Terry Callier – What Color Is Love? (1972)

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TERRY CALLIER
What Color Is Love?
Originally Released 1972 on Cadet Records
This reissue, 1998

1 Dancing Girl (Callier) 9:02
2 What Color Is Love (Callier) 4:06
3 You Goin’ Miss Your Candyman (Braxton, Callier) 7:20
4 Just as Long as We’re in Love (Callier, Wade) 3:41
5 Ho Tsing Mee (A Song of the Sun) (Callier) 4:21
6 I’d Rather Be with You (Butler, Callier, Wade) 6:40
7 You Don’t Care (Callier, Wade) 5:28

A very beautiful record, sent out to my beautiful friends out there in the blogosphere who have request a repost of this in FLAC. This album deserves a new write-up from me, because it truly is an essential record that does not bear easy comparison to anything else. With one foot still tangled in his folk roots, and the other in the Chicago soul scene (Callier participated in Jerry Butler’s composers’ workshop), it is one of those genre-transcending gems that was probably destined to go over most peoples’ heads until being “rediscovered” for the work of genius it is, decades later. The first track hits so hard and is so gripping that it takes repeated listens to appreciate the strength of some of the other material. Here is the text of my original post:
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The first time I heard the song “Dancing Girl”, I stopped whatever it was I was busying my hands with at the time and just stood still as stone, listening. And then I sat down. I’d never heard anything quite like it before, and really haven’t since. Even in the repertoire of Callier it is a singular thing. To say it “defies categorization” is beside the point, as accurate an observation as that is. This song actually stands outside of time, still as stone, while making razorsharp cuts in and out of the landscape of the 1972 united states. It’s a sound sculpture, with an almost transparent artistry that deflects your ear away from its own strangeness. Again, there is little need to wax poetic over this — just listen to it yourself. This review, from Mojo magazine, fills in the pertinent details about Callier and this album.

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The Impressions – Keep On Pushing / People Get Ready (1964, 1965)

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impressions

Keep On Pushing 2:30
I’ve Been Trying 2:45
I Ain’t Supposed To 2:28
Dedicate My Song To You 1:52
Long, Long Winter 2:48
Somebody Help Me 3:15
Theme From Lillies Of The Field (Amen) 3:25
I Thank Heaven 2:30
Talking About My Baby 2:33
Don’t Let It Hide 2:20
I Love You (Yeah) 2:07
I Made A Mistake 2:31

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impressions

Woman’s Got Soul
Emotions
Sometimes I Wonder
We’re In Love
Just Another Dance
Can’t Work No Longer
People Get Ready
I’ve Found That I’ve Lost
Hard To Believe
See The Real Me
Get Up And Move
You Must Believe Me

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The Impressions
“Keep On Pushing” and “People Get Ready”
Originally released on ABC Records, 1964 & 1965
This digital compact disc pressing on Kent Records 1996

The Impressions are Curtis Mayfield, Samuel Gooden, and Fred Cash
Arrangements by Johnny Pate

These two gorgeous records show The Impressions at a transition between their more adolescent-doo-wop/pop material to a mature soul vocal trio. Lyrically the tunes are still mostly of the romantic and lost-love variety with only the famous title tracks of both records showing a glimpse of where Mayfield’s writing was headed. Those are pretty notable exceptions, however: “Keep On Pushing,” with its jazz-inflected rhythm section, and the gospel-drenched “People Get Ready,” one of the most recorded tunes in history. Both anthemic and deeply spiritual, and with lovely arrangements from Johnny Pate. In the case of “People Gets Ready” it is really enlightening to go back and listen to this original version. Along with Mayfield’s stripped-down version on “Curtis Live!”, the original is pretty hard to improve on, although I can’t blame people for wanting to record it either. And while the album “Keep On Pushing” contains one song not penned by Mayfield (the hit “Amen”), “People Get Ready” would be the first album where Curtis was in charge of all the writing.

I don’t mean to give short shrift to a good old-fashioned love song either, because there are plenty of great ones on these two records. “I’ve Been Trying”, the second cut here, really stands out. It sounds incredibly fresh to my ears and very “modern” for 1964, in a good way. It doesn’t hurt that these records were recorded and mixed immaculately, and that Kent Records did a very nice job in remastering them. The other song sample I’ve given here below is the tune ‘Emotions’, which was actually recorded in 1962, is another favorite of mine. The liner notes allege that the song sounds out of place but I love it. It’s also a good example of the Impressions sweetening up a blues arrangement with their vocal harmonies while still retaining enough ‘grit’ to keep it from being too saccharine. The songwriting gets a little repetitive across these two albums, but I still consider these essential listening, especially for fans of Curtis Mayfield.

