THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 4.
THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 4.
LOVE COMMITTEE-LAW AND ORDER.
Love Committee were one of many Philadelphia soul groups formed in the sixties. Their original lineup featured Larry Richardson, Joe Freeman, Norman Frazier and future-Temptation Ron Tyson. Later, Michael Bell replaced Larry Richardson. Having released their debut single Think About Tomorrow on Vent Records, The Ethics released further singles on Vent. This includes 1969s Standing In the Darkness and Farewell. After leaving Vent, The Ethics signed to Baker, Harris, Young’s newly formed label Golden Fleece Records, releasing Good Luck in 1974. Later, The Ethics changed their name to Love Committee and signed to Norman Harris’ Gold Mind Records. For Love Committee’s debut album Law and Order, Norman Harris would play a huge part in the album. He put together some of Philly’s best songwriters, musicians, arrangers and producers to work on what became Law and Order.
That Love Committee’s debut album Law and Order wasn’t a much bigger commercial success, almost seems unjust. It’s one of these albums where you’re spellbound from the opening bars right through to the closing notes. Law and Order includes just eight songs, lasting forty minutes, where lead singer Ron Tyson, Michael Bell, Joe Freeman and Norman Frazier showcase their considerable vocal and harmonic talents. Heartachingly beautiful, soul-baring ballads and hook-laden, uptempo tracks sit comfortably side by side. Mind you, given the personnel that played on Law and Order, this is no surprise.
On Law and Order, Love Committee were accompanied by some of Philly’s greatest musicians. This included Baker, Harris, Young, Bobby “Electronic” Eli, Larry Washington and the legendary backing vocalists the Sweethearts of Sigma. Law and Order truly, featured a musical all-star cast. Arrangers like Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey, Bruce Hawkes and Jack Faith, plus producers like Baker, Harris, Young and the trio of Allan Felder, Ron Tyson and Norman Harris all played their part. That’s why Love Committee’s debut album Law and Order is such an accomplished album. Indeed, Law and Order is yet another of Philly Soul’s hidden gems rereleased by BBR Records.
By 1973, Philadelphia International Records was well on the way to becoming one of the most successful record labels of all time, whilst supplying the soundtrack for the seventies, and a generation. Critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums started flowing out of Philadelphia. This included The O’Jays’ Backstabbers, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes’ I Miss You and Billy Paul’s 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. Each of these albums have one thing in common, the musicians that played on these albums. Known as M.F.S.B, not only would they accompany the artists on Philadelphia International Records, but became one of the label’s most successful groups. M.F.S.B. would released eight studio albums between 1973 and 1980.
Their debut album was 1973s M.F.S.B. which featured the original and classic lineup of M.F.S.B. This included the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, guitarist Bobby “Electronic” Eli, vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr, percussionist Larry Washington and Don Renaldo and His Strings and Horns. These legendary musicians, were responsible for shaping and defining what became known as the Philly Sound. Sometimes, these musical legends don’t receive the credit they’re due. All too often, when someone mentions Philadelphia International Records, people think of Gamble and Huff. However, without the combined talents of M.F.S.B, who were much more than just musicians. People like Ron Baker, Norman Harris and Vince Montana Jr, were songwriters, arrangers and producers, whose creativity and in some cases, sheer genius made Philadelphia International Records the musical force it became. All this creativity, talent and indeed, genius, shines through on the six songs that became M.F.S.B.
Having previously provided the musical backdrop for artists like The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and Billy Paul, it was time for M.F.S.B. to show they were more than the hottest house-band in America. It was like a challenge. Not only did M.F.S.B. rise to the challenge, but revelled in it. They kicked back and then kicked loose, showing that now was the time they stepped out of the shadows. Suddenly, all this creativity was unleashed. Cover versions new and old were reinvented. Songs subtleties, secrets and nuances were explored. Then the song was deconstructed and then reconstructed in a way that had never ever been envisaged. Despite this innovation, M.F.S.B. wasn’t a hugely successful album.
