Monday, 15 June 2015

"That The Spirit Needs/Memphis Menu/Compartments" by JOSE FELICIANO (2015 Beat Goes On 2CD Reissue – Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review By Mark Barry...

"...Peace Of Mind..."

Puerto Rican Flamenco Guitarist and Singer JOSE FELICIANO (one of the first Latin American Superstars) had released a staggering 11 albums with RCA Victor before he decided in 1971 to largely ditch the cover-versions formula that had stood him so well - and try a few tunes of his own. And that's where this rather lovely 2CD set from England's Beat Goes On (BGO) comes in. It gathers together three rarely seen (and largely forgotten) albums from 1971, 1972 and 1973 where he made an unsuccessful dash for the singer-songwriter market dominated at the time by James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Joni Mitchell and Carole King. "Musical Menu" didn't chart at all - with "That The Spirit Needs" and "Compartments" barely scraping Nos. 173 and 156 (respectively) on the American Billboard Rock LP charts. But that doesn't mean that there aren't goodies to be had here - there are (Steve Cropper and Bill Withers guest). Here are the dark glasses and the simple songs...

UK released April 2015 - "That The Spirit Needs/Memphis Menu/Compartments" on Beat Goes BGOCD 1179 (Barcode 5017261211798) is a 2CD set and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (69:34 minutes):
1. Come Down Jesus
2. The Spirit
3. Wild World
4. Border Song
5. Only One
6. Take Me To The Pilot
7. She Let Me Down [Side 2]
8. Daytime Dreams
9. My Last Farewell
10. Mellow Felling
11. Pay Day
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "That The Spirit Needs" - released 1971 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4573 and in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8223. All tracks are Feliciano Originals except these cover versions "Wild World" (Cat Stevens), "Border Song" and "Take Me To The Pilot". Produced by Janna Merlyn and Jose Feliciano.

12. Magnolia
13. River Song
14. One More Mile
15. Never Leave You
16. Tale Of Maria
17. It Doesn't Matter [Side 2]
18. Good Times
19. Lay, Lady, Lay
20. Where Is My Woman
21. Movin'
Tracks 12 to 21 are the album "Memphis Menu" - released 1972 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4656 and in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8309. Side 1 is the "First Course" with Side 2 being the `Second Course". All tracks are Feliciano originals except these cover versions - "Magnolia" (J.J. Cale), "One More Time" (Mark James), "Good Times" (Marc Benno), "Lay, Lady, Lay" (Bob Dylan) and "Movin'" (Jackie DeShannon).

Disc 2 (41:19 minutes):
1. Simple Song [Feliciano song]
2. Me And Bobby Jane [Leon Russell cover]
3. Don't Fail [Seal and Crofts cover]
4. Find Somebody [co-write with Carl Marsh and Steve Cropper]
5. Hey Look At The Sun [Nelson Angelo cover]
6. Peace Of Mind [Loggins and Messina cover]
7. Sea Cruise