required listening

CD Review


Walk In The Night : The Motown 70s Studio Albums

Soul Music (UK) SMCR 5183BX (3cd box)

A GASSSSS... Do You Feel My Love (For You Growing); And When I Die; I Was Made To Love Her; Carry Your Own Load; Shut Up Don’t Interrupt Me; Groove And Move; Holly Holy; Honey Come Back; Riding High On Love; Hey Jude; At A Saturday Matinee; RAINBOW FUNK... Way Back Home (inst.); Take Me Girl I’m Ready; Feeling Alright; Right On Brothers And Sisters; Teach Them To Pray; Something; Psychedelic Shack; Pieces Of A Man; These Things Will Keep Me Loving You; MOODY JR.... Way Back Home (vocal); I Don’t Want To Do Wrong; Bristol’s Way; Don’t Blame The Children; Me And My Family; Groove Thang; Still Water Medley; Never Can Say Goodbye; Walk In The Night; Moody Junior; PEACE & UNDERSTANDING IS HARD TO FIND... I Ain’t Going Nowhere; I Don’t Need No Reason; It’s Alright Do What You Gotta Do; It’s Too Late; Soul Clappin’; I Can See Clearly Now; Gimme That Beat (pt.2); Country Boy; Peace And Understanding (Is Hard To Find); JR. WALKER & THE ALL STARS... You Are The Sunshine Of My Life; All In Love Is Fair; Killing Me Softly With His Song; My Love; Boogie Down; I Ain’t That Easy To Lose; Dancin’ Like They Do On Soul Train; Break Down And Sing; Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do); HOT SHOT... I’m So Glad; Why Can’t We Be Lovers; You Ain’t No Ordinary Woman; Just Can’t Get Enough; Love (Keep Us Together); I Need You Right Now; Probe Your Mind; Don’t Lose What You Got (Trying To Get Back What You Had); Hot Shot

Here’s where I have to hold my hands up and admit that, were I to compile a one-to-whatever list of my favourite Motown acts, Jr. Walker & the All Stars would be a long way removed from the top spot.  Not for me, at the time a late teenager, was the rasping sax - and indeed the rasping vocals - that drove the likes of ‘Shotgun’, ‘Do The Boomerang’ and ‘(I’m A) Road Runner’ and it was really not until the mellower sounds of ‘What Does It Take’ and ‘Gotta Hold On To This Feeling’ did the ice really start melting personally.  The six original lps here in this 3cd box set start off just after ‘...Feeling’, representing Walker’s studio albums recorded for the Soul label between 1970 and 1976, including the eponymous set produced by Clarence Paul in 1974 but only issued (on Tamla-Motown) in the UK and mainland Europe.  And so we open up here with ‘Do You Feel My Love (For You Growing)’, a Jackey Beavers-Johnny Bristol number which falls closer to my personal area of ‘acceptability’.  Covers abound, whether Laura Nyro’s ‘And When I Die’ or that awful Beatles’ song ‘Hey Jude’, which even Wilson Pickett couldn’t make sound good, Neil Diamond’s ‘Holly Holy’ - the gospel backing doing more for me than the sax - and Jimmy Webb’s ‘Honey Come Back’, which should have been left with Chuck Jackson.  Like it’s predecessor, ‘Rainbow Funk‘ started out well with ‘Way Back Home’, a Wilton Felder composition billed as an instrumental as vocal support is restricted to an occasional chorus singing the title line while Walker’s sax is kept neatly in check.  ‘Take Me Girl I’m Ready‘ is another of those midpacers with which I can happily cope but, unfortunately, things fall apart with track three thanks to another of those songs I really detest, regardless of performer, viz Dave Mason’s ‘Feeling Alright’.  Redemption comes quick however with the nicely swinging ‘Right On Brothers And Sisters‘ and, overall, this is a Jr. Walker album that gets a personal thumbs up through to the end - with perhaps just a hesitation over ‘Psychedelic Shack‘.  It’s the ‘vocal‘ version of ‘Way Back Home‘ which opens up ‘Moody Jr.‘, lyrics being added by Johnny Bristol and Gladys Knight and that twosome also partly contributed to the writing of ‘I Don’t Want To Do Wrong’, so very much Gladys‘ song that even a mellow approach from our man here and pared down lyrics left to the femme background can’t save it for me.  Nevertheless, there’s a generally positive feel to the whole set and thus, once again, I can warm to it, particularly the spirited ‘Don’t Blame The Children’, the medley of (the Four Tops’) ‘Still Water’, ‘Walk In The Night‘ - which I would go as far as to name as a personal favourite - and the ballad, ‘Me And My Family’.  To this point, production duties had been handled by Johnny Bristol but with ‘Peace And Understanding Is Hard To Find‘ he bowed out, leaving things in multiple hands.  Thus it’s a bit of a mixed bag, the best cut for me being Leon Ware and Pam Sawyer’s ‘I Don’t Need No Reason‘ - always good when the vocals are left to the femme support - but the rest I found a retrograde step listening-wise and I really wish he had left Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late‘ alone.  The penultimate album in this set is the abovementioned ‘Jr. Walker & the All Stars‘, seemingly shelved back home - indeed there would be a three year US gap between ‘Peace & Understanding...‘ and ‘Hot Shot’.  So the American punters missed out on three items from the Stevie Wonder songbook: ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’, ‘All In Love Is Fair‘ - both featuring harmonica assistance from Wonder himself - and ‘Until You Come Back To Me’, each of which confines Walker to the rôle of instrumentalist.  That remains the case for ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song‘, which gets horribly jaunty towards the end and Paul McCartney’s ‘My Love‘ but, somewhat surprisingly, Walker the vocalist comes over well with his take on ‘I Ain’t That Easy To Lose’, actually produced by the writers, Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer, so presumably left over from the ‘Peace & Understanding...‘ sessions.  ‘Hot Shot‘ reunited Walker with Brian Holland and there are a number of items from the Invictus/Hot Wax catalogue interpreted here, not least ‘I’m So Glad‘ and ‘Why Can’t We Be Lovers’, which throws in practically everything bar the kitchen sink.    Indeed, it is very much an album of excess sound-wise but seems to work quite well.  The whole six albums featured here will doubtless be a treat for the fans of Jr. Walker & the All Stars; for others like myself, there is still enough to encourage the occasional dipping in and out.       

review posted 6/6/19 /