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SoulMusic Round-Up: Label Expands, Reissues Esther Phillips, The Tymes, Lenny Williams and Benét

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Esther Phillips - From a Whisper ExpandedSoulMusic Records has kept a busy profile in recent months on both sides of the Atlantic. A quartet of the label’s recent U.K. releases spotlight memorable voices from across the R&B spectrum.

The one-time “Little Esther,” a.k.a. Esther Mae Jones, a.k.a. Esther Phillips, came to CTI Records’ Kudu imprint in 1971 as a veteran artist. Though she was just shy of 36 years old, she already had 22 years of her career behind her. If Atlantic Records was unsure of the best setting in which to place Phillips’ distinctive voice, Kudu’s Creed Taylor had the formula from Day One. Taylor surrounded the vocalist with the best of his crossover-jazz roster on fresh, funky and contemporary songs, embracing soul, jazz, pop, and later, disco. The result was From a Whisper to a Scream, the subject of a new, expanded SoulMusic reissue.

From a Whisper to a Scream was named after the Allen Toussaint composition. Esther’s future musical director Pee Wee Ellis and Jack Wilson traded off arrangement duties on the album’s songs, with CTI “house arranger” Don Sebesky sweetening some tracks with his trademark strings. Richard Tee, Bernard Purdie, Eric Gale, Hank Crawford and Airto Moreira all added their instrumental prowess. The album’s nine tracks included another cut from the New Orleans piano man, “Sweet Touch of Love,” as well as songs from Eddie Floyd (“That’s All Right with Me,” “’Til My Back Ain’t Got No Bone”), Marvin Gaye (“Baby I’m for Real”), Big Dee Irwin (“Your Love is So Doggone Good”) and Gil Scott-Heron (the wrenching “Home is Where the Hatred Is,” on which Esther laid her soul and her own personal demons bare). Whisper garnered a great deal of attention when Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for her Young, Gifted and Black LP and turned it over to fellow nominee Phillips: “I liked Esther’s record…I felt she could use encouragement,” the generous Queen commented.

From a Whisper was reissued earlier this year as part of the Australian Raven label’s package of Phillips’ first four Kudu LPs. SoulMusic’s new edition, however, adds four bonus tracks (one of which also appeared on the Raven set) from the same December 1971 sessions which yielded the album. These tracks – Carole King’s “Brother, Brother,” Leonard and Jane Feather’s “How Blue Can You Get,” Craig Lockhart’s “Don’t Run to Him” and Stanley Styne and Donald Kahn’s “A Beautiful Friendship” – were all previously issued on CD by Sony. SoulMusic’s David Nathan adds new liner notes with a personal touch, and Alan Wilson has remastered.

Tymes - Tymes UpPhiladelphia vocal group The Tymes, best-known for their 1963 chart-topper “So Much in Love,” found themselves experiencing a happy career renaissance with their RCA 1974 single “You Little Trustmaker.” Both the 45 and the album from which it was derived, Trustmaker, announced that it was once again time for The Tymes. Weathering the departure of George Hilliard (who was replaced first by Charles Nixon and then by Jerry Ferguson), the group pressed on for a second RCA long-player which is receiving its CD debut from SoulMusic Records. Tymes Up was a New York/Philadelphia crosstown affair, reuniting The Tymes with Trustmaker arranger/conductor and Philly soul veteran Richie Rome. Tymes Up brought the sextet’s vocal sound into a disco context, with disco pioneer Tom Moulton handling the final mix on the LP produced by Billy Jackson. Rhythm tracks were laid down by Jackson and Rome in New York, with strings, horns and additional voices added at the epicenter of Philly soul, Sigma Sound, by Don Renaldo’s Horns and Strings and The Sweethearts of Sigma.

A “who’s who” of soul, R&B and disco provided songs for the album, including Fonzi Thornton (“If I Can’t Make You Smile,” “God’s Gonna Punish You” and “To the Max(imum),” Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy (“It’s Cool”) and the unusual team of Four Seasons songwriter Sandy Linzer and Russian producer Boris Midney (“Hypnotized”). The sleek style of Tymes Up owed not just to the dancefloor but to the sophisticated soul stylings of Thom Bell and Gamble and Huff; the latter production duo had, ironically, declined a place on the Philadelphia International roster to The Tymes when the hometown group submitted for a place on the label.  Tymes Up performed respectably, reaching No. 40 R&B/No. 202 Pop. Its singles fared even better, with “It’s Cool” reaching No. 3 R&B/No. 68 Pop, and both “Only Your Love” and “To the Max(imum)” hitting No. 3 on the disco survey. Two more RCA albums followed. SoulMusic’s CD issue of Tymes Up includes comprehensive new liner notes from Charles Waring, new remastering from Alan Wilson, and two bonus tracks – the single edits of “God’s Gonna Punish You” and “Only Your Love.”

