' sounding 'For The First Time'. Willis weighs in on four of the compositions with the anthemic 'Save Me' highlighting. For these ears, I am going to plump for the melodic 'Something's Missing'. A great Charles Love composition. All of Bloodstone's albums are worh picking up, however, if you are just starting out, you could do worse than pick up this fine album. The 1982 set 'We Go A Long Way Back', is also quite majestic, by the way. Essential.
Randy Brown - Welcome To My Room / Midnight Desire
Randy Brown is, probably, in every soul fan's favourite top ten artists. His musical canon is second to none. From a period during the late Seventies, into the early Eighties he created a series of southern soul masterpieces, ably assisted by the producers Homer Banks and Carl Hampton. During the late Eighties he released material more sporadically....a twelve here, a compilation there, even a Christmas single. Whatever the format, there was alaways something of note within the relevant grooves. I read of Randy that he passed away in 1993. This has been one itch I am dying to scratch at the site. There are no confirmations apart from this one article, however, the absence of new material does not bode well.
Back to the albums now. These two sets, in my opinion, are the high points of a career full of...O.K. high points then! LOL. 'Welcome To My Room' is his 'tour de force', seeing a re-release some 10 years after it's original surfacing on the Parachute label. 'I'm Always In The Mood' was the tune many of the modern fans went for, however, for this Randy Brown fan, 'I Wanna Make Love' always sends the proverbial shivers down this scribe's spine. Set at mid tempo, worth buying the album for this track alone. The 'Midnight Desire' album followed 'Welcome' two years later, by which time Randy had moved onto the Chocolate City label. 'We Ought To Be Doin' It' is one of the finest slices of southern soul ever released (can't imagine what he means by the songs title, however!). I remember at the time that Robbie Vincent (now at Jazz FM but at the time working at Radio London) went for the beautiful 7 minute ballad 'The Next Best Thing To Being There'. I ain't going to lock horns on that one. A great tune. If the streams are allowing, do check them out. Both songs here are soul classics.
Sydney Joe Qualls - I Don't Do This / Lesette Wilson - Now That I've Got Your Attention
The Sydney Joe Qualls album should actually be entitled 'I Enjoy Loving You' (from 1974), so why did it arrive here with the title of his Modern Soul Monster from 1979? Well, this album is a re-release, via the excellent Expansion label in London, of Sydney's only Dakar / Brunswick set, with the inclusion of 'I Don't Do This', which all go to make this a must have album. Sydney only recorded two albums and was last heard of in 1990 via a brief U.K. visit. The 1974 album is a very fine soul offering, at times sounding not too dissimilar to the Reverend Al Green in parts. Sam Dees weighs in on three of the melodies here, along with Carl Davis, Lowell Simon and Lou Ragland to boot. 'I Don't Do This' was penned by the excellent Prince Phillip Mitchell, which, overall, gives you an idea of the quality on show here. If you are sick and tired of the pasteurised / homogenised R & B that infects the pop charts thesedays, treat yourself to some real soul medicine. Nice one Expansion.
Lesette Wilson's album may leave you with a 'Groundhog Day' feeling at this site as it has already appeared on the fusion page here earlier this year...so why return to this excellent set? Well, Lesette has recently performed at the Jazz Cafe in London, a show that I attended, and I can say that it has to be one of the finest performances I have seen in a long while. This talented musician has worked alongside such musically talented individuals, in the past, that have included Roy Ayers, Meli'sa Morgan and Tom Browne. To commemorate her visit, Soul Brother Records re-released this, her first, album, which includes her fusion classic 'Caveman Boogie'. To wet the appetite further, the boys included her 'Rare Groove' from 1987, 'Look Into Tomorrow' (a tune spun by U.K. deejay Norman Jay back in the day and fast becoming a highly sought after item). Being the unattentive person that I am, I only just noticed that Soul Brother gave me a credit on the sleeve. Thanks guys and thanks Lesette for a 2002 musical highlight. Great to meet you.
Dusty Springfield - A Girl Called Dusty / Elton John - The Complete Thom Bell Sessions
These two inclusions here should stir up a hornets nest!! Dusty Springfield is one of those white singers that have, pretty well, been embraced by all sections of the soul music community, whilst Elton John has seen many of his recordings covered by soul artists including Billy Paul amongst others.
