THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 3.

THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 3.

GEORGE JACKSON-OLD FRIEND-THE FAME RECORDINGS VOLUME 3.

Prolific. That’s the best way to describe George Jackson. As a songwriter, he wrote over three-hundred songs. This includes penning tracks for James Carr, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Z.Z. Hill, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, Ann Peebles, The Osmonds, Bobby Womack and Bob Seger. George first started writing songs as a teenager. Then when George was only eighteen, he recorded his first single. This came about after he introduced himself to Ike Turner in 1963. So impressed was Ike, that he took George Jackson to New Orleans to record Nobody Wants To Cha Cha With Me. It was released on Ike’s Prann label. Although it failed to chart, this marked the start of George Jackson’s career as a singer. However, it was at Fame Records that George Jackson’s career took shape.

Having cofounded The Ovations, been rejected by Stax and briefly recorded for Hi Records, producer Billy Sherrill suggested George should get in touch with Rick Hall at Fame Records. At Fame, George was a staff songwriter and enjoyed a parallel career as a  singer. However, when success eluded him, George Jackson decided to concentrate on his songwriting career. That was Southern Soul’s loss. A reminder of this is Kent Soul’s recently released George Jackson-Old Friend-The Fame Recordings Volume 3. It’s a poignant reminder of George Jackson, who sadly, passed away in April 2013.

While George Jackson was a successful songwriter, commercial success eluded him as a singer. He was one of Southern Soul’s nearly men. That will be hard to believe when you listen to George Jackson-Old Friend-The Fame Recordings Volume 3, which was released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. George was certainly not lacking in talent. He brings songs to life, breathing life and emotion into lyrics. His vocals are variously soulful, sassy, emotive and heartfelt. One listen to George Jackson-Old Friend-The Fame Recordings Volume 3 and you’ll realise that. Sadly, Lady Luck never shawn on him. George never got the break his career needed. As a result, he ended up making a living writing songs, not singing them and remains one of Southern Soul’s nearly men.

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS-IMAGINATION.

In 1973, it came as no surprise that Gladys Knight and The Pips decided leave Motown. After all, Gladys Knight had been forced to live in the shadow of Diana Ross. To onlookers. Diana Ross was Motown’s chosen one, while Gladys Knight had to settle for second best. So after six years at Motown, Gladys Knight and The Pips decided it was time to step out of the shadows. Rather than play a supporting role at Motown, Gladys Knight and The Pips would play a starring role at Buddah Records, who were an ambitious label, who were building up a roster of heavyweight artists. Gladys Knight and The Pips debut album for Buddah Records was Imagination, released in October 1973. So, Imagination, was the start of the next chapter in Gladys Knight and The Pips career. Not only would Imagination prove to be a new start for Gladys Knight and The Pips, but was a career defining album.

Gladys Knight and The Pips decision to leave Motown was vindicated. Not only did Imagination feature two stonewall classics in Midnight Train To Georgia and Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, but it was Gladys Knight and The Pips most successful album. Imagination gave Gladys Knight and The Pips their first number one album in the US R&B Charts and first gold disc. Then there were three number one singles in the US R&B Charts and one in the US Billboard 100. Add to that a Grammy Award in 1974. 

On Imagination which was released by Funkytown Grooves, Gladys Knight and The Pips stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight. At last Gladys Knight and The Pips had the star billing they so richly deserved. Imagination shows just what Gladys Knight and The Pips were capable of and remains one of the finest albums of their career.

GLORIA GAYNOR-PARK AVENUE SOUND.

By 1978, Gloria Gaynor’s career was at a crossroads. She knew something had to change. That something, was her producer. She’d parted company with Disco Corporation Of America and Tom Moulton in 1976. After that, she’d worked with Greg Diamond and Joe Beck on 1977s Glorious. It failed to match the success of Never Can Say Goodbye, Gloria’s supposed classic. So knowing she needed a successful album, she headed to Philly, the new the musical capital of America. 

Producers including Thom Bell and Gamble and Huff had been responsible for creating Philly Soul. Among the Philly’s most successful musical exports were The O’Jays, Billy Paul, The Spinners, The Delfonics, The Stylistics and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. Three musicians who played on albums by each of these artists approached Gloria Gaynor about producing her next album. 

Their names were Norman Harris, Ron Tyson and Allan Felder, who’d been part of M.F.S.B, Philadelphia International Records’ legendary house-band. After leaving Philadelphia International, they became part of The Salsoul Orchestra. However, Norman, Ron and Allan weren’t just musicians, they were songwriters, arrangers and producers. Even better, they’d bring with them, the best musicians and backing vocalists in America. So, Norman, Ron and Allan were hired by Gloria to produce her next album. She realized that a Philly Soul makeover could rescue her career. So,TAN Productions, an acronym of Tyson, Allan, Norman would write, arrange, produce and play on what became Park Avenue Sound, which was rereleased by BBR Records.

