Tuesday, 17 July 2012

“Ebony Woman” by BILLY PAUL (June 2012 Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remaster of his 1970 Neptune Records Album Reissued By Philadelphia International In 1973 With A Different Sleeve) - A Review by Mark Barry...



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"...Traces Of Love Long Ago..." 

As a long-time contributor to Amazon - I've raved about Britain's BIG BREAK RECORDS before and have reviewed many of their in-depth Reissues and Remasters (see list below).

Each BBR issue has been uniformly superb - especially for those of us looking for great sound quality rather than the half-hearted efforts thrown at us by the majors these days (when they can be bothered). And once again - BBR has delivered on the sound front - even if the material isn't nearly as stellar as you'd hope for. Here are the ebony traces...

UK released 4 June 2012 (5 June 2012 in the USA) - "Ebony Woman by BILLY PAUL on Big Break Records CDBBR 0142 (Barcode 5013929044234) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the rare US Neptune Records LP from 1970 (later reissued by Philadelphia International in 1973) that breaks down as follows (35:41 minutes):

1. Ebony Woman
2. Mrs. Robinson
3. The Windmills Of Your Mind
4. Everyday People
5. Let's Fall In Love All Over
6. Windy
7. Psychedelic Sally
8. Traces
9. Proud Mary
Tracks 1 to 9 are Billy Paul's 2nd album "Ebony Woman" - released July 1970 in the USA on Neptune Records NLPS-201. Neptune was the record label started by the Soul songwriting and producing duo of Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff. The LP received no UK release at this time. However - it was re-issued April 1973 on Philadelphia International Records KZ 32118 in the USA and on Philadelphia International PIR 65931 in the UK - but this time sporting a different front sleeve. This BBR CD Reissue uses the original 1970 artwork on the front - with the back sleeve featuring the 1973 photo of a woman's face (Grace Jones). It is this image that British Soul fans will recognise as the 1973 sleeve (reproduced in full on Page 6 of the booklet). There are no bonus tracks.

This CD reissue comes in one of those rounded-corner jewel cases and has a detailed 12-page booklet with liner notes by ANDY KELLMAN (writer for the "All Music Guide"). The A&B-sides of the lone 7" single initially issued off the album is pictured on Pages 4 and 8 - "Let's Fall In Love Again" b/w "Mrs. Robinson" on Neptune N-30 - while photos of Paul in his trademark hat pepper the text. There are also full album-credits on the last pages. But the real news for fans is the SUPERB SOUND QUALITY...

Remastered from the 1st generation tapes by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London - the clarity is fantastic - warm bass and clean vocals.

Just out of the Sixties - the album is full of contemporary hits of the time - Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", Sly & The Family Stone's "Everyday People" and Noel Harrison's "Windmills Of Your Mind" (theme from "The Thomas Crown Affair"). The single "Let's Fall In Love Again" was written by Bobby Martin (a friend of Gamble & Huff) and the title track "Ebony Woman" harks way back to 1959 when Billy Paul first sang it jazz-style.

Unfortunately most of these tracks are terribly dated and I'll admit to only having time for three songs on here - a Swingin' 60t's cover of Horace Silver's "Psychedelic Sally" (you can see some hippy chick dancing on a podium in a TV studio on this one), a piano-funky take on Creedence Clearwater Revival's classic "Proud Mary" and a truly lovely turn on The Classic IV's "Traces" (lyrics from it title this review).

To sum up - if you're a fan of the album - then you need to own this BBR reissue of it because of the fabulous sound and tasty presentation. If you're new to it and are expecting Billy Paul's "Let The Dollar Circulate" type of Philly Sound - then I'd suggest a listen 'before' you buy...

PS: Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remasters I’ve reviewed to 2015:

1. Is It Still Good To Ya – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1978)
2. Stay Free – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1979)
3. Central Heating – HEATWAVE (1977)
4. Hot Property - HEATWAVE (1979)
5. Candles - HEATWAVE (1980)
6. Turnin' On - HIGH INERGY (1977)
7. Harvest For The World - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1976)
8. Go For Your Guns - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1977)
9. In The Heart – KOOL & THE GANG (1983)
10. I Hope We Get To Love On Time - MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS (1976)
11.  I Miss You - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1972) [known as "Harold Melvin The Blue Notes" in the UK]
12. Black & Blue - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1973)
13. Love Is The Message - MFSB (1973)
14. Universal Love – MFSB (1975)
15. All The Faces Of... - BUDDY MILES (1974)
16. For The First Time – STEPHANIE MILLS (1975)
17. I Can See Clearly Now - JOHNNY NASH (1972)
18. In Philadelphia - O'JAYS (1969)
19. Back Stabbers - O'JAYS (1972)
20. Ship Ahoy - O'JAYS (1973)
21. Down To Love Town – THE ORIGINALS (1977)
22. Ebony Woman - BILLY PAUL (1970 and 1973)
23. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - BILLY PAUL (1972)
24. War Of The Gods - BILLY PAUL (1973)
25. Platinum Hook – PLATINUM HOOK (1978)
26. Love For What It Is - ANITA POINTER (of The Pointer Sisters) (1987)
27. Live: Stompin’ At The Savoy – RUFUS and CHAKA KHAN (1983)
28. Summernights – SILVER CONVENTION (1977)
29. Smoked Sugar - SMOKED SUGAR (1975)
30. Spinners – SPINNERS (1973)
31. Soul Master – EDWIN STARR (1968)
32. Involved - EDWIN STARR (1971)
33. Switch - SWITCH (1978)
34 Watercolors – THE WATERS (1980)
35. Just As I Am - BILL WITHERS (1971)
36. Heartbeats – YARBROUGH & PEOPLES (1983) 
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