The album that I am now going to write about, is one that I discovered when crate-digging, many years ago in a record shop. This album is OV Wright’s album The Bottom Line. Wright released The Bottom Line on Hi Records in July 1978. However, many people will never have heard of Wright, or his brilliant music. Hopefully, by the time that you have read this article you will know more about OV Wright, and possibly be intrigued enough, to go out and buy some of his music.

 OV Wright was born in 1939, in Leno, Tennessee. In many people’s opinion, Wright is one of the best deep soul singer ever. Prior to releasing his first single There Goes My Used To Be for Goldwax Records. However, it was to be the b-side of this release, That’s How Strong My Love Is, that proved to be most popular. Prior to this release, Wright was already a successful gospel singer. He had previously sung with gospel groups the Spirit of Memphis Quartet and the Sunset Travelers. Wright was by no means the first artist to cross from gospel music to secular music. Artists such as, Aretha Franklin, Mitty Collier and Sam Cooke all left the gospel circuit to become successful soul singers. 

However, Wright’s big break came when he signed with Houston based Back Beat Records. He was with Back Beat for eight years, and many soul music critics are of the belief Wright recorded his best work for that label. What is interesting is the influence that Hi Records had on Wrights career. All of the music that Wright released on Back Beat, was not only recored at Hi Records studio, were produced by Willie Mitchell of Hi Records, written by Hi Records’ songwriting team. Willie Mitchell especially, had a huge influence on OV Wright’s career, having guided Wright’s career for ten years. When, in March 1976, Wright’s contract expired with ABC/Back Beat Records expired, he moved to Hi Records, and went on to record three albums for Hi Records. These albums Wright released were: Into Something (Can’t Shake Loose) in June 1977; The Bottom Line in July 1978; and We’re Still Together in May 1979. If you take the time to seek out these three albums, you will be unearthing musical nuggets, that you will savor for years to come. Sadly, OV Wright died suddenly in November 1980 of a massive heart attack, the cause of which, was put down to Wright’s many years of drug abuse. Since his death, many people have “discovered” Wright, and he has gone on to influence a new generation of soul singers and music fans.

The opening track on The Bottom Line, is the title track, The Bottom Line. This track is a slow track which Wright sings with his trademark rasping voice. The track features the marvelous Hi Records house band, the Memphis Horns and some wonderful backing vocals. Wright sings this strong song well, and Willie Mitchell’s production is masterful.

Probably the best known song on the album is I Don’t Do Windows. This is a George Jackson and Raymond Moore song that benefits from Wright’s unique vocal style. It is a song that swings, and there is no-one better than Wright to sing it. Again, the sound produced by the band and the Memphis Horns make this a great song.

Wright next goes on to cover a song previously sung by Bobby Womack, That’s the Way I Feel About Cha. As someone who knows and loves Womack’s version, when I first heard this song I approached it with some trepidation. In some ways, I was correct to do so, Wright’s version is nowhere near as good as Womack’s version. Womack’s sings the song better, and maybe his voice is better suited to the song. Wright’s version seems too slow, and lacks the feeling Womack’s has. This is not the worst cover of this song I have ever heard, but by no means is it the best.

The next song Your Good Thing Is About To End is another cover version. This time it is a cover of a song written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, who wrote so many good songs for the Stax record label. Again, I have heard better versions of this song, but this is an interesting version, packed full of emotion and sung with feeling. The band perform well and the backing vocalists give the song some depth and quality.

Let’s Straighten It Out is the third cover song on the album, and is a cover of a song previously recorded by Benny Latimore. This is, in my opinion, the best of the three covers song. Wright really lets loose and uses a wide vocal range to deliver this song. He sings the song with feeling, and the delivery is strong. One of the highlights of the album Aarion Nesbit’s keyboard playing.

One of the best songs on the album is next on the album. That song is I Don’t Know Why, and is written by Willie Mitchell and Don Randle. They could not have chosen a better singer to sing this song. The song is made for Wright. He produces a sterling vocal performance, singing the song with feeling and passion. This song, to me, is a classic Hi Records track.

The next song is another one written by Mitchell and Randle. Once again, this another song that benefits from Wrights vocal. The song No Easy Way To Say Goodbye, is a familiar one to many people. From start to finish this song is perfection, Wright’s voice sing the lyrics really well, and the backing vocals and keyboard playing compliment Wright’s delivery of the song.

After two previous great tracks, it is hard to keep the quality up. However, this track, A Little More Time, fails to do so, and is easily the weakest song on the album. On the song Wright name checks many long gone singers, and overall the lyrics are weak, and Wright’s delivery is average, at best.

Since You Left These Arms of Mine sees a return to form. This is a much stronger track than A Little More Time. The lyrics are better and so is Wright’s vocal performance. This track is a slow, sad song, about love gone wrong, that features some lovely backing vocals and keyboard playing. 

The final track on The Bottom Line is A Long Road. It is another track written by Mitchell and Randle. It is no coincidence that some of the best tracks on the album are written by both of them, or either of them.  A Long Road is another slow song, and Wright, as he has on other slower tracks, delivers the song with feeling, bringing out the best in the song. Although, on this album, I believe Wright is at his best singing faster songs, his versatility allows him to sing the slower songs just as  well.

Now that you know a little about OV Wright, and this album The Bottom Line, I hope that you will decide to go out and buy this album. What you will find is an album that showcases the talents of one of soul music’s best kept secrets. OV Wright was a very talented singer, who was blessed with an unmistakable, rasping voice. Although, he may not have produced as many albums as other better known soul singers of his time, what is lacking in quantity, is made up in quality. His time at Hi Records saw him record three albums, and they are three albums which feature some of his best work. Yes, he produced good material for Back Beat Records, but I believe his albums on Hi Records are every bit as good, if not better. Should you want to buy all of OV Wright’s studio albums on Hi Records, back in 1999, Demon Records released a two cd set featuring all three albums, as well as two bonus tracks. I am sure if you do go out and buy this album, you will then go on to buy other releases by OV Wright. Should you like OV Wright’s voice and sound I would suggest you go out and buy some of Otis Clays’s albums as well. He like OV Wright and Al Green also recorded some wonderful music on Hi Records. Standout Tracks: The Bottom Line, I Don’t Do Windows, I Don’t Know Why and No Easy Way To Say Goodbye.



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