Frank Bey – All My Dues Are Paid
NOLA Blue -2019
13 tracks; 56 minutes
The title of this album is certainly apt for Frank Bey who became disillusioned by the music business and abandoned singing for many years. Since his return to the stage the Philadelphia-based soulman has released six albums and this one is top quality, recorded in California at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studio with Kid and Rick Estrin producing. A host of Northern California players are involved, including all members of The Nightcats: drums are by Alex Pettersen, Derrick ‘D’mar’ Martin and Paul Revelli; bass is handled by Jerry Jemmott and Paul Olguin; keys are by Jim Pugh and Lorenzo Farrell; Kid plays guitar throughout. Horn players involved are Nancy Wright, Eric Spaulding and Jack Sanford on sax, John Halblieb on trumpet and Ric Feliciano on trombone. Percussion is added by Vicki Ranfle, D’mar and Martin Windstad. Backing vocalists include Lisa Leuschner Andersen, Loralee Christensen, Vicki Randle, Rick Estrin and the late Wee Willie Walker. The material includes two songs each from Rick, Percy Mayfield and Mighty Mike Schermer (Marcia Ball’s guitar player) plus a selection that includes two modern classics adapted brilliantly for Frank’s soulful voice.
The amusing “Calling All Fools” was recorded by The Nightcats on 2012’s One Wrong Turn while the late night blues “I’ll Bet I Never Cross Your Mind” dates back to the days of Little Charlie Baty; both benefit from the addition of horns (and check out Nancy Wright’s sax on the latter cut). Percy Mayfield’s intensely swinging “Never No More” has brilliant guitar by Kid and the obscure slow blues “Ha Ha In The Daytime” might have been written for Ray Charles for whom Mayfield was working at the time. Mighty Mike’s “It’s A Pleasure” has swirling organ and gospel backing vocals from the Sons Of The Soul Revivers and, with the rousing “One Thing Every Day”, really raises the soul quotient. Former Nightcat drummer Alex Pettersen was a member of the Billy T Band back in Norway and perhaps he suggested “One Of These Days”: certainly soul ballads suit Frank and this one and Arthur Alexander’s “If It’s Really Got To Be This Way” work really well for him. Kid’s wife Lisa sings some excellent harmony vocals on the Billy T tune. The autobiographical title track finds Frank telling his life story over hot Memphis style backing with a storming sax solo by Jack Sanford and the opening cut “Idle Hands” rails against man’s inhumanity to man over a busy, funky backing with great horns. Switching styles Frank tackles “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, a country standard recorded by George Jones: blues and soul fans not familiar with this song should grab a box of Kleenex before listening!
There are two standout tracks which show that Frank and his team are not afraid to spring surprises – Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” and John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Frank’s vocals are superb on both, the horn arrangements transform the songs into something special and across nearly seven minutes the decidedly agnostic “Imagine” transforms into a full-on gospel tune!
All Frank’s albums since his return to music are well worth hearing and this may just be the most impressive to date – recommended.