July 12, 2014
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April 29, 2017
Artist: Maxine Weldon
One of those endlessly versatile vocalists who eventually earn the tag “song stylist,” Maxine Weldon is equally at home singing soul, jazz, or blues, and often blurs the lines between all of them. Weldon cut her first LPs, Right On and Chilly Wind, for Mainstream over 1970-1971; despite an overall soul flavor, she received significant support from members of the Jazz Crusaders, among others. Weldon next turned up on the Monument label with 1974’s Some Singin’, a Southern-style country-soul outing that nonetheless bore the hallmark of Weldon’s innate sophistication. It became her biggest seller, climbing into the Top 50 on the R&B album charts. She followed it in 1975 with Alone on My Own, but concentrated much less on recording in the years to come. Weldon remained active, though, performing regularly over the next several decades. She was a cast member of the Broadway show Black and Blue, touring with the European production from 1995-1997, and subsequently put together a revue called “Wild Women Blues” with singer Linda Hopkins. Steve Huey, All Music Guide
Fully righteous work from singer Maxine Weldon – working here with bigger backings from Ernie Wilkins that mix in a bit of blues, soul, and funk! The style’s never too polished, and almost has a similar feel to some of Esther Phillips’ work on the Kudu label during the early 70s – soulful vocals at the lead, backed by some hip jazz and electric instrumentation from players who include Blue Mitchell and Bobby Bryant on trumpet, Hadley Caliman and Ernie Watts on tenor and flute, George Bohannon on trombone, and Freddy Robinson on guitar. Titles include “Don’t Make Promises”, “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”, “Country Son”, “I’ll Remember Today”, “Fire & Rain”, “I Who Have Nothing”, and “Ain’t Got Nobody”.
Album: Chilly Wind
Release date: 1971
01. Chilly Wind
02. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today
03. Ain’t Got Nobody
04. Country Son
05. Fire And Rain
06. Don’t Make Promises
07. It Don’t Matter To Me
08. I (Who Have Nothing)
09. I’ll Remember Today
10. Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ On YouTube
Vinyl Covers & Labels (Click On The Thumbnails)
April 28, 2017
Artist: Doris Troy
Surely one of the most talented one-hit wonders of the rock era, Doris Troy hit the Top Ten with “Just One Look” in 1963, but also recorded many other fine pop-soul sides for Atlantic between 1963 and 1965. Unlike many soul performers of the time, Troy wrote most of her own material (under the pseudonym Payne), and had already written for other artists and sung backup with Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston on New York soul records before striking out on her own. More melodically ambitious and stylistically eclectic than many of her peers, her Atlantic sides blend elements of gospel, girl group, blues, and pop into a rich New York soul sound. Troy never reached the charts again after “Just One Look,” but was more appreciated in England, where she toured occasionally and where the Hollies covered her “What’cha Gonna Do About It” on their first album. Moving to Britain, she recorded an album for Apple in 1970 with assistance from George Harrison and Billy Preston. In the early ’70s, she sang backup vocals for British rock groups, most notably the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, in addition to recording a couple more albums. In the ’80s she starred in Mama I Want to Sing, a musical based on her life story. The musical became a touring success, one which Troy remained involved with until 1998. She continued to perform in Las Vegas until her death from emphysema on February 17, 2004. Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide
Album: Stretchin’ Out
Release date: 1974
01. Stretchin’ Out
02. All I Have Is Written In Your Eyes
03. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
04. Jesus Is All This World To Me
05. Reconsider Our Love
06. In My Father’s House
07. Black Star
08. Way Back Home
09. Don’t Tell Your Mama
10. Tell Me
11. Listen To The Music
‘Stretchin’ Out’ On YouTube
Vinyl Covers & Promo (Click On The Thumbnails)
April 24, 2017
The cover might look spacey, but the group are very down to earth – an obscure funky combo from the Atlanta scene of the late 70s – where they recorded these fantastic tracks that were never issued at the time! The group are a sharp funk ensemble, but have some nicely rough edges that help them break the mainstream mode – a way of mixing in some more cosmic elements with their upbeat clubby rhythms – maybe in a way like the best underground 12″ singles of the New York or Cali scenes, but with a lot more variety too – given that the work here represents a full length project. As such, there’s a few mellower moments – but it’s definitely the groovers that win us over with this one – especially the way the keyboards are used to create this lofty, heavenly sort of spirit on the best tunes. Titles include “Negera”, “Got To Give You Up”, “And You’ll Never Know”, Teakwood Jesse”, “Powerplay”, “Distant Star”, “Anything & Everything”, and “Moving On”.
