With its latest batch of reissues, including titles from Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, Tavares, and Nancy Wilson, Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint can truly be said to cover a wide swath of the soulful spectrum.
Duets have long been staples of great R&B. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, James Ingram and Patti Austin, and Otis Redding and Carla Thomas – just to name a few in the pantheon – all proved that “it takes two.” (That title, in fact, gave Gaye and Kim Weston a hit.) Flack first teamed with Peabo Bryson for the 1980 Atlantic Records live album Live and More before the duo reteamed at Capitol for 1983’s Born to Love, now available in an expanded and remastered edition from SoulMusic. As was the custom for countless albums released in the 1980s, numerous producers were enlisted for Flack and Bryson’s studio set. They enlisted the cream of the crop, however. Michael Masser helmed two tracks, both written with Brill Building legend Gerry Goffin. Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager produced another pair, and Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe of Four Seasons fame handled another three songs. To round out the LP, Flack and Bryson each produced a song.
Despite their varied CVs, the various production teams all turned out music in a sleek, then-contemporary R&B vein. Masser and Goffin (“Theme from Mahogany,” “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You,” “Saving All My Love for You”) were behind the biggest hit off Born to Love, opening track “Tonight I Celebrate My Love.” The song had been written for Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross, but hadn’t been recorded by the “All of You” pair, setting the stage for a Top 5 single in the hands of Bryson and Flack. Masser and Goffin also wrote the up-tempo “Comin’ Alive” with burbling synths from Robbie Buchanan.
Bacharach and Sager, in the early years of their songwriting partnership and marriage, supplied two ballads, “Blame It on Me” and “Maybe.” Both songs featured an all-star cast of musicians including Abe Laboriel (bass), Jim Keltner (drums), Greg Phillinganes (keyboards) and Paulinho da Costa (percussion), and the latter had another key member of the musical team: Sager’s ex-boyfriend Marvin Hamlisch. The romantic “Maybe” (described in the new liner notes by Flack as “one of the most beautiful songs ever written”) was crafted from one of Hamlisch’s themes for the 1983 film Romantic Comedy and can be heard over the end credits to that film. It’s the only writing collaboration between the two titans of melody, Bacharach and Hamlisch, though the two did have a history together: Hamlisch arranged the music for the movie The April Fools, which featured a title song written by Bacharach and Hal David.
Gaudio and Crewe brought Bryson and Flack the rhythmic “Heaven Above Me,” the disco-flavored title song of Frankie Valli’s 1980 solo album, as well as the sweet “You’re Lookin’ Like Love to Me,” which they co-wrote with Sugarloaf’s Jerry Corbetta. For their third production, they selected Terry Skinner, Kenneth Bell and J.L. Wallace’s “I Just Came Here to Dance.” Bryson wrote, produced and sang “Born to Love,” the only solo song on the album, and Flack produced and co-wrote (with Al Johnson) the closing track “Can We Find Love Again.”
SoulMusic’s reissue has been expanded with three bonus tracks, the 7-inch and 12-inch single versions of “Heaven Above Me,” and the 7-inch single version of “You’re Looking Like Love to Me.” Alan Wilson has remastered, and Gail Mitchell of Billboard supplies new liner notes which draw on fresh quotes from Roberta Flack. The expanded Born to Love is available now, and after the jump, you’ll find the full track listing and order links. Plus: the scoops on Tavares and Nancy Wilson!
SoulMusic continues its ongoing series of Tavares reissues with 1975’s Hard Core Poetry. The group’s second album, it directly precedes In the City, reissued by SoulMusic in 2011. Like In the City, it was produced and almost entirely written by the team of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter (The Grass Roots, The Four Tops). Hard Core Poetry finds the group on the cusp of their commercial breakthrough with Lambert and Potter’s “It Only Takes a Minute,” and includes three Top 10 R&B singles including Tavares’ chart-topping revival of Hall and Oates’ “She’s Gone.”
