Sunday, 25 December 2011

THE IMPRESSIONS - THE IMPRESSIONS (ABC-PARAMOUNT 1963) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 1 bonus

The first Impressions LP was one of the finest debuts of any '60s soul act, though it excelled in part because it featured a backlog of chart singles (five had charted previously, and "It's All Right" became the sixth after it was quickly added to the original program). Curtis Mayfield wrote all but two of the songs, stretching back to 1961's "Gypsy Woman" (which he'd actually written at the age of 14) but mostly including strong 1962-1963 material like the hit "Little Young Lover," "Grow Closer Together," "I'm the One Who Loves You," and "Minstrel and Queen." "It's All Right" was easily the best song here, accented by the group's sublime harmonies, arranger Johnny Pate's swinging horn section, and Mayfield's precise guitar work. The group also showed an unsurprising reverence for classic doo wop, beautifully remaking "Never Let Me Go," a Top Ten R&B hit for Johnny Ace in 1954. Even the closer, a tossed-off novelty called "Twist and Limbo," is an excellent performance and a genuinely fun song. Mayfield's disarmingly brilliant songs were really the only necessary element toward making The Impressions a strong LP, but the mesmerizing vocals and sympathetic arrangements made for a classic work of Chicago soul.[allmusic]

THE IMPRESSIONS - RIDIN' HIGH (ABC-PARAMOUNT 1966) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

The Impressions were certainly dominating the charts and making wonderful albums in the '60s, and this one didn't break the string. They would depart from ABC in two years, but at this point there were no concerns, even though they didn't match the previous years' glittering array of hits. But their singing was no less emphatic or compelling, nor had Mayfield's writing, productions, or arrangements slipped.
A sudden jump to the mainstream of mid-60s soul, with far more prominent drumming ("Right On Time"), more piano, swinging horn fills, vibes, and upbeat, enthusiastic tunes. The rousing "Gotta Get Away," for example, recalls Stax artists like Sam & Dave. But there's still plenty of the super-smooth vocalizing their fans expected - "I Need You" is perhaps the best example - and Mayfield gets in a guitar solo on "Too Slow." A lot of the song material is routine, though: "I Need To Belong To Someone" is nearly a note-for-note copy of "People Get Ready." There's only one non-Mayfield tune: the horrific standard "Let It Be Me." Again, produced by Pate.


THE IMPRESSIONS - WE 'RE A WINNER (ABC 1968) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 2 bonus

While the title track was one of Mayfield's classic civil rights-conscious anthems, most of this album was actually dedicated to standard romantic themes. This wasn't necessarily a drawback; almost every cut was a quality Mayfield original, and the harmonies and vocal interplay among the group were outstanding. "Nothing Can Stop Me," awhich had been a hit in 1965 for Gene Chandler, was an uptempo highlight, and "Little Brown Boy" showed more of the African-American pride that had been explored in "We're a Winner," albeit in a more tender ballad mode. The closing cover of "Up Up and Away" is misplaced, but overall this is one of the better Impressions albums to pick up if you want more than what's found on the greatest-hits collections, with excellent production and Johnny Pate arrangements throughout.[allmusic]

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

BILLY PRESTON - THE MOST EXCITING ORGAN EVER (VEE JAY 1964) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

It's advantageous to get an early start on your chosen career, but Billy Preston took the concept to extremes. By age ten he was playing keyboards with gospel diva Mahalia Jackson, and two years later, in 1958, he was featured in Hollywood's film bio of W.C. Handy, St. Louis Blues, as young Handy himself. Preston was a prodigy on organ and piano, recording during the early '60s for Vee-Jay and touring with Little Richard. He was a loose-limbed regular on the mid-'60s ABC TV series Shindig, proving his talent as both vocalist and pianist, and he built an enviable reputation as a session musician, even backing the Beatles on their Let It Be album.
As the late John Holmes would tell you, it's damn near impossible to live up to a title as lofty as The Most Exciting Organ Ever, but Billy Preston does his best -- the raw physical power of Preston's performances are matched only by the imagination and virtuosity of his phrasing. The music bridges the sacred and the profane, fusing the deep, bold sound of the church with the razzle-dazzle of R&B. While Preston's innovative use of bass pedals lends the music its pendulous bottom, his melodies defy gravity, soaring and dive bombing like birds of prey in flight.[allmusic]

