This CD is a rocking session most notable for the strange voice of Preacher Boy, who makes Louis Armstrong sound like a tenor. Preacher Boy (listed as playing various guitars, mandolin, bass guitar, mellotron, banjo, accordion, organ, piano, melodica, corn whiskey jug, tamborine, washboard, trumpet, wrench and egg) is joined by a colorful and versatile group for a set of originals. Listeners who can get used to the leader’s very raspy bullfrog voice (which dominates the music) will find this spirited program of rockish blues to have some moments of interest.
Thankfully, Otis Clay is an artist who refused to change with the times. When the R&B audience embraced disco and, later, urban contemporary, the hard-edged belter wisely stuck with the type of raw, unapologetically Southern-sounding soul that put him on the map. Though he calls Chicago home, Clay’s approach has always shouted “Memphis!” in no uncertain terms. A 41-year-old Clay was clearly very much in his prime when this magnificent live date was recorded in 1983. Sparing no passion on such treasures as “Holding on to a Dying Love” and Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” Clay illustrates why his small yet devoted following holds him in such high regard. One of the most pleasant surprises is the ballad “Love Don’t Love Nobody.” While the Spinners’ excellent hit version boasted a sleek Philly soul production, Clay takes the gem straight to Memphis
You have to be deaf or from Mars to not instantly recognize Bobby Byrd’s deep, resonant voice from James Brown’s “Sex Machine”– he’s the guy in the call-and-response routine with James, singing “Get on up!” And thank Providence that the Godfather of Soul allowed the little people a chance to strut their stuff, ’cause this album is packed with gems. Bobby Byrd shines on the all-time classic cut “I Know You Got Soul”, the song that later revived interest in all things J.B. when Eric B. & Rakim sampled it in the mid-80’s. In fact, most of the songs on this album have been put to use in classic hip-hop records, for instance Bobby Byrd’s other track, “Hot Pants… I’m Coming, I’m Coming, I’m Coming”, perhaps the slamminest on this collection, was manipulated to great effect by Marley Marl for Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw”. My only disappointment, as far as Bobby Byrd is concerned, is that his amazing tune “Keep On Doin’ (What You’re Doin’ Baby)” is overlooked here.
But no bother, ’cause there’s much to make up for it. “Soul Power ’74” by Maceo & The Macks is a showcase for the tightest horn section in history, over an instrumental version of “Soul Power”. Not only is this particular record sampled more than hors douvres in a supermarket aisle, it contains samples itself in the form of tape overlays of civil rights rallies, a Dr. King speech, and an announcement of King’s assassination. This track and several others are also available on the JB’s Anthology, but don’t let that scare you away…