A Real Humdinger For the Soul and R&B Cognoscenti .
As is my won’t I’d played this through twice before I picked up the Press Release to ‘tick the boxes inside my head’ …… only to find that this is a far more important release than I’d anticipated! TICK TOCK TICK is actually a re-release, something we normally avoid; but this 2015 LP was only a Limited Edition in the USA, and only barely distributed across Europe; but is now finally getting World Wide distribution; and rightly so as it’s a real humdinger. The title track TICK TOCK TICK starts the party and verily oozes out of your speakers like a late night Everglades mist. WOAH, WOAH and thrice WOAH! Will Porter’s voice? Man …. it’s right up there with Bobby Womack, Barry White and even Brook Benton and Gregory Porter (no relation btw) and the groove will have you inadvertently shuffling feet, shoulders and hips regardless of age, sex or creed. I instantly recognised the *second voice on the track; but I’m not going to spoil the surprise this early. This is followed by the beautiful ballad Why Do We Get Blue; full of swooshing and cinematic strings that will whisk you off to a whole new dimension …… and one that Porter will keep you in for the next half hour or so. There’s a whole lot of everything good and Soulfully Righteous on this album; Porter will melt your heart one moment with the scintillating and heart-breaking duet Make You Feel My Love (this time the lady’s *voice will be instantly recognisable to the Soul and R&B Cognoscenti) then pick you up and fill the dancefloor with Treadin’ Water and the ubiquitous Tear it Up! Why have I never heard of Will Porter before? In many ways this is Classic R&B but with some really neat Jazz and Soul tinges in the shadows that mean this is aimed at Old School Clubbers rather than hipsters; but they too are going to instantly fall in love with I’m Blue and the swoonsome Don’t Go To Strangers; which is just begging for a monochrome video set in a Harlem night club to accompany the release. Choosing a Favourite Song here has been both difficult and awkward; as there is so much to choose from; and all classy and cool in equal measures; but two songs sprang to mind earlier today ….. Everything’s Going to Be Alright closes the album in timeless fashion; and baring in mind what has been going on across the world in the last 18 months; actually sounds like a Soundtrack to the second Roaring Twenties. The second and actual RMHQ Favourite Song, has been a case of ‘right place/right time’ for the mood I was in the first time I played this LP; I Can Do Bad By Myself ……. WOW! A big production somehow manages to still allow a razor sharp set of love lorn lyrics to breathe and flow like volcanic lava flow of S.O.U.L right into the dark crevices of your heart; and that guitar solo half way through; sounds like a metaphor for heartbreak, all by itself! There’s nothing else left to say; this album and Will Porter are finally going to get their just rewards as the public at large are now going to be able to buy it and wallow in its beauty for years to come.
PS Don’t let the inclusion of *Guest Stars Dr. John and Bettye LaVette fool ya; they are only here as accompaniment for a bonafide STAR!
A Delightful Homage to the Golden Era of Sweet S.O.U.L Music.