BILLY PRESTON - EARLY HITS OF 1965 (VEE-JAY 1965) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

10 year old Billy Preston began playing keyboards for gospel big names like Mahalia Jackson, Andrae Crouch and James Cleveland. Two years later, he made his feature film acting debut in the W.C. Handy biographical movie “St. Louis Blues” (1958). Regarded a bit as a child genius on piano and organ, he toured with Little Richard and Ray Charles in the 1960s and appeared regularly on the ABC TV musical variety series “Shindig,” where as part of the show's house band he demonstrated his talent as a pianist and singer in the mid 1960s. He also played organ on Sam Cooke's album “Night Beat” (1963).
Preston eventually signed with Vee-Jay Records and released his first album, “The Most Exciting Organ Ever,” on August 20, 1965, weeks before his 19th birthday. The fully instrumental album was produced by Steve Douglas. Later that same year, he launched a compilation album titled “Early Hits of '65.” His sophomore album, “The Wildest Organ in Town,” followed in March 1966 and was his first record with Capitol Records. It was arranged by Sly Stone and again produced by Steve Douglas. Preston took on co-producing duties for his subsequent album, “Club Meeting,” which was released on March 30, 1967, before he left Capitol and joined Apple Records in the late 1960s.
Early Hits of'65 released in 1965 & recompiled singles and hits from this year to play with soul arrangements. The album was recorded in the same sessions of The Most Exciting Organ Ever [allmusic]

Monday, 3 October 2011

THE SPANIELS - THE SPANIELS (VEE-JAY 1960) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 6 bonus

The story of how the Spaniels came to prominence begins in late 1952, when lead singer Hudson was convinced by four of his Roosevelt High classmates -- Ernest Warren (first tenor), Opal Courtney, Jr. (baritone), Willie Jackson (second tenor), and Gerald Gregory (bass) to join them for a school talent show. They had debuted as Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonaires for the Christmas show and fared so well they decided to continue. Not wanting to join the bird group club (Orioles, Ravens, etc.), they decided on the name Spaniels.
In the spring, the group visited the local record shop owned by James and Vivian Bracken, who had begun developing a record label called Vee-Jay Records. They soon moved their operation to Chicago, in a garage off 47th Street (later they would relocate to offices at 1449 South Michigan Avenue). The Spaniels were one of the first two artists signed to the label (the other was blues guitarist Jimmy Reed). On May 5, 1953, the Spaniels recorded "Baby It's You," released in July. On September 5, "Baby" hit number ten on the national R&B best-seller charts.
The Spaniels' next session produced additional singles, including "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," which took off in March 1954, but it took about six months for the record to break nationally, charting at number five on the R&B charts. Its success prompted the McGuire Sisters to cover it for the "white" market, stealing a lot of the Spaniels' thunder when their version landed in the Top Ten (number seven).
The Spaniels' next single, "Let's Make Up," earned more for songwriter Hudson as someone else's B-side when it appeared on the flip of the Top 20 hit "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" (number 14, 1955). On June 11, 1954, the Spaniels made the first of numerous appearances at the Apollo Theatre and began touring the greater Midwest. Another single, "You Painted Pictures," reached number 13 R&B in October.
After Opal Courtney, Jr. was drafted, Vee-Jay A&R man and Spaniels producer Calvin Carter was pressed into service during their road trips for a few months until James "Dimples" Cochran took over permanently. Shortly thereafter, Ernest Warren was drafted and the group continued recording as a quartet. Two subsequent Spaniels singles failed to connect. Disappointed, Pookie Hudson and Willie Jackson both decided to leave the group. The Spaniels bravely continued on, with Carl Rainge (lead), Gerald Gregory (bass), James Cochran (baritone), and Don Porter (second tenor). This contingent lasted for only one single until Pookie rejoined.
In April 1957, Vee-Jay released the first full-length album, Goodnight, It's Time to Go. By mid-summer, the group was back to turning out terrific singles. Incidentally, around this same time Hank Ballard (of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters) had just re-written the Drifters' 1955 number two pop hit "What'cha Gonna Do" -- already a revision of an old gospel tune, "What're You Going to Do" -- and offered his rewrite, called "The Twist," to the Spaniels, but they passed on it. It later became a number one hit for Ernest Evans, who recorded it under the name Chubby Checker.
By 1960, the Spaniels were Hudson, Ernest Warren, Gerald Gregory, Bill Carey, and Andy McGruder (former lead of the Five Blue Notes). They recorded the group's last Vee-Jay single "I Know" in 1960; it reached number 23 R&B that summer. Meanwhile, Vee-Jay Records issued a second full-length album.[allmusic]

