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Release Round-Up: Week of May 6

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Steeltown DeluxeBig Country, Steeltown: Deluxe Edition (Mercury/UMC)

The second, criminally underrated album by the Scottish rockers behind “In a Big Country” is remastered and expanded with a bonus disc of single sides and outtakes. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.UPDATE: This one’s been pushed back to September, folks!

Philadelphia International BoxPhiladelphia International: The Collection – 2o Original Albums / The Very Best of Teddy PendergrassLou RawlsThe Three DegreesThe IntrudersThe O’JaysBilly Paul and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (Sony Music U.K.)

Sony Music recently announced their acquisition of all post-1975 Philadelphia International Records masters (previously they were only licensed by Sony), so we can expect some more celebrating of all things Gamble, Huff and so on – starting with a 20-disc box set of some the best albums on the label and some new U.K.-exclusive compilations for PIR’s biggest artists.

Philadelphia International: The Collection (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)
Amazon U.K.: The IntrudersHarold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, Billy PaulTeddy PendergrassLou RawlsThe Three Degrees

Gloria GaynorGene Chandler, Get Down / Gloria Gaynor, Gloria Gaynor (Big Break Records)

BBR’s remastered/expanded release slate this week includes some interesting finds: “Duke of Earl” Gene Chandler’s first disco-oriented album for Chi Sound Records in 1978 and Gloria Gaynor’s tenth album (and only one for Atlantic), released in 1982 and featuring a cover of The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love.”

Gene Chandler: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Gloria Gaynor: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Message from the MagicBlue Magic, Message from the Magic (Funkytowngrooves)

The Philadelphia R&B group’s fifth and final album for ATCO Records is remastered and released on CD for the first time ever! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ain’t No Stopping Them Now: Sony Acquires Entire Philadelphia International Catalogue, Box Set Coming Soon [UPDATED]

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Philadelphia International Box

UPDATED 4/9 WITH NEW INFORMATION, LINKS AND IMAGES: The love train is pulling back into the station.

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records, distributed by CBS Records, began life in 1971 with the release of Billy Paul’s Going East on LP and The Ebonys’ “You’re the Reason Why” on 45.  (Trivia fans, take note: Gideon Smith’s single “Arkansaw Wife” – yes, you read that right – has an earlier catalogue number, but the quintessentially Philly track by The Ebonys appears to have been released first.)  The R&B empire, which had built a catalogue of some of the most iconic soul music of all time, continued to be distributed by CBS until 1984.  At that time, control of the label’s post-1975 masters went to Gamble and Huff, with initial reissues (as well as new albums) coming under the EMI umbrella.  Pre-1976 recordings remained with CBS successor Sony Music Entertainment.  In 2007, Sony’s Legacy Recordings announced regained rights to the post-1975 recordings, and now, Sony and PIR have come full circle with the announcement that Sony has gained global ownership of all post-1975 PIR masters.

What this means for Sony is clear: the music industry giant now adds key titles to its roster from artists including Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Jean Carn, The Jones Girls, The Stylistics, Archie Bell and the Drells, Jerry Butler, Phyllis Hyman, and others who began recording for PIR in 1976 and beyond.  What does this mean for fans and collectors?  In 2014, Legacy will launch a series of new physical and digital releases created from the combined PIR catalogue including “a definitive Philadelphia International Records box, budget single artist anthology titles, 12-inch and 7-inch vinyl replica collectibles and more.” 

In recent years, numerous PIR album reissues have arrived from Cherry Red Group’s Big Break Records (drawing on the pre-1976 recordings controlled by Sony) and Demon Music Group (the post-1976 recordings controlled by Gamble and Huff).    In early 2012, Legacy thrilled fans with the archival release of Golden Gate Groove, a Don Cornelius-hosted concert that brought together many of the label’s biggest and brightest stars, from the O’Jays to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass.  In 2013, Demon’s Harmless imprint issued a comprehensive (if oddly arranged) 10-CD box set drawing on the entire discography plus rare recordings from Gamble and Huff’s pre-PIR labels including Neptune, Gamble and North Bay and sister labels like TSOP, Golden Fleece, Tommy and Thunder.

