JERRY BUTLER-NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE I LOVE YOU.
JERRY BUTLER-NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE I LOVE YOU.
Unlike many people, I disregard who successful an album was when I buy it. Experience has taught me that a successful album is no guarantee of a good album. Conversely, an album that wan’t a success, doesn’t mean that it’s a bad album. Sometimes, it’s quite the opposite. Many a time I’ve bought an album that was a commercial failure, but the music on it, is absolutely outstanding. This was the case when I bought an album Jerry Butler released on Philadelphia International Records, Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You. When it was released, the album failed commercially. However, when you listen to the album, you wonder why. The music on the album is of the highest quality, and Jerry’s voice is just brilliant.
By the time he rejoined Philadelphia International in 1978, he was almost a veteran of the music industry, making his name in the early sixties with The Impressions, the legendary soul group that also featured Curtis Mayfield. After that, he released a number of successful singles as a solo artist for various labels. During his career, he’d recorded for Veejay, Motown and Mercury. However, the place he felt most at home was Philadelphia International, founded by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1971. He’d previously been on the label, but had left suddenly in 1971. Now that he’d returned “home,” his focus was on making some great music. His first album for Philadelphia International was Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You, which was released in November 1978 and featured seven songs from the Gamble, Huff and Butler songwriting partnership. Although full of some great music, the album wasn’t a huge commercial success. It only reached number forty-two in the US Billboard 200.
When Jerry’s second album on Philadelphia International, Best Love, was released, it too failed commercially. Like its predecessor, this wasn’t a fate the album deserved, being full of some great material. This album only featured two tracks written by the Gamble, Huff and Butler partnership, but this didn’t affect the quality of material, with some experienced and successful songwriters contributing to the album. When it was released, it only reached number forty-nine in the US R&B Charts and number seventy-one in the US Billboard 200 during a three week period.
Sadly, Best Love was the last album Jerry released on Philadelphia. It seemed like other soul singers of his generation, their music was no longer what the record buying public wanted. Jerry wasn’t the only soul singer to suffer the same. Bobby Womack had been dropped by his label, another victim of the popularity of disco. Instead, a new breed of soul stars like Teddy Pendergrass, formerly of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, and Luther Vandross, previously a backing vocalist in Chic, were now flavor of the month. However, since then, both of the albums Jerry recorded for Philadelphia International have been reassessed, with many people now realising just how good these two albums were. Of the two albums, my favourite has always been Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You, which I’ll now tell you about.
Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You, opens with (I’m Thinking About) Cooling Out, which was released as a single, giving Jerry a top fifteen hit single. This was one of just two songs on the album that payed lip service to the ongoing love affair with disco. Most of the songs on the album had nothing in common with disco, which back then, was at the height of its popularity. Instead, they’re just out and out, soul music of the highest standard. The track has a fast tempo, chiming guitars, a rhythm section with just a hint of funk and swirling strings, with subtle backing vocalists harmonising before Jerry’s vocal enters. His voice is loud and powerful, but hugely soulful. During the track, sweet sounding backing vocalists accompany Jerry, while the arrangement is fast, catchy and melodic, with a sprinkling of funk. Braying horns interject, as Jerry stressed and strained considers cooling out, taking a break from the world around him. When he sings, his voice has both a richness and joyful sound, reflected by the backing vocalists, whose voices have similar qualities. As the track ends, you realise just why this track was a successful single. A combination of Jerry’s joyful and soulful vocal, the faster tempo, and a fulsome, catchy and hook laden arrangement make this a perfect track for the dance-floor and to open the album.
Let’s Make Love sees Jerry return to what he does best, singing some great smooth soul. This is one of the seven tracks written by the Gamble, Huff and Butler partnership. From the dance-floor friendly opening track, Jerry is transformed to soul man number one, as he sensuously sings the lyrics. When the track opens, the sound is somewhat dramatic, with the rhythm section and guitars combining, before Jerry’s vocal enters. It’s only then that things calm down, allowing Jerry’s pleading, seductive vocal to take centre-stage. Behind him, the arrangement grows again, with a melange of string sections, chiming, shimmery guitars, piano and rhythm section. Later, dramatic interjections from horns and rhythm section and horns combine well, punctuating the track with dramatic bursts. Lush sweeping strings, and a piano help provide the perfect backdrop for Jerry’s sensuous, seductive vocal. Regardless of how dramatic or atmospheric the arrangement is, Jerry’s vocal steals the show. Here, he demonstrates just how a love song should be sung. His vocal is laden with emotion and passion, delivering some beautiful lyrics brilliantly.
After the drama of the previous track, Jerry slows things down about on Sad Eyes. On this track the arrangement is much more subtle, and features an excellent saxophone solo. The track opens with drums gently playing, before a sultry saxophone solo plays, before some lush, sweeping strings enter. Jerry’s vocal is wistful, full of sadness, as a piano, guitar and the rhythm section enter. Here, his vocal is thoughtful and considered, as he sings about love, and trying to win a woman over who has obviously been hurt before. As he sings, the arrangement sweeps beautifully along, the sound lush, punctuated by gentle horns, before that beautiful saxophone solo. By now, you feel the arrangement can’t get better, but it does. Swirling strings combine with the saxophone, creating the perfect combination. Later, this combination is used again, and it works perfectly. This plays a big part in the success of this track, together with Jerry’s beautiful, thoughtful rendition of the lyrics he co-wrote with Gamble and Huff. Since I first heard the album, this has always been my favorite track, one that’s truly irresistible.