THE IMPRESSIONS with JERRY BUTLER - FOR YOUR PRECIOUS LOVE (VEE-JAY 1963) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 6 bonus

The quintessential Chicago soul group, the Impressions' place in R&B history would be secure if they'd done nothing but launch the careers of soul legends Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield. But far more than that, the Impressions recorded some of the most distinctive vocal-group R&B of the '60s under Mayfield's guidance. Their style was marked by airy, feather-light harmonies and Mayfield's influentially sparse guitar work, plus, at times, understated Latin rhythms. If their sound was sweet and lilting, it remained richly soulful thanks to the group's firm grounding in gospel tradition; they popularized the three-part vocal trade-offs common in gospel but rare in R&B at the time, and recorded their fair share of songs with spiritual themes, both subtle and overt. Furthermore, Mayfield's interest in the civil rights movement led to some of the first socially conscious R&B songs ever recorded, and his messages grew more explicit as the '60s wore on, culminating in the streak of brilliance that was his early-'70s solo work. The Impressions carried on without Mayfield, but only matched their earlier achievements in isolated instances, and finally disbanded in the early '80s.
The Impressions were formed in Chicago in 1957 as a doo wop group called the Roosters, a group of Chattanooga, TN, transplants that included vocalists Sam Gooden and brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks. Lead singer Jerry Butler joined up and soon brought in his friend Curtis Mayfield as guitarist; the two had previously sung together in a church choir and a couple of local gospel groups as youths. Renamed the Impressions by their manager, the group scored a major hit in 1958 with the classic ballad "For Your Precious Love," which hit the pop Top 20 and the R&B Top Five. Butler's gospel-inflected lead vocal was a departure from the norm, and the fact that the single billed him in front of the rest of the group foreshadowed his quick exit for a solo career, after just one more single ("Come Back My Love"). With new vocalist Fred Cash in tow, Mayfield took over the lead tenor role, eventually becoming the group's chief composer as well. First, though, he hit the road as guitarist and musical director for Butler's backing band, and also co-wrote some of Butler's earliest singles, including the R&B number one "He Will Break Your Heart" in late 1960.[allmusic]

Thursday, 25 August 2011

JAMES BROWN - SUPER BAD (KING 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Super Bad (the song) originally released as a three-part single & it went to number one on the soul singles chart and number 13 on the Hot 100. The song's lyrics include the refrain "I've got soul and I'm super bad." The positive use of the word "bad" is an example of linguistic reappropriation, which Brown had done before in "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud".
The song includes a tenor saxophone solo by Robert McCollough, during which Brown yells "Blow me some Trane, brother!"
James Brown re-recorded "Super Bad" for this 1971 album of the same name.
Watch me! Watch me! I got it! Watch me!
I got it! Yeeaah!
I got somethin' that makes me wanna shouta!
I got somethin' that tells me what its all about
Huh! I got soul an I'm super bad
I got soul, huh, and I'm super bad, huh!
Now I got a move that tells me what to do
Sometimes I tease
Now I gotta move that tells me what to do
Sometimes I feel so nice I wanna try
Myself with you, huh! uh!
I got soul and I'm super bad, huh!
I'm a lover, I love to do my thing ha
An a, an I don't need no one else
Sometimes I feel so nice, good Lord!
I jump back, I wanna kiss myself!
I've got soul, huh, and I'm super bad, HEY!
I said I'm super bad

Come on, up and down an
Round an round, up and down, all around
Right on people, huh, let it all hang out
If you don't brothers and sisters, then you won't know
Ha! what it's all about, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme
Gimme, gimme, gimme, YEEAAH! AACCKK!
Uh, come on

I got the somethin' that makes me wanna shout
I got that thing, tell me what it's all about
I got soul, ha, and I'm super bad, heh!
Got the move that tells me what to do
Sometimes I feel so nice, I said
I wanna tie myself to a fuse, huh, I
I, I, I got soul, heh, and I'm super bad

Hit me! up and down and all around
Right on people, heh, let it all hang out
If you don't brothers and sisters, then you won't know
A what it's all about, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimmie
Uh! come on! come on rap it, come on brother
Do the rap it, how about me some trains brother
Hey! gimme!, huh! gimme! uh! gimme, gimme
Some super bad, a super bad brother, ha! heh!
Super bad uh! come on dance it, come on
Super bad, jab, good Lord! super bad
Mercy, huh! let me hear ya, super bad.......

