Wednesday, 25 December 2013

"I Just Can't Help Myself" by TERRY CALLIER (2013 Japan 'Chess Best Collection' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Lead Me To The Bridge Of Bright Tomorrows…”

Hailing out of Chicago and a childhood pal of Curtis Mayfield, Terry Callier had put out his debut album "The New Folk Sound Of Terry Callier" on Prestige in July 1965 and then did 2 albums on the Cadet Concept label prior to this - "Occasional Rain" in 1972 and "What Color Is Love" in early 1973.

The third and final album for the famous Chicago label "I Just Can't Help Myself" (October 1973) has been missing on CD for decades. Bootleg copies of the vinyl LP have been in London shops for over 15 years now because the US original is so rare. Which brings us to this welcome digital release - part of a 2013 Japanese-only CD series called 'Chess Best Collection'. Here are the helpful details...

Japan released 12 Dec 2013 - "I Just Can't Help Myself" by TERRY CALLIER on Universal Japan/Chess UICY-75986 (Barcode 4988005792747) is a new CD remaster with glorious sound that plays out as follows (40:54 minutes):

1. (I Just Can't Help Myself) I Don't Want Nobody Else
2. Brown-Eyed-Lady
3. Gotta Get Closer To You
4. Satin Doll
5. Until Tomorrow
6. Alley-Wind Song
7. Can't Catch The Trane
8. Bolwin' Green
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "I Just Can't Help Myself" – released October 1973 in the USA on Cadet Records CA 50041.

You may see this CD reissue called 'Chess 1000 Collection' in some quarters which refers to the price code - 1000 Yen or less. Depending on exchange rates this translates into 7 to 9 dollars, 5 to 7 pounds and a similar amount in Euros. Even with P&P costs - this weighs in at less than nine pounds for UK customers - which is very cheap for quality Japanese releases. It's in a jewel case - the foldout inlay sandwiched between a paper repro of the sleeve (back and front). Typical of these Japanese reissues - the inlay has an essay you can't read - and a decent stab at printing the English lyrics for all the songs. It doesn't say who or where this was remastered but the sound is GORGEOUS.

This album is firmly in the FOLK-SOUL category and for me is very much a tale of two Sides - Side 1 being not that great - while Side 2 is magical. Tracks 1 to 5 make up Side 1 which features three of the songs co-written with LARRY WADE - "(I Just Can't Help Myself) I Don't Want Nobody Else", "Brown-Eyed Lady" and "Gotta Get Close To You". Unfortunately they're trying too hard to be commercial - like Barry White but not in a good way. Things get better as they slow down considerably on his cover of Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" which is lovely. And Charles Stepney's arrangement of "Until Tomorrow" (closes Side 1) give it a sweeping feel with strings vying with the acoustic rhythms.

But for me Side 2 is incredible. It's like Callier suddenly changed tack and realised that less is more. Less production - more Soul. It has only 3 tracks - two of which "Alley-Wind Song" is nine minutes long while "Bowlin' Green" (co-written with Holmes Daley) is nearly eight. They are very much in the Folky Soul tradition - acoustic guitars with the occasional Bongo flourish and scat vocals. "Alley-Wind Song" is just so good (lyrics from it title this review). It's an acquired taste - but a stunning one if you get bitten. "Can't Catch The Trane" sees him scat faster and faster to a point where he almost vocally loses it towards the song end (great Alto Sax by DON MYRICK sails in at the song reaches its climax). "Bowlin' Green" is masterful - building all the time - but never getting out of control - oboes and strings softly introduced as his vocals become ever more impassioned. Personally the three simpler tracks on Side 2 (all Callier originals) makes for much satisfying and genuinely Soulful listen.

I should also mention that CHARLES STEPNEY freaks will need to own this. Stepney is another big name in small circles - a hero of sorts for soul lovers. He was involved in The Rotary Connection with Minnie Riperton, produced four albums with The Dells and even twiddled the knobs on the iconic and now much-vaulted psych-blues-fusion album "Electric Mud" by Muddy Waters. I'd personally scour down anything he had a hand in...a genius...

In the end - Terry Callier had morphed (like Richie Havens) into a sort of elder statesman of Soul - still spreading his gospel of love and understanding right up his sad passing in 2012. His "Lean On Me" song with Beth Orton on the "Best Bit EP" in 1997 is truly beautiful. Also check out his "Timepeace" set from 1998 - unbelievably good and relevant to the now and not just past glories.

Like Donny Hathaway's Atlantic output - it's hard for me to be rational about Terry Callier's fabulous run of albums with Charles Stepney on the cool Cadet Concept label. And even though "I Just Can't Help Myself" isn't the best of the three (a three-star album given a four-star CD reissue) - try to find a way to buy this CD album before it gets deleted in mid 2014. RIP Terry Callier you lovely journeyman...

PS: I've also reviewed "The New Folk Sound Of Terry Callier”, "Occasional Rain" and "What Color Is Love"

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