Dusty Springfield passed away three years ago and left a legacy of several classic Sixties albums and several forgettable Seventies and Eighties sides. This particular album was her first solo set after departing the pop band, The Springfields. Dusty was already showing the potential of becoming a major soul and pop artist as many of the tracks here testify. What was to follow is now part of the fabric of our musical history. Released on Phillips in 1963, Dusty covered several sides penned by the likes of Bacharach & David, Goffin & King, Ray Charles, Holland Dozier Holland and Charlie and Inez Foxx. The standards 'Anyone Who Had A Heart', 'Wishin' And Hopin', 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' and 'Mockingbird', we all know well. I, personally, prefer Dusty's mellower vocal stylings, which are typified in the beautiful melody 'My Colouring Book'. As I said before, here are the foundations of what was to follow. Dusty's Sixties output was second to none.
Elton John? Well, Elton is a little like the Beatles, for this music lover. He can be quite excellent ('Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me' - a reference to the signage that was left in the cottonfields towards the end of the 19th century, warning black people to be indoors after daylight hours) and the apalling ('Crocodile Rock'). In 1977, Elton left the shores of the U.K. and made his way to the States to hook up with the legendary songwriter and producer, Thom Bell. The resulting sessions were released in 1979 in the form of this 6 track album. Elton was putting on his soul shoes after having recorded the hit 'Philadelphia Freedom' elsewhere Stateside (not included on this album). Only six tracks on show here and they are all of a high standard. Personal favourite is the uptempo 'Mama Can't Buy You Love', nicely delivered by Elton with backing chores by no less than Bobby Eli, M.F.S.B., Detroit Spinners and Thom Bell himself.
As with all Blue Eyed Soul recordings, you need to have an open mind and be prepared to take a leap of faith, which, if you do, I believe you will find these two offerings quite rewarding.
Starpoint - It's So Delicious / Kenny Doss - Movin' On A Feelin'
If you an avid record collector (in the way that I am...driving my wife up the wall with all the space problems etc!!) you probably have your own system in order to find an album. No matter how organised you are, there is always that moment where you walk around cursing that someone has stolen your album, only to find it five minutes later! We've all been there. Well my system is...well...A to Z, a section for tunes you play out and a section for albums that you didn't get into first time round. Well these two albums come from the latter section......why I am not sure, however, some tunes age very well and this is the case with these two albums.
I have several Starpoint albums here and this one has some very fine moments indeed. With a couple of exceptions, I generally prefer things when Renee Diggs drops the pace a little. Some of those Eighties drum machines leave a lot to be desired. On this set I want to concentrate on two of the downtempo moments, namely 'Somethin' In Your Eyes' and 'I Got The Love'. Both of these tunes have a very Atlantic Starr feel about them especially the former of the two tunes. Renee 'digs' (pardon the pun) deep into her voice box and comes up with, arguably, this groups finest moment in the form of 'Somethin' In Your Eyes'. What a great track. 'I Got The Love' is another top drawer ballad that begs the listener to pick up the phone and track this album down. Check GEMM or Soul Brother in Putney (London) for this album. You won't be disappointed. Another bonus for the buyer is that this shouldn't break the bank. All round winner. On Boardwalk Records from 1983, by the way.
Kenny Doss is a totally 'different kettle of poissons', so to speak. Out on Bearsville Records in 1980, Kenny scored a minor R & B hit (number 43 on Billboard's charts) at the time, in the shape of the track 'Sugar' (which is included on this fine set). Kenny's sound is a little similar to that of the Reverend Al Green, only a little 'smoother'. This is hardly surprising as the producer is none other than the legendary Willie Mitchell. Utilising Memphis musicians Kenny moves through many various tempo's. 'Do You Remember?' is a heartfelt ballad, whilst 'You Turn Me On' would grace any modern soul room dancefloor. This glides along and I am sure that soon this will pick up more of a deejay response than it currently is receiving. Fine dancer. 'Just A Feeling' is set at just above mid-tempo. Another soul winner if ever I heard one. Not a consistent set throughout, but worth the purchase for the three tracks mentioned......and the single of course. Both of these albums are available at GEMM at the time of writing. Why not check the audio below and hear for yourself. These two sets certainly won't be returning from whence they came!