JAMES BROWN - IT'S A NEW DAY LET A MAN COME IN (KING 1970) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Further genius from James Brown at the start of the 70s – a record that's starting to show some of the more open-ended grooves he'd explore with the JBs on their own albums – longer, stretched-out tracks that are way more than simple funk and soul! There's a sense of freewheeling energy here that's totally great – dynamic, powerful calls from James at the top of most tunes – and incredibly sharp work on horns and rhythm from the band – cutting grooves and turning lines like no other combo in the business, all with a great mix of deep soul and hard funk! The album features the 7 minute killer version of "Let a Man Come In & Do The Popcorn", plus "World (parts 1 & 2)", "It's A New Day (parts 1 & 2)", "Give It Up or Turn It Loose", "If I Ruled The World", "The Man In The Glass (part 1)", and "I'm Not Demanding (part 1)". A treasure trove of funk and soul! [Dusty Groove America]

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

MUDDY WATERS - SINGS "BIG BILL" (CHESS 1960) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

In 1960, when Muddy Waters recorded this album as a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy two years after Broonzy's death, he could be sure of Broonzy's approval. "Oh yeah, Muddy is a real singer for the Blues," Big Bill, the Mississippi foundation stone, was heard to say early on in Muddy Waters' career. Full of confidence after a Best Of compilation released on the Chess label in 1959 and his legendary appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, Muddy set down his own Broonzy songs. It goes almost without saying that such successful numbers as "I Feel So Good" and "Tell Me Baby" are overflowing with a Chicago feeling that gets right under your skin. Muddy's backing band includes Otis Spann, James Cotton and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.[]

MUDDY WATERS - THE REAL FOLK BLUES (CHESS 1965) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

It's hard to talk about Muddy Waters without resorting to superlatives. While the songs on Real Folk Blues can be described as standard blues--and over the years, many of them became blues standards--Muddy Waters simply did them the best. Maybe it's that there's never a note out of place, yet Muddy makes it sound easy; or maybe it's that baritone voice. Or maybe it's the magical pairing of Muddy the player and Willie Dixon the songwriter, which produced "Mannish Boy," "Walking Blues," "Same Thing," and more. Whatever it is, it's on this album--blues music so real you can taste it. --Genevieve Williams

SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON - BUMMER ROAD (CHESS 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 4 bonus

This album by the Rice Miller fellow who called himself Sonny Boy Williamson -- in other words, the Mississippi harmonica player rather than the Tennessee harmonica player -- may have been one of the best volumes in the grim-looking series of single-album reissues and collections Chess put out before switching to double-album sets. Those who enjoy both blues and the film noir style will enjoy the graphic design of these albums, which often sported singularly unattractive photography of the artists. The grainy, out-of-focus picture of Williamson that fills this front cover is no exception; in fact, in a way, it established the rule. It isn't that he looks mean, he just looks like he could care less. Such a look of indifference has perhaps never before been captured by the camera. It could easily have been taken during some of the discussion that occurs between the artist and his producers during the recording of a song called "Little Village." It was the reissue producer's decision to put an entire 11 minutes of takes, re-takes, and related arguing on the first side of this collection, complete with a severe warning that the proceedings are not suitable for airplay. Blues fans rushed to this track immediately, and were not disappointed in the slice of recording-studio life that is revealed here. Far better than Frank Zappa's secretly recorded band discussions and arguments, this is one of the best examples of enlarging the scope of a musical track by adding auxiliary material that wasn't originally meant for release. Bless T.T. Swan for compiling this series, and giving us this view of the "Little Village," such a profound moment that an all-star rock band eventually named itself after the track. There's lots of other great stuff here as well; really, every track is a burner. Robert Jr. Lockwood is here on lead guitar, playing from the heart in his style of that era, not as jazzy as what would come later but hardly just a bunch of stock blues licks. "Temperature 110" is fantastic, a totally believable sizzler. "Santa Claus Blues" is many listeners' favorite Sonny Boy Williamson track, after which one can never rummage through a room looking for hidden booty without hearing harmonica riffs in the background. Other great tracks include "Open Road" and "This Old Life." Quite a bit of this material was released for the first time in this set, certainly one the blues fans will want to sail off to that desert island with. [allmusic]