Album: A Distant Star
Release date: 1977 (Reissued 2017)
1. Taekwood Jesse
3. Anything And Everything
4. Distant Star
5. Moving On
6. Got To Give You Up
8. And You’ll Never Know
‘A Distant Star’ On YouTube
Vinyl Covers (Click On The Thumbnails)
April 20, 2017
Artist: Kevin Moore
Guitarist/vocalist Keb’ Mo’ draws heavily on the old-fashioned country blues style of Robert Johnson while keeping his sound contemporary with touches of soul and folksy storytelling. A skilled frontman as well as an accomplished sideman, he writes much of his own material and has applied his acoustic, electric, and slide guitar skills to jazz- and rock-oriented bands. Born Kevin Moore in Los Angeles to parents of Southern descent, he was exposed to gospel music at a young age. At 21, Moore joined an R&B band that was later hired for a tour by Papa John Creach; as a result, Moore played on three of Creach’s albums. Opening for jazz and rock artists such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jefferson Starship, and Loggins & Messina helped further broaden Moore’s horizons and musical abilities.
Moore cut an R&B-based solo album, Rainmaker, in 1980 for Casablanca, which promptly folded. In 1983, he joined Monk Higgins’ band as a guitarist and met a number of blues musicians who collectively increased his understanding of the genre. He subsequently joined a vocal group called the Rose Brothers and gigged around Los Angeles. In 1990, Moore portrayed a Delta bluesman in a local play, Rabbit Foot, and then played Robert Johnson in a docudrama entitled Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl? He released his self-titled debut album as Keb’ Mo’ in 1994, featuring two Robert Johnson covers, 11 songs written or co-written by Moore, and his guitar and banjo work.
His second album, Just Like You, saw Keb’ Mo’ stretching his legs by working with a full band and tackling several rock-based songs. The gamble paid off, and Just Like You won the artist his first Grammy Award. Slow Down followed in 1998 and netted Mo’ another Grammy, and Door was issued two years later. Big Wide Grin followed in 2001, while 2004 saw the release of two albums, Keep It Simple and Peace…Back by Popular Demand. Suitcase was issued in 2006 on Red Ink Records. The self-produced The Reflection appeared five years later in 2011; the first release on his own label, Yolabelle International, the album featured guest spots from India.Arie, Vince Gill, Dave Koz, Marcus Miller, Mindi Abair, and David T. Walker. The Reflection performed well, peaking at two on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums chart and earning a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album. Keb’ Mo’ followed the record with BLUESAmericana, which appeared in the spring of 2014. That Hot Pink Blues Album, a live set recorded on the BLUESAmericana tour, showed up in the spring of 2016. Steve Huey, All Music Guide
Release date: 1980
1. I Intend To Love You
2. Break Down The Walls
3. Anybody Seen My Girl
4. Speak Your Mind
6. The Way You Hold Me
7. Rainy Day People (Rainy Day Lady, Rainy Day Man)
8. Holding On To You
‘Speak Your Mind’ On YouTube
Vinyl Covers (Click On The Thumbnails)
April 15, 2017
Artist: Cissy Houston
A soul singer who is known primarily as Whitney Houston’s mother rather than for her own considerable talents, Cissy Houston was born Emily Drinkard and began her career as a member of her family’s gospel group, the Drinkards. In the early ’60s, she joined forces with a floating group of singers known simply as the Group (including at various points Doris Troy and Dee Dee Warwick) to provide backup vocals on numerous soul, pop, and rock sessions. They contributed to many Atlantic sessions in particular, and Atlantic executive Jerry Wexler signed the act to the label in 1967. Named the Sweet Inspirations, they recorded some excellent gospel-flavored soul in the late ’60s, managing a few hits (as well as continuing to back up other artists, most notably Aretha Franklin) before Houston left to go solo at the end of 1969. She recorded an impressive album for Commonwealth United in 1970, Presenting Cissy Houston, which yielded a couple of small R&B/pop hits: “I’ll Be There” and “Be My Baby.” Much in the manner of the Sweet Inspirations, although the material consisted of fairly well-worn soul, rock, and pop tunes, the state-of-the-art arrangements and gospel-ish vocals made them sound fresh. Her contract was sold to Janus Records later in the year, and while she issued a few singles there until the middle of the ’70s, she never received the support and promotion she deserved. A case in point was her little-known original version of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” taken to the top of the charts about a year later by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Houston recorded several albums for Private Stock beginning in the late ’70s, as well as continuing her regular work on sessions and commercial jingles. She recorded a duet with daughter Whitney (“I Know Him So Well”) in 1987, and cut a duet album with veteran soul singer Chuck Jackson in 1992. Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide
