22   Rock Around the World • October, 1976

The Honor Roll 44.4


of Soul

THE COMMODORES “Hot on the Tracks” Motown M6-86751

Though not trying to call the Commodores con men their music has the quality of smoothly getting their message across. From the outset of their first LP “Machine Gun” (Motown MO.79851), you got the feeling that you may have heard something like that before, but then again, it was refreshing to hear the foot stomping entrance of “I Feel Sanctified” down through “Rapid Fire.” and the comical “Superman.”

Hoping and praying that this was not a one shot group, their second LP “Caught In The Act” (Motown M6-82051) further established their unique musical identity. Clocking in with such hits as “Slippery When Wet” and “This Is Your Life,” they set out telling us about the dangers (albeit exciting!) of being a married man and fooling around to the realities of life and the need to face up to it.

Their third album, “Moving On” (Motown M6-84851) was just that. Although at first listening it will remind you of “Caught In The Act,” they came up with “Sweet Love” and “Gimme My Mule.” Their trademark of biting horn attacks reaches near perfection. punctuated by a tight percussion section and light overtones with the synthesizer.

Everything comes together with “Hot On The Tracks” (Motown M6-86751). From the opening song, “Let’s Get Started,” which has also become their opening act, they let us know just which direction they’ve been heading towards.

Side one seems to be their most consistent side since “Machine Gun”—flowing right into “Girl I Think The World About You,” “High On Sunshine” into the masterpiece of the LP, “Just To Be Close To You,” which includes many of the old R&B inflections and harmonies hinted at by the Temptations (whom they’ve backed up on a few LPs).

With a veritable flood of disco dancing music hitting us from all directions it’s refreshing to hear something that you can enjoy listening to while getting into the lyrics, as well as dance to and also appreciate the musical content. I feel that the Commodores will be a musical force to be reckoned with in the future, on a par with Earth, Wind & Fire. Heavy competition, but I believe they can handle it.

—Gary Jackson

Overture—a capsule insight of what’s in store for you.

AWB, whom many thought would be just a flash in the pan, come back with probably their

most solid LP, a lush study in tight, crisp funk. Memories of Motown’s incredibly consistent rhythm section pop up throughout the record.

Aided again by Production Master Extraordinaire Aril Mardin, who holds everything together with a touch of musical genius. AWB cruise effortlessly through self penned compositions as “Love Your Life,” “I’m The One” and the beautiful ballad “A Love Of Your Own.” Side one ends up with one of those songs extolling the virtues of music a la the O’Jays, “I Love Music.” “Queen Of My Soul” says to us not to keep the music locked up inside. A fine message for all of us to wy attention to.

Side two opens with ale title track “Soul Searching” which should explain what it’s all about. “Going Home,” with the help of the Brecker Brothers among others reminds us of “Pick Up The Pieces” but a bit more refined.

“Everybody’s Darling” reminds you of a slow Rascals ballad (Eddie Brigati & Brother David are on the LP. so maybe that’s the influence). Bobby Blond’s influence comes thru with a fine, almost Big Band effect on “Would You Stay.” The blues just oozes out and a stinging sax break adds all of the right touches. “Sunny Days” & “Digging Deeper” end the album on a nice and somber note leaving us hungering for a bit more of their silken soulful sound that has truly given them their own unique identity. Now all we need is a live album to see how all this comes across on a face to face basis. Might I suggest a slight orchestral section when and if

it goes off at all.   —Gary Jackson


“Message In The Music”

Philadelphia International PZ 34245

The O’Jays have been in the business for seventeen years. In that time they have evolved into one of R&B’s most competent and well loved vocal groups. Their talents have taken listeners through a finely honed musical experience stretching over a six album history. With such record breaking hits as “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train,” “Put Your Hands Together,” “For The Love Of Money,” “Survival,” and the inimitable “I Love Music” the O’Jays have been a main factor in the success of the Philly Sound. Guided by the Midas touch of the MFSB gang, they have nurtured a style all their own.

Message In The Music, the new O’Jays album is nothing short of phenomenal. Don’t put the disc on and expect just entertainment. Get a pair of headphones and let your mind be dazzled. The tracks laid down on this L.P. are of such a high level of artistry that anyone with ears will have to admit the O’Jays have finally come into their own and mastered a distinct psychology of sound.

Written, arranged, produced and played by all the Philly wonder boys the album shows what happens when a musical entity (in this case MFSB) gives up its assembly line proclivity and gets back to grass roots–pure creative potential.