While M.F.S.B. might not have been M.F.S.B’s most successful album, it showed their versatility and creativity. It also showed that M.F.S.B. were an innovative, multitalented band. Without M.F.S.B, Philadelphia International Records might not have become the success story it became. Maybe, critical acclaim and commercial success might have eluded them. History may have been very different. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. At least Gamble and Huff realised just how talented M.F.S.B. were. They went on to become one of Philadelphia International Records’ most successful artists. The album that started this off was M.F.S.B. It’s proof, if any were ever needed, of just how versatile, creative and innovative a band M.F.S.B. were. Just one listen to M.F.S.B. and you too, will realise this.
WEA Japan’s rerelease of Jealousy came just six months after the tragic death of Major Harris. Major Harris died on 9th November 2012, aged just sixty-five. He was one of legends of Philly Soul. He’d enjoyed a long and successful career, one that spanned over five decades. This success came as part of groups like The Delfonics and as a solo artist. After being a member of The Delfonics between 1971 and 1975, during which time they recorded two albums. Then as The Delfonics career seemed to stall, Major Harris embarked upon his solo career. Between 1975 and 1984, Major Harris released four solo albums. His solo career started with 1975s million-selling My Way. It featured the number one US R&B single Love Won’t Let Me Wait. A year later, in 1976, Major Harris released his sophomore album Jealousy, which he hoped would build on the success of My Way.
Sadly, neither Jealousy, nor any of the singles released from Jealousy, matched the success of My Way. Part of the problem was that musical fashions were changing quickly. Disco had became the most popular musical genre. For soul singers like Major Harris, this presented a problem. Granted some of the songs on Jealousy are dance-floor friendly, but that didn’t help make Jealousy the commercial success it deserved to be.
With an all-star cast of Philly songwriters, arrangers, producers and musicians working on Jealousy, deserved to be a commercial success. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with the eight tracks on Jealousy. Slick, soulful, dance-floor friendly and hook-laden, Jealousy has remained one of Philly Soul’s best kept secrets.
MARVIN GAYE-TROUBLE MAN.
What’s Going On, released on 20th May 1971, marked the second chapter in Marvin Gaye’s career. For many people, What’s Going On marked the start of Marvin Gaye’s career as a serious artist. Indeed, What’s Going On, was far removed from the poppy soul Marvin Gaye had previously been a purveyor of. Not only did What’s Going On, mark a coming of age as an artist for Marvin Gaye, but was the start of a series of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums he’d release between 1971 and 1978. During this seven year period, Marvin Gaye released six albums. Three of these albums reached number one in the US R&B Charts, but only What’s Going On was certified gold. Given the quality of these six albums, that’s a remarkable statistic.
The followup to What’s Going On, was Trouble Man, which saw Marvin follow in the footsteps of Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack, in composing the soundtrack to a Blaxploitation movie. To mark the fortieth anniversary of the release of Trouble Man, Hip-O Select.com somewhat belatedly, released a luxurious and lovingly compiled double album on 31st January 2013. Disc One features the original album version of Trouble Man, plus nine bonus tracks entitled The T Sessions. On Disc Two of Trouble Man, are the nineteen tracks that comprised the Original Film Score, plus a bonus track, T At The Cross, which, like the nine bonus tracks on Disc One, were mixed by DJ John Morales. So for anyone who is either a fan of Marvin Gaye, or Blaxploitation movies, this should be a must-have?
While the rerelease of original version of Trouble Man would be a cause for celebration, then the rerelease of the Original Film Score is a cause to rejoice. For John Morales, this was a labor of love. Good as the nine bonus tracks the comprised The “T” Sessions were, they were after all, only outtakes and alternate mixes. There was nothing to rival the thirteen original tracks on the original version of Trouble Man. John could only work with the material he was presented with. He really surpasses himself on Disc Two. It’s as if this was a project that was deeply personal for him, one that was part of his musical legacy. He mixes the nineteen tracks on Original Film Score and the bonus track “T” On The Cross. Not only is this the icing on the musical cake that is Trouble Man, but the cherry on the top. John should be proud of his efforts and realise that these three years were well spent. It allows the listener to sit down, and enjoy two versions of the album. Granted several tracks on the original version of Trouble Man feature on Original Film Score, but there’s much more to explore and enjoy. By the time you’ve listened to the original version of Trouble Man and the Original Film Score, then you’ll have come to the conclusion that Marvin Gaye, like Isaac Hayes, could’ve enjoyed a career composing movie soundtracks.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Trouble Man was his only soundtrack. The followup to Trouble Man, while not a soundtrack, was a stonewall classic, Let’s Get It On. It marked the next chapter in his career, and was the third of six critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums Marvin Gaye released during the seventies. During the period between 1971 and 1978, Marvin Gaye only released one composed one soundtrack, Trouble Man. Mind you, if you’re only going to release one soundtrack, make it one that’s becomes a Blaxploitation classic, like Trouble Man.