The band of five brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts (Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny!) started their career in 1959 as Chubby and the Turnpikes, even scoring a couple of local hits on the Capitol label in the latter portion of the 1960s. But when the group named changed to Tavares, their actual surname, their fortune soared. Though Hall and Oates’ version gets more oldies airplay today, Tavares took “She’s Gone” to No.1 on the R&B charts in 1974, two years before the soul duo’s own rendition took off. Lambert and Potter not only brought “She’s Gone” to the LP (otherwise written wholly by the team) but also “Remember What I Told You to Forget,” an album track from The Four Tops’ Keeper of the Castle. It went Top 5 R&B when released as a single, and even bested the No. 50 Pop placement of “She’s Gone” by reaching No. 25 on the Hot 100. Though Lambert and Potter were known for their big pop sound (think Glen Campbell’s “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)” or Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds’ “Don’t Pull Your Love”), they also provided Tavares with a socially relevant anthem in the title track, “Hard Core Poetry.” The group got its message of empathy across with a soaring, Philly soul-style arrangement. The Tavares brothers were surrounded by an A-team of musicians including Wilton Felder, Michael Omartian, Dean Parks and Larry Carlton.
Following Hard Core Poetry, the Tavares brothers went on to record eight more albums for Capitol, four of which have already been addressed in this reissue series from SoulMusic. Two bonus tracks have been appended here (the 45 RPM singles of “Too Late” and “Remember What I Told You to Forget”), and Chris Rizik has penned new liner notes. Alan Wilson has remastered the album, which is available now.
Along with Tavares, another SoulMusic favorite has been the legendary chanteuse Nancy Wilson. In a series of two-for-one CD releases, the label has thus far reissued ten of Wilson’s albums plus the four albums about to be discussed here. And there are more such two-fers in the offing. SoulMusic’s most recent titles from the deep Wilson catalogue are The Sound of Nancy Wilson/Nancy, Son of a Preacher Man/Hurt So Bad, and Kaleidoscope/I Know I Love Him.
The Sound of Nancy Wilson/Nancy brings together Capitol albums from 1968 and 1969, respectively. These chronologically come directly before Son of a Preacher Man and Hurt So Bad (both 1969); those two albums were followed by Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (1970) and Now I’m a Woman (1971), reissued earlier this year by SoulMusic. Both The Sound of Nancy Wilson and Nancy were produced by Wilson’s longtime associate David Cavanaugh, and find the vocalist primarily concentrating on vintage and recent standards. For The Sound, Nancy was joined by arranger Jimmy Jones and jazz icons like Shelly Manne, Harry “Sweets” Edison and Benny Carter. Her affinity with the bluesy melodies of Harold Arlen manifested itself with “Out of This World” and “When the Sun Comes Out,” with lyrics by Johnny Mercer and Ted Koehler, respectively. Two songs came from the pen of jazz and Broadway great Cy Coleman and lyricist par excellence Carolyn Leigh: “The Rules of the Road,” and “The Other Side of the Tracks.” The latter tune hailed from their 1962 musical Little Me. From Jerry Herman’s 1964 musical Hello, Dolly!, Wilson tackled the climactic ballad “It Only Takes a Moment.” She also nodded to R&B with Clyde Otis’ “This Bitter Earth” (made famous via Dinah Washington’s 1960 recording) and “Black is Beautiful,” an uplifting album closer in the era of the civil rights crusade.
The Sound of Nancy is paired on one CD with Nancy. Released in early 1969, Nancy went even further, as only Miss Wilson could do, in blurring the lines of jazz, R&B and popular vocals. This time out, she drew on the Broadway score to John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Zorba (“Only Love”) as well as on the work of other Great White Way stalwarts: Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady (“Prisoner of My Eyes (I Can Never Let You Go)”) and Martin Charnin (“In a Long White Room,” written with Clint Ballard, Jr. of “You’re No Good” and “The Game of Love” fame). Clyde Otis’ songbook was tapped for “Looking Back” and “We Could Learn Together,” and Hal David offered a rare tune without Burt Bacharach. He wrote “What Do You See In Her” with composer Frank Weldon. Bacharach and David’s uptown soul contemporaries Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Weinstein and Lou Stallman were represented with “You’d Better Go.” Soul man Jimmy Radcliffe co-wrote the opening track “I’m Your Special Fool,” and Nancy even tackled the much-covered Jacques Brel song “If We Only Have Love” on this varied set. On her next LPs, Nancy would delve further into the modern pop songbook, but these two albums show off her prodigious vocal skills on an eclectic variety of songs.
