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11/16/09---A look back at Reel Music, from the archive

MARIO ADNET-PHILLIPPE BADEN POWELL/Afro Samba Jazz: Can’t say if Adnet started out trying to paint himself into the corner of being the go to guy for Brazilian tribute music but in assaying the music of Baden Powell with fille Powell after taking on Jobim and Santos, this is now his métier whether he likes it or not. Thing of it is, judging by how he brings such freshness and joie to well worn music, we like it. A wonderful high water mark for adult and world jazz, everyone here is at the top of their game. Infusing the music with enough of a world view that nascent world beaters won’t be scared away thinking they have to surmount the insurmountable, this set is simply irresistible. Check it out.

REEL MUSIC (www.myreelmusic.com)
KIM TOLLIVER/Come & Get Me I’m Ready: She only made two albums in her career but this one was some kind of template for things to come when her husband found the charts with Margie Joseph. You can feel the deep soul dripping so heavily that a Blowfly composition even turns up here. Recorded in 1973, this was when classic soul was still holding sway and the densely packed emotion turned many of these songs into three minute novels. With a lot more Memphis grit than you might expect form a set that has it’s loci in Cleveland and Chicago, this goes way beyond Northern Soul canonization. Classic soul vocal lovers will quit talking about this rare session in hushed tones and finally own their own copy. Great stuff.

YVONNE FAIR/The Bitch is Black: When BET finally decides to do a “Behind the Motown” series, Scott Galloway’s booklet notes read like this could be the pilot episode. Teaming with Norman Whitfield, they could have been a soul Petula Clark/Tony Hatch, but while there was only record to come out it all remains a mystery. After laboring in the vineyards long enough as an apprentice, Fair wound up in Whitfield’s hands when he was hitting it out of the park with psychedelic soul. It was 1975, the cover and the title were attention getting and controversial but the images didn’t really match the music. Rather than sticking with a groove, Whitfield made this an omnibus tour de force for Fair setting the pace with some hardcore psychedelic soul, getting into some competitive Tina shouting, caressing ballads, delivering silky soul and more changes that went over great in England but just confused people stateside looking for a groove. Fair was up to all the challenges. If you want a slice of the 70s that won’t let you down and shows that Motown really did have a second great era on tap, this is meaty place to sink your teeth in. Hot throughout.

BETTYE LaVETTE/Tell Me A Lie: The harder you work the luckier you get? How long was LaVette working hard until she got lucky? This one off for Motown in 1982 barely escaped form the label for no good reason other than it just wasn’t where Motown was headed in general at the time. Steve Buckingham hadn’t hooked up with Dolly Parton yet and brought LaVette to Memphis and Nashville for a Dusty Springfield flavored date that was soaked in the knowing kind of delivery that you find deep soul vocalists either have or they don’t. Having it was always LaVette’s strong suit. If you’re looking for a set of real music that isn’t about fad or fashion and has aged well as a result, “early” LaVette has got an offer you can’t refuse. Tasty, tasteful and simply a gasser, it’s time someone beyond the Northern Soul pale knew about and appreciated this lost gem.

GLORIA JONES/Share My Love: The title of this album is why this charming set from an important Motown writer/producer never took off. Just as the album was coming out, Marc Bolan convinced her they were so much in love that she should drop everything and come to England to be with him. Ah, the heart wants what the heart wants. This was an important transitional album for Motown as it shifted from Detroit to Hollywood in that they gave Jones a load of control and she used as much outside talent as possible including up and coming LA session cats and west coast jazzbos. Because the album existed on it’s own terms, it doesn’t sound dated today. Either that or it was much more influential than we give it credit for. The T. Rex hook up cemented Jones place in Northern Soul rotations and turned this into a collectors must have. Now in non-wear out able non-vinyl, this soul/lite crossover session should be on cooler IPods everywhere. A great lost gem has been polished up as it should have been all along.

CHRIS CLARK/Soul Sounds: A 6 foot white blonde on Motown in the mid 60s? And you think this album didn’t come built in with multiple levels of backlash? The comparisons are inevitable, but other than cosmetically, Motown wasn’t trying to clone Dusty Springfield and Clark wasn’t a soul music tourist. An unheralded gem of blue eyed soul, this is powerful album that benefits from a unified songbook. There is wisdom in ‘less is more’. While Springfield had her pick of great southern songs and songwriters, this was a tightly produced effort with focused songwriting giving the proceedings a freight train wallop that bowls you over even today. The kind of great music that shouldn’t only be in the hands of the cognoscenti, Clark and Motown deserve more credit and less superficiality as they were on a quest to make the sound of young America and made music that really stands up as Motown celebrates it’s 50th anni. No wonder those Northern Soul kids love raiding the vaults, the bench strength is amazing. How nice to have more Clark music than just the singles on Hip-O’s great annual singles collections (but those are another story). Hot stuff.

GLORIA SCOTT/What Am I Gonna Do?: Does the title relate to why this is a collectors item that shouldn’t be? Produced by Barry White while he was riding high with pre-disco silky soul charts by Gene Page that white boys could either grind dance to on the ballads or do the white guy dance to the up tempo numbers without feeling like he was looking silly. “The Hustle”, “Rock Your Baby” and “Love to Love You” hadn’t come out yet so what went wrong? How about Casablanca changing it’s distribution from Warners to Phonogram the week this came out as the labels were trying to prepare for a bleak Christmas in the wake of the 1974 oil embargo economic problems and it just wasn’t a priority to the staffers new to it. What a shame but that’s how legends and collectors items are made. They say some things get killed in distribution. Usually, that’s an excuse, here it’s a reality. If Dusty Springfield was blue eyed soul, I guess that made Scott blue eyeliner soul since she sounded like the other side of the Springfield coin. A lovely dollop of silky soul somewhere between Chicago and Philly, this album has aged well and is more of an audio delight that you can imagine if you haven’t heard it. (Ahem).

EDDIE HINTON/Very Extremely Dangerous: He could have been one of the key players of Muscle Shoals if he hadn’t been teched in the head and all. Practically a white Otis Redding, Hinton wrote important stuff, played important stuff but hit the self-destruct button hard and fast. This session finds Phil Walden and the Muscle Shoals gang sparing no expense in delivering a killer white soul set that has all the grit you could find between Memphis and Macon in the mix. Even though the Muscle Shoals gang already had hundreds of hits under their belts at the time of this session, here, it sounds like they were playing at their penultimate to try to help one of their own find his footing. Some things aren’t to be, but if you have to have a legacy album, this is the one you would try to leave behind. A highly singular session, this really was one of the last hurrahs of southern soul before it began to get marginalized again. A winner.

Volume 32/Number 344
October 10, 2009
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
©2009 Midwest Record

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