Shalamar - Uptown Festival / Disco Gardens
The inclusion of these two albums might raise an eyebrow amongst many soul purists. Personally, I have always liked Shalamar. There was always something on each of their albums that was worthwhile. Very much in the same bag as the Sylvers, many purists saw these groups as purely 'pop' without soul. Time is a great teacher. The Sylvers albums have become 'rare groove' and Shalamars earlier offerings are fetching higher and higher prices. Now I am going to hold up my hands and say that there are some really 'Eurovision' moments here. I mean 'Inky Dinky Wang Dang Doo'! Who came up with that one? The 'Uptown Festival' album showcased the vocal talents of Jeffrey Daniels along with Cleo Kennedy and Gary Mumford. This set is worth picking up for the excellent 'High On Life' mid tempo melody. Really nice harmonies on this one that Ralph Tee played on his excellent Thames Radio Show in London last week. Following on in 1978 came 'Disco Gardens', which in turn had it's high and low points. One personnel change brought in Jody Watley into the line up replacing Cleo. Howard Hewett was to come into the lineup for their later albums. The high point on this set has to be 'Stay Close To Love'. An uplifting mid tempo soul tune that has been my favourite Shalamar song over the years. The aforementioned Sylvers joined the band on songwriting chores and there were the signs of the success to follow for the group. Good news is that both of these albums are available on one mid price CD, released by Sanctuary Records in 2002. Since these releases, Shalamar's personnel has changed several times and the group still perform today. Jody Watley has moved into the soulful house genre, whilst Howard Hewett is considered to be one on the finest soul vocalists around today.
Don Blackman - Don Blackman / Mighty Fire - No Time For Masquerading
The Don Blackman album is well known amongst soul fans in the U.K., although in the greater scheme of musical things, he has been relatively ignored by the mainstream media. This album has acheived 'rare groove' status amongst soul followers and quite right, too. Released on Arista Records, via GRP, in 1982, this 8 track outing has some very fine moments. A few years back a 12" single was released featuring the tracks 'Hearts Desire' and 'Never Miss A Thing'. Both of those tunes are top drawer soul melodies. The artist Weldon Irvine contributed 'Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide'. Weldon and Don were close friends and on Weldon's passing recently, Don turned the main page at his website into a tribute to Weldon. With the help of Dave Grusin, this is a very satisfying album that is really worth tracking down. One of the finest releases in 1982, which was a vintage year for soul music. Don has some new material, due for release on the UK based Expansion Records label, coming out later this year...some 20 years after this fine release.
One year earlier, Mighty Fire released their only album to date. 'No Time For Masquerading' did receive some airplay at the time, however, you seldom hear anything from this fine set these days. This album was released on Elektra Records in 1981 and the soul stations in the UK went straight for the dancers 'Love Fantasy' and 'One Good Love Is Worth Two In The Bush'. These tracks have aged very well, perhaps due to the production input of the excellent Marilyn McLeod. Of the tunes on offer here, I look to the tracks where the boys drop the tempo a little. 'Missing You' is a melodic little ballad that is pleasing to these ears as is the beautiful song 'I Could Write A Love Song'. There are so many tracks, from around this time, that I am re-discovering with renewed interest. Very solid set that shouldn't break the bank, which is nice in these days of Northern Soul singles costing £15,000 (Frank Wilson's 'Do I Love You' if you are interested).
Nightwind - Featuring Angela Charles And Windsong / Ozone - Glasses
Two albums that have one thing in common with each other. They were both recommended by site visitors for this page. Thanks to Kimmo and my good friend Leo Hallin for their respective recommendations. Nice one guys.
The Nightwind album arrived on these shores in 1987. The album was released on the Windsong label and is a gem of an album, especially if you are into the type of soul music expertly illustrated by the late Minnie Riperton. Recorded in Chicago, Illinois, the featured vocalist here is one Angela Charles, who released one additional twelve with Nightwind in the form of 'No Regrets', shortly after this excellent release. Assisted by Charles M. Lawrence and a session band, this is a really haunting set of tunes. Angela's vocal phrasings are very reminiscent to that of Minnie Riperton's, with her pitching in with a very decent cover of Minnie's soul evergreen 'Lovin You' (which I must admit I haven't heard in ages). There are seven tunes here in total, of which 'You're Someone Special' really shines. My pick of this fine crop is the moody opener 'Love Me Baby' with Angela's pleading vocals really shining through. Might be worth checking GEMM to see if there are copies there. I bought mine from Soul Bowl in Norfolk at the time (check the links page), so I guess...