On a related note, the liner notes from some ABC Records suit on both of these albums are completely ridiculous, and go out of their way to depict The Impressions as “gentle” and accessible, in contrast to “the loud, unintellgible sounds that can hardly be understood through the overpowering beat of much of today’s popular music.” While this is certainly hilarious and entertaining, I am thankful that Kent saw fit to contract Peter Burns to write NEW, more informative notes for this collection.

Enjoy these two albums of classic Chicago soul!

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Baby Huey – The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend (1971)

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Baby Huey & The Babysitters
“The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend”

Original release Curtom (LP CRS-8007) 1971
This pressing Water Records 2004 (WATER 142)

1. Listen To Me 6:35
2. Mama Get Yourself Together 6:10
3. A Change Is Going To Come 9:23
4. Mighty, Mighty 2:45
5. Hard Times 3:19
6. California Dreamin’ 4:43
7. Running 3:36
8. One Dragon Two Dragon 4:02

Produced by Curtis Mayfield

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I came across this album from James T. Ramey, aka Baby Huey, due to digging into the Curtis Mayfield discography and finding that he had produced this sole album by the Chicago soul heavyweight (*cough*). It’s heavy deep soul that does not disappoint for a single moment. (The last track here is a bonus track tagged on to the original album, and is pretty disposable.) The original LP is damn near impossible to find, so big props to Water Records for making it available again. In fact this is also the best-sounding reissue I have yet heard from that label, whose remasters often sound a little harsh to my ears. But not this — Mayfield’s trademark tight production sounds full, warm, and punchy as always. The vibe runs the changes from party, to strung out, to menace, and back to party again. I always wonder what Sam Cooke would have thought of Huey’s take on his civil rights anthem “A Change is Gonna Come.” The liner notes hit it pretty much on the head when they describe this tune as “epic, stoned, silly and heart-wrenching.” Turn it up loud enough and the room will fill with the purple haze of Vietnam-era exhaustion, conjuring images of ghettos overrun with smack and people knodding off to deep funk while King’s dream grew sour and white people retreated to the suburbs. Hell it is actually kind of blood-curling by the time it gets to the final chorus, Baby Huey’s screams drenched in echo-plex giving way to a final bar of nothing but a feedback loop of delay.

“There’s three kinds of people in this world. That’s why I know a change has gotta come. I said there’s white people, there’s black people, and there’s my people.”

“Might Mighty” is a Curtis Mayfield tune first recorded by The Impressions and would also appear on the “Curtis Live!” album. Here, it’s almost an instrumental with Baby Huey rapping over it, foregoing Mayfield’s lyrics of interracial harmony. “Hard Times,” one of the most sampled tracks ever cut, just scorches. It’s another Mayfield tune, one that he wouldn’t record himself until the album “There’s No Place Like America Today” where Curtis takes a decidedly more laid-back approach than this version, which is ferocious and frantic. “California Dreamin'”… goddamn a lot of people recorded that song. Do we really need another interpretation of it? Well, in this case, yes. It’s breeziness between these heavier songs is something of a counterweight but with the nagging feeling that it’s not to be entirely trusted — The Babysitters are just giving us a little breathing space before taking us on one last trip. That would be “Running,” which will leave blisters on your synapses. The bass guitar is pushing so hard it is only a decibel or two away from blowing the speaker in the Ampeg amplifier (I will bet my right arm its an Ampeg..). There is enough freak-flown swagger on this tune to make Funkadelic look like a bunch of amateurs. These guys were cued up to lead the congregation in Hendrix’s Electric Church if only both Jimmy and Huey had lived long enough. And only Curtis Mayfield could have produced this song — all the instruments are played hard and rough, no bullshit, all heart — drums, bass, guitar, organ, horns, all pushing the VU needles into the red and saturating the tape with funk, yet EVERYTHING comes out in the mix crystal clear. Who the fuck pulls that off? Oh that’s right, Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield, Huey, and the Babysitters were a perfect match. It is a damn shame that Huey died of a heart-attack at the age of 26 in a Chicago hotel while working on this record. We all missed this the first time around. Don’t miss it now.