Park Avenue Sound may not have been Gloria Gaynor’s most successful album, but from the opening bars of This Love Affair, to the closing notes of Kidnapped, is quality through and through. Unfortunately for Gloria Gaynor, she released one of her finest albums, Park Avenue Sound, when disco’s popularity was beginning to wane. Maybe if Gloria had hooked up with Norman Harris, Allan Felder and Ron Tyson a year earlier, her career would’ve been rejuvenated. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. However, Gloria Gaynor’s fifth album, Park Avenue Sound is a timeless, hidden gem, one that’s soulful, funky, dance-floor friendly and full of hooks.

JETHRO TULL-BENEFIT.

Recently, Jethro Tull’s third album Benefit was rereleased by PLG. This was no ordinary rerelease of Benefit. Far from it. Instead, it was released a Collector’s Edition box set. This box set is best described as luxurious, lavish and lovingly put together. No effort has been spared. Disc one features Stephen Wilson’s 2013 Stereo Mix plus five bonus tracks. On disc two there’s sixteen “Associated Recordings 1969-1970. Then disc three is a DVD which contains the contents of discs one and two in 5.1 surround sound. As you’ll realise, this is what a remastered album should sound like. This is no budget priced needle drop. No way. It’s a fitting homage to Jethro Tull’s third album Benefit.

The best way to describe Benefit is fusion of art rock, avant-garde, baroque, classical, folk, free jazz, jazz, pop psychedelia and prog rock. It’s a melting pot of musical influences and genres. Innovative and groundbreaking, it was a move away from the throwaway pop songs that had dominated music until then. Prog rock was cerebral, intelligent music. One of the most successful groups of the prog rock era were Jethro Tull.

Benefit was just the second album in the most successful and productive period of Jethro Tull’s career. Between 1969 and 1979, nine of Jethro Tull’s albums were certified gold. Aqualung Jethro Tull’s 1971 Magnus Opus was certified triple-platinum. It seemed Jethro Tull could do no wrong. One of the most groundbreaking group of the prog rock era, Jethro Tull’s back-catalogue is a musical treasure trove. Proof of this is Benefit, a genre-sprawling album which comes to life surrounding and assailing you with its secrets and subtleties.

KING CRIMSON-RED.

Having released two consecutive critically acclaimed albums, 1973s Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and then Starless and Bible Black, critics and fans wondered what direction King Crimson seventh album Red would take? Being King Crimson, fans and critics had learnt to expect the unexpected. Anything could and possibly would happen. The first change was in the lineup. After their 1974 summer tour, David Cross left King Crimson. This meant the band was now a trio consisting of Robert Fripp, bassist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford. They cowrote much of Red.

On its release in October 1974, Red reached just number forty-five in the UK and number sixty-six in the US Billboard 200. Critics hailed Red as an innovative album. There are obvious similarities with Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and Starless and Bible Black in sound and quality. One change was the lack of the acoustic guitars that featured on previous albums. With its fusion of prog rock and classic music, Red proved to be a hugely influential and innovative album.

Red marked the end of a five year period when King Crimson were one of the most innovative, influential successful prog rock bands. The newly rereleased version of Red which was recently rereleased by Panegyric, is a double-album. Disc one features Robert Fripp and Simon Heyworth’s 2000 remastered version and two bonus track. Then on disc two, there’s the 2013 stereo mix of Red, plus two bonus tracks. Having listened to both discs, the sound quality on both is exquisite and which you prefer will be down to personal preference. That Red has been given this sonic makeover is fitting. After all, Red marked the end of an era for King Crimson. They’d released seven albums in a five year period. These seven albums saw King Crimson at their very best. They never bettered this run of innovative, influential and groundbreaking albums. It began with In The Court Of Crimson and finished with Red. Remarkably, throughout this period, King Crimson’s lineup was constantly changing so often that the studio should’ve had a revolving door. Maybe this is part of King Crimson’s success.

With a constantly changing lineup, the new personnel brought new with them new and fresh ideas. That was the case with Red. The new lineup ensured King Crimson’s music never became stale or predictable. Robert Fripp made sure of that. After their seventh album in five years, Robert called time on King Crimson. They’d never stand accused of being dinosaurs. Instead, they were innovators, whose music influenced future generations. Starting with In The Court Of Crimson and finishing with Red, King Crimson were responsible for innovative, genre-melting music that pushed musical boundaries to their limits. 

 

KLEEER-WINNERS.

