required listening

CD Review


Ace/Soultrax (UK) CDCHD 1520/CHD 1520 (cd/lp)

I Found You; Raining All The Time; Rock Me Gently; Somewhere Dry; Tired Of Losing You; You Can’t Love Me (Better Than You’re Lovin’ Me Now); No Gettin’ Over Me; Easy Lovin’; Everybody Wants My Girl; Who Who Who

This is the excellent result of two veterans getting together in the here and now to rekindle an era of soul music which - with just a few recent exceptions - has been very much left behind, not least thanks to all the mechanically churned-out sub-standard produce still oozing seemingly non-stop out of the wound that purports to be southern soul.  At the microphone, the 77-year-old Willie Hightower - away for far too long and delivering his first album since 1969 - and, as executive producer, the venerable Quintin Claunch, a mere 96 in years.  (Co-)producing we have another long-serving name in Billy Lawson, who also contributes bass and electric guitar, the former shared with Bob Wray and the latter with Travis Wammack and Will McFarlane.  In addition, Billy Lawson co-penned five of the ten songs on display while, from the country calalogues come offerings from Walt Aldrdge and Tommy Brasfield - the relaxed ‘No Gettin‘ Over Me‘ being a #1 country chart success for Ronnie Milsap in 1981 - and Freddie Hart’s 1971 ‘Easy Lovin’’, again a #1 country chartster.  Retaining the #1 theme, we have Andy Kim’s 1974 pop hit, ‘Rock Me Gently’, perhaps an unusual choice in context here but it works surprisingly well, thanks to the punchy support of Ken Watters (trumpet) and Bad Brad Guin (sax).  Two numbers come from the writing collaboration of Al Anderson and Chris Stapleton... ‘Raining All The Time‘ delivers an intense performance from Willie and allows Guin a short solo sax break, the backing singers also in full voice and ‘Tired Of Losing You‘, while still downtempo, takes a tad harsher approach to the instrumental support although the passion truly remains.  For a more upbeat approach, point the laser back to the opening track, ‘I Found You’ - a mid-pacer written by Michael Curtis, Billy Lawson and Milton Sledge, who also plays drums and percussion throughout.  Wally Wilson is Lawson’s co-writer for ‘Somewhere Dry‘, a nicely flowing piece drifting over keyboards - Clayton Ivey and Mark Namore - and further brass work and equally (suitably) understated treatment is given over to ‘You Can’t Love Me (Better Than You’re Loving Me Now)’, this time Lawson’s co-writers being Maria Cannon-Goodman and Don Poythress.  ‘Everybody Wants My Girl‘ and ‘Who Who Who’, the closing two tracks, derive from the pens of Lawson and Ed Hill.  A pair of easy toe-tappers, they verify the high overall quality and the clear fact that all the participants remain at the top of their game.  In closing, mention should be made of background vocalists, Mike Curtis, Kenyata White, Charles Stewart, Chris Goodloe and Shelton Cotner and the fact that, with no disrespect to Willie Hightower, in terms of material this set struck me as the best album Dobie Gray never made.

review posted 11/9/18