MARLENA SHAW-JUST A MATTER OF TIME.
For the first Lady of Blue Note, Marlena Shaw, 1975 saw her release the most successful album of her career, Who Is This Bitch Anyway? An innovative fusion of soul and jazz, Marlena explored feminist, sexual politics and social issues. This represented Marlena Shaw at the height of her creative powers. Who Is This Bitch Anyway had surpassed everything that Marlena had released previously. The decision to team up with producer Bernard Ighner had paid off. Bernard had brought in some of the best musicians. Everything fell into place. It seemed Marlena was about to enjoy the commercial success and critical her talent deserved. Sadly, that wasn’t case when Marlena released Just A Matter Of Time, which was released by SoulMusic Records.
Bert DeCoteaux had established a reputation as a successful producer. He’d been riding the crest of the disco wave before he worked with Marlena. Maybe Blue Note felt that Bert could make Marlena Shaw’s music appeal to more people? There’s everything from disco, soul, gospel, funk, blues and jazz on Just A Matter Of Time. Indeed, the best way to describe Just A Matter Of Time is a musical roller adventure. You never know which direction Just A Matter Of Time is heading. Incredibly, Marlena copes with the constant changes in style. Her versatility meant she’s just as comfortable being a strutting disco diva on It’s Better Than Walking Out or vamping her way through the uber funky Think About Me. Then there’s the gospel-tinged Be For Real and Take My Body, where blues, rock and soul meet head on. These are just four examples of why Just A Matter Of Time is one of the most eclectic albums Marlena Shaw released. Maybe that was why Just A Matter Of Time wasn’t a commercial success?
Given Just A Matter Of Time was such an eclectic album, how would Blue Note market the album? It didn’t fit neatly into one musical genre. No. It straddled genres. The same goes for radio stations. As Just A Matter Of Time wasn’t purely a jazz, soul, funk or disco album. It was a mixture of each of these genres. So stations playing soul or disco wouldn’t put Just A Matter Of Time on their playlist. The same goes for record buyers. No longer was Marlena just a jazz singer. Now she was trying to be appeal to everyone. This maybe alienated people, especially those who’d followed her career since her debut album. For Blue Note, this proved the final straw.
Following the failure of Just A Matter Of Time, Blue Note dropped Marlena Shaw. In the space of a year, she’d released the most successful album of her career, been crowned Blue Note’s first Lady and was then unceremoniously dropped. Ironically, Just A Matter Of Time, Marlena Shaw’s Blue Note swan-song, which saw her switch seamlessly between musical genres, is one of the most underrated albums of her long and distinguished career.
MICHAEL CHAPMAN-WRECKED AGAIN.
Wrecked Again, which features eleven songs written by Michael Chapman, saw a change in style. Often described as Michael’s “Memphis” album, the best way to describe Wrecked Again is eclectic. Everything from folk, blues, rock, country and jazz can be found within Wrecked Again, which was recorded at Rockfield Studios and produced by Gus Dudgeon, who produced Michael’s three previous albums.
When Wrecked Again was released early in 1971, it failed to chart. Despite its eclectic, all encompassing sound, music fans weren’t won over by Wrecked Again. At least critics were. They recognized Wrecked Again as a return to form from the Leeds’ born troubadour. Sadly, Harvest decided Wrecked Again would be Michael Chapman’s final album for Harvest. An eclectic, genre-sprawling album, everything from Americana, blues, country, folk, jazz, pop and rock were thrown into the musical mixing bowl by Michael. After Gus Dudgeon worked his magic. With a sound that was somewhere between Memphis, Nashville and Leeds, it was as if Wrecked Again reflected the music that had influenced Michael. That includes horns that sound not unlike a Yorkshire brass band. They work, but just. A much more authentic Memphis sound would’ve been the finishing touch. Despite that, Wrecked Again which was rereleased by Light In The Attic, is the best album of Michael’s time at Harvest.