After the jump, we have a look at recent reissues from Lenny Williams and Benét, plus track listings and pre-order links for all four titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 23, 2014 at 10:00

Release Round-Up: Week of January 31

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Aretha Franklin, Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of 1980-1998 (Arista/Legacy)

The Queen of Soul’s comeback years, in a new anthology. Check back soon for a review from Joe as well as a Greater Hits from me stacking this set up to other compilations from this part of Aretha’s discography.

Various Artists, Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973 (Philadelphia International/Legacy)

A sublime showcase of some of the best Philly soul in concert.

Various Artists, Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology (Arista/Legacy)

One of the most underrated hip-hop labels out there – home to Run-D.M.C. and DJ Rob Base and E-Z Rock – anthologized over two great discs.

The Tymes, So Much in Love (Real Gone)

The first-ever CD release for a ’60s classic, with four bonus tracks, no less!

Bonnie Pointer, Bonnie Pointer: Expanded Edition / Isaac Hayes, Don’t Let Go: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

The U.K. soul label’s latest expanded reissues.

Metallica, Beyond Magnetic (Warner Bros.)

A physical release for this EP of outtakes from Metallica’s last album, Death Magnetic.

Various Playlist releases (Legacy)

You know the drill on this one.

Review: A Real Gone January – Bill Medley, Jody Miller and The Tymes

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Among the first releases of 2012 from newbie label Real Gone Music is a two-on-one collection offering the compact disc debut of Bill Medley’s 100% and Soft and Soulful.  But those titles are apt to describe the entire Real Gone line-up for January, as the young label has given 100% to make available a wide variety of music: soft and soulful, yes, but also jazzy, twangy, and folky.  There’s something for everyone in this array of once-neglected titles.

As 1968 began, The Righteous Brothers were still an ongoing concern.  But the split of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield couldn’t have seemed too far off, at least judging from the March release of their LP Standards.  The LP was composed entirely of solo tracks, six by bass-baritone Medley and five by tenor Hatfield.  Later that year, a live LP was entitled One for the Road, and the solo Righteous Brothers were off and running.  Real Gone has brought together Medley’s first two solo albums for MGM Records, 100% and Soft and Soulful, on one CD (RGM-0016).

1968’s 100% marked a tentative beginning for the singer as a solo act, and he hadn’t severed all ties to his former “brother,” even announcing on his recording of “Let the Good Times Roll” that “Bob Hatfield’s in town!”  Always an accomplished producer, Medley took the controls himself, with arrangements provided by Bill Baker. The Medley/Baker team had previously taken the Righteous Brothers’ reins after the duo parted ways with Phil Spector, and even aped Spector’s Wagnerian style on the majestic “Soul and Inspiration.”

It’s odd, then, that Medley seemed a bit tentative about the musical direction he should pursue on 100%.  There’s Bill Medley, the finger-snapping, supper-club swinger of “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and “That’s Life.”  There’s Bill Medley, the Broadway balladeer of “Who Can I Turn To” and the ubiquitous “The Impossible Dream.”  Most familiar is Bill Medley, the blue-eyed soul man of George Fischoff and Tony Powers’ “Run to My Loving Arms,” the rocking “Show Me” and the full-throttle “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.”  The album’s strongest track is, ironically, “I Can’t Make It Alone,” a Carole King/Gerry Goffin collaboration also recorded by Bobby Hatfield in his first year of freedom.  (Hatfield’s version is still unreleased to this day; paging Real Gone Music?)  Medley’s vocal proves that he certainly could make it alone, though this terrific performance was outdone by the unlikeliest of performers, the trouser-splitting British star P.J. Proby!  Though the song was specifically written for The Righteous Brothers, Proby cut the original in 1966, and tapped arranger Jack Nitzsche to repeat the magic he’d created on songs like the Spector-produced “Just Once in My Life.”  Although Medley scored a small hit with his rendition, Proby out-Righteous’d the Brothers.  A bigger hit for him was 100%‘s  “Brown-Eyed Woman.”  It was eritten by the same all-time great team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who had already penned the Righteous Brothers’ two No. 1 hits (“Soul and Inspiration” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”).

Hit the jump to explore Medley’s Soft and Soulful, plus new reissues from Jody Miller and The Tymes! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 24, 2012 at 15:23