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Little Bit O’Soul: Thelma Houston, Syreeta, Nancy Wilson, Brecker Brothers, George Duke Reissued

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Thelma Houston - MoWestSoul music was alive and well in 2012, and some of the finest reissues arrived courtesy of Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records label.  With the label already looking forward to 2013 releases from artists including Ronnie Laws, Patti Austin, Stephanie Mills, George Duke, Gwen Guthrie and Freda Payne (more on those soon), the time is right to revisit some of the year-end titles that might have fallen under the radar!

In addition to celebrating the post-Motown recordings of Mary Wells at 20th Century Fox and The Miracles at Columbia Records, two other Motown-centric releases were highlights of the SoulMusic rollout.  The short-lived MoWest label hasn’t always gotten a lot of love, with Light in the Attic’s 2011 compilation Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s MoWest Story 1971-1973 an exception. In fact, Berry Gordy’s West Coast operation yielded more unissued albums than issued ones!  Yet one that did make the cut for release was Thelma Houston’s self-titled LP, the second MoWest album following the eponymous debut of New Jersey rock group Lodi.   Houston’s 1972 album makes its CD debut from SoulMusic in an expanded edition with nine bonus tracks appended to the ten original songs.  Though commercially unsuccessful, Thelma Houston was a prestige effort for MoWest, with productions and songs from many Motown staff favorites.  On the songwriting side, Patti Dahlstrom and the team of Nick Zesses and Dino Fekaris made contributions, while the album’s tracks were produced by Mel Larson and Jerry Marcellino, Al Cleveland and Eddie Langford, and Joe Porter.  Arrangements came from heavyweights like Gene Page, Michael Omartian and Artie Butler.  The eclectic album also featured a song penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“Black California”) and covers from Kris Kristofferson (“Me and Bobby McGee”) and even Anthony Newley (“There’s No Such Thing as Love”).  The bonus tracks include all four songs added to the U.K. release of Thelma Houston plus single sides.  These feature contributions from Pam Sawyer, writing with both Gloria Jones and Michael Masser, and more from the Larson/Marcellino team.  The result is a stunningly soulful, funky trek back to the days when Detroit went Hollywood.

Syreeta - One to OneSyreeta Wright was a MoWest labelmate of Thelma Houston for her own self-titled album Syreeta in 1972.  By 1974, Syreeta was on Motown’s Tamla label, where she recorded her third LP, 1977’s One to One, newly reissued by SoulMusic.  Though her marriage to Stevie Wonder lasted a mere year and a half, they made a dream team in the studio even after their personal union crumbled.  Wright teamed with Wonder on both Music of My Mind and Talking Book, and he returned the favor producing her first two studio albums, including the MoWest effort.  With Wonder otherwise occupied, Syreeta produced One on One herself, with her second husband, bassist Curtis Robertson Jr., and Leon Ware, who had just come off some groundbreaking work with Marvin Gaye, as co-producers.  Stevie Wonder’s one-off single production, “Harmour Love,” was added to the album at Motown’s behest.  Musicians including Greg Phillinganes, Gary Bartz and Michael Sembello all played on One to One.  But despite its all-around high quality, One to One didn’t fare well on the charts.  Syreeta later teamed with artists including The Spinners’ G.C. Cameron and Billy Preston, with whom she had a major chart success in 1980 with “With You I’m Born Again.”  She passed away in 2004, aged just 57, as a result of complications from cancer.  SoulMusic’s reissue is the album’s first CD release outside of Japan, and though there are no bonus tracks, it features a comprehensive new essay from A. Scott Galloway.

After the jump: info on new titles from the Brecker Brothers, George Duke and Nancy Wilson, plus order links and full track listings with discography for all releases!

Brecker - Back to BackTwo artists recently anthologized by the U.S.’ Legacy Recordings label with Complete Albums box sets have also gotten the SoulMusic treatment in the U.K.  The Brecker Brothers’ second album, Back to Back (1976) joins George Duke’s A Brazilian Love Affair (1979) as two genre-bending jazz LPs expanded by SoulMusic.  Back to Back saw trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Michael Brecker joined by “The Brecker Brothers Band” of all-stars: David Sanborn on saxophone, Don Grolnick on keyboards, Will Lee on bass, Steve Khan on guitars, Chris Parker and Steve Gadd on drums, plus Luther Vandross and Patti Austin on background vocals.  Arista Records’ head Clive Davis encouraged the band in a jazz/funk direction, and the songs were truly collaborative efforts, with songs from both brothers as well as from Vandross, Khan, Lee, Grolnick, Sanborn, Charlotte Crossley of Bette Midler’s Harlettes, David Lasley and Allee Willis.  SoulMusic’s new edition includes an essay from A. Scott Galloway with track-by-track notes and remembrances from many of the album’s living principals, plus two bonus tracks (singlemixes of “If You Wanna Boogie…Do It” and “Slick Stuff”).

George Duke - BrazilianFor A Brazilian Love Affair, George Duke sought to celebrate the still-vibrant music of Brazil long after the bossa nova craze had peaked.   (That said, bossa rhythms do still appear on this jazz/funk fusion project, and there are Portuguese as well as English vocals.)  For his album which blended American and Brazilian sensibilities, the keyboard virtuoso enlisted such luminaries as Airto Moreira, Milton Nascimiento and Flora Purim for sessions in Brazil, and the result was an album which Duke still finds among his most enduring of all time.  The single edit of the title track has been added to SoulMusic’s reissue as a bonus track, and Jeff Lorez has written the new notes.   A Brazilian Love Affair follows the label’s reissues of other Duke albums including Rendezvous, Dream On, Master of the Game and Follow the Rainbow.