Although Rainmaker and Fully Qualified Surveyor ooze quality, Wrecked Again is the best album Michael Chapman released for Harvest Records. Between 1969 and 1971, Michael Chapman released a quartet of albums. Of this quartet, the genre-melting Wrecked Again, Michael Chapman’s “Memphis album” and homage to Americana, is the highlight of his time at Harvest Records.
MIKE OLDFIELD-FIVE MILES OUT.
Nine years after releasing his debut album, Mike Oldfield decided his music had to change. His albums were no longer selling as many copies. Success in America seemed to elude Mike. If it hadn’t been for excerpts from Tubular Bells being played in The Shining, his debut album might never have reached the heights it did. After that, America proved a hard nut to crack. Even at home, in the UK, his albums last three albums hadn’t even reached the top ten. Each album slipped that further bit down the charts. There was a reason for this, music was changing. Music was in a constant state of flux. Fashion changed quickly. During 1981, when Mike started recording Five Miles Out, boogie and synth pop were just two of the musical flavors of the month. For a new generation of record buyers, Mike Oldfield was the music of their parents. When they thought of Mike, they thought of grandiose, symphonic music, music that’s mystical and of course, prog rock. That was the problem.
People’s perception of Mike was problematic. Although his music was much more eclectic than that, that was how people perceived him. Little did people realize his music had never stood still. He’d been determined to push musical boundaries. This is what he’d do with Five Miles Out. If he didn’t do something to address the problem, he risked becoming irrelevant. So, Mike decided to change direction.
This was something he’d done and embraced his whole career. No two Mike Oldfield albums are the same. Each album is a but different. When Mike could’ve released Tubular Bells II, he released Hergest Ridge. Mike didn’t stand still. His career saw his music constantly evolving. On Five Miles Out, Mike fully embraced technology. Using the Fairlight CMI, was part of the reinvention of Mike Oldfield. Without throwing out what had resulted in Mike enjoying a successful career, Five Miles Out saw a series of subtle changes.
Side one of Five Miles Out was for his old fans. A twenty-four minute Magnus Opus, it’s Mike Oldfield at his very best. Then on Side two, three of the four songs are shorter, with a slick, poppy sound. Mike doesn’t spare the hooks. He even joins Maggie Reilly on vocal duties. Fusing everything from prog rock, pop, electronica, rock, Celtic and classical music, Mike returned with his most successful album since 1975. Not since Ommadawn, in 1975, had Mike Oldfield enjoyed such a high chart placing. Reaching number seven in the UK, plus two hit singles saw Mike’s decision to reinvent himself vindicated.
It would’ve been easy for him to keep churning out album after album of similar material. Mostly likely, his loyal fans would’ve bought the albums. That wasn’t enough for Mike. He wanted and needed to challenge himself. Mike also wanted to embrace the new technology. Throughout his career he’d been an innovator, always wanting to push musical boundaries. This is what Mike Oldfield did on Five Miles Out, which was recently rereleased as a Deluxe Edition by Mercury Records. Featuring three discs, Five Miles Out is what a Deluxe Edition should look like. Disc two features a recording of a concert in Cologne from the Five Miles Out tour. Then on Disc three, there’s Mike Oldfield’s 5.1 Surround Mix. This is a very welcome addition and brings new life and meaning to Five Miles Out, Mike Oldfield’s comeback album. The 5.1 Surround Mix showcases Mike Oldfield at his innovative an inventive best on Five Miles Out, which features the rebirth and reinvention of Mike Oldfield.
MILLIE JACKSON-THE MOODS OF MILLIE JACKSON-HER BEST BALLADS.