Monday, 18 July 2011

JULIE LONDON - WITH BODY & SOUL (LIBERTY 1967) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Short Bio
A sultry, smoky-voiced master of understatement, Julie London enjoyed considerable popularity during the cool era of the 1950s. London never had the range of Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan, but often used restraint, softness, and subtlety to maximum advantage. An actress as well as a singer, London played with heavyweights like Gregory Peck and Rock Hudson in various films, and was married to Jack Webb of Dragnet fame for seven years before marrying songwriter Bobby Troup ("Route 66"). London performed her biggest hit, "Cry Me a River," in the Jayne Mansfield film The Girl Can't Help It. After recording her last album, Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, in 1969, she continued to act -- playing a nurse on the NBC medical drama Emergency from 1974-1978. Despite her "sex symbol" image -- London was known for her sexy LP covers, which make them collector's items -- she was surprisingly shy, and left show biz altogether in the late '70s. In the mid-'90s London suffered a stroke, which led to a half-decade of poor health and ultimately contributed to her death on October 18, 2000.
This is one of my favorites!
Just a soft touch of the blues by the talented smoky-voiced Miss London and the magic spreads throughout the album.
Great!!!..Just Great!!

LES McCANN & EDDIE HARRIS - SWISS MOVEMENT (ATLANTIC 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 1 bonus

When Les McCann interpolates the melody of "Age of Aquarius" in the introduction to "Compared to What," one sits back and says, "Ah yes, 1969." But he more than pulls it off, leading into a rambunctious and utterly infectious rendition of the classic piece, replete with exhortations of "Sock it to me!" This piece, written by Gene McDaniels, has to be one of the masterpieces of jazz-pop and the album could be recommended for its inclusion alone. Happily, the remainder of this live set, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland (originally released on Atlantic), follows a similarly joyful and funky path, even if the group never quite scales the same heights. Saxophonist Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time" is as down-home as its title, and McCann's wincingly named "The Generation Gap" is as relaxed and cool as a lakeside breeze. Harris brings a needed tinge of free playing to the band, erupting into the occasional impassioned snarl while never neglecting the soulful roots. Trumpeter Benny Bailey also deserves special mention, his every contribution sharp and to the point. Altogether a fine recording, providing a shining example of what could be achieved in the soul-jazz genre without giving in to slickness in the slightest.[allmusic]


The second fantastic album from Chicago saxophonist Clarence Wheeler and his hard-hitting Enforcers combo – a group who were one of the brightest lights in soul jazz at the start of the 70s, really helping to keep the genre fresh and exciting! The groove here is in the tenor/organ mode first popularized in the 60s – but the overall sound is a lot more expansive, and filled with unusual time changes, complicated rhythms, and inventive solo work that go way beyond more familiar albums of this nature on Prestige or Blue Note! Sonny Burke is the organist in the group, and he's got a touch on the keys that's a lot like Jack McDuff at his best – filled with great sounds and unusual notes that always keep things interesting. Added to that is trumpet from Sonny Covington, guitar from Eric Gale, and tenor from Wheeler – all vamping and grooving in an amazing way! There's a bit of the Charles Earland sound from the same period going on here – and like Earland, the group have a great way of keeping things slightly funky, even when mellow! Titles include a great version of "Broasted or Fried", Charles Earland's "Mighty Burner", Jack McDuff's "The Heebie Jeebie Dance", plus "We've Only Just Begun" and "The Love I've Been Looking For".[Dusty Groove America]