Amazing early work from Cissy Houston – arguably her deepest set ever, and put together with a wonderful balance of New York class and southern soul modes! There’s no denying that Houston’s vocals are great – especially given her family pedigree – but she really gets a chance to shine strongly here – stepping out as a bold, righteous lead – and one with a mature, all-adult feel throughout! Arrangements are by Bert DeCoteaux – who balances things wonderfully – really letting Cissy stand by herself in the front of the arrangements, but also creating just the right sort of swell in the orchestrations when needed. Titles include “I’ll Be There”, “Any Guy”, “This Empty Place”, “Didn’t We”, “Be My Baby”, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”, and “He/I Believe”.
Review By Derek Andersen:
During Cissy Houston’s long musical career, she’s worked with some of the biggest artists in music, singing backing vocals on some of the biggest most successful albums. This includes Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul, Van Morrison’s Moondance, Donny Hathaway’s Donny Hathaway and David Bowie’s Young Americans. That’s not forgetting albums by Roberta Flack, Dee Dee Warwick, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan and her daughter Whitney Houston. However, there’s much more to her career than that. She has recorded nine solo albums, that’s seen Cissy sing soul and gospel, before Cissy being temporarily, transformed into a disco diva. Her solo career started back in 1969, when she left The Sweet Inspirations, releasing Presenting Cissy Houston in 1970. Presenting Cissy Houston will be rereleased on 21st May 2012, on SoulMusic Records. Before I tell you about the music on Presenting Cissy Houston, I’ll tell you Cissy’s career up until then.
Cissy Houston was Emily “Cissy Houston in September 1933. Her career started when she was just aged five, in 1938, as a member of The Drinkard Four, a family gospel group that included her sister Anne, plus brothers Larry and Nicky. Later, the group would become The Drinkard Singers. In 1955, the year Cissy married Freddie Garland, The Drinkard Singers recorded a live album for RCA, A Joyful Noise at Webster Hall. This would become a landmark gospel album, because it was the first gospel album released on a major label.
In 1959, Cissy had the opportunity to make her debut as a backing singer. This was on a session for Faye Adams, whose best known for her single Shake A Hand. However, during this period, Cissy was working full-time in the offices of RCA and didn’t want to risk losing her job, so didn’t go. Then in 1961, Cissy’s niece was booked to sing backing vocals for Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks. She couldn’t make the session, so Cissy filled in and after that, her career started to gather momentum. Two years later, in 1963, Cissy would form a legendary group, The Sweet Inspirations.
By 1963, Cissy had given birth to daughter Whitney and formed what would become The Sweet Inspirations, with her niece Dee Dee Warwick and Doris Troy. Soon, they were accompanying Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, The Drifters and Dusty Springield. Many of the artists they were accompanying, were recording for Atlantic Records and Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records’ was keen to sign the group to his label. This was when The Sweet Inspirations name was born. They released Why (Am I Treated So Bad?) which reached number fifty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number thirty-six in the US R&B Charts. Meanwhile, in 1967 Cissy also released a single on Kapp Records Don’t Come Running Back To Me. To round of what was an important year for The Sweet Inspirations, they sang backing vocals for The Jimi Hendrix Experience on Burning of the Midnight Lamp, a track from his seminal 1968 album Electric Ladyland. The year after Electric Ladyland was released, 1969, would prove be an important year for Cissy Houston.