When it comes to ballads, Millie Jackson breathes life, meaning, emotion and often, hurt and heartache into them. Whether Millie is laying bare her soul or is delivering heartfelt, impassioned performances, her ballads are peerless, and truly breathtaking. Now twenty of the ballads Millie Jackson recorded at Spring Records feature on a new compilation entitled The Moods Of Millie Jackson-Her Best Ballads. Compiled by Sean Hampsey and was released by Kent, The Moods Of Millie Jackson-Her Best Ballads is a reminder of one of the most talented, versatile and charismatic female vocalists of the seventies and eighties.
For anyone yet to discover Millie Jackson’s music, it’ll only take one listen to The Moods Of Millie Jackson-Her Best Ballads to realize that Millie was one of the most talented, versatile and charismatic soul singer of her generation. She enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim during the twelve years she spent at Spring Records. During that time, three of her albums were certified gold. However, there’s much more to Millie Jackson’s time at Spring Records than 1974s Caught Up, 1977s Feelin’ Bitchy and 1978s Get It Out’cha System.
These three albums just scratch the surface of Millie’s time at Spring Records. During her time at Spring Records, Millie Jackson recorded sixteen albums. While some of these albums didn’t replicate the success of Caught Up, Feelin’ Bitchy or Get It Out’cha System they all had one thing in common..they featured some stunning ballads. These ballads feature Millie Jackson at her very best. She brings lyrics to life, breathing life, meaning and emotion into them. Whether it’s heartbreak and hurt, sensuality and sass, or anger and frustration, Millie Jackson brings all these things and more to a song. Quite simply, Millie Jackson voice is like a musical palette, painting pictures before your eyes. One minute you’re empathising with Millie’s hurt and plight, the next her vocal is filled with joy and happiness and then she’s delivering a sensuous and seductive Magnus Opus. Not many vocalists are as versatile and talented as Millie Jackson. Proof of this are the twenty songs on The Moods Of Millie Jackson-Her Best Ballads, which was compiled by Sean Hampsey and released on Kent. Compiler Sean Hampsey has chosen a compelling collection of well known tracks and hidden gems for The Moods Of Millie Jackson-Her Best Ballads. The result is The Moods Of Millie Jackson-Her Best Ballads, a stunning collection of ballads from one of the most talented soul singers of her generation, Millie Jackson. There’s neither faux pax nor filler, just quality soul music all the way.
NEW YORK DOLLS-NEW YORK DOLLS.
No other group epitomises the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle like the New York Dolls. Drink, drugs and death touched the New York Dolls. Despite this, the Dolls continued to court disaster. Just like a game of daring do, the egged each other to fly close to the sun. This was all part of the myth that surrounds the New York Dolls. Here was another case of flawed genius. A firecracker combination of talents and personalities, they could’ve and should’ve been one of the biggest bands in musical history. Fuelled by a diet of alcohol, pills and powders, the New York Dolls first two albums were the best they ever recorded.
Their 1973 eponymous debut album New York Dolls, which was recently released by Universal Music, was a swaggering, strutting introduction to the New York Dolls. A year later, came their sophomore album, Too Much Too Soon. A fueled up Dolls, courted controversy and chaos, continued to strut and swagger their way through life. On both of these albums, the New York Dolls out-rocked the opposition. Other bands, including the Rolling Stones, enviously looked on. Here was a band who were the real thing. They were living the rock ‘n’ lifestyle and living it hard. With what seemed like an appetite for destruction, somehow the New York Dolls recorded two classic albums within the space of a year. The first of these was their debut album New York Dolls.
Released in 1973 on Mercury, New York Dolls divided opinion. Some critics hailed New York Dolls as a stonewall classic, others deemed it a parody of a rock album. It certainly took the world by storm, spawning a million imitators. Strangely, on its release, sales of New York Dolls were disappointing. It only reached number 167 in the US Billboard 200. Mercury had hoped that the album would be one of their big sellers of 1973. It certainly captured the attention of critics and music lovers, it was voted both the best and worst album of 1973. It seems that New York Dolls was an enigmatic album and one that divided opinion. Forty years later, history has been rewritten.
