Friday, 11 September 2015

"Gold/Mr. Mean" by OHIO PLAYERS (2015 Beat Goes On CD - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...Sweet Sticky Thing..." 

After 10 albums of hard-hitting Funk-Soul since their 1969 debut on Capitol Records and with renewed success on Mercury Records – Dayton's OHIO PLAYERS were due a 'Best Of' and 1976's compilation album "Gold" fitted the bill nicely. Armed with nine chart hits including four monster No.1 singles - "Fire”, "Love Rollercoaster", "Sweet Sticky Thing" and "Who'd She Coo?" and one new track "Feel The Beat (Everybody Disco)" – it's hardly surprising that the gatefold LP climbed to No. 2 on the US R 'n' B album charts in November 1976.

This clever and brill-sounding 2015 CD reissue from England’s Beat Goes On Records lumps that classic together with a lesser-heard 1978 platter called "Mr. Mean" where their dominance of the Soul/Funk scene was beginning to wane (although the music was still cool). Here are the dudes with big hats, funky horns and album covers with ladies wearing very little else....

UK released August 2015 (September 2015 in the USA) – "Gold/Mr. Mean" by OHIO PLAYERS on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1218 (Barcode 5017261212184) offers 2LPs on 1CD and breaks down as follows (79:39 minutes):

1. Feel The Beat (Everybody Disco)
2. Love Rollercoaster
3. I Want To Be Free
4. Fopp
5. Far East Mississippi
6. Skin Tight
7. Fire [Side 2]
8. Sweet Sticky Thing
9. Jive Turkey (Part 1)
10. Only A Child Can Love
11. Who'd She Coo?
Tracks 1 to 11 are the compilation LP "Gold" – released November 1976 in the USA on Mercury SRM-1-1122 and in the UK on Mercury 9100 030

12. Mr. Mean
13. Fight Me, Chase Me
14. The Controller's Mind
15. The Big Score
16. Magic Trick [Side 2]
17. Good Luck Charm
18. Speak Easy
Tracks 12 to 18 are the album "Mr. Mean" – released January 1978 in the USA on Mercury SRM-1-3707 (no UK release).

You get the tasty card slipcase and a 16-page booklet with new liner notes by noted Mojo contributor and genre expert CHARLES WARING along with full album credits and photos from the album covers. ANDREW THOMPSON has carried out the 2015 remasters at Sound Performance in London and the audio (as you might expect) punches like a mule – especially when you’re getting your speakers hammered with those big brassy sections and that Marshall Jones Bass thumping backbeat that so many admire and love.

Collating together all the hits from the Mercury years (begins 1974) - the "Gold" compilation hits you with no less than eight chart smashes – a rare B-side and one new song. It opens with the passable newbie "Feel The Beat (Disco Everywhere)" which just about scraped Number 19 - but things go Funky Central with the wicked "Love Rollercoaster". Both it and the other infectious Number 1 "Sweet Sticky Thing" were lifted off the August 1975 album "Honey" (also featured "Fopp")  – an album sleeve with a naked lady slurping from a large jar of – well – honey.

The Side 2 opener "Fire" also charged up to the top of the charts (December 1974) while "I Want To Be Free" hit a respectable No. 6 in April 1975 (both taken from the "Fire" album of November 1974). But I'd forgotten just how socially conscious they were – hitting both your head and your heart with the superb groove of "Far East Mississippi" – Charles Satchell doing the vocal huffing and puffing while Leroy "Sugar" Bonner licks that Harmonica. "Skin Tight" has that Steely Dan brass section thing going too. Also included on the "Gold" compilation was the mid-tempo talking smooch of "Only A Child Can Love" - a non-album B-side to the 7" of "Far East Mississippi" which rose to No. 26 on the R&B singles chart in late November 1976. It ends on the "...Are you ready..." Funk of "Who'd She Coo?" – a party animal of a groove and a deserved Number 1.

The "Mr. Mean" album (recorded in 1977) sees the songs stretch out into seven and nine-minute workouts – and despite not having any hit singles – it still managed a healthy No. 11 placing on the US R’n’B album charts in the first week of 1978. Both the title track and "Fight Me, Chase Me" are heavy on the brass with the second cut even having some fusion stuff going on in there. "The Controller's Mind" is one and half minutes of synth and drum machines searching for a groove but ends up feeling kind of pointless. Side 1 finishes on the 7:35 minutes of "The Big Score" – a Funky Tour de Force where the frantic pace is filled out with synth fills and brass runs. "Magic Trick" comes closest to the magic combo of old – a Funky Groove with 'yow!' vocals and those chunky brass arrangements (the remaster is fabulous too). But for me this has always been a one-track album - the wonderful and sexy groove of "Good Luck Charm" which at 9:35 minutes feels epic (loving those slinky keyboard runs). It opens with drums rolls, has some "Sugar" vocals but eventually settles into a Guitar Groove with the Saxophone that lasts forever - the kind of slinky tune that has punters rushing to the counters of Soul shops everywhere wanting to know who it is...

So there you have it – a killer compilation and an album that has its moments. I don't know if I'd lick the spoon clean over this one – but if you're a fan or just a casual buyer – you need the stunning audio and those fantastic forgotten Soul/Funk grooves (like "Good Luck Charm") on both records...

This review and hundreds more like it are part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series. Check out SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION on Amazon - over 2000 e-pages of indepth reviews...

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