Vizztone Label Group 2015
12 tracks; 50 minutes
Southern soul master Otis Clay has been a busy man recently and fans of his magnificent voice have been fortunate enough in the last year to hear him on a solo album, with Dave Specter on “Message In Blue” and now on this collaboration with another fine soul singer, Billy Price. Otis Clay, of course, hit the charts as long ago as 1972 with “Trying To Live My Life Without You”, one of the gems of the Hi Records catalog; Billy Price is a generation younger but took inspiration from the great soulmen like Otis’s Clay and Redding. He sang with Roy Buchanan and once he started his own band reached out to Otis Clay to work together. They have sung live on many occasions since 1982 but this is the first time they have recorded together and for fans of Southern Soul this is a treat for the ears. The material comes from a wide variety of sources but names such as Hayes, Porter, Henderson, Womack, Hodges and Jackson tell you all you need to know – we are in deep soul territory here. More surprising is to find that the core band here is Duke Robillard’s, Duke and his band demonstrating their versatility as they provide backing that sounds like it should have been recorded in Memphis but in fact were sessions at home in Rhode Island, with vocals recorded in Chicago. Duke produced and plays all guitar parts with Bruce Bears on keys, Brad Hallen on bass, Mark Teixiera on drums; Roomful of Blues horn players Mark Earley on tenor and baritone sax and Doug Woolverton on trumpet appear on most tracks and Theresa Davis, Dianne Madison and Diana Salmon add backing vocals to five cuts.
The album opens with a storming “Somebody’s Changing My Sweet Baby’s Mind”, Mark Earley delivering a wild tenor solo as the two singers exchange lines and verses like old-school soul acts such as Sam & Dave. The ballad “I’m Afraid Of Losing You” has some beautiful guitar lines from Duke and is followed by a great version of Syl Johnson’s “Going To The Shack”, the horns pumping hard over the funky riff and here the Sam & Dave comparison is even more evident. “All Because Of Your Love” is a second tune with George Jackson’s name on the credits and is one of those tunes that grabs your subconscious and keep coming back to your mind! Mark Earley’s sax introduces the deep soul ballad “Love Don’t Love Nobody” with both singers taking turns to lead while the other joins the chorus backing.
Joe Tex’s “I’ll Never Do Anything Wrong” finds the two singers working in harmony with a gentle horn arrangement supporting their efforts. Motown is also within the pair’s sights as they tackle Holland, Dozier and Holland’s “Don’t Leave Me Starving For Your Love”, the backing vocalists providing some of those vocals typical of the Detroit sound, Duke’s band switching effortlessly to the Motown feel with Bruce’s piano and organ particularly noticeable. “Broadway Walk” has some strong credentials with Bobby Womack and Dan Penn among the five writers credited and it’s another song that suits the duo vocals approach perfectly, the horns providing the punctuation with short stabs of bari and trumpet. Next is another tear-jerker ballad with both singers sounding suitably wounded by the loss of the lover who has committed them to her “Book Of Memories”, Bruce playing a delightful piano solo and Duke some reverb-drenched guitar in country mode at the center of the tune. “Too Many Hands” returns to that slinky Memphis Hi Records style with another fine horn arrangement whereas Los Lobos’ “Tears Of God” takes us to church as the singers take a verse each in turn. Finally the duo take it home with a tune associated with Sam & Dave who appear to this reviewer to have been something of a template for the album. Isaac Hayes and David Porter’s “You Got Me Hummin’” is a great finale to a fine disc, this version easily equaling the original: the horns sound absolutely authentic, the rhythm section nails that Stax sound and Otis and Billy deliver the vocals perfectly.
Fans of Southern soul will love this disc: the band is peerless, as one might expect from Duke Robillard and his cohorts, Otis and Billy both sing wonderfully and the material has been carefully selected to maximize their talents. Highly recommended.