JERRY BUTLER-NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE I DO.

JERRY BUTLER-NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE I DO.

When Jerry Butler signed to Philadelphia International Records in 1978, it was a homecoming of sorts. Seven years previously, in 1971, Gamble and Huff and Jerry Butler ended what had been a fruitful working relationship. Now seven years later, the three men were older and wiser. Much had changed, and much water had passed under their bridges since then. With Gamble and Huff keen to add to Philadelphia International Records’ roster of artists, and Jerry Butler without a record contract, it seemed the musical gods were sending subtle messages that now, was the time to reconvene their musical partnership. So, Jerry Butler was signed to Philadelphia International Records, work began on his debut album for the label, Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do. Would the reunited Gamble, Huff and Butler’s first collaboration Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do prove a commercial success? After all, music had changed in the intervening seven years.

For Jerry Butler’s first album for Philadelphia International Records, Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do, Gamble and Huff and Jerry Butler cowrote seven of the album’s eight tracks. The other track, I’m Glad To Be Back, saw Jerry collaborate with Philadelphia International arranger Jack Faith and Joseph Jefferson, who’d penned so many of The Detroit Spinners’ biggest hits. These eight tracks would be recorded at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, where all of Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records’ albums were recorded. 

At Sigma Sound Studios, Jerry Butler was accompanied by M.F.S.B. This was M.F.S.B. Mk.2, with the many of the original members of M.F.S.B. leaving Philadelphia International in 1975, after a dispute over money. So, M.F.S.B. Mk.2 included a rhythm section of included drummer Quinton Joseph, bassist James Williams and guitarists Roland Chambers, Dennis Harris and Bobby “Electronic” Eli.  Percussionist David Cruse was joined by Leon Huff on keyboards and Don Renaldo’s Swinging Strings and Horns. The Sweethearts of Sigma backing vocalists, Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton would play an important part in Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do’s sound. Arranging the tracks were John L. Usry Jr., who arranged the Gamble, Huff and Butler songs and Jack Faith who arranged and cowrote I’m Glad To Be Back. With the eight tracks on Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do recorded, would Jerry Butler’s collaboration with Gamble and Huff prove to a successful one?

Before the release of Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do in 1978, (I’m Just Thinking About) Cooling Out was released as a single. Although it reached number fourteen in the US R&B Charts, a single of that quality deserved a much higher chart placing. Then when Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do was released, it reached number 160 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-two in the US R&B Charts. Again, this must have been frustrating for everyone concerned, but none more so for Gamble and Huff and of course, Jerry Butler. When the title-track Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You was released as a single, it reached a disappointing number eighty-six in the US R&B Charts. While (I’m Just Thinking About) Cooling Out had given Jerry a top twenty US R&B single, Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do deserved to fare much better commercially, given the quality of music on the album, which I’ll now tell you about.

Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do opens with (I’m Just Thinking About) Cooling Out and straight away, you realize why this track was chosen as the lead single. This is the first of the seven tracks Jerry cowrote with Gamble and Huff. A combination of melodic keyboards, pounding rhythm section, guitars and lush cascading strings join rasping horns and tight, punchy backing vocals from the Sweethearts of Sigma. Their joyous soaring vocals give way to Jerry’s emotive, vocal. His vocal grows in power and emotion, while M.F.S.B. combine disco and soul. Strings shimmer and shiver, while bursts of blazing horns and a pounding bass anchors the arrangement.  Key to the track are the Sweethearts of Sigma, whose interplay with Jerry is vital to the track’s uplifting, joyous and hook laden sound. It’s a glorious way to open Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do, especially with Leon Huff showboating on keyboards as the track heads towards its dramatic ending.

Let’s Make Love sees Jerry show that when it comes to bedroom ballads, that Teddy Pendergrass wasn’t the only artist on Philadelphia International capable delivering them with aplomb. He goes on to give a sensuous masterclass in bedroom balladry. From the opening bars, when strings quiver, and keyboards and the rhythm section enter, Jerry rolls back the years. Growling horns match the power and passion in Jerry’s needy vocal. Strings sweep and swirl, their lush sound contrasted by the horns and bass line. The finishing touch are the Sweethearts of Sigma, tender, beautiful harmonies. Together with jazz-tinged guitars, flourishes of piano and keyboards, M.F.S.B. mix drama and beauty, providing a suitable backdrop for Jerry’s impassioned, needy vocal.

The tempo drops on Sad Eyes, where Jerry’s delivers a heartfelt, wistful vocal against John L. Usry Jr.’s understated arrangement. A melancholy horn solo is joined by slow, sad strings before congas, keyboards and a subtle rhythm section accompany Jerry’s heartfelt vocal. Bursts of rasping horns punctuate the arrangement, before a beautiful saxophone drifts in and out. All to soon, it’s gone, but Jerry’s emotive, sincere vocal is the perfect replacement as he delivers one of his best vocals on Nothing Says I Love You Like I Do.