The older I get the more I’m drawn to Americana and Rootsy albums; but my first love as a young teenager was Soul Music; and I guess that’s true of James Holvay too as this delightful homage to the Golden Era certainly proves. I certainly didn’t know what to expect when I first played this EP last week; especially as the cover shows a grey haired white guy looking a bit like Jeff Goldblum or even Tom Hanks …… so when the dancetastic Working On It came out of the kitchen speakers I couldn’t stop myself shuffling along as I buttered my toast (not a euphemism!). Man …… what a smooth and, cooool voice this cat has; and alongside producer Steve Cohen and engineer Cameron Lew can put together a melody and groove worthy of Stax, Atlantic and Philadelphia International too; with occasional nods to what I know as Northern Soul. The title track, Sweet Soul Song comes at you like a warm wind a Spring morning; and while Holvay sings about being on the Southside of Chicago ‘dancing till dawn’ in 1963; this is the type of Soul Music I was dancing to in the Black Cat Disco (above an undertakers) in Stanley Co. Durham in 1975/6 …… but it; alongside the other four tracks here are absolutely timeless in my mind. The only sad thing about this release is that I don’t know where it fits in any more; as all of the Soul Radio stations are ‘Golden Oldie’ based; and in my experience only seem to own one copy of That’s What I Call Soul and play it on random 24 hours a day; and the current resurgence of Modernist/Soul Clubs across the UK seem fixated the other way; unearthing genuine old treasure i.e. songs you never heard first time around …… but if James was to print up a 100 45 RPM copies of Love Has Found A Way with Talkin’ About It as a B-Side; plaster a white label on them and knock them out on E-Bay with subtle hints to them maybe being rare songs by Curtis, Major Lance, Don Covay or in the case of the latter ….. my personal favourites; The Tymes …. the DJ’s would crawl over each other to buy them! Speaking of The Tymes; that’s who I thought of when I first heard the bum-hugging smoocher, Still The Fool; which made me go weak at the knees. Remember when we used to have a ‘last song of the night’ at Discos? Well; my friend this would have been a nailed on floor-filler; and later when you got home (alone) you’d melt the vinyl playing it over and over again thinking about ‘the one that got away’. Hence; Still The Fool is by far my Favourite Song here; and as I type I can’t help thinking about …… no ….. you don’t need to know her name….. it was half a century ago …….. sob. Seriously, obviously coming from a group of musicians etc. who love and loved this type of Soul Music this is a peach of a release; all hits ….. and no sh**!
As a teenager our default LP’s at parties were Motown Chartbuster Vol’s 1 & 3; which laid the groundwork for a lifetime loving Soul Music of all hues and styles. Devin B Thompson was also brought up in a house full of music, eventually gravitating to one singer above all others; Frankie Newsome aka Little Willie Parker; who he eventually got to know and become friends with. Even if I hadn’t known that ‘fact’ I think I would have eventually guessed that Parker was a major influence on the music; but so many others are too! As I checked out the artwork on the CD before playing the album I was left confused as to what to expect; as the actual cover pays homage to Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes, while the inside photo looks like something from a Blue Note album (which I think would have made a better actual cover). So, I was blown away by the oh so sweet sounds that did come out of the speakers; as Thompson purrs his way through Bobby Blue Bland’s Love To See You Smile; even sounding like Smokey at times; which is no bad thing; is it? There follows a step back in time for a sultry rendition of I’m Gonna Cry a River; which instantly had me on my feet and doing a lonely shuffle in the office; imagining Mrs. Magpie was in my arms. Even two songs in you quickly realise what a great singer Devin P Thompson is; and he has the ability to not just make you dance but think about the words and stories on offer within the songs themselves. The first three songs are all covers; but it’s when we get into the singers’ own songs that things really get interesting. I Ain’t No Good is a stone cold sleazy heartbreaker; that many men will associate with and ladies will raise their eyebrows to; while still consider going home with ‘him’. This being a Soul album; there are broken hearts around every corner; and the way Thompson sings them both men and women will appreciate and understand the content, the way he croons Can’t Get Over You and especially Back Together which sounds like it should have been released way back when on the Atlantic label. Alongside this Trademarked Sweet Soul Music; Thompson also releases his inner Funkateer on Read Your Mind; which features the magnificent Robben Ford on guitar extraordinaire. This being 2020, no Soul album would be complete without something really deep and meaningful, and even without it being ‘a worthy cause’ Tell Me was written in the wake of Devin seeing the hostility that faced Footballer Colin Kaepernick; is a stinging Soul song that is easily my Favourite Song here; and it opens with: “Tell me what it is about my skin that you don’t like,” and in the chorus he begs the question; “Tell me what would you do if you watch people die because they look like you do?” and in the chorus he asks the listener to ‘walk in his shoes‘; Dear Lord; this is 2020 ……. why is this song and those like it still necessary? The song closes proceedings and almost demands that you then press ‘play/repeat.’ I’ve dropped some very big names in here and there; but there’s one more singer that comes to mind; and that’s Jeffrey Osbourne; a favourite of our in the 80’s who also had the musical ability to stop you in your tracks then make you want to dance and holler; which is quite some talent; and Devin B Thompson sounds like he’s cut from exactly the same cloth.