Sophistication is the word. There are jazz and blues overtones that cream from the silvery horns of TSOP. A free flowing melody bordering on calculated improvisation takes each song (especially “Desire Me” and “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby) through so many changes and breaks that the head spins. For solid ()lays fans there’s more traditional stuff like “Paradise” and “Let Life Flow.” The title cut “Message In Our Music” (also the 45 release) picks up where “I Love Music” left off. Once again the city of brotherly love gives us a re-

cording that proves R&B a serious art form. —James Armstrong


“Harvest For the World” T Neck P2.33809

The Isleys, those very same people who brought you “Twist & Shout,” “It’s Your Thing” and “That Lady,” in their last two LPs—”The Heat Is On” and “Harvest For The World.•’ turn around in their musical direction to bring a message for all to learn and maybe profit by. Take for example these lyrics:

Dress me up for battle

When all I want is peace

Those of us who pay the price

Come home with the least

And nation after nation

Turning into beasts

When will there be a Harvest for the World

Wow! Who now a days is writing lyrics like that? You could probably count them on one hand. By my count, only Earth, Wind & Fire and a few more are coming up with lyrics that deal—both with today and what we can do about it.

Alright now, enough with politics, this is a music paper. The Isley Bros. are one of the few self contained black bands around who are writing their own lyrics, doing the music and also putting a large amount of emphasis on the lead guitar. And name one black band that uses a 12 string acoustic guitar. Few and far between. Check out the Isley’s Harvest LP. They’ve been writing music history since the early 60s and it doesn’t look as if they’re gonna stop now.

—Gary Jackson


Reprise MS-2248

Al Jarreau might as well face reality, do the intelligent thing, and become a one-man band. Anyone who can sing, scat, and imitate a Telecaster (not, you understand, all at the same time) doesn’t need a lukewarm backup band and unimaginative instrumentals to undercut his efforts.

With the right musicians and improved song selection Jarreau could go a long way. The four songs he wrote are the highlight of this album; the other five produce varying degrees of disappointment. Jarreau is so much more concerned with pure sound than with lyrics that several songs collapse because the words cannot support the vocal stress. James Taylor’s overplayed “Fire and Rain” is rendered as soulfully as possible in an ultimately losing cause, but even superhuman

efforts cannot rescue Elton John’s “Your Song” from its original mawkishness. Similarly, the verses of Sly’s “Somebody’s Watching You” wilt in the vocal limelight, and the refrain, funky enough through most of the song, is sabotaged by some ineffective vocal effects at the end.

But Jarreau’s own songs make up for much of the disappointment. The lyrics are thoroughly forgettable, but they at least avoid clashing with the reading they receive and do not create an impression of total incongruity. Even an unthinkably elegaic “Milwaukee” (reminiscent of Monk’s noble effort to immortalize Hackensack, with approximately the same success) does not jar the listener, since the lyrics do not aspire to what they cannot achieve.

“Have You Seen the Child” and “Glow” both manage, by means of intelligent delivery and suitable embellishment, to rise above their banal instrumental accompaniment and present Jarreau at his most effective. The best expression of Jarreau’s talent is “Hold on Me,” wherein he sings harmony with his overdubbed self and establishes the rhythm with a series of stunning vocal effects. A little more of that and Al Jarreau may put a glow on you for good.

—J. Redmond Carroll

LUTHER “Cotillion” SD 9907

In the late spring of ’75 an album called Young Americans startled a great many rock and disco fans. Two worlds had collided and two camps, one of established snobs and the other of the nouveau variety, were face to face wondering how this phenomenon had come about. Of course a number of musicians has a lot to do with it (all due respect to Bowie’s genius) and an even larger number of vocalists. And who were those incredible girls gushing and panting amidst the disco cacophony? With the release of Luther these questions have finally been answered.

The opening notes are nostalgic. The words are different, but the melody is unmistakably the same. It’s “Funky Music,” the album’s first cut, though many of us know it better by the name “Fascination.” Luther Vandross, the guiding light behind Luther, wrote the music and co-authored the words. This is his rendition, a testimony to the hand that helped shape Young Americans.

Those of you who are familiar with The Wiz soundtrack will appreciate “Everybody Rejoice.” The likes of “I’ll Get Along Fine” and “This Strange Feeling” will prove there is a great deal of intelligence in R&B lyric. “It’s Good For The Soul” is well performed and gets your foot tappin’. The production is masterfully balanced and clear. In short, a fine strong L. P.

Musicians like Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Pablo Rosario, who played on Young Americans as well as Bowie’s Station to Station, give their all. The vocal incantations of Diane Sumler, Thereasa Reed, and Christine Wiltshire indicate that they are some of the best female backups around. Luther Vandross’ voice is smooth, always on key, when in harmony with Anthony Hinton’s impeccable (remember the male backups on “Somebody Up There Likes Me”?). If this is any sign of what Luther has in store for the R&B market a second album is hoped for with devout antici-

pation.   —James Armstrong-


“Soul Searching” An SD-18179