After eight years and five changes of name, Kleeer were born in 1978. They’d released their debut album I Love To Dance in the spring of 1979, just before disco nearly died. I Love To Dance saw Kleeer wrongly referred to as a disco band. Not only was that wrong, but considering what happened, could’ve proved fatal for Kleeer. They weren’t a disco band. No. Instead, they were a band whose music was a fusion of musical influences and genres. That was the case on I Love To Dance and their sophomore album Winners which was released by BBR Records.

Winners was released in the post-disco era. By February 1980, the musical landscape was very different. Disco was yesterday’s music, a remnant of the seventies. Labels dropped disco artists, disco albums lay unreleased and disco labels folded. Lucky then, that Kleeer weren’t a disco group. No. Their music was a fusion of funk, soul, R&B, boogie, jazz and rock. It was also music with a disco influence. Dance-floor friendly, funky, rock-tinged and soulful, Kleeer’s music was eclectic. They’d not bet the house on red. Instead, they’d spread their bets and their risk by releasing music that appealing to a variety of music lovers. This eclectic approach to music meant Kleeer enjoyed a longevity many other groups could only dream of. This Kleer did with an eclectic, genre-melting album Winners, which features Kleeer at their best, producing music that’s dance-floor friendly, funky and soulful.

LEON THOMAS-SPIRITS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN.

Having heard Leon Thomas feature on Pharoah Sanders’ Karma album, Bob Thiele signed Leon to Flying Dutchman Records. Bob realised that Leon had more to offer than just being a sideman. Now was the time to step out of other musician’s shadow. So work began on Leon’s Flying Dutchman Records’ debut, which was Spirits Known and Unknown.

Released to critical acclaim, Spirits Known and Unknown is a truly genre-melting album. Everything from African music, avant-garde, blues, free jazz, jazz, soul and soul jazz  was combined by Leon Thomas and his tight and multitalented band. The result was Spirits Known and Unknown, which was recently released by BGP Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records. Spirits Known and Unknown was the album that launched the career of a true innovator and jazz pioneer Leon Thomas to music lovers music lovers worldwide. 

Sadly, as is often the case, Leon Thomas didn’t enjoy the commercial success his inconsiderable talent deserved. His time at Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Records saw Leon released the best music of his career. He released five albums between 1969 and 1972. From Spirits Known and Unknown in 1969 right through to 1973s Full Circle, Leon released truly groundbreaking, genre-melting albums. Sadly, commercial success didn’t come his way. Despite not enjoying the commercial success his music enjoyed, Leon Thomas influenced several generations of music. Forty-four years after the release of Spirits Known and Unknown, it’s still a timeless reminder of Leon Thomas an inspirational, innovative and influential jazz pioneers who pushed musical boundaries to their limits and beyond

 

LEON THOMAS-THE LEON THOMAS ALBUM.

There aren’t many artists who record two debut albums. Leon Thomas did. Having signed to RCA in 1958, Leon recorded what should’ve been his debut album. It was never released. Instead, another eleven years passed before Leon Thomas released his debut album Spirits Known and Unknown for Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Records. During the eleven year period, Leon Thomas’ vocal style changed. 

When Leon was the vocalist with Count Basie’s band in the early-sixties, his bluesy style was influenced by blues’ greats like Big Joe Turner. As the sixties drew to a close, Leon had transformed his vocal style. This came after he embraced free jazz and pushed musical boundaries. For Leon Thomas, this proved inspirational and resulted in him changing direction musically. By the time he signed to Flying Dutchman Records, Leon had embraced free jazz. His vocal encompassed blues, Afrobeat and jazz, as he scatted and yodelled. This was truly unique. So, it’s no surprise that between 1969 and 1972, Leon Thomas released a quartet of albums for Flying Dutchman Records. A year after releasing his 1969 debut album Spirits Known and Unknown, Leon released his sophomore album The Leon Thomas Album.

Spirits Known and Unknown was Leon’s debut for Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Records. Released to critical acclaim, it was surpassed by the followup The Leon Thomas Album, which was recently released by BGP Records. Pioneering, groundbreaking, enthralling, spiritual and genre-melting, describes the music on The Leon Thomas Album. That’s why The Leon Thomas Album is a fitting followup to Spirits Known and Unknown, which introduced jazz pioneer Leon Thomas to music lovers music lovers worldwide. 

Sadly, Leon Thomas didn’t enjoy the commercial success his inconsiderable talent deserved. Despite being one of Bob Thiele’s best signings for Flying Dutchman Records, and releasing groundbreaking, genre-melting albums, commercial success didn’t come his way. That’s despite releasing critically acclaimed albums, including 1969s Spirits Known and Unknown and 1970s The Leon Thomas Album. These two albums include the best music Leon Thomas recorded. His best album was The Leon Thomas Album, which features inspirational, innovative and influential music from Leon Thomas, one of jazz music’s true pioneers.

LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-LOLEATTA.

