SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Definitive Collection by Bar-Kays 3CD Digipak

Very pleased to have this come through for review. The Bar Kays will always have a special place in my heart for several reasons. Firstly their anthem ‘Soul Finger’ was the first promotional 45 I ever received (can’t believe that was 50 years plus ago!) and secondly was used by fellow DJ the great late Stuart Henry as his ‘theme intro’ im sure those of you with long memories will remember and whenever I here it my thoughts return to him and his shows on Radio 1 and Luxembourg (latterly with his wife Ollie) much missed but not forgotten. The history of the Bar Kays is a long and illustrious one from their early soul and r’n’b in the 60’s and 70’s moving into the ultimate funk band in the 80’s. The booklet with this 3CD is a comprehensive and hugely informative read. This release is the first time their recordings have encompassed all the best tracks from Stax, Volt, Mercury, and Warner Bros labels, covering the period from 1967 to 1989. Kicking off on Disc 1 naturally enough with ‘Soul Finger’ released in April 1967 a hit both in the USA, the UK and worldwide, SF was and is a joyous slice of soul and has been covered hundreds of times and used in many movies and still sounds fresh today. The BK’s were Otis Reddings backing band and together a dynamite act. Then in December (10th) 1967 came the terrible tragedy when the plane carrying Otis and 5 members of the band went down killing Otis and 4 members with only the trumpet player Ben Cauley surviving. Ben along with bassist James Alexander (who was travelling on a separate plane) bravely rebuilt the band with later Larry Dodson on lead vocals who stayed fronting the band from 1970 until his retirement in 2017. The BK’s were the ‘house band’ for so many of Stax/Volt artists of the day. For me their greatest contribution in that form was backing Isaac Hayes on his seminal 1969 album ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ which is my all time favourite soul album and one I still listen to regularly to this day. As aforementioned Disc 1 covers this early period and contains some classics ‘Son Of Shaft’ ‘Don’t Stop Dancing’ ‘Money Talks’ and Shut The Funk Up’ are just some of the highlights. The fat bassline on ‘Six O’clock News’ is just sublime. Disc 2 gets more into a funk mood with the opener ‘Give it Up’ an irresistible groove which sets the tone for classics like ‘Move Your Boogie Body”Get Up’N Do It’ (giving James Brown more than a run for the money] ‘Boogie Body Land’ ‘Traffic Jammer’ and ‘Night Cruising’ are just a few more of the highlights, but there’s truly not a weak track to be found. The final Disk 3 is even funkier (if that’s possible!) kicking off with ‘She Talks To Me With Her Body’ ‘Sexomatic’ ‘Freakshow On The Dance Floor’ ‘Dirty Dancer’ and ‘Do It’ are just some of the featured tracks that make you just wan’t to get up and dance, if you’re not feeling it you better check your pulse! Many of the tracks were hits in the USA if not so readily known here (only getting airtime on specialist shows). To sum up this is a stellar collection of 46 tracks with some truly outstanding music created by truly outstanding musicians. Five stars all the way and well done Robinsongs label for getting this out there. Release date is 8th March. Enjoy.
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time……..Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Time Hasn’t Changed Us – Love Affair & Steve Ellis

love affair

‘TIME HASN’T CHANGED US’ (complete CBS recordings 1967-1971} Love Affair/Steve Ellis

L.A. are no doubt remembered famously, or should that be infamously, for being ‘outed’ for not playing on their hits. When ‘Everlasting Love’ hit No.1 in February 1968 the music press had a field day. Well it was no surprise to me, or anyone else in the business. I could write a list as long as my arm of ‘bands’ doing the same then and now.
So leaving all that to one side what did we have? Over roughly an 18 month period 5 beautifully crafted pure pop songs. Kicking off of course with ‘Everlasting Love’ followed by ‘Rainbow Valley’ (a personal favourite) both covers of Robert Knight American releases. Phillip Goodhand-Tait a very talented songwriter gave L.A. their next 3 hits with ‘A Day Without Love’, ‘One Road’ and ‘Bringing on Back The Good Times’ and then it was basically all over. Steve Ellis with his blue eyed soul voice, reminiscent of Steve Marriot moved on to a solo career with mixed levels of success. L.A. recruited Gus Eadon and soldered on but with little success. This 3CD set neatly divides the years with CD1 focusing on the hit period and cover versions of contemporary hits by other artists e.g. ‘Hush’, ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’ ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ etc.
CD2 kicks off with another great PGT song ‘Baby I Know’ and a recently discovered acetate, yet again by PGT, ‘Time Hasn’t Changed Us’ which would surely have given L.A. another big hit had it seen the light of day.
Takes on ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and ‘Walk on Gilded Splinters’ make for interesting listening. By track 8 Steve Ellis has left the building and the aforementioned Gus Eadon takes over, sounding remarkably like Paul Jones at times. CD3 is devoted to Ellis’s solo recordings, such as ‘Loot’ (from the film) and a plethora of ‘covers’ ranging from Jimmy Webbs ‘Evie’ to ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’ ‘Somethings Gotten Hold of My Heart’ ‘Holly Holy'(probably Neil Diamonds worst song!) ‘Gimme Shelter’ etc an eclectic mix, some work well others frankly (for me) don’t. This is the first ‘anthology’ to get a comprehensive release, sound quality is excellent, the lush orchestral arrangements that featured so prominently on the hits fill the speakers, informative sleeve notes and packaging is to a high standard. Overall to sum up a satisfying package for completists and fans. And whether you agree or disagree on the issue of session musicians at the end of the day some great pop music was created that has stood the test of time.    For more information go to http://www.cherryred.co.uk/rpm/

Til next time…………colin-head-111x150

 

Barry Newton… Its been awhile since I last heard this, good times

Dave Nattress… Everlasting Love – fabulous pop single and so reminds me of my school days. I have a cassette of the LA hits and have often thought of getting a CD – will look out for this one as the sound on the old cassette is a bit poor now. Steve Ellis also went on to form Widowmaker a quite often (back then), so-called Supergroup with Ariel Bender, Paul Nicholls, Huw Lloyd-Langton and Bob Daisley, and did one album but then left. Widowmaker then made a 2nd called Too Late to Cry. A friend had the vinyl of the first album yonks back and I’ve got a CD containing the first album, some live tracks and some off the 2nd album.

Sandra Cunningham… Saw them on the pier about 1968 I think x

Mick O’Dowd… Steve Ellis has always been a rated singer in my books.