The new catalogue activity from Sony starts in May!  What can you expect?  Hit the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 9, 2014 at 13:21

Billy Paul Is “Feelin’ Good” On BBR Reissue Of His First Studio Album

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Billy Paul - Cadillac ClubBig Break Records and Billy Paul – they’ve got a thing going on.

The label, an imprint of the Cherry Red Group, has just returned to the soul titan’s catalogue for the sixth time – and with this release has gone back to the very beginning.  BBR’s previous reissues from the “Me and Mrs. Jones” singer have explored his Philadelphia International discography as well as his Neptune release Ebony Woman and  a post-PIR album for Total Experience Records.  Now, the label has turned its attention to Paul’s debut LP, 1968’s Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club.  Despite its title, Feelin’ Good is not a live recording, but rather a studio creation based upon the singer’s successful club act.  And though it’s far from a typical “soul” album, one listen reveals just how much soul always resided within Billy Paul.

Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club was financed for $365.00 (yes, you read that right – three hundred and sixty five dollars) by the singer, then approaching his mid-thirties, and his wife and business partner Blanche Williams.  Paul and Williams delivered the LP, nearly complete, to the budding entrepreneur Kenny Gamble.  Before Philadelphia International, Gamble and Leon Huff had tried their hand at a number of record labels, among them Excel and Gamble.  Feelin’ Good would be just the second LP ever released on the Gamble label, following The Intruders Are Together from the “Cowboys to Girls” vocal group.

Paul recorded the album at Philly’s Virtue Studios with just his jazz trio: pianist/arranger Stanley Johnson, drummer Norman Fearrington and bassist Bill Collick.  Paul, also serving as producer, and Gamble resisted any temptation to “sweeten” the tracks, and so the sound is far-removed from the orchestrated R&B with which Gamble and Huff would soon conquer the charts.  In other words, this is the pure Paul.  The singer’s act had been honed at venues including the titular Philly club.  “[The Cadillac] was a famous, famous club.  Aretha Franklin worked there.  Me and George Benson used to work there all the time,” Paul recalls in the exemplary new liner notes penned for BBR’s reissue by Andy Kellman.

After the jump: much more on Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 20, 2014 at 09:40

Posted in Billy Paul, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of January 14

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igh HopesBruce Springsteen, High Hopes (Columbia)

It’s a new album, but one assembled from songs and outtakes Bruce has been amassing for the last few years: we’ll take it (in the hope that this new album means Bruce is in a vault mood for the rest of the year)! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. – both with exclusive DVD of the entire Born in the U.S.A. album live on the Wrecking Ball tour)

Elvis Soundtrack BoxElvis Presley, The Movie Soundtracks (RCA/Sony Music U.K.)

Why should the States get all the fun? An import box set featuring 20 discs of Elvis’ film soundtracks (some great, others…a little different). (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Lone JusticeLone Justice, This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes (Omnivore)

A spirited studio set cut two years before the band’s acclaimed debut album on Geffen Records. A must for rockabilly fans!

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Mark LoneganMark Lanegan, Has God Seen My Shadow? An Anthology 1989-2011 (Light in the Attic)

A killer career-spanning compilation from the ex-Screaming Trees frontman, featuring a dozen unreleased tracks.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Lucinda WilliamsLucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams: Deluxe Edition (Thirty Tigers)

First released on Rough Trade Records and long out of print, the album with some of Williams’ best known compositions (“Passionate Kisses,” “I Wanted to See You So Bad,” “Changed the Locks”) is expanded with not only the live bonus tracks from a previous remaster but another contemporaneous live show that’s never been released before.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Li'l Abner OSTLi’l Abner: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia/Sony Masterworks)

The long-unavailable soundtrack to the 1959 adaptation of the 1956 musical, featuring a song score by Johnny Mercer & Gene DePaul and arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, is finally released as an on-demand CD title. (CD-R/DD: My Play Direct)

Billy Paul Cadillac Club BBRBilly Paul, Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club (Big Break Records) / Dan Hartman, Relight My Fire: Expanded Edition / Sheryl Lee Ralph, In the Evening: Expanded Edition (Hot Shot Records)

The latest from BBR includes a reissue of Philadelphia soul legend Billy Paul’s debut (studio) album and two expanded titles from underrated greats Dan Hartman and Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Billy Paul: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Dan Hartman: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.
Sheryl Lee Ralph: Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.