Ozone recorded 5 albums over the years, with this set their final to my knowledge. Michael Stokes handles proceedings here to great effect. Seems to me that you can pick up anything with his name on it and it has something really worthwhile. For soul fans, this album is sought after for the uplifting soul classic '(Our Hearts) Will Always Shine', which, although nearly 20 years old, gets this old soul fans' toes tapping. If you are feeling down I would recommend any doctor prescribe a couple of listens of this tune to give you a great pick me up! Mind you, tread carefully with this album as the title tune and 'Video King' will put you right back down there again! Of the other tunes of note, 'Here I Go Again' is a decent piece of 80's dance, 'Strutt My Thang' is better than the title intimates and 'I Can't Wait' is a nice piece of mid tempo soul. Worth buying for the one track alone, however, this does come with a government health warning. This is a veritable musical minefield. That rock guitar...aaargh!! By the way, a year later, the group were helping out Bobby Nunn on his 'Private Party' album, and then, not a dickie bird...unless you know better out there.
The Superstars - I Just Can't Say It / L.R. Superstars - Sayin' It
What does a twelve inch single by a group called the Superstars and an album by a Little Rock based group, the L.R. Superstars have in common? Well, they are one and the same.
Back in 1987, Budweiser were undertaking their fifth national sponsored event in the States, where they asked several radio stations to feature up to 10,000 little known U.S. bands and singers on their airwaves. In 1987, a group called the Superstars won part of the competition and had one of their tunes pressed on one side of a twelve with a different winner on the flip. Copies of these twelves weren't made in large quantities and a few made it to these shores in 1989. I picked up my copy that year and since that time, this has become one of my all time favourite soul tunes. A rap opens proceedings between a man and a woman getting home from work and chilling out. There follows 7 minutes of soul heaven, that was rarely off my stereo that year. The following year, after a name change that gave an approving nod to their local town, a deal followed......in the U.K. This deal was in part due to Richard Searlings writings in Blues and Soul at the time. He loved the tune as much as I did. Signing for Rare Grooves Records, the L.R. Superstars released the album 'Sayin' It', which contained the fine tune 'Say Yeah', a solid set that was a real soul gem of an album. 10 out of 10 for the music....a 5 out of 10 for the cover artwork, still it's 'what's in the grooves that count', as they used to say at Motown. You can check the single just below. Excellent stuff.
Shirley Marshall - Once Upon A Time / Tony Warren - Rhapsody Of Love
Two albums from the Nineties that have been bypassed by many and that deserve further investigation. Albums like these, used to carry the tag 'little label', however, there is nothing 'little' regarding the content of either.
Shirley Marshall's album came out on the New Jersey label, Sama Records in 1996. Shirley has a vocal style not dis-similar to that of Stephanie Mills. High praise indeed. Not only can Shirley deliver the songs with a real panache, she is responsible for the majority of songwriting here and is the Executive Producer to boot! To date, I believe that this is her only album outing thus far (unless you know differently of course). Her songs are bright and full of optimism, with the samba stylings of 'Ooh Babe' really hitting home for this listener. The opener 'It Seems Like' is a fine stepper and 'How Could This Be' is a very nice piece of songwriting. Shirley covers Carole King's 'It's Too Late and Bill Withers 'Use Me' in fine style all making this a very satisfying outing. Where are you now, Shirley?
The same could be said regarding the whereabouts of Tony Warren. This album came in in 1992 and was released on the Turn On Productions record label. Tony's vocal stylings remind me a little of David Peastons. Not a bad comparison, eh? The sleevenotes here are by, none other than, Dionne Warwick and Tony managed to persuade the likes of Bobby Lyle, Dee Harvey, Penny Ford and Gerald Albright to help him out on this set. The album has a very major label sound, although it came out on a smaller label based in California. At the time I made tracks straight for the beautiful song 'Fool For Love', although on listening again to this CD some 10 years after it's original release, it really has stood the test of time very well. Of the original tunes on this set, 'Oh Me, Oh My' really is a top drawer ballad. Of the covers, Tony gets his tonsils around the old Spinners tune 'Love Don't Love Nobody' very nicely, and we even are treated to a nice cover of the jazz standard 'In A Sentimental Mood', with Bobby Lyle really excelling on keyboards. Worth picking up from those bargain bins.