Mighty Good People sees a change of style on the track that closes Side One of Nothing Says I Love You Like. It’s an uptempo track, with a punchy, jaunty arrangement. It allows Jerry and M.F.S.B. to kick loose. Jerry’s vocal is stronger, but just as full of feeling and impassioned. He vamps his way through the track, while strings sweep and sweep, horns rasp and the rhythm section provide the track’s pulsating heartbeat. Flourishes of keyboards, punchy horns and cascading strings combine as Jerry gives another vocal masterclass, against a backdrop where Philly Soul and funk unite. Again, the Sweethearts of Sigma play an important part in the track’s sound and success, adding tight, tender and soaring harmonies, that are the perfect foil for Jerry’s power and passion.

I’m Glad To Be Back which seems to perfectly articulate Jerry’s feelings at being reunited with Gamble and Huff on Philadelphia International Records. It’s a jazz-tinged ballad, which sounds quite unlike anything that’s gone before. The reason for this is that Jerry cowrote the track with Jack Faith and Joseph Jefferson. Jack Faith arranges the track, while Jerry’s vocal is quite different. His vocal is slow and full of sincerity. Meanwhile, a pounding bass anchors the track, while M.F.S.B. take the track in the direction of jazz, combining blazing horns, keyboards and the rhythm section, as strings sweep. While this is a quite different sounding track, it shows another side of Jerry “The Iceman” Butler and his music, one I’d liked to have heard more of.

The second singles was the title-track Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You, which features a pleading, heartfelt vocal from Jerry. With the tempo dropped way down, Leon Huff’s keyboards open the track, before Jerry’s vocal soars, a mixture of emotion and power. Strings sweep in, while drums pound and guitars are joined by the Sweethearts of Sigma. Their vocals are tight, impassioned and heartfelt, and a perfect accompaniment for Jerry’s moving, and soulful vocal. Meanwhile, the arrangement veers between an understated and dramatic sound, as this near seven minute Magnus Opus reveals its secrets, subtleties and not inconsiderable beauty. You only need to listen to this track once to realize it should’ve been a huge hit.

Like several tracks, Dream World opens with Leon Huff’s melodic keyboards, before pounding drums, swathes of lush strings and then Jerry’s tender vocal enters. It doesn’t take long to realize that this is another quality track from the Gamble, Huff and Butler songwriting team. Soon, John L. Usry Jr.’s arrangement grows, as he makes good use of the cascading strings, blazing horns and M.F.S.B.’s rhythm section. As the track progresses, Jerry’s vocal grows in power and passion, demonstrating that in the seven years since Gamble and Huff lasted with Jerry, he’d lost none of his talent to bring a song to life.

Are You Lonely Tonight closes Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Like I Do, Jerry Butler’s debut album for Philadelphia International Records. This is another of the album’s bedroom ballads, something Jerry does so well. While keyboards and the rhythm section open the track, swathes of the lushest strings and harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma accompany Jerry’s vocal. Their harmonies are crucial to the track’s emotive sound. Meanwhile, Jerry’s vocal is laden with emotion, sadness and regret. Bursts of punchy horns, jazz-tinged guitars, soaring harmonies and dramatic drums combine as the arrangement floats wistfully along, while a heartbroken Jerry delivers a vocal that’s needy and full of loneliness and longing. It’s the perfect track to close Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You, and leaves you wanting to hear much more of Jerry Butler.

It seems almost unjust and tragic that Jerry Butler’s debut album for Philadelphia International Records’ Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Like I Do wasn’t a much bigger success. With music of the quality of the eight tracks on Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You, that the album only reached number 160 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-two in the US R&B Charts must have surprised and disappointed everyone involved in the project. Part of the problem was that by 1978, when Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Like I Do was released, albums by soul singers like Jerry Butler and Bobby Womack were no longer selling in such huge quantities. Music had changed, with disco now King. Even that would change in summer 1979, when the Disco Sucks movement tried to kill disco. However, given disco’s popularity in 1978, I’d have thought (I’m Just Thinking About) Cooling Out would’ve proved more popular than it did, reaching just number fourteen in the US R&B Charts. As regular readers of this blog will have realized, all too often, some fantastic albums are overlooked when they’re released. They remain hidden gems, known and loved only by a few people. Although Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Like I Do charted upon its release, it remains for far too long, an hidden gem in Philadelphia International Records’ back-catalogue, that deserves to be heard by many more people. After Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Like I Do, Jerry Butler only released one more album for Philadelphia International Records The Best Love. When it wasn’t a commercial success, Jerry waited until his contract with Philadelphia International Records expired and retired. His decision to retire was music’s loss. Thankfully, the two albums Jerry recorded for Philadelphia International Records, Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Like I Do and The Best Love, contain some fantastic music. It seems that although Gamble and Huff and Jerry Butler had spent seven years apart, the second coming of Jerry Butler resulted in Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Like I Do, which although not Jerry’s biggest commercial success, contains Jerry Butler at his very best. Standout Tracks: (I’m Just Thinking About) Cooling Out, Sad Eyes, Mighty Good People and Are You Lonely Tonight.

JERRY BUTLER-NOTHING SAYS I LOVE YOU LIKE I DO.

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