1969 was a typically busy year for Wilson, who followed Nancy with two more albums before the year was out: Son of a Preacher Man and Hurt So Bad. Preacher Man took its name from the John Hurley/Ronnie Wilkins song popularized by Dusty Springfield, and kicked off an album of what some might call supper-club country. The album featured included pop songs with a country influence like Bobby Russell’s deathless “Little Green Apples” and Jimmy Webb’s masterful “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” plus more explicitly C&W tunes like Hank Cochran’s “Make the World Go Away,” legendary producer Billy Sherrill’s “Almost Persuaded,” and Roger Miller’s “Husband and Wives.” Nancy’s own composition, “I Made You This Way,” fit nicely with this elegant collection of Americana. Jimmy Jones was musical director for this outing, with Phil Wright and Joe Parnello also turning in fine work.
Hurt So Bad took its name from Little Anthony and the Imperials’ 1965 hit written by Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Hart and Bobby Weinstein. While Nancy continued the country-soul theme with Tony Joe White’s “Willie and Laura Mae Jones,” other songs looked to the Top 40: “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” even David Clayton-Thomas’ “Spinning Wheel.” Nancy didn’t completely abandon the works of the great American Songbook tunesmiths, though, and recorded Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Do You Know Why” as well as Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s “Come Back to Me” (from the Broadway musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) on this smooth set. Produced, like Son of a Preacher Man, by David Cavanaugh, Hurt So Bad featured arrangements from the returning Jimmy Jones and Phil Wright plus Oliver Nelson, Sid Feller and Billy May.
Kaleidoscope and I Know I Love Him, from 1971 and 1973, respectively, both epitomize sophisticated soul. (David Cavanaugh again oversaw both releases.) On the former, Wilson sings a number of recognizable R&B songs including “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “If I Were Your Woman” along with modern standards “Mr. Bojangles” and “Let It Be Me.” (Nancy was reportedly inspired by a live performance of Sammy Davis Jr. to record Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Bojangles,” a song with which Davis identified intensely.) She went back as far as 1949 for Larry Darnell’s hit “I’ll Get Along Somehow” and recorded two compositions by Reuben Brown, “Everybody Knows” and “The Middle of the Road.” But Wilson’s smoky, sultry brand of soul music – touching on all colors of the Kaleidoscope – didn’t approach the so-called middle of the road, musically speaking.
I Know I Love Him was more adventurous than Kaleidoscope, however. Arranger Don Sebesky had already made a name for himself as a house orchestrator at Creed Taylor’s jazz-fusion CTI label; he would go on to arrange numerous Broadway musicals in a long and distinguished career that continues to this day. Sebesky worked his orchestral magic over rhythm tracks laid down by Wilton Felder, Joe Sample and Stix Hooper of The (Jazz) Crusaders, creating an adult R&B-jazz hybrid tailor-made to Wilson’s talents. She wrapped her pipes around Motown songs like Marvin Gaye’s “We Can Make It Baby” and Hal Davis and Herman Griffith’s “Can I,” originally recorded by Eddie Kendricks. From “Suspicious Minds” writer Mark James came “Are We Losing Touch,” while the solo Barry Mann (sans his usual lyricist, wife Cynthia Weil) wrote “I Heard You Singing Your Song.” Randy Edelman, of “Weekend in New England” fame, penned “The Laughter and the Tears.” That was one of three songs shared by Nancy with Marlena Shaw. For her Blue Note album released the very same year as I Know I Love Him, Shaw coincidentally offered her own takes on “Laughter,” “I Know I Love Him,” and Alan O’Day’s “Easy Evil.”