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Jerry Butler – The Iceman Cometh / Ice On Ice (1969)

1. Hey, Western Union Man
2. Can’t Forget About You, Baby
3. Only the Strong Survive
4. How Can I Get in Touch with You
5. Just Because I Really Love You
6. Lost
7. Never Give You Up
8. Are You Happy
9. (Strange) I Still Love You
10. Go Away — Find Yourself
11. I Stop by Heaven

Reflections on the Romantic Darwinism of Jerry Butler
By Flabbergast

Tomorrow is “Dia dos Namorados” where I live, a day for lovers, Brazilian Valentine´s day. As a person with each foot on a different continent this means I have to suffer through this godforsaken holiday twice in one year. Fuck.

I’ve been told that you don’t get over a heartbreak until you meet someone new, someone special who comes into your life and on and on, that you don’t forget one love until you find new love. Alright, cool, that’s all good and well but my question is — What am I supposed to do in the meantime? My solution has been: listen to tons of classic soul music. And play it loud. And make a lot of it Jerry Butler.

So I am dedicating this post to all the other lonely people, and those lover’s we can’t seem to get over.

These two albums hail from the historic pairing of Chicago soul doyen Jerry Butler and Philadelphia writing and production team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Had they continued this partnership I think they would have taken over the world, put an end to world famine, and brought down the Berlin Wall long before Ronald Reagan could take credit for it. “The Iceman Cometh” in particular is Jerry Butler’s finest hour, at his emotive best.

The ‘Collector’ Choice’ label reissue of these two albums is a mixed blessing. It’s criminal to think that they were ever out of circulation (they were packaged together for another collection called “The Philadelphia Sessions”, which I haven’t heard), but these albums deserve better in the way of mastering and presentation. There is however a decent set of liner notes based largely on recent interviews with the man himself that make me like the guy even more, in spite of the fact that he still won’t respond to my emails about *this album*… The sound is a mixed bag, and it’s hard to say why since all the songs were recorded around the same period in the same two studios. But a number of the songs were released as singles a year or so before they appeared on these long-players, so consistency becomes too confused for me to form an opinion about. The fact that “Ice on Ice” sounds MUCH more crisp and present makes me think they may have lost the master tapes for ‘The Iceman Cometh’, which would truly be criminal….

“Hey Western Union Man” is a nice, smart, upbeat number to get things moving. The attentive will notice its mixed in mono, as well. It’s clever and great and a lot of you have probably heard it at least once in your life. But things start really clicking for me in the confessional take of internal obsession and external denial that is “Can’t Forget About You, Baby”, which is just pure genius. A midtempo stride with beautiful, straightforward lyrics, kick drum and high hat intro with a short snap of snare drum, you know that Motown and Stax are feeling the heat from these guys after ten seconds of this magic. It basically tells my story for me. It probably tells yours, or will someday. Butler’s voice soars sweet one moment, turns a blue note the next ….. changed my life, completeleeeeeeeeeeeeeey. It all comes to a subtle climax with, “I’ve tried to fool everybody else…. ain’t no way to ….. fool myseeeelf..” Ah hells yeah. I feel like I am giving away the end of a good movie. It’s just too perfect of an arrangement. I just spoiled it for you, unless you started the song sample below before reading this.

This song gives way to another one, even more classic and eternal, treating the admixture of vulnerability and perseverance, of the contradictions of masculinity in the twentieth century, that make up Jerry Butler’s romantic darwinism. “Only The Strong Survive,” told from the position of a mother giving advice to her heartbroken son, has enough nuance to fill a thousand pages of analysis and enough simplicity to make all of that utterly unnecessary. What does it mean to “be a man” and “take a stand”? The emotional survival of the species is at stake, but am I evolved enough to really dig it?

The best thing about great soul music is that you can play it when you feel down and it makes you feel good. The other best thing about great soul music is that you can play it when you feel good and it makes you feel even better.

At this point I most draw your attention to the unbelievably ingenious production of Gamble & Huff on this record. To that end, I have drawn up a sophisticated diagram of the stereo field as you are listening to the song “Only the Strong Survive.” Please feel free to print this out and tape it to your wall while listening back to the song.