Taj Mahal Wounded BirdJohn Baldry, Boogie Woogie: The Warner Bros. Recordings / Taj Mahal, Sing a Happy Song: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings / John Sebastian, The Reprise Recordings / Crazy Horse, Scratchy: The Complete Reprise Recordings / Doug Sahm, The Genuine Texas Groover: The Complete Atlantic Recordings / The Blasters, The Slash Recordings / Danny O’Keefe, Classics / Hubert Laws, Carnegie Hall / The Chicago Theme / Crying Song / How to Beat the High Cost of Living (with Earl Klugh) / Say It with Silence (Wounded Bird)

We told you about Wounded Bird’s Rhino Handmade budget reissues yesterday, but there’s also a bunch of straight reissues from jazz flutist Hubert Laws due from the label today, too.

John Baldry: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Taj Mahal: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
John Sebastian: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Crazy Horse: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Doug Sahm: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Blasters: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Danny O’Keefe: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Carnegie Hall: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Chicago ThemeAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Crying SongAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
How to Beat the High Cost of Living: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Say It with Silence
: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

BBR Goes For The Total Experience with Gap Band, Billy Paul Reissues

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TBilly Paul - Latelyoday we’re taking a look at two recent reissues from Big Break Records.  Both Billy Paul’s Lately and Gap Band VII were originally released by Total Experience Records, and both were the production work of Jonah Ellis.  Big Break has expanded and remastered both albums.

Billy Paul, Lately (Total Experience, 1985 – reissued Big Break CDBBR 0224, 2013)

Could anyone among us have an inkling or a clue, what magic feats of wizardry and voodoo you can do?  And who would ever guess what powers you possess?

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff of Philadelphia International Records had an inkling of the magic Billy Paul could do when they gifted the veteran jazz singer with “Me and Mrs. Jones,” a smoldering ode to a lady with whom the vocalist “has a thing goin’ on.”   Those lyrics above are from the rarely-performed verse of Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s “On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever),” a song first sung on record – sans verse – by Paul on his 1968 Gamble Records release Feelin’ Good at the Cadillac Club.  Billy Paul was already nearing his mid-thirties when he made that long-playing debut.  He was over 50 when he revisited “On a Clear Day” as the most atypical track on a rather atypical album, 1985’s Lately.  The first of only two albums recorded by the singer in the 1980s, the Total Experience release has just been lovingly reissued by Cherry Red’s Big Break imprint (CDBBR 0224).  Paul was joined in Hollywood by Gerry Brown (drums), Nathan East (bass), Oliver Scott (keyboards/vocals/electronic drums), David Tillman and Juan Luis Cabaza (keyboards), and album producer/multi-instrumentalist Jonah Ellis.  Marva King, Maxine and Julia Waters and Carmen Twillie all provided background vocals.

The album’s closing track, “On a Clear Day” was just one of the songs on the album that recalled the earlier salad days of Billy Paul’s recording career.  Whether in 1968 or 1985, Paul found soulful liberties to take with Burton Lane’s elegant melody, and even on the re-recording, he made room for a piano solo that recalled his jazz roots.  Though they’re adventurous in the context of re-presenting a theatrical standard, the burbling synthesizers and programmed drum beats obscure both the song and Paul’s vocal, and alas, that’s too frequently the case on Lately.  Yet BBR’s exemplary reissue, produced by Wayne Dickson, remastered by Nick Robbins, and generously annotated by J. Matthew Cobb, allows us to view the album as a well-intentioned experiment in a stellar career.