JUNIOR MANCE - WITH A LOTTA HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (ATLANTIC 1970) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Short Bio
Junior Mance is well-known for his soulful bluesy style, but he is also expert at playing bop standards. He started playing professionally when he was ten. Mance worked with Gene Ammons in Chicago during 1947-1949, played with Lester Young (1950), and was with the Ammons-Sonny Stitt group until he was drafted. He was the house pianist at Chicago's Bee Hive (1953-1954), worked as Dinah Washington's accompanist (1954-1955), was in the first Cannonball Adderley Quintet (1956-1957), and then spent two years touring with Dizzy Gillespie (1958-1960). After a few months with the Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis/Johnny Griffin group, Mance formed his own trio and has mostly been a leader ever since. He has led sessions for Verve, Jazzland, Riverside, Capitol, Atlantic, Milestone, Polydor, Inner City, JSP, Nilva, Sackville, and Bee Hive, among other labels.
"Funky breaking piano! Although Junior Mance has made some pretty mellow albums in his time, this is a great record of funky piano tracks – with a nice groove that puts it in a Three Sounds/Young Holt camp! The highlight of the record is the great "Well, I'll Be White Black", which starts with a great breakbeat – but there's a number of other great tracks, like "Thank You Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again", "Spinning Wheel", and "Home Groovin". Players include Eric Gale, Chuck Rainey, and Billy Cobham – but Junior's piano is the hard, heavy star of the record!" [Dusty Groove America]

Friday, 6 May 2011

ISLEY BROTHERS - GIVIN' IT BACK (T-NECK 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Givin' It Back is as much a time capsule as an album. Not that it can't be enjoyed on its own absolute musical terms by someone just off a boat who wasn't even around in 1971, but to really appreciate how daring it was and how delightful it is, that side of its history should be known. Those who are old enough should recall the time whence it came, an era in which hatred and disunity over the Vietnam War, civil rights, school desegregation, the environment, and a multitude of other issues were threatening what seemed, potentially, like the beginning of a new civil war, this one not between states but between factions and ethnic and racial groups in 1,000 individual neighborhoods. The opening cut of Givin' It Back, "Ohio/Machine Gun," is a slap-in-your-face reminder of just how angry the times and the people were. The track evokes instant memories of the campus bloodshed of 1970, not just at Kent State but also the often-forgotten killings a few days later at Jackson State University in Mississippi, where the victims of a fusillade of sheriff's deputies' bullets were black students. More than that, the track itself is also a reminder of the divisions that existed on the left; to listen to pundits on the right, the anti-war and civil rights movements, along with the counterculture, were all part of one vast, organized, calculated left-wing conspiracy. The truth is that there was nearly as big a split, culturally and politically, between young blacks and young whites on the left and on college campuses as there was anywhere else in the population. Blacks reacting to years of oppression had little use for mostly middle-class white college students, however sympathetic many of them purported to be to their situation, while well-meaning white students and activists couldn't begin to know what privation of the kind experienced by blacks and Hispanics in most American towns and cities was. In music, too, there was a lot of division; blacks usually didn't resonate to the top artists in the white world and, in particular, were oblivious to (and even resentful of) the adoration accorded Jimi Hendrix by the white community. So, when the Isley Brothers -- whose appeal among black audiences was unimpeachable -- opened Givin' It Back with a conflation of Neil Young's "Ohio" and Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun," they were speaking to anger and bloodshed in the streets, but they were also performing an act of outreach that was about as radical as any they could have committed on record in 1971. That they incorporated a prayer into their reformulation of the two songs, amid Ernie Isley's and Chester Woodard's guitar pyrotechnics, turned it into one of the most powerful and personal musical statements of its era, and it's worth the price of the album just for the one cut. Givin' It Back is filled with virtues of that kind, however; it was the first Isley Brothers album to rely entirely on outside material, but the group's reworkings of songs by James Taylor ("Fire and Rain") and Stephen Stills ("Love the One You're With") show no lack of originality. They're unafraid to take the song apart and rebuild it from the ground up, smoothing Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" into a sensual soul ballad, turning the James Taylor number into a sweaty, earnest shouter, and transforming War's "Spill the Wine" into an extended workout for voices, electric guitars (several layers deep), flute, and percussion. The album was also an early showcase for Bill Withers, whose funky blues "Cold Bologna" is covered by the group with the composer -- who was about to emerge as a major star in his own right -- on guitar. And the closer, "Love the One You're With," is sent soaring to heights that the Stephen Stills original could only gaze up at. Givin' It Back is often held at arm's length by soul listeners, who don't regard it as central to what the Isley Brothers or their music are about; on the contrary, the group is so successful at remaking all of the songs here their own in style and approach and sending careful messages (alas, largely lost with the passage of time) in their selection as well as their content, that it really represents a lot of what the Isley Brothers and soul music were about in 1971, and it's still great listening. Reissued by Sony with new notes, and worth every cent of its list price.[allmusic]