It is with sadness that a close friend of Tony's informed me of his passing a few years back. He will be fondly remembered by this scribe. A great singer.
Syreeta - Syreeta / Bruce Fisher - Red Hot
Syreeta Wright has one of the most distinctive voices in the soul music genre. Her talents not only lie in her delicate vocal tones, but also in the written musical word. Her first album is one that is ignored by many and overshadowed by the follow up set that delivered the pop hit 'Your Kiss Is Sweet'. Married, for a while, to Stevie Wonder back in 1970, that songwriting partnership penned some soul classics. This set, all bar two tunes, is a Stevie / Syreeta musical vehicle. Associate producer Robert Margouleff (Tonto's Expanding Headband) even took the sleeve images! As with many compositions that Stevie is involved with, there are many unusual chord changes and socially aware lyrics, none more so than 'Black Maybe', which is top drawer Stevie. The track that I am going to go for here is her fine version of the Smokey Robinson tune 'What Love Has Joined Together' (a track that appeared on the excellent Temptations album 'The Temptations Sing Smokey' back in the mid sixties). I know that the Soulin magazine went for this track in a big way, in their first issue, and who am I to argue? A great soul tune by a great woman. On MoWest from 1972, by the way.
The Bruce Fisher album surfaced on Mercury in 1977. I must admit that I picked this album several years ago, impressed by the artistic line-up of musicians on show. I mean, if you can boast the likes of Charles Earland, Roy Ayers, The Brecker Brothers and Mtume on your debut album, it would impress the most die hard cynic. Well, I have several record shelves here, one of which is for albums that I need to go back to for a second listen. This one must have been gathering dust for 10 years or so! I am really pleased that I pulled this one fro the shelf and took it for a spin. Some albums sound great at the time but don't musically endure, however, this one has really grown on me. I must confess that when Bruce drops down a couple of gears, here, his vocals really do shine. 'In My Life' is a fine ballad as is the mid tempo 'Daring Me Closer'. If the audio streams are free at the site, I would really recommend you check out 'Starlite Starbrite', co written by Bruce, which is just about as good as soul music gets. A great tune. Incidentally, Bruce played guitar for the group Sunfire and co wrote 'Get On Up, Get On Down' with Roy Ayers back in the day. A talented chap!
Keni Burke - Changes / Chairmen Of The Board - What Goes Around Comes Around
With all of the festive season long behind us now, I received an e-mail from a site visitor, who, amongst other records, suggested that I might add Keni Burke's 'Changes' album to the Been Missed page. I must confess that this album wouldn't be the first to spring to mind for this page as this set featured the modern soul classic 'Rising To The Top'. That tune has been the inspiration for countless rap records as well as being the main underpinning of the Mary Jane Girls tune 'All Night Long'. With such a major soul tune eminating from within this albums grooves, I guess you 'could' say that, the other gems contained within this fine album, could be viewed as ones that have been missed. On it's release, the UK soul stations gave equal airplay to 'Hang Tight' as well as 'Rising'. I was in a bar upstairs by the sea in 1982, when I first heard Robbie Vincent at Radio London give this a spin as an import. 'Rising' deserves all the acollades that it has, subsequently, received. 'Hang Tight' still sounds fresh to these ears, with Keni's fine bass playing highlighting. On the mellower tip comes the beautiful 'One Minute More', which, on any other album, would be a real highlight. 'Who Do You Love' showcases Keni's vocal abilities beautifully and 'Can't Get Enough' chugs along nicely. Keni has made only one other album in the twenty years since this 1982 RCA release. That was the 'Nothing But Love' set, which has another future soul classic in the making in the form of 'Indigenous Love'. Keni Burke is one of my favourite artists, who, in my opinion, ought to release more material. Artists of his calibre do not come along that often. Enough said.