Lonnie Simmons’ Total Experience label had found great success with The Gap Band and Yarbrough and Peoples, but the company was already in the midst of the struggles that would eventually see its demise when Lately was slotted for release.  Producer and chief songwriter Jonah Ellis (known for his work with both of those Total Experience acts) grafted an aggressively “contemporary” sound onto Paul’s smooth vocals, but by and the large, the new material wasn’t up to the standard set by the singer.  Just one other standard made it onto the album, Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s “I Only Have Eyes for You.”  Ellis adhered closely to the blueprint of The Flamingos’ classic doo-wop version of the 1934 song, but gave it a modernized makeover.  Paul’s alluring, sensual vocal exudes confidence as he adds plenty of impassioned ad-libs.

After the jump: plenty more on Billy Paul’s Lately!  Plus: mind the Gap – the Gap Band, that is! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 29, 2013 at 09:10

Posted in Billy Paul, News, Reissues, Reviews, The Gap Band

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Release Round-Up: Week of April 30

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Shalamar Friends 2CD

Shalamar, Friends: Deluxe Edition / The Isley Brothers, Winner Takes All: Expanded Edition / Bootsy Collins Presents Sweat Band: Expanded Edition / The Gap Band, Gap Band VII: Expanded Edition / Billy Paul, Lately: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

The Big Break titles we covered yesterday include a double-disc expansion of one of Shalamar’s most enduring LPs, plus Isleys, P-Funk and albums from Total Experience Records. Full coverage/pre-order links here!

David Allan Coe

Blue Oyster Cult, Imaginos / Sea Level, Cats on the Coast/On the Edge Wilderness Road, Sold for the Prevention of Disease Only / David Allan Coe, Texas Moon / Eddy Arnold, Complete Original #1 Hits / Johnny Lytle, The Soulful Rebel/People & Love / Allspice, Allspice / Larry Williams, That Larry Williams (Real Gone Music)

Read all about Real Gone’s latest here.

Essential Mott

Midnight Oil, Essential Oils / Indigo Girls, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mott the Hoople, Harry Nilsson, Pete Seeger, Andy Williams, Johnny Winter, The Essential (Legacy)

Two-disc Essential sets for a bunch of artists! Unreleased tracks can be enjoyed on the Andy Williams and Nilsson sets, and the others are solid overviews.  Joe reviews ’em here!

Indigo Girls: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Midnight Oil: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Mott: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Nilsson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Seeger: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Andy Williams: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Johnny Winter: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

History of Eagles

Eagles, History of the Eagles (Jigsaw)

The new two-part documentary on the legendary rock band, coupled with an unreleased concert from 1977.

DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Blu-ray: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Super Deluxe Blu-Ray: Amazon U.S.

Tubes - Remote Control

The Tubes, Remote Control: Expanded Edition (Iconoclassic)

Four unreleased tracks complement this new version of the band’s final A&M album, a classic concept album produced by Todd Rundgren. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ambrosia - Life Beyond LA

Ambrosia, Life Beyond L.A.: Deluxe Edition (Friday Music)

Led by David Pack, this smooth album spun off the hit “How Much I Feel”; here, it’s expanded with an unreleased bonus live set. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Phyllis Hyman - Somewhere

G.C. Cameron, Love Songs and Other Tragedies: Expanded Edition / Phyllis Hyman, Somewhere in My Lifetime: Expanded Edition / Meli’sa Morgan, Good Love: Expanded Edition / Nancy Wilson, Music on My Mind / Life, Love and Harmony (SoulMusic Records) (Order all titles here from Amazon U.K.)

Here’s the latest batch from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records label!  Read Joe’s review of Somewhere in My Lifetime here!

