Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of record covers from the golden age of LPs

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The baddest band in the land

Here are five classic, must-have, Isley Brothers albums from the 1970’s.   (From the top) Harvest for the World (1976 ) Including “Harvest for the World,” “People of Today,” and “Who Loves You Better” (and that’s just Side One);  3+3  (1973 ) Including “That Lady Parts 1 and 2,” “What It Comes Down To,” “You Walk Your Way” and “Summer Breeze”The Heat Is On (1975) Including “Fight the Power Parts 1 and 2,” and “For the Love of You Parts 1 and 2”Showdown (1978 ) Including “Take Me to the Next Phase Parts 1 and 2,” and “Groove With You” and Live It Up (1974) Including “Hello It’s Me,”, “Live It Up” and “Midnight Sky” on T-Neck Records/Epic.   The Isley Brothers:  Ernie, Ronald, Rudolph, O’Kelly and Marvin Isley with brother-in-law Chris Jasper produced one of the greatest soul sounds of all time — a distinctive blend of soul and funk and rock led by Ernie’s guitar and Ronald’s vocals.  These recordings can make you dance, break your heart or just thank god for their deep soulful emotion and joy.  And check out those outfits!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (42 votes, average: 3.71 out of 5)
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Cover grill

“You Got Soul”  A budget label release of soul covers from 1970  Avenue Records (UK). 

Track Listing:  You Got Soul / Heard It Through The Grapevine / Dancing In The Streets / Private Number / What Does It Take / Love Is Blue – I Can Sing A Rainbow / Tracks Of My Tears / I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose / Harlem Suffle / Stop Her On Sight / Too Busy Thinking About My Baby / Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (45 votes, average: 3.89 out of 5)
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You got the Sylvers

The Sylvers  MGM/Pride (1972)  Here we have The Sylvers self titled Debut Album.

Often unfairly dismissed as Jackson Five imitators, the Memphis born and bred Sylvers were an extension of that city’s soul tradition.  Jonathon, Edmund, Angie, Leon, Charmaine, Olympia-Ann, James, Ricky, Pat and youngest brother Foster were taken under Jerry Butler’s wing after latching on to the MGM subsidiary Pride.  Butler produced their debut album, which notched two top 10 hits with “Fool’s Paradise” and “Wish I Could Talk To You.”  These two songs were typical of the first phase of the Sylvers, where they tackled material much more sophisticated than the Jackson Five. The initial success landed them on the cover of teen magazines like Right On for what seemed like the rest of the decade.

In 1973, the label put out a solo Foster Sylvers LP, hoping to catch on with the same teen audience that supported Michael Jackson’s early solo records.  This album is now legendary for “Misdemeanor,” a bouncy groove that has been sampled several times. 

The Sylvers’ biggest hits came after they moved to the Capitol label.   There, they were paired with Freddie Perren and Keni St. Lewis, who provided the lightweight material that returned them to the charts after a couple of lean years.   “Hot Line” and “Boogie Fever” capitalized on a frothy disco-soul sound that was best described by one of their singles: cotton candy.

The group eventually outgrew titles like “High School Dance” and began to explore their writing capabilities on New Horizons.  It was pretty much a shock to everybody when the released the hardcore funk of “Don’t Stop Get Off” as the lead track to Forever Yours.  This was perhaps their most satisfying LP, as they demonstrated the skills to do disco (“Come Dance With Me,” straight soul (“Swept For You Baby,” written by Smokey Robinson) and ballads in the title tune.

From that peak Casablanca put them in the care of Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer’s producer.  Coming off the strength of Forever Yours, the Euro-flavored Disco Fever was a disappointment.  It would be their last recording for Casablanca.

Leon Sylvers, who had been working behind the scenes since the first Sylvers record, made a name for himself as the primary producer for Solar Records in the early 1980s, putting his knowledge to work on hits by Shalamar and Dynasty.   Edmund and Foster also worked as producers, most notably on the early Janet Jackson albums. 

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (41 votes, average: 3.51 out of 5)
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Chic of the week

“C’est Chic”  Chic  (1978)  Atlantic Records  Produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards (The Chic Organization, LTD)   The band’s second LP includes the song “Le Freak” which topped the US charts that year and is still both Atlantic Records and parent company Warner Music’s  best-selling single ever.   The LP also contains the follow-up hit single “I Want Your Love”  Here’s a bit of the album’s last track  “(Funny) Bone”

For a great read, pick up a copy of Nile’s new autobiography, “Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny.”

