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Archive for May 30th, 2012

Reviews: First Family of Soul – Rare Albums From Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, Cissy Houston Reissued and Expanded

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If there’s such a thing as a First Family of Soul, it might as well be the combined Houston/Warwick clan.  Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Emily “Cissy” Drinkard sang gospel with her family as part of The Drinkard Singers, which counted Cissy’s sister Lee Warrick among its members.  Marie Dionne Warrick was born in 1940 to Lee and her husband Mancel; Delia Mae “Dee Dee” Warrick followed in 1942.  Though The Drinkard Singers remain an important part of the history of gospel music, said to have recorded the very first gospel album on a major label (1959’s A Joyful Noise on RCA Victor), could Cissy and Lee have imagined the success that their daughters would have had?  Dionne Warwick – her new surname having been created by a record label misspelling – ranks second only to Aretha Franklin as the most charting female in pop history, with 56 singles on the Hot 100 between 1962 and 1998.  Cissy’s daughter Whitney Houston, of course, made history of her own, cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most-awarded female singer of all time and also the first to chart seven consecutive chart-topping singles!  Cissy Houston, to this day, continues to perform and inspire audiences wherever she goes.

Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records has just celebrated this true First Family of Soul with three remarkable new releases: the first-ever CD reissues of Isaac Hayes and Dionne Warwick’s 1977 A Man and a Woman and Dee Dee Warwick’s 1969 Foolish Fool, plus a deluxe, expanded edition of Cissy Houston’s 1970 Presenting Cissy Houston.  Taken together, these three albums represent a mini-history of American soul music.  Hit the jump and we’ll individually explore each of these seminal releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 30, 2012 at 13:09

Betcha By Golly Wow: The Stylistics Go “Streetwise” On New Reissue

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“You Are Everything.”  “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”  “Betcha By Golly Wow.”    The songs of Philadelphia’s Stylistics are still prominent in the fabric of American music, largely thanks to a three-album run between 1971 and 1973 on the Avco label.  With Thom Bell as the producer, arranger and composer, and Linda Creed as lyricist, the group defined the sweetest strains of Philly soul.  Every single Bell produced for the group hit the Top 10 R&B chart, and many also went Top 10 pop.  When Thom Bell turned his attentions in 1973 to The Spinners, however, the group found itself somewhat adrift.  Of the group’s hits, only the 1970 single “You’re a Big Girl Now” had been produced without him.  Bell instinctively knew how to deploy Russell Thompkins Jr.’s soaring falsetto with the group harmonies of Airrion Love, James Smith, Herb Murrell and James Dunn.

1974’s Let’s Put It All Together, with its strong title track from Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss (the trio responsible for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”) continued the group’s winning streak, but subsequent efforts kept yielding diminishing returns.  Top-tier producers like Van McCoy and Teddy Randazzo attempted to recapture The Stylistics’ glory days, and the group (sans Dunn and Smith, who departed in 1980, and with new member Raymond Johnson) even reunited with Bell, among other producers, for a three-album stint at Philadelphia International Records between 1980 and 1982.  Following that return to the City of Brotherly Love, The Stylistics soldiered on, signing to Maurice Starr’s Streetwise Records label.

The two albums recorded by The Stylistics at Streetwise, Some Things Never Change (1984) and A Special Style (1985) have just been released on CD for the very first time by Phase One Music and Streetwise Records as The Streetwise Recordings.  Though this CD brings more of the Stylistics’ catalogue to CD, the two-albums-on-one-CD package is oddly incomplete.  Hit the jump for more details! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 30, 2012 at 09:46