In a totally unseamless link to the next album, comes the last album release (to my knowledge) from General Johnson and the Chairmen Of The Board. From 1993, and on Surfside Records, 'What Goes Around' did receive some airplay on the better UK soul stations. The General's vocals have always pleased and were responsible, in part, for this soul fan's blossoming interest in soul music some 32 years ago. In the following years, the Chairmen have released some top drawer soul gems and some pieces of downhome funk. In the later Eighties they stuck to the West Coast Beach Music scene, so when this set came along, it came as a really pleasant surprise. The title track here, it has to be said, is the standout track, which gets into the grey matter and remains there. 'Shero' follows along really nicely, with a very comtemporary uplifting groove and 'Hold On, I'm Coming To Save You' is a real delight, reminding me a little of the stuff Ian Levine was producing on his Motorcity label some 12 years ago. A very pleasing album that, along with the Keni Burke album, shouldn't be too expensive to pick up (which makes a nice change and contradicts some opinions from those who believe that 'quality costs').
The Jones Girls - The Jones Girls / Get As Much Love As You Can
With the sad recent passing of Valorie Jones, I thought I ought to focus on two of this fine groups offerings, one from the tail end of the Seventies, the other from the early Eighties.
Having recorded several sides for the Paramount and Curtom labels, amongst others, and having been an in demand trio of background vocalists, the album 'The Jones Girls' was the first mainstream album for this fine group. Signed to Philadelphia, this first outing for the label has become a highly collectable record, sought by many soul pundits. Shirley, Valorie and Brenda make their way through some marvellous Gamble & Huff melodies here including 'You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else', 'Life Goes On' and 'I'm At Your Mercy'. Dexter Wansel and Cynthia Biggs pitch in with the mid tempo 'We're A Melody' and You Made Me Love You'. The highlight here, for this reviewer, is the very first track 'This Feelin's Killing Me', which has all the hallmarks of a 'Philly Classic'. A great album.
Two years later, a more maturer sound came in the form of 'Get As Much Love As You Can'. On it's release, nearly every radio station made a beeline for the Dexter Wansel / Cynthia Biggs penned 'Nights Over Egypt'. This track has since become a soul classic, sampled on many house records for it's infectious bassline riff. If you stopped at this tune, you would be missing many other gems inset on this fine release. The album kicks off with '(I Found) That Man Of Mine', a bright breezy tune followed by the fine ballad title track. As far as the Jones Girls catalogue goes, if I had to choose a tune to be 'Top Of The Jones Girls Pops', it would have to be the final tune on side one here. 'Love Don't Ever Say Goodbye' has one of the most beautiful melodies laid down on vinyl. The Girls voices perfectly compliment this fine song that glides along at just above downtempo. It is a real shame that we are not going to hear all three of these fine singers together again. I saw The Jones Girls live 10 years ago and that night will remain in my grey matter for the rest of my life.
Mary Love Comer - Sin No More / Veronica Mickie - Keep Your Mind On Jesus
Can't believe that I haven't featured more Gospel outings on these pages before, as I have so many lying around here. Let's take a look at a couple by two great female vocalists.
Mary Love Comer is, probably, best remembered for her 'Come Out Of The Sandbox' track from a few years back. Mary's past history goes back to the Sixties and, vocally, she is not a million miles away from Candi Staton's vocal stylings. The 'Sandbox' track can be found on the Co Love Records album 'His Servant Am I'. This set arrived in 1989 and appears to be a release by Co Love Records in association with the excellent U.K. magazine 'Voices From The Shadows'. An initial single release came in the form of 'Standing On The Edge Of Time', which is a delightful slice of gospel and 'Is It All Necessary' is a fine dancer. The killer cut here has to be the mid tempo title track, that comes in a vocal version and an instrumental. Mary and her husband Bradford E. Comer co-wrote all of the tunes here, highly thought provokingly and intelligently. A good gospel release.
Veronica Mickie's set came out two years later, in 1991, on the, Michigan based, Triple Star Record label. Again here we have another fine vocalist with another set of thought provoking lyrics and fine melodies. Veronica went on to record a CD, entitled 'World Of Confusion' for the same label a year later. This album has some fine moments. 'What Is Love' is a fine midtempo number and she really delivers the goods on the ballad's 'He Made Me Whole' and 'Where Do I Go From Here?'. My pick of this fine bunch is the moody 'Lost Children' with it's socially aware commentary make this album one to look out for in the second hand stores. Since the 1992 release I have not been aware of any further releases by her...unless you know different? Another great Gospel outing.