Nancy Wilson - Satisfied and ForbiddenNancy Wilson has made her mark in numerous genres and settings.  After a successful career at Capitol as a premier jazz vocalist interpreting many great standards and songbooks from both Broadway and Hollywood, Wilson began experimenting with more modern sounds as the 1970s dawned.  She remained on Capitol, creating top-notch albums with producer-arrangers such as Thom Bell and Gene Page.  By the time she parted ways with the famous Hollywood label in 1979, she had recorded close to forty albums (a number of which still haven’t seen CD reissue).  Still in demand, Wilson took to Japan, where she recorded four albums live in the studio with producer Kiyoshi Itoh and arranger Masahiko Satoh.  In 1984, she returned to the U.S. for a successful album with keyboardist Ramsey Lewis, and was then signed to Columbia Records.  Keep You Satisfied (1985) and Forbidden Lover (1987) were Wilson’s first two releases for Columbia, and furthered her association with Itoh and Satoh.  Both albums are presented by SoulMusic on one 2-CD set, continuing the label’s reissue series for the artist.  The former was recorded in Japan, and included songs from Gene McDaniels, Marvin Gaye (“Just to Keep You Satisfied”) and even George Michael (a tasteful reinvention of mega-hit “Careless Whisper”).  For the latter LP, Wilson and her team relocated to Los Angeles, where they were joined by the session elite including the ubiquitous percussionist Paulinho da Costa and trumpeter Jerry Hey as well as saxophonist Branford Marsalis and reed player Ernie Watts.  Actor/singer Carl Anderson joined Wilson for two tracks, and McDaniels again supplied material.  Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” was a choice cover, and the singer even revisited one of her past classics, “I Was Telling Him About You.”  Though Keep You Satisfied performed well, it was eclipsed by Forbidden Lover, which went Top 10 on the jazz chart.  Though she’s currently semi-retired, Nancy Wilson’s star still burns bright.  This new two-fer, with notes by Kevin L. Goins, proves how Wilson could be both adaptable to the times and true to her musical roots.

All of these titles are available now and can be ordered at the links below!

The Brecker Brothers Band, Back to Back (Arista LP AL 4061, 1976 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5076, 2012)

  1. Keep It Steady (Brecker Bump)
  2. If You Wanna Boogie…Forget It
  3. Lovely Lady
  4. Night Flight
  5. Slick Stuff
  6. Dig a Little Deeper
  7. Grease Piece
  8. What can a Miracle Do
  9. I Love Wastin’ Time with You
  10. If You Wanna Boogie…Forget It (Single) (Arista 45-0812-A, 1976)
  11. Slick Stuff (Single) (Arista 45-0812-B, 1976)

George Duke, A Brazilian Love Affair (Epic LP JE 36483, 1979 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5077, 2012)

  1. Brazilian Love Affair
  2. Summer Breezin’
  3. Cravo e Canela
  4. Alone – 6 AM
  5. Brazilian Sugar
  6. Sugar Loaf Mountain
  7. Love Reborn
  8. Up from the Sea It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite
  9. I Need You Now
  10. Ao Que Vai Nascer
  11. Brazilian Love Affair (Single) (Epic single 9-50898-A, 1980)

Thelma Houston, The MoWest Album (MoWest LP MW 102L, 1972 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5072, 2012)

  1. What If
  2. There’s No Such Thing as Love
  3. Me and Bobby McGee
  4. I’m Letting Go
  5. Do Something About It
  6. There is a God
  7. Black California
  8. And I Never Did
  9. Blackberries
  10. And I Thought You Loved Me
  11. No One’s Gonna Be a Fool Forever (MoWest single 5013-B, 1972/MoWest U.K. LP MWS 7003, 1973)
  12. I Ain’t Going Nowhere (MoWest U.K. LP MWS 7003, 1973)
  13. Nothing Left to Give (MoWest U.K. LP MWS 7003, 1973)
  14. Stealing in the Name of the Lord (MoWest U.K. LP MWS 7003, 1973)
  15. I Ain’t That Easy to Lose (MoWest U.K. LP MWS 7003, 1973)
  16. I Want to Go Back There Again (MoWest single 5008-A, 1971)
  17. Pick of the Week (MoWest single 5008-B, 1971)
  18. Piano Man (MoWest single 5023-A, 1972/MoWest single 5050-B, 1973))
  19. I’m Just a Part of Yesterday (MoWest single 5050-A, 1973)

Syreeta, One to One (Tamla TS 349 S1, 1977 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5071, 2012)

  1. One to One
  2. I Don’t Know
  3. Rest Yourself
  4. I Too Am Wanting
  5. Tiki Tiki Donga
  6. Don’t Cry
  7. Harmour Love
  8. One to One (Reprise)

Nancy Wilson, Keep You Satisfied/Forbidden Lover (SoulMusic Records SMCR 507D, 2012)

CD 1

  1. Just to Keep You in My Life
  2. American Wedding Song
  3. We’ve Got Love
  4. Early Morning
  5. Winter Green and Summer Blue
  6. Just to Keep You Satisfied
  7. Is It Too Late
  8. Heaven Bound
  9. Careless Whisper
  10. If We Were Lovers

CD 2

  1. Forbidden Lover (with Carl Anderson)
  2. I Was Telling Him About You
  3. If You Only Knew
  4. Deeper
  5. Puttin’ My Trust
  6. You Know
  7. Too Good to Be True (with Carl Anderson)
  8. I Never Held Your Heart
  9. What Will It Take This Time
  10. A Song for You

Written by Joe Marchese

January 9, 2013 at 11:52

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