By 1976, when Norman Harris signed Loleatta Holloway to Gold Mind, he was something of a musical veteran. Norman Harris is one of the men who helped shape the Philly Sound. He was guitarist in the legendary Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, along with bassist Ron Baker and drummer Earl Young. He played on Thom Bell’s sessions for producers Thom Bell and then Gamble and Huff at Philadelphia International Records. From Thom Bell’s sessions for The Delfonics and later The Detroit Spinners, Norman Harris was a founding member of M.F.S.B., Philadelphia International Records legendary house-band. During his time as a member of M.F.S.B. Norman played on albums by Billy Paul, The O’Jays and Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes. As a member M.F.S.B. Norman played on several M.F.S.B. albums Then in 1975, when members of M.F.S.B. were involved in a financial dispute with Gamble and Huff, many of M.F.S.B. left Philadelphia International Records, becoming the Saloul Orchestra. One of these musicians was Norman Harris, whose considerable talents flourished at Salsoul, with one of the beneficiaries of Norman’s talents Loleatta Holloway.

Having signed Loleatta Holloway to Gold Mind, Norman Harris and The Harris Machine started working on Loleatta’s debut album for Gold Mine Loleatta. The Harris Machine was Norman’s production vehicle, a collection of Philly based songwriters, producers, arrangers and musicians. Four of the tracks on Loleatta were written by member of The Harris Machine. Norman cowrote four tracks, including Hit and Run, We’re Getting Stronger (the Longer We Stay Together), Dreamin’ and Ripped Off with Ron Tyson and Allan Felder. The other four tracks were cover versions. They became Loleatta, Loleatta Holloway’s Gold Mind debut.

On Loleatta, which was rereleased by BBR Records, Norman Harris and The Harris Machine, took Loleatta Holloway and transformed her from Southern Soul singer to the undisputed Queen of Salsoul. It was a remarkable transformation, and it seemed as if Loleatta had been born for this role. However, we shouldn’t be surprised at her newfound success, given the personnel that contributed towards the album. Some of the most talented songwriters, arrangers, producers, musicians and backing vocalists accompanied Loleatta Holloway. This included The Salsoul Orchestra and backing vocalists The  Sweethearts of Sigma backing vocalists. Add to the equation a hugely talented singer in Loleatta Holloway, who was part disco diva, part Southern Soul singer and everything was in place for Loleatta to become a classic album. That proved to be the case. With a truly timeless sound, it launched Loleatta Holloway’s career and transformed her Loleatta into the true Queen of Disco.

 

LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-LOVE SENSATION.

There’s a certain symmetry that in return for Loleatta Holloway adding a vocal on what became one of Dan Hartman’s biggest hit singless, Relight My Fire, that Dan returned this favor by writing one of Loleatta’s most successful singles, Love Sensation. This story starts back in 1979, when Dan Hartman was about to record his third album Relight My Fire. He’d written a track and wanted one of his favorite vocalists to add a vocal. The track was Relight My Fire and the vocalist he wanted to sing it, was Loleatta Holloway. Having spoked to Loleatta’s husband Floyd Smith, and then Ken Cayre, one of the co-owners of Salsoul Records, an agreement was reached. Loleatta would sing Relight My Fire and Dan would produce a track for Loleatta’s next album. Dan Hartman kept his word and wrote a track that wasn’t just a stonewall disco classic, but became synonymous with Loleatta Holloway and gave her one of the biggest hit singles of her career. Love Sensation was penned and produced by Dan Hartman and was also the title-track of what was Loleatta Holloway’s fourth and final album for Gold Mind Records. This was a fitting finale to the undisputed Queen of Disco’s career at Gold Mind Records.

When Love Sensation was released in 1980, it didn’t replicate the success of previous albums. Neither did it match the success of the lead single and title-track Love Sensation. The Dan Hartman penned and produced single reached number one in US Dance Music/Club Play Singles charts. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with the other seven tracks on Love Sensation. Indeed, throughout  Love Sensation Loleatta Holloway is at her very best, veering between disco and soul. Whether it’s Loleatta Holloway disco diva, or Loleatta revisiting her Southern Soul roots, she’s just as comfortable. This was the same combination as Loleatta’s three previous albums. So it wasn’t as if Loleatta had changed direction musically. No. What had changed was music. 

Disco was no longer as popular. Indeed since the Disco Sucks’ backlash, neither record companies nor record buyers were as interested in disco. Indeed, some record companies dropped disco artists and disco records. Salsoul and Gold Mind Records, which released Love Sensation, had established a reputation as a disco labels. This didn’t help sales of Love Sensation, which wasn’t a commercial success. Since them, Love Sensation has been reevaluated. Love Sensation which was rereleased by BBR Records, is now perceived as one of the hidden gems in Loleatta Holloway’s back-catalogue.

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