Two important things happened in 1969 for Cissy Houston. In July and August 1969, The Sweet Inspiration accompanied Elvis Presley during his return to performing live. Elvis’ comeback took place in Las Vegas, and for two months, he was accompanied by The Sweet Inspirations. These concerts would prove to be Cissy’s last performances with The Sweet Inspirations. After this, she decided to concentrate on he career as a recording artist, which would allow her to spend time with her children. Her final duties with the group were recording the single Gotta Find Me A Brand New Lover. The next time Cissy stepped into a recording studio would be as a solo artist.
Cissy signed to New York based Commonwealth United Records, which had been founded in 1969 by Charles Koppelman and Donald Rubin, who ran the company. On the label were Maxine Brown and Lenny Welch. Straight away, Cissy started preparing to record what would become her debut solo album, Presenting Cissy Houston, released in June 1970.
Producing the album were Charles Koppelman and Donald Rubin, while Bert DeCoteaux later a successful producer, would arrange the nine tracks. These nine tracks were cover versions of tracks by some of the biggest songwriters. This included two by Bacharach and David, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself and This Empty Place. Jimmy Webb wrote Didn’t We, Bobby Darin wrote I’ll Be There and Isaac Hayes and David Porter contributed When Something Is Wrong With My Baby. Cissy even covers Be My Baby, which Phil Spector cowrote. Overall, Presenting Cissy Houston sees Cissy cover songs by the great and good of songwriting. However, would Presenting Cissy Houston be a commercial success?
On the release of Presenting Cissy Houston in June 1970, the album failed to make any impression on the charts. I’ll Be There, which was released as a single fared better. It reached number fifty-four in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty in the US R&B Charts. Then disaster struck. Commonwealth United folded in September 1970. This saw Cissy’s contract was sold to Janus Records. Janus then repackaged Presenting Cissy Houston, licensing it to Pye Records, a UK company, who rereleased the album as The Long and Winding Road in the UK. They also released two more singles from Presenting Cissy Houston. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself failed to chart, while Be My Baby reached number ninety-two in the US Billboard 100 and number thirty-one in the US R&B Charts. Sadly, Cissy’s debut solo album Presenting Cissy Houston had been a victim of fate, with her record company Commonwealth United folding. Two hit singles were a small crumb of comfort, with Presenting Cissy Houston a missed opportunity, given the quality of music on the album, which I’ll now tell you about.
Opening Presenting Cissy Houston is Bacharach and David’s I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself. Straight away, you get the opportunity to hear the power and passion in Cissy’s vocal. The arrangement is much quicker than other versions of this track. Cissy’s accompanied by a driving rhythm section, while punchy, blazing horns and backing vocalists punctuate the arrangement. Strings sweep and swirl, while Cissy’s vocal is impassioned, emotive, getting across the desperation and hopelessness in the lyrics. It’s a hugely impressive opening track, where Cissy brings to life Bacharach and David’s lyrics perfectly.
Didn’t We, written by Jimmy Webb is very different, with the tempo much slower. Similarly, the arrangement is much more subtle, with the rhythm section providing the song’s gentle heartbeat, while piano, rasping horns and sad strings combine. One thing stays the same, Cissy’s powerful, heartfelt delivery. There’s an intensity in her deliver, while sometimes, when Cissy’s voice sings the lower notes, you hear similarities with Whitney. However, here, Cissy’s vocal steals the show, with its intensity, fervor and passion.
Bobby Darin wrote I’ll Be There another of the trio of singles released from Presenting Cissy Houston. It’s another slower, ballad, which sees gospel-tinged backing vocalists Cissy. Guitars with a sound that’s straight out of Nashville, combine with cascading strings and the rhythm section, to back Cissy. However, key to the track are Cissy’s impassioned pleas and those gospel-tinged backing vocalists. Together, they combine to create an irresistible track, that’s one of the real highlights of the album.
Singer-songwriter Melanie Safka wrote Any Guy, a track where Cissy delivers one of her most impassioned vocals on the album. Her vocal is part anger, frustration and defiance as she barks out the lyrics to her former lover. She’s accompanied by strings and piano which add to the sadness of the track, while the rhythm section and angry, braying horns reflect the anger, frustration and defiance in Cissy’s vocal. The finishing touch to the track is the addition of soaring, soulful and questioning backing vocalists. Their addition is a masterstroke, adding to the drama and emotion of the track.