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From here out, every song will have slight variations on this, with the bass guitar moving mostly to the center of the stereo field (but the drums staying almost exclusively in the left channel throughout). It’s a mixing formula that works extremely well for these songs. Like baking a cake. A solid reliable base made with wholesome ingredients found in any kitchen (bass, guitar, drums), then topped with confectionary goodness (vibraphone, strings, horns), the icing, and of course a paraffin miniature of Jerry Butler standing on top of it all. Piano and organ, missing from “Only The Strong Survive”, are also present on a whole lot of it, usually piano in the left channel and organ in the right. This is all a very no-frills approach to a good stereo mix that foregrounds the SONG and not the arrangement itself, but if you are attentive to such things you will find yourself in aural bliss for the next hour.

“How Can I Get In Touch With You”
This song would have helped me out in a lot of situations where I was too timid to ask a girl for her phone number. Provided that I could break into song like Jerry Butler while asking her, everything would have turned out okay. Since that’s not the case I will have to resign myself to the timidity and loneliness. Still, I can revel in Jerry’s confidence. That is until he gets to “If you already have a lover… just let me be your friend.” aw c’mon Jerry, give me a break, do you really expect me to believe this? I expected better of you. After the last three songs you let loose with this hypocritical malandragem, macho double-standard bullshit disguised as sensitivity. Why, I’d sock you in the jaw, if I wasn’t so afraid of confrontation and all that.

“Just Because I Really Love You.” Love can make us into emotional masochists. Or perhaps emotional masochism leads us to love the wrong people. Or both. Or neither.

“Lost.” Another anthem, opens with blasts of trumpets heralding the arrival of an angel that is Jerry Butler’s creative genius. It’s enough to give me hope. Hope that three minutes later, there will be another great song.

These two albums are populated with classic songs that have been covered by other artists (Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield) but my favorite of these is by far “Never Gonna Give You Up”, which was given the Isaac Hayes Treatment on Black Moses. You can totally see what Isaac, with his arranger’s ear, was drawn to in this song. Slow but not dragging, that kick-drum-bass-note cardiac pulse propelled by the movement of melody and its judicious use of vibraphone and a Hammond organ just barely tucked away in the right corner of your awareness. Another narrative that makes you ask yourself if the protagonist is faithfully dedicated, hopelessly obsessed, or immersed in masochistic self-punishment. Not that that I would know anything about that.

The next song asks the profoundly basic question of “Are You Happy?” , a reflective epiphany prompted by a chance remark from a waitress at a diner. The arrangement and the lyrics are pure poetry. I’ll take the liberty of dedicating this one to all those sustaining themselves on the superficial, using their outward beauty to help them avoid looking inward. Listen closely to this song and you too can contribute to the emotional evolution of the species.

Strange, I Still Love You. Damn, these guys were seemingly incapable of writing a bad song. And every intro to every tune is just perfection, perfection.

Go Ahead, Find Yourself. For the one who doesn’t know what she wants. But it probably isn’t you. But still you would welcome her back with open arms. Perhaps. The last line hints that maybe the protagonist is wising up after all.

I Stop By Heaven. Jesus himself would weep at this one. If you happen to be celebrating these Valentine-type holidays you could do worse than just sing this one for your partner. Or call up Casey Kasem and dedicate to her or him. Played as a waltz, I could imagine Willie Nelson covering this and making me weep even more with it.

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12. Moody Woman
13. Brand New Me
14. Been a Long Time
15. Close to You Love
16. Since I Lost You Lady
17. What’s the Use of Breaking Up?
18. When You’re Alone
19. I Forgot to Remember
20. Got to See If I Can’t Get Mommy (To Come Back Home)
21. Don’t Let Love Hang You Up
22. Walking Around in Teardrops

Okay, the opening number, “Moody Woman”, tells you right away that this album is just not as strong as “The Iceman Cometh.” I don’t know, a lot of people like this song, but its too Tom Jones for me. The album treads a lot of the same ground as its predecessor, which is obviously not a bad thing. But after the heights of inspiration of their first record, it’s kind of natural that their second work together would have trouble keeping up the momentum. I don’t want to prejudice anybody against it, because it’s great in its own right. But like any drug, if you are coming off the high of “The Iceman Cometh” you may just keep on enjoying yourself with “Ice On Ice” following it immediately afterward, or you may find yourself sobering up a bit. But there is a lot of electric sitar (Danelectro??) on this one, for whatever reason, so maybe it’s time to light a joss stick and roll one for the road and forget about reading the rest of this post. There are real gems here like “Brand New Me”, “Close To You Love”, and “Walking Around on Teardrops.” And also some moves in more heavy funk directions like “Been Too Long” and “I Forgot To Remember” (not to be confused with “I Forgot to Remember To Forget”), and a frantic gospel boogie in “Don’t Love Hang You Up” that will leave you praying… for more Jerry Butler. And once again, the production on this album is always tantalizing and flawless, and for whatever reason much fuller and “present” in its mastering on this CD two-in-one collection than “The Iceman Cometh” is. But even though “The Iceman Cometh” was pieced together from different sessions and songs released separately as singles, it hangs together much more as a cohesive piece of art. It plays with the quality of having an hour-long conversation with a friend, probably a friend wiser than yourself, about the trials and tribulations of love and romance. “Ice on Ice” is a healthy dose of soul music but it simply can’t match it, in my ears anyway.