Ramp - Come Into Knowledge / I.N.D. - Into New Dimensions
Two albums that have nothing in common, apart from the fact they are both highly sought after thesedays.
By 1977, Polydor Records were giving Roy Ayers such a hell of a workload (one album every six months!) that it surprised me that he had any time to work on any other external projects. This five piece outfit were signed to ABC Blue Thumb Records and consisted of three male members, John Manuel, Nate White and Landy Shores, along with two female singers, Sharon Matthews and Sibel Thrasher. One curio on this set is the groups own version of Roy's 'Everybody Loves The Sunshine', which is fairly faithful to Roy's fine original. Sharon and Sibel's vocal harmonies are quirky and unusual and with Roy's and Edwin Birdsong's distinctive songwriting talents, this has a feel that is almost tailor made for the term 'rare groove'. If you want to hear where I am coming from, check the track 'Daylight'. Nice album from 1977.
I.N.D. (Into New Dimensions) were an eleven piece outfit, who, to my knowledge, only released one album, which is here in all it's glory. The label was Erect Records and the year was 1981. Erect were responsible for many sought after releases including Terry Callier's 'I Don't Want To See Myself'. This set has sat on my shelves for the last 15 years and I only dug it out recently. Produced by Jim Porter, this album has matured like a fine wine since it's original release. The uptempo numbers are ably delivered, however, when the boys drop down a gear or two they really come into their own. There are several tracks that can be described as 'steppers' with 'I Just Got To Have You' dropping neatly into the genre. That track could have been penned by Michael Stokes, it is that good. 'Side By Side' is a fine track, competently sung, embellished with some excellent vocal harmonies whilst 'I Want To Be The One', musically, hits the spot for this soul fan. Moral of the story is, I guess, revisit your old vinyl. You never know what gems that may be hiding within.
Tina Medina kindly sent me an update regarding the group:
'Hi Toby, just wanted to let you know that the information on the Band IND is incorrect, there where eleven members not six. I'm married to one of them and when I showed him the site he wanted me to let you know of the error. Although IND is not reforming several of the remaining members have started up a new band and are at it again. So hope the people will be looking forward to hearing them again. Thanks Mrs. Medina'
Ladies Of The 80's - Ladies Of The Eighties / Sylvia Striplin - Give Me Your Love
Back in 1981, Roy Ayers was a really busy boy (as he was during the mid seventies). Not only was he working alongside Fela Kuti for his 'Africa, Center Of The World' album, he helped these two artists as well as fusion artist Justo Almario.
The Ladies Of The Eighties comprised of Susan Beaubian, Marva D. Hicks, Vivian D. Prince, Denie Corbett and Sylvia Striplin. Odd thing about this album is that four artists appear on the front cover, however, there are five on the rear. Marva Hicks, I am pretty sure, is the artist that went on to record 'I Got You Where I Want' in the early nineties. Sylvia made her own solo album the same year, for the same Roy Ayers owned label, Uno Melodic. Must say that the fashions have moved on a great deal since these 20 year old sets. The music, however, has really stood the test of time. Most people are familiar with the groups classic 'Turned On To You', which is a brilliant dancer, however the rest of this set should not be overlooked. 'Sing Me' still sounds fresh as a daisy and 'He Is Mine Forever' is Roy Ayers at his songwriting finest. These albums I picked up back in the day and they cost a pretty penny today. It is well worth picking up the CD re-issues of both of these albums. You won't be disappointed.
Sylvia Striplin's album is similarly effective, with her 'quirky' vocals complimenting Roy's songwriting talents. Prior to this set, she was busy with the group Aquarian Dream, singing on the track 'You're A Star'. After moving on to Roy's label, she cut only this album for the label. All the tracks were backed by Roy's studio band and, as with the Ladies outing, there are particular tracks that most punters are after. The tracks in question are the dancer 'Give Me Your Love' and the stepper 'You Can't Turn Me Away', and, as usual I am going to go against the grain and pick the excellent tracks 'All Alone' and 'Will We Ever Pass This Way Again' (a beautiful smoocher). Quite what Sylvia is up to these days is a mystery to this scribe. Good album.