Ironically, during the forty years since its release, critics who called New York Dolls “mock rock” have changed their mind. These lisping rock critics have now changed their mind about the New York Dolls. Nowadays, New York Dolls is now perceived as a classic album. The New York Dolls fusion of glam rock, proto-punk and hard rock is perceived as Innovative and ahead of the musical curve. The New York Dolls are credited as one of the founding fathers of punk rock. Since then, many groups have imitated the New York Dolls swaggering brand of good time music. Nobody comes close. No ifs, no buts. Having released a career defining album, the New York Dolls never bettered. If ever there’s a case of a band peaking to soon, this was it.
Raw, intense and full or energy describes New York Dolls. It’s as close you’ll get to hearing what the New York Dolls sounded like live. This was a no frills album. Sleazy, sassy and raunchy, New York Dolls is lo-fi, good time music. It’s no wonder Todd Rundgren only spent half a day mixing New York Dolls. Although he was a strange choice for the Dolls, he harnesses their energy and enthusiasm. Maybe the Dolls should’ve called the album Raw Power. Apart from a few occasions where Todd Rundgren’s overdubbing goes too far, he strikes the right balance for a debut album. He doesn’t overproduce New York Dolls, a true rock ’n’ roll classic that’s influenced several generations of musicians.
NEW YORK DOLLS-TOO MUCH TOO SOON.
Never in the history of music has an album title proved to be so prophetic than the New York Dolls’ sophomore album Too Much Too Soon. Released in 1974, Too Much Too Soon features one of the hardest rocking and hardest living bands in musical history. Unfortunately, The New York Dolls were music’s equivalent to Icarus. They literally flew too close to the sun. Having released Too Much Too Sun, which reached a disappointing number 167 in the US Billboard 200, Mercury sent the New York Dolls out on an American tour.
That would’ve been okay for an ordinary band. The New York Dolls were no ordinary band. Far from it. Best described as dysfunctional, it’s no surprise what happened next. During what was a chaotic, problematic tour, the New York Dolls literally imploded. Amidst a backdrop of alcohol and drug abuse, changes in lineup and general chaos, the New York Dolls were dropped by Mercury in 1975. This lead to them splitting up. By then, the New York Dolls had lived life to the fullest. Since their debut album, they’d lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Remarkably, most of them survived to tell the tale. Somehow, during that time, they’d spawned a thousand imitators and released two classic albums.
Their second classic album Too Much Too Soon, was recently released by the Legends Of Rock label. Described as an audiophile recording, it’s the best sounding version of Too Much Too Soon I’ve heard. This should be the standard other labels aspire to. If only all rereleases sounded this good. The same could be said of the New York Dolls. if only every band sounded as good as the New York Dolls, music would be a better place. One of the New York Dolls finest moments was Too Much Too Soon.
Too Much Too Soon, the New York Dolls’ sophomore album, is an iconic, innovative album. Ironically, Too Much Too Soon almost passed unnoticed. It hardly troubled the American charts. After its release, Mercury sent the New York Dolls on an American tour. It proved chaotic and almost broke the band. On their return from the ill-fated tour, Mercury dropped the Dolls. Later in 1975, they split up, against a backdrop of rancour, drug abuse and hedonism. The hardest living party band were no more…briefly.
Soon, the band were back together and playing some of the best shows of their career. Then later in 1975, Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan left the band. Their replacements were drummer Tony Machine and keyboardist Chris Robinson. This was just the latest change in lineup. It proved to be one of the most successful lineups of the band. They played some of their best concerts and were hailed as one of the hottest bands of the mid-seventies. Nothing lasted long as far as the New York Dolls were concerned. The band broke up and in the last four decades have continued to reform and split up.
Despite reforming, the New York Dolls never reached the heights of Too Much Too Soon. It’s their finest moment. Innovative, groundbreaking and ahead of its time, this fusion of rock, proto-punk, blues and glam rock, helped inspire punk and spawned a thousand imitators. None came close to replicating the New York Dolls at their best. For two albums, the New York Dolls were one of the best bands of that time. Innovative, inventive and determined to rewrite the musical rulebook, there was one problem, the New York Dolls were fundamentally flawed. Their downfall was their penchant for the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and hedonism. Just like Icarus, they flew to close to the sun. Before flying to close to the sun, the New York Dolls released their 1974 Magnus Opus, Too Much Too Soon.