Cissy’s version of Isaac Hayes and David Porter’s When Something Is Wrong With My Baby is steeped in drama and intensity, quite unlike Sam and Dave’s version. The fuller arrangement sees piano, rhythm section and strings combine with Cissy, replicating the fervor and enthusiasm in her vocal. Waves of drama unfold, with Cissy unleashing her powerful, impassioned vocal. It’s protective, full of feeling and adoration even. Horns and backing vocalists enter, combining with the drums to dramatically punctuate the track, adding to, and reflecting Cissy’s impassioned and protective defense of the man she loves. Truly, this is an outstanding cover version of a classic track.
When Be My Baby opens, it’s almost unrecognizable from The Ronettes version. Here, Cissy slows the track way down, transforming the track into something soulful and beautiful. Gone is Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, replaced by an understated, slow arrangement, where horns and backing vocalists play an important roll. Cissy’s delivery is soulful in the extreme, bringing new meaning to the song, with an intensity and fervor in her interpretation. Of the trio of singles released from Presenting Cissy Houston, this is by far, the best. For anyone who loves and regards The Ronettes version as the best, you must hear this version. It comes close to rivaling it.
This Empty Place is the second Bacharach and David song on Presenting Cissy Houston. Together with an arrangement that’s powerful and drama drenched, Cissy delivers one of her most impassioned and powerful vocals. When the track opens, you realize what’s about to unfold. Quickly, she unleashes her vocal, which has an intensity and fervor. That’s replicated by the arrangement, where drums, strings and blazing horns play important parts, matching Cissy stride for stride. By the end of the track, you can’t help but be impressed, not just by Cissy’s power, but her control and ability to breath new life and meaning into a familiar track.
Now I must admit, that I’ve never been a fan of The Beatles version of Long and Winding Road. I’ve always found it a depressing song. However, Cissy transforms the track and my opinion of the song. Cissy delivers the song in a style that’s reminiscent of Aretha Franklin. Her version is uplifting, delivered with a swing, against a jaunty arrangement, where lush strings cascade, horns blaze as the orchestral style arrangement reveals its beauty.
Closing Presenting Cissy Houston is He -I Believe, a medley of two tracks that allows Cissy to demonstrate her gospel roots. Her vocal is delivered beautifully against a subtle organ, slow strings and meandering bass line. Beautiful backing vocalists enter, delivering their gospel tinged roots soaring, spiritually on I Believe. Together with Cissy, they encourage each other to even greater feats of soulfulness. This isn’t just intense and beautiful, but deeply uplifting, spiritual even and for me, is the perfect way to close Cissy’s debut album Presenting Cissy Houston.
Presenting Cissy Houston should’ve been a much bigger commercial success seems. Sadly, the fickle finger of fate intervened. Her record company folded four months after the release of Presenting Cissy Houston. Although two singles from the albums gave Cissy hit singles, this must have been a small crumb of comfort. Fate was to intervene in Cissy’s career again, for her next recording session. She was working with producer Sonny Limbo, when Jim Weatherly sent a new song, entitled Midnight Plane To Houston. This was changed by Cissy to Midnight Train To Georgia, which scans and sounds much better. The track was released as a single, but failed to make an impression on the charts. If Janus Records had promoted the single, maybe it would’ve become synonymous with Cissy, not Gladys Knight and The Pips. A year later, Gladys released her version, which since then, has been synonymous with her. Cissy’s original version, is just one of twelve bonus tracks on SoulMusic Records rereleased version of Presenting Cissy Houston, which will be released on 21st May 2012. These twelve bonus tracks, plus the nine tracks on Presenting Cissy Houston, make this an album that anyone who either loves Cissy Houston, The Sweet Inspirations music or just fans of soul and R&B music will adore. For me, Presenting Cissy Houston is a real hidden gem of an album, where Cissy breathes new life and meaning into nine cover versions, making these songs her own, with a combination of passion, fervor, emotion and enthusiasm. Standout Tracks: Didn’t We, I’ll Be There, Be My Baby and He-I Believe.
Album: The Long And Winding Road
Release date: 1971
1. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
2. Didn’t We
3. I’ll Be There
4. Any Guy
5. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby
6. Be My Baby
7. This Empty Place
8. The Long And Winding Road
9. Medley: He – I Believe
‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’ On YouTube
Vinyl Covers & Labels (Click On The Thumbnails)