Sunday, 11 December 2011

"Black And Blue" by HAROLD MELVIN and THE BLUE NOTES (2010 Big Break Records (BBR) 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…I Had To Leave You Alone But I'm So Weak…"

Big Break Records of the UK have a thing for Philly and as a collector of Classic Soul - I for one am glad of it (their CDs sound amazing). And following on from their Expanded reissue of "I Miss You" - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' 1972 debut album on Philadelphia International - here they come again with the group's equally brill 2nd album - "Black And Blue". Both issues feature properly fabulous Seventies Soul. Let's get down to the love we lost and bedroom weaknesses...

Released September 2010 – "Black & Blue" by HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES on Big Break Records CDBBR 0013 (Barcode 5013929031326) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks and breaks down as follows (46:56 minutes):

1. Cabaret
2. The Love I Lost
3. It All Depends On You
4. Concentrate On Me
5. Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back)
6. Is There A Place For Me
7. I'm Weak For You
8. I'm Coming Home Tomorrow
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "Black & Blue" released September 1973 in the USA on Philadelphia International KZ 32407 and in the UK on Philadelphia International S PIR 65859.

9. The Love I Lost (Part 1) Single Version
10. I'm Weak For You (Part 1) Single Version

The album produced 2 singles in the USA and UK at the time of release and a reissue later on - (excepting "Bad Luck") this CD will allow fans to sequence those tracks as follows:
1. The Love I Lost (Part 1) b/w The Love I Lost (Part 2)
(USA - September 1973, Philadelphia International ZS7 3533
UK - November 1973, Philadelphia International S PIR 1879)
2. Satisfaction Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back) b/w I'm Weak For You (Part 1)
(USA - March 1974, Philadelphia International ZS7 3543
UK - March 1974, Philadelphia International S PIR 2178)
3. The Love I Lost (Part 1) b/w Bad Luck
(UK - January 1977 reissue on Blue Vinyl, Philadelphia International S PIR 4881)

The 12-page booklet has an informative interview conducted by STUART WEST with BOBBY ELI. Eli is the founding member and Lead Guitarist with MFSB (virtually Philadelphia International's in-house band) and he talks with great affection and knowledge about Gamble & Huff (principal songwriters), Teddy Pendergrass (legendary vocalist) and the evolution of the MFSB sound that Philly was so famous for. In between text are pictures of US 45's, colour plates of rare European 7" picture sleeves, photos of the band in concert and full discography and credits info at the rear. It's very well done and the jewel case is one of those new rounded-corner affairs - very tasty. But the really great news is the SOUND...

As with other BBR releases - this remaster uses the 'original tapes' and has been carried out initially by ALAN WILSON at Western Star Studios with further work done by WAYNE A. DICKSON at the BBR Studios (both in the UK). The results are wonderful.

Once you get past the truly awful opener "Cabaret" (as in "Life is a cabaret..." - what were they thinking!), you're straight into the full album version (6:26 minutes) of "The Love I Lost" and it's beautifully clear from its opening keyboards and vibes to the funky bass and strings throughout. It sounds GORGEOUS. Another track I love (and a bit of a forgotten soul nugget) is the 'so' soulful message song "Is There A Place For Me" which starts with the delightful lyrics "I've been married four times...and today I'm without a wife..."

As with the superbly expanded "I Miss You" CD - the inclusion of the 7" single edits on "Black & Blue" are a genuine bonus. I often felt that too many of these Seventies Soul LPs had songs on them that they knew to be winners - so they would overstay their welcome by stretching them to seven, eight, nine, ten minutes... The single edits gave you the concise version - and delivered a far better punch. The blindingly good B-side short version of "I'm Weak For You" is a perfect example - fades out before it over stays - what a great listen (lyrics above).

To sum up - this is a superlative release and I can only hope that BBR tackle more on the Philly and CBS labels - especially when they add those 7" edits for collectors (exclusive to Big Break Records releases). Smoochy heaven...and with Teddy in attendance too...

PS: I've also reviewed these other Big Break Records (BBR) CD remasters:
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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