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (43 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
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“Chop it, let me chop it”

“Green Onions”  by Booker T. & The M.G.s  Stax Records  1962  The first hit from he Memphis Sound of Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Al Jackson, Jr and Donald “Duck” Dunn (who would replace original bassist Lewis Steinberg)  The album also features a great follow up – “Mo Onions”  So good it could make you cry!  Dig it!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (56 votes, average: 3.96 out of 5)
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Alto ‘tude

Hank Crawford  “More Soul”  Atlantic Records (1961)   Portrait by Lee Friedlander.  Along with David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Crawford lead the pre-eminent sax section of Ray Charles classic group of the late 50’s – early 60’s.  Crawford, who joined Charles’ band in 1957, primarily held down the role of baritone sax player, but with this recording he’s able to stretch out on the alto.  As he often did with Ray Charles, More Soul sees Hank in the role of arranger.   The night that this record was cut, I’ve read, Crawford played Harlem’s Apollo theater until 1am, took the short ride down to Broadway and the Atlantic studios and recorded these seven tracks before dawn.  Crawford’s arrangements for septet dispense with piano, aside from a little comping by Hank, which vividly opens out the sound of brass and horns, and gives a greater weight and clarity to the bass/drums rhythm section of Edgar Willis and Milt Turner.  Fathead Newman plays tenor.  The great Tom Dowd engineered.  Nesuhi Ertegun produced.  Check it out!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (47 votes, average: 3.51 out of 5)
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Somewhere over motor city

Marvin Gaye Super Hits  Motown Records

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (56 votes, average: 3.66 out of 5)
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A stone cold groove

“The Ice Man Cometh”   Jerry Butler   Mercury Records   (1968)   I love this guy.   As a teenager he sang with Curtis Mayfield in Chicago and penned and sang lead on the Impressions first hit “For Your Precious” love.

Here’s a sweet one from The Ice Man:   Never Gonna You Up

Here’s an enthusiastic review from Soul Makossa (check out his recommendations for more great music).

Although mostly recorded in Philadelphia, this album by soul troubadour Jerry Butler is in the Chicago Soul vein all the way; it’s too hard and gritty to be called ‘Philly’ – which wouldn’t surface as a genre until the early ’70s – despite the beautiful arrangements and sometimes huge orchestration.

Teaming up with future hitmakers Gamble and Huff, Butler cut his finest LP in 1968 with ‘The Iceman Cometh’. Veering between uptempo soul nuggets and truly magnificent, haunting ballads, many a contemporary R&B artist found inspiration in it and plenty of its tunes were covered well into the ’70s.

One of Butler’s best loved cuts, the bouncy, mid-tempo romper “Hey Western Union Man” became nothing short of a standard and the same can be said for the gently cruising gospelfide rockin’ soul beater “Only the Strong Survive”, one of the centrepieces on Elvis Presley’s comeback album ‘From Elvis In Memphis’.

Speaking of Memphis, the horn heavy “Can’t Forget About You, Baby” smacks of that big brassy Stax sound. A ferocious floorshaker, drenched in the sweet, purring vibe of the Hammond organ and embellished with the right amount of strings. Butler’s pleading, warm voice is at its best here, especially on the chorus. Decidedly more Windy City is the breezy, mellow “How Can I Get in Touch With You”, with its warm jazzy guitar, vibes and swirling violins.

And then there’s that deliciously groovy, laidback ballad “Just Because I Really Love You”, where the horns stretch out in suspense and the piano sounds dark and ominous. That same spooky atmosphere hangs around the brassy intro to “Lost”, a shufflin’, brooding piece sporting a crashing back beat, which works its way up to an anthemic, jubilant chorus.

Another soon-to-become evergreen appears in the guise of the slow burning “Never Give You Up”, a brilliant pop-soul confection covered by everyone from The Jacksons to Isaac Hayes. Equally snappy is the soft, despondent lament “Are You Happy”, with more subtle orchestration and another heart wrenching vocal.

Up next are two superb, dark, intensely sad ballads: the ghostly “(Strange) I Still Love You”, with its ethereal backing vocals, churchy organ and weeping strings, and the truly goosebump inducing “Go Away – Find Yourself”, an unbelievably touching, sweet rendering, majestically orchestrated.

Butler ends this magnificent longplayer on a more upbeat note, as he swoons, croons and wails his way through the country soul gem “I Stop By Heaven”.

A masterpiece.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (38 votes, average: 3.68 out of 5)
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“If what you’re looking for is real lovin”

“Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” The Dramatics   Watts-Stax Records   (1971)

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (37 votes, average: 3.35 out of 5)
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RIP Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron   (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011)

“Pieces of a Man”   Flying Dutchman Records (1971)   With Brian Jackson, Ron Carter, “Pretty” Purdie, Burt Jones, and Hubert Laws   Including The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Save The Children, Lady Day And John Coltrane, Home Is Where The Hatred Is, Pieces Of A Man and the beautiful “I Think I’ll Call It Morning”

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (57 votes, average: 3.60 out of 5)
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