Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"War Of The Gods" by BILLY PAUL (2012 Big Break Records 'Expanded Edition' CD - Wayne A. Dickson Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Trust Your Better Judgment…Challenge Your Heart…"

With all 6 of its tracks written by the dynamic Soul duo of KENNETH GAMBLE and LEON HUFF (with contributions from Bunny Sigler, Cary Gilbert and Joannie Arc) and the music played entirely by MFSB - Billy Paul's 3rd album for Philly is considered by many (including the artist himself) to be his best record. And this new and expanded UK CD reissue of that 1973 Philly gem does it proud. Here are the waring details...

UK released November 2012 – "War Of The Gods" by BILLY PAUL on Big Break Records CDBBR 0184 (Barcode 5013929048430) is an ‘Expanded Edition’ CD Remaster with Three Bonus Tracks and breaks down as follows (50:55 minutes):

1. I See The Light
2. War Of The Gods
3. The Whole Town’s Talking
4. I Was Married
5. Thanks For Saving My Life
6. Peace Holy Peace
Tracks 1 to 6 are the vinyl album "War Of The Gods" - released November 1973 in the USA on Philadelphia International KZ 32409 in a gatefold sleeve with an insert. Stateside it reached Number 12 on the R&B charts and Number 110 on the Pop charts. It was also belatedly issued in the UK on Philadelphia International S PIR 65861 in June 1974.

7. War Of The Gods (Single Version)
8. The Whole Town's Talking (Single Version)
9. I Was Married (Single Version)

There were 4 x 7" singles issued around the album and this CD will allow fans to sequence them as follows:
1. War Of The Gods (Part 1) [7] b/w War Of The Gods (Part 2)
November 1973 PROMO-ONLY USA 7" single on Philadelphia International AE7 1080
2. Thanks For Saving My Life [5] b/w I Was Married [9]
November 1973 USA 7" single on Philadelphia International ZS7 3538
3. Thanks For Saving My Life [5] b/w I See The Light [1]
November 1973 UK 7" single on Philadelphia International S PIR 1928
4. The Whole Town's Talking [8] b/w I Was Married [9]
April 1974 UK 7" single on Philadelphia International S SPIR 2225

As is customary now- these BBR CDs come in one of those new rounded jewel cases with a 12-page inlay. Liner notes are by noted music-writer ANDY KELLMAN with contributions from BILLY PAUL and BLANCHE WLLIAMS. Several of the Philly 7" singles are pictured - the colour photo of Paul that graced the inner gatefold is centered in the booklet and the rare insert that looked almost like a black and white art print is reproduced on Page 3. Even the words under every song on the rear sleeve are here (those from "I See The Light" title this review). Great attention to detail - but once again the fireworks comes with the SOUND...

Remastered from the original tapes by BBR's resident engineer WAYNE A. DICKSON at Soundmasters in London - the sound quality is typically superb. I've raved about this guy's work before - and this reissue is no different. Lovely clarity - virtually no hiss - warm presence in the speakers - just great and 'so' Soulful too.

The album opens with an absolutely fabulous double-track sucker punch - two trippy-soulful cuts called "I See The Light" at 6-minutes and the epic 10-minute album version of "War Of The Gods" - very Isaac Hayes as it lingers and grooves. Combined with "Peace Holy Peace" (the last track on the LP) they give the whole LP a very mellow socially-conscious feel - more Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" than The O'Jays "Backstabbers" if you know what I mean. Both "The Whole Town's Talking" and "I Was Married" are the more poppy Soul side of Philly and actually sound a little out of place here. But "Thanks For Saving My Life" is an excellent jaunty mid-tempo number. A clever move by BBR is including the sought-after PROMO-ONLY 7" cut of "War Of The Gods" which edits the epic talking-song down to a more manageable 5:37 minutes.

To sum up - as with so much of the Philly label you forget just how good it is. And that stunning MFSB backing group - top stuff. In truth - I'm not a huge fan of the poppier tunes on here - but that threesome of 'lurve' tunes is really exceptional.

I've loved rehearing this great album - and with this fantastic new sound quality - a must-own for Seventies Soul/Fusion lovers everywhere.

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

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