All of the above albums have been remastered by Alan Wilson; Gary D. Jackson has written new liner notes for The Sound of Nancy Wilson/Nancy. Mervin Malone has annotated Son of a Preacher Man/Hurt So Bad, and A. Scott Galloway has done the same for Kaleidoscope/I Know I Love Him. Galloway’s essay is particularly noteworthy as it contains reflections by Wilson and Sebesky. All three two-fers can be ordered at the links below, as can the titles from Tavares and Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack!
Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack, Born to Love (Capitol LP ST-12284, 1983 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5098, 2013)
- Tonight I Celebrate My Love
- Blame It on Me
- Heaven Above Me
- Born to Love
- I Just Came Here to Dance
- Comin’ Alive
- You’re Lookin’ Like Love to Me
- Can We Find Love Again
- You’re Looking Like Love to Me (Capitol single B-5307, 1983)
- Heaven Above Me (UK Capitol 12-inch single 12CL 310, 1983)
- Heaven Above Me (UK Capitol single CL 310, 1983)
Tavares, Hard Core Poetry (Capitol LP ST-11316, 1975 – reissued SoulMusic Records SMCR 5097, 2013)
- Someone to Go Home To
- She’s Gone
- My Ship
- Leave It Up to the Lady
- To Love You
- Too Late
- Remember What I Told You to Forget
- What You Don’t Know
- Hard Core Poetry
- Too Late (Capitol single 45-3882, 1975)
- Remember What I Told You to Forget (Capitol single 45-4010, 1975)
Nancy Wilson, The Sound of Nancy Wilson/Nancy (SoulMusic Records SMCR 25093, 2013)
- Out of This World
- This Bitter Earth
- By Myself
- When the Sun Comes Out
- Alone with My Thoughts of You
- It Only Takes a Moment
- Peace of Mind
- The Other Side of the Tracks
- Below, Above
- The Rules of the Road
- Black is Beautiful
- I’m Your Special Fool
- Prisoner of My Eyes
- Player, Play On
- Only Love
- Looking Back
- If We Only Have Love
- In a Long White Room
- You’d Better Go
- Quiet Soul
- What Do You See in Her?
- We Could Learn Together
Tracks 1-11 from The Sound of Nancy Wilson, Capitol LP ST 2970, 1968
Tracks 12-22 from Nancy, Capitol LP ST 148, 1969
Nancy Wilson, Son of a Preacher Man/Hurt So Bad (SoulMusic Records SMCR 25100, 2013)
- Son of a Preacher Man
- By the Time I Get to Phoenix
- Mr. Walker, It’s All Over
- I Made You This Way
- Almost Persuaded
- Got It Together
- Make the World Go Away
- Husbands and Wives
- Little Green Apples
- Trouble in Mind
- Willie and Laura Mae Jones
- Let’s Make the Most of a Beautiful Thing
- You’re All I Need to Get By
- Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
- Hurt So Bad
- Spinning Wheel
- Do You Know Why
- Come Back to Me
- Ages Ago
- One Soft Night
Tracks 1-10 from Son of a Preacher Man, Capitol LP ST 234, 1969
Tracks 11-20 from Hurt So Bad, Capitol LP ST 353, 1969
Nancy Wilson, Kaleidoscope/I Know I Love Him (SoulMusic Records SMCR 25096, 2013)
- The Greatest Performance of My Life
- If I Were Your Woman
- I’ll Get Along Somehow
- Middle of the Road
- Let It Be Me
- To Be the One You Love
- Mr. Bojangles
- Ain’t No Sunshine
- Everybody Knows
- Once in My Lifetime
- We Can Make It Baby
- Morning in Your Eyes
- Don’t Misunderstand
- Are We Losing Touch
- I Was Telling Him About You
- Easy Evil
- The Laughter and the Tears
- Can I
- I Heard You Singing Your Song
- I Know I Love Him
Tracks 1-10 from Kaleidoscope, Capitol LP ST 852, 1972
Tracks 11-20 from I Know I Love Him, Capitol LP ST 11131, 1973