James Taylor - JT Paper Sleeve

West, Bruce and Laing, Whatever Turns You On / West, Bruce and Laing, Live ‘n’ Kickin’ / Walter Egan, Fundamental Roll/Not Shy / James Taylor, JT/Flag/Dad Loves His Work (Culture Factory)

The latest in mini-LP replica remasters from Culture Factory.

Big Break Watch: Shalamar, Isley Brothers Lead Recent Reissue Slate

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Shalamar Friends 2CDA host of ’80s R&B titles are out in the U.K. this week from Cherry Red’s Big Break offshoot. They include a double-disc expansion of one of Shalamar’s best-loved albums, plus expanded editions of a few LPs by the likes of The Isley Brothers, The Gap Band and Billy Paul.

While 1982 was the year of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, U.K. R&B enthusiasts also count another album as influential to the genre that year: Shalamar’s Friends. After a string of hits around the world for the trio comprised of Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel and Howard Hewitt, Friends was their most successful album in England, owing to a seminal performance on Top of the Pops where Daniel demonstrated popping, locking and even (a year before Jackson did it on American television) moonwalking. “A Night to Remember,” “There It Is” and “I Can Make You Feel Good” were all Top 10 hits, with the title track peaking at No. 12. Daniel and Watley left the group after 1983’s The Look (with Watley enjoying worldwide solo success in the late ’80s, and Daniel working with Jackson in choreographing several music videos for singles from Bad in 1987 and 1988), making this one of the last and most iconic examples of the “classic” lineup of this revered trio.

The deluxe Friends includes three “outtakes” from the Friends era that were released on 1981’s Go for It album (a quickly-released LP from the band’s label, Solar Records’, transition from major-label distributors), as well as a bonus disc of single edits and remixes. A deluxe liner notes booklet features a new interview with Watley, adding insight into the era of Shalamar as U.K. hitmakers.

And what else is being released by BBR today? Hit the jump to find out!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

April 29, 2013 at 13:34

Release Round-Up: Week of February 5

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Taj Mahal - Albums ContentsTaj Mahal, The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Columbia/Legacy)

Fifteen discs of the blues legend’s Columbia output, including last year’s The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal compilation of unreleased material. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Sunshine Boy - TownesTownes Van Zandt, Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions and Demos 1971-1972 (Omnivore)

A new two-disc set features entirely unreleased outtakes, alternates and demos from the Texan singer-songwriter’s early-’70s career. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Classical BarbraBarbra Streisand, Classical Barbra: Expanded Edition (Masterworks)

A newly-expanded version (with two bonus tracks) of Barbra’s 1976 album of pieces by Handel, Debussy, Orff and others. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dick Jensen - Dick JensenBilly Paul, Going East: Expanded Edition / Dick Jensen, Dick Jensen / Azteca, Azteca: Expanded Edition Pyramid of the Moon: Expanded Edition / Tyrone Davis, In the Mood with Tyrone Davis: Expanded Edition / Carmen McRae, I Am Music (Big Break)

Check out the scoop on the latest Big Break batch (complete with Amazon links) here, and read Joe’s review of Dick Jensen here!

Jewel Greatest HitsJewel, Greatest Hits (Atlantic/Rhino)

One of the biggest country-pop hitmakers of the ’90s releases her first compilation with a new single and two new duet recordings of previous hits with Pistol Annies and Kelly Clarkson. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Tony Bennett - As Time Goes ByTony Bennett, As Time Goes By: Great American Songbook Classics (Concord)

A new budget-line, 12-track compilation of Tony’s mid-’70s Improv and Fantasy output. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Slaves and MastersDeep Purple, Slaves and Masters: The Deluxe Edition (Friday Music)

The band’s only Mk. V album, featuring onetime Rainbow frontman Joe Lynn Turner on vocals, gets expanded on CD with two bonus tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Midney Evita EmpireBoris Midney and Festival, Evita/The Empire Strikes Back (Harmless)

Two mind-blowing disco adaptations of a legendary Broadway musical and the superb score to a sci-fi sequel? Yes, indeed! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Paul Williams Still AlivePaul Williams, Still Alive (Virgil Films)

A compelling documentary on one of the best songwriters of his age, newly released on DVD. (Amazon U.S.)