Both albums released on Mercury Records, 1969.

Happy “Dia dos Namorados,” you bastards.

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Jerry Butler – Sings Assorted Songs with Assorted Friends and Relatives (1971)


Jerry Butler
Sings Assorted Songs with Assorted Friends and Relatives
1971
Mercury Records ST-61320

A1 How Did We Lose It 3:03
B. Butler , C. Jones
A2 How Does It Feel 3:45
A. Miller, B. Butler
A3 Special Memory 3:08
J. Butler/B. Butler , L. Wade
A4 Built My World Around You 2:38
C. Jackson
A5 Going Back To My Baby’s Love 2:25
C. Jackson
B1 If It’s Real What I Feel 2:38
C. Jackson
B2 Strong Enough To Take It 2:08
B. Butler , J. Jones , J. Blumenberg
B3 What It Is 3:00
J. Blumenberg
B4 Why Are You Leaving Me 3:30
J. Blumenberg , J. Butler , J. Jones
B5 Do You Finally Need A Friend 3:20
C. Jones , L. Wade , T. Callier

Ignore the chimps who write for the AMG (I have pictures!) who have dissed this album and enjoy this classic piece of early 70s Chicago soul. It sprung from the famous songwriting workshop he ran, it has arrangements by Donny Hathaway and Gerald Sims, and a song contributions from Terry Callier (What Color Is Love?) and Chuck Jackson (later of The Independents). In fact Jerry contributes very little writing to the album, instead letting his then-unknown collaborator/students shine through with their material. And the results pay off. Do I really need to give you the hard sell on this, what more do you need? Okay, I would almost bet you $20 that is Curtis Mayfield holding a guitar on the cover, who may have appeared uncredited as a favor to his old friend and colleague. But that`s just speculation. The truth is there is a scarce amount of information out there about this album that I`ve been able to find. The songwriting is top notch throughout, some of it a bit funkier than what I`m used to from Mr.Butler, and the band is tight. Another great album that is still somewhat in the same vein is The Sagittarius Movement, released the same year, for which I also did a vinyl rip but seems to have gotten lost somewhere before locking all must things in the Kayman Islands vault. Which leads me to my

CAVEAT! This is not the best vinyl rip you will see on the site. For one, the source material — I have a well-played copy with substantial surface noise. From a sound engineering standpoint it’s best to leave that stuff alone unless you have access to a CEDAR mastering suite, which I don’t. I ran a basic ‘declicking’ process on it and that is all the processing that was done. At least there are not skips. Secondly, this was ripped on what I am calling my “ghetto rig” before I made some substantial upgrades in turntable, preamp, and recording device. Still sounds good, just as not as good as it would if I could redo it today. The Sumiko cartridge I am using for transcriptions at the moment is much more forgiving for rough “well-played” vinyl than the Goldring, for example. But alas, this record be locked up in my Kayman Islands vault so this will have to do.

If anyone can help me pin down the exact lineup of session players on this badass record, including the name of the poodle on the front cover, I would be much obliged.

VINYL RIP – Technical Specs

Music Hall MMF.5 Turntable with Goldring 1012GX cartridge, Gyger II diamond stylus, and MK II XLR Ringmat –> Pro-ject Speedbox II -> Parasound Z Phono Preamp -> Marantz PMD 661 digital recorder at 24/96khz .Declicked on very light settings with Click Repair -> DC Offset and track splitting in Adobe Audition 2.0 Dithering to 16-bit in IzoTope RX Advanced using M-Bit algorithm. Converted to FLAC and mp3 with DbPoweramp. Tagged properly with Foobar 2000.

Jerry Butler – Sings Assorted Songs with Assorted Friends and Relatives (1971)

Jerry Butler – Sings Assorted Songs with Assorted Friends and Relatives (1971)