Future Flight - Future Flight / Zingara - Zingara
Going to be totally self indulgent here. Must still be feeling the after effects of the great Lamont Dozier concert that I went to a couple of weeks ago. Lamont Dozier? Well, 1981 must have been a really busy year for the man. Not only was he working on his 'Lamont Dozier' album for M & M Records, he was helping write and produce these two fine pieces of soul music. As I have stated before, the man is a genius.
Future Flight's album came out on Capitol Records and you can tell by the sleeve notes that the group are as bigger fans of Lamont as I am, and I know many of you are. The group comprise of a base of four artists, Sy Jeffries, David Swanson, Brynwood Tanner and Anthony Patler. The band draws on several additional musicians to give the overall fuller feel to the outing. Although there are several uptempo moments, Sy and David's vocals tend to compliment the melodies when they drop down a gear or two. Without doubt, the highlight of this 'blue-eyed' soul set is the quite magnificent 'Hip-notic Lady'. One of Lamont's finest songs from this period. File under classic.
Zingara are another four piece combo featuring Wali Ali, Karen Coleman, Rick Jones and Minor Williams. The vocal chores are, pretty well, shared between the whole band and, again, Lamont created another minor masterpiece. Over the years 'Love's Calling' and 'I Surrender' have satisfied the needs of many of Lamonts fans, however, as usual, I would like to bring a different tune, 'You Sho Know How To Love Me', to your attention. There was something about this period, in the history of soul music, that seemed to take a preference for the mid-tempo. The likes of 'Rising To The Top', 'It's A Pleasure', Hold Tight' all indicate where I am coming from. This tune is another that suits that period...and the test of time. I hope you will agree.
Nolen And Crossley - Ambience / Nature's Divine - In The Beginning
As far as I am aware, the Nolen and Crossley set was their only outing to date and is typical of many of the quality releases of it's time. The album originally came out on Gordy Records in 1982. Usually, this album is sought after for the samba track, 'Salsa Boogie', however if you scratch the musical surface there are other gems contained herein. 'Nice To Have You Back' is a really great mid-tempo number and right at the end of the album sits the excellent 'A Place In My Heart'. Nolen and Crossley went on to produce and write for the likes of DeBarge and Rockwell and it seems to this scribe that it is a real shame they did not commit to vinyl at least one more time.
The Nature's Divine album was released three years earlier on Infinity Records. This ten piece outfit are another band that, to my knowledge, only cut one album (unless you know better!) and this set was blessed with the writing and production input of a certain Michael Stokes. I would go as far as to say that, if you see his name on any album release, there will be something worthwhile within it's grooves and that is very much the case here. On the modern soul scene this set is sought after for the stepper 'I Just Can't Control Myself' and what a great tune it is too. As usual I am going to be repetitive and go for another gem of a tune. 'Success' is beautifully sung by Lynn Smith and reminds me a little of Magic Lady's mid-tempo classic 'Hold Tight'. Phyllis Hyman could have taken this tune into another dimension. Whatever happened to this Detroit, Michigan, based group, after this release, is anybodys guess. A very nice album.
Natural Four - Natural Four / Special Delivery - Special Delivery
Two self titled albums from the Seventies here..
The Natural Four album was released in 1974 on Curtom Records and highlights the group in their second configuration. They, actually, were formed in 1968 and recorded several singles and one album called 'Good Vibes' in 1970. They broke up in 1971 and reformed in 1973 signing to Curtis Mayfield's label for this release one year later. Here endeth the history lesson!! This album is essentially a vehicle for the excellent songwriting talents of Leroy Hutson. Several tracks are of a very high standard, including 'You Bring Out The Best In Me' and the Lowrell Simon penned 'Try To Smile'. The 'gem' of a track here has to be the first single from this set, 'Can This Be Real' (ably covered several years later by David Beck). Well worth hunting down and spending your hard earned cash on this one. Leroy Hutson is a genius.
The Special Delivery album came out four years later on Shield Records out of Florida. Many people buy this album for the track 'This Kind Of Love', which was covered by Phil Fearon and Galaxy many years later (and a fine job they did on that track, too). It has to be said that that is the pick of the bunch here, mainly because, when the band move up a gear, they tend to lose the plot a little. The downtempo cuts are much more like it with You Say' and 'Your Love Is My Love Song' highlighting. One other downside of this set is the lack of information about the band and the musicians, however, I guess we can overlook this discrepancy for the featured track here. Nice dancer.