The tempo and style changes again on Mighty Good People, a track that bursts quickly into life, with braying horns, sweeping strings and a funk influenced rhythm section. This was the other song that was dance-floor friendly on the album, and both the faster tempo and sweeping, fuller arrangement, and Jerry’s quicker vocal, a combination of soul and funk. Again, he’s accompanied throughout the track by backing vocalists, who sing sweet and tight vocal harmonies. Throughout this faster track, strings swirl, horns blaze and a combination of funky laden rhythm section and guitars combine, producing a track that has the trademark Philly sound but the perfect tempo and sound for any dance-floor. Although it isn’t quite the sound you’d expect from Jerry Butler, he pulls it off, delivering the song with flair, as well as his usual power and passion.
Normal service resumes on I’m Glad To Be Back which is the polar opposite to the previous track. This is a slow, romantic song, with a lovely, understated arrangement. Braying horns opens the track, before a guitar chimes, and Jerry’s vocal enters accompanied by the rhythm section. Jerry’s voice is strong, emotive and has a sultry sound. This is accentuated by the arrangement, which is subtle, a mixture of gentle sweeping strings, brief bursts from rasping horns, and an understated combination of rhythm section and guitars. The arrangement seems to meander, with sudden bursts of drama making their presence felt, and matching Jerry’s emotional deliver of some quite beautiful lyrics. Meanwhile, Jerry’s voice has strengthened, and is loud and powerful, but still full of emotion and passion. By the end of the track, it’s good to have the soulful Jerry back, doing what he does best, singing soul music and songs about love and loving brilliantly.
The title track, Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You demonstrates that even after over twenty years as a singer, Jerry could still deliver a song like the best of singers. It seems that Jerry had reserved a standout vocal for this particular track. On this track, he pushes his vocal range to the limit, never once holding back, as he gives everything he has. Many a young singer could learn a lot just be listening to this one track. It starts with a keyboard and guitar combining to produce a hugely sad backdrop for a hugely emotive vocal from Jerry laden with sadness and regret. Against an arrangement of swirling strings, swooning backing vocalists, and drama courtesy of the rhythm section, the scene is set for Jerry to take centre-stage. This he does, giving one of his best vocals on the album. Here, he gives everything he has, his delivery is heartfelt, as he sings how much he loves is girlfriend. Over six and a half minutes, Jerry sings his heart out, his performance made all the better by the sweet contributions of cooing backing vocalists, dramatic bursts of blazing horns and swirling, dramatic strings. Quite simply, this is easily one of the album’s highlights, a mixture of passion and drama.
Dream World opens with a similar sound to the previous track, with a meandering keyboard opening the track, before strings sweep and swirl, horns interject and the rhythm section provide the track’s heartbeat. Jerry’s vocal is his usual combination power, passion and soulfulness. As the song progresses, dramatic bursts of braying horns and rhythm section seem to escape from the main arrangement. They provide a rich and bold sound, a contrast to the melodic sound of the keyboards, strings and guitar. During the track, Jerry never misses a beat, keeping up the high and consistent standard he’s set during this album. He sings the lyrics about finding love beautifully. They’ve a lovely sentiment, and again, were written by the Gamble, Huff and Butler partnership. These are some of their best lyrics on this album, and demonstrate just how productive and potent a combination they were. When Jerry’s beautiful vocal is combined with an excellent arrangement by John L Usry Jr. and equally good production by Gamble and Huff, you’ve got a winning formula, resulting in a catchy, melodic and hook laden track.
Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You closes with Are You Lonely Tonight, another song written by the Gamble, Huff and Butler partnership. The track opens, with sweeping strings, swooning backing vocalists, chiming guitars and rhythm section, you immediately realize something special is about to unfold. As if announcing that this is indeed the case, horns interject before Jerry sings. When he sings, his voice is much more gentle, is delivery of the lyrics thoughtful. However, like the arrangement, Jerry’s vocal grows. It becomes stronger and drenched in passion and emotion, a mixture of pleas and regret at his loneliness. Meanwhile, the arrangement has a winning combination of lushness and drama. Lush, sweeping and swirling strings, chiming, shimmering guitars and soulful backing vocalists produce the lushness, while the rhythm section and horns dramatically punctuate the track. Again, regardless of how good the arrangement is, and here it’s excellent, Jerry’s vocal steals the show. His sadness, heartfelt pleas and unfamiliar loneliness are deeply moving. Add to this a lush and dramatic arrangement, and it’s the perfect track to close the album with, one that demonstrates just how great a soul singer Jerry Butler really is.
At the start of this article I mentioned how there’s no correlation between a successful album and quality. If however, quality alone ensured success, this album would’ve been a huge hit, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and an excellent album like Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You was destined to only sell in much smaller quantities. This is a huge shame, as the album is full of some wonderful music. From the soul and disco combination of (I’m Thinking About) Cooling Out and Mighty Good People, to some of the smoothest soul like Let’s Make Love and Sad Eyes, there’s something for everything. Regardless of the style of music, Jerry delivered each song with emotion, passion and power. He gave everything he had during each song, demonstrating just why he’d had such a long and successful career in the music industry. Another thing that made this such a good album, was the standard of songwriting. Seven songs from the Gamble, Huff and Butler partnership saw to this. Add in some great arrangements by John L Usry Jr and production by the men responsible for the Philly Sound Gamble and Huff, and you’ve a potent and winning combination. Unfortunately, this great album released at the wrong time. In 1978, disco was king, and albums like this weren’t selling in the huge quantities that they previously did. However, back in 2005 both albums Jerry released on Philadelphia International were rereleased. Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You and Best Love were released by Demon, giving people who missed the album when it was originally released the opportunity to see what they missed. This has given both them, and a new generation of music fans the chance to reacquaint themselves with two great albums from a veteran and legend of soul music Jerry Butler. Standout Tracks: Let’s Make Love, Sad Eyes Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You and Are You Lonely Tonight.
JERRY BUTLER-NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE I LOVE YOU.