Big Break Serves Up Soul, Jazz and Funk from Carmen McRae, Billy Paul, Azteca and More

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Carmen McRae - I Am MusicTimeless soul music knows no regional boundaries, at least based on the latest quintet of releases from Cherry Red’s Big Break Records imprint.  With this group of reissues, you’ll travel to Philadelphia by way of Hawaii, Oakland, Harlem and Chicago.  All of the titles previewed below are available now in the U.K. and next Tuesday, February 5, in the U.S.!

Two new titles hail from the Philadelphia International Records catalogue.  Perhaps most exciting is the first CD release outside of Japan for 1973’s Dick Jensen, the self-titled album by the renowned entertainer from Hawaii.  Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff enlisted the MFSB orchestra plus producers and arrangers like Bobby Martin, Bunny Sigler and Thom Bell to craft a major musical statement from the high-energy performer, but Dick Jensen quickly sank without a trace.  It was no reflection on the album’s quality, however, as the LP is filled with stunning mini-pop/soul masterpieces.  BBR’s edition features new liner notes by Stephen “Spaz” Schnee that shed light on the late, enigmatic singer and this lost classic.  Click here for our full review of Dick Jensen!

Big Break is also delivering another title in its series of releases from Philadelphia’s own Billy PaulGoing East (1971) was not only Paul’s first PIR platter, but the label’s very first album altogether.  As such, the smooth PIR soul sound was still in its formative stages, and Going East bears many of the jazz hallmarks that informed 1970’s Ebony Woman (previously reissued on BBR).  Musically, Going East is rough-hewn, with the full MFSB Orchestra not in the picture.  Of the familiar players, Norman Harris and Roland Chambers appeared on guitars, Vince Montana chimed in with vibes, and Don Renaldo as usual supplied the (subtle) strings.  The prominent flute of Tony Williams adds a distinct character to the album.  Eddie Green wrote the rhythm charts for the album, and Lenny Pakula arranged horns and strings for the epic title track, a slow-burning, mystical meditation on slavery which does look forward to similarly widescreen productions like “War of the Gods” from the album of the same name (also a recent BBR reissue).

Billy Paul - Going EastThe rest of the album’s horn and string charts were divided between Thom Bell and Bobby Martin, who each arranged four songs.  Bell’s symphonic stylings are most apparent on a striking rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “This is Your Life,” while his arrangement of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” is simply atypical for both Bell and Paul.  “(If You Let Me Make Love to You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You?” came from Peter Link and C.C. Courtney’s off-Broadway musical Salvation, and was previously recorded by Ronnie Dyson.  Dyson, of course, recorded an album with Bell that didn’t include the Salvation song; here’s your chance to hear what a Bell arrangement of the song sounded like, with Paul’s incomparably mature vocals.  (It’s worth noting that Going East was issued in September 1971; two months later, the Thom Bell-produced debut of The Stylistics followed.  How remarkably different his work is here, minus most of the stylistic and instrumental hallmarks for which he would become renowned.  Yet all three issued singles from Going East were Bell’s handiwork.)  Of the Bobby Martin tracks, there’s a slick, languid version of Rodgers and Hart’s On Your Toes standard “There’s a Small Hotel,” and Martin’s own song “I Wish It Were Yesterday,” which has the same late-night cabaret vibe.  A pleasant if unexceptional Gamble and Huff tune, “Love Buddies,” and a fiery take on Eugene McDaniels’ “Compared to What” continue the album’s diverse approach.  Going East is one of the most unusual PIR albums, but Paul’s vocal mastery was in its prime even if Gamble and Huff hadn’t yet found the formula to best marry those jazz-honed pipes with silky soul.  BBR’s edition includes all three single A-sides released from the album along with new liner notes from Andy Kellman drawing on an interview with Billy Paul himself.

After the jump: Azteca, Tyrone Davis and Carmen McRae take the spotlight, plus track listings with discography and order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 29, 2013 at 10:01

Reviews: Bunny Sigler and Billy Paul’s Philadelphia International Classics from BBR

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When Philadelphia International Records turned 40 this past year, there was no single campaign to recognize the milestone.  In the U.S., Legacy Recordings offered up the sizzling rare concert Golden Gate Groove, and the U.K.’s Harmless label delivered the most comprehensive box set to date of the label’s music.  But a great deal of the heavy lifting has come from another U.K. label, Big Break Records.  The BBR team has delivered a selection of generously expanded, beautifully designed album reissues from the PIR back catalogue including two recent releases: Bunny Sigler’s 1974 label debut That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You (the first of three PIR albums released by Sigler before he decamped for New York’s Salsoul Records) and Billy Paul’s 1973 War of the Gods, his fifth solo album and third for PIR.

Though he supplied many memorable songs for the Gamble and Huff roster (including “Drowning in a Sea of Love” and “Sunshine”), Walter “Bunny” Sigler had long had his sights on stardom as a singer.   Once billed as “Mr. Emotion” for his impassioned vocal quality, Sigler first teamed up with Leon Huff at Cameo-Parkway in 1967, and scored a Top 25 Pop hit with “Let the Good Times Roll/Feel So Good” as produced by Huff with John Madara and David White.  Sigler followed Huff, now with Kenny Gamble, to their Neptune label and finally to PIR.  Following some one-off singles, Bunny got the okay for his first PIR long-player: That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You.  This lost gem of an album has been rediscovered by Big Break for an expanded reissue, and it’s as perfect an example of the Philly Sound as any.

The album’s opening salvo implores that “Things Are Gonna Get Better.”  The lyric is directed at a lover, yes, but it’s also imbued with an optimism that spoke on a much broader level.  Social responsibility was always a key theme in Gamble and Huff’s ouevre, and it’s not hard to believe that co-writers Sigler, Allan Felder and Ron Kersey all believed that things were going to get better for every man.  The sentiment of the lyric was supported by Norman Harris’ sympathetic orchestration, which from its very first notes identified the song’s origins in the City of Brotherly Love: those jazzy horns!  Those dramatic strings!  That beat!  It’s funky yet elegant.   Though Sigler’s voice lacked the resonance of a Lou Rawls or a Teddy Pendergrass, his passion shines through in every track, including the title song.  The big ballad “That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You” retained some intimacy largely due to Sigler’s vocals, and the song surely turned the ladies’ heads in Bunny’s direction.  As would have “Somebody Free,” a sultry ode to a lady who makes our Bunny “walk a different walk, talk a different talk.”  This harmony-packed track, complete with a spoken rap from the singer, could be a lost vocal group gem.

The rest of the album (produced by the artist) is varied, perhaps too varied to have established Sigler as a formidable artist in his own right.   It’s no less enjoyable, however.  A disco workout on “I Lied,” with Sigler’s emotive, whooping, over-the-top vocals foreshadows Sigler’s later, commercially successful work at Salsoul.  It’s back to romance with the sweet doo-wop of “Picture Us,” first recorded by The Cruisers on the pre-PIR Gamble label.   Then Sigler detours to somewhere else entirely (Mexico?) with the lighthearted, atypical “Marianne.”  Its mariachi brass, marimba sound  and freewheeling lyric (“I would try to turn the moon to cheese/If I thought it would keep you pleased”) make it one of the most offbeat and fun items in the PIR catalogue.  “My Other Love” is as dark as “Marianne” is light.  Richard Rome’s textured arrangement can nearly hold its own with Thom Bell’s most dramatic work.  Ronnie Baker handled the arranging honors on “Your Love is Good,” a real swinger on which he’s prominently joined by the cooing female background vocalists (the Sweethearts of Sigma?).

There’s more on Bunny and Billy right after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 28, 2012 at 10:05

Posted in Billy Paul, Bunny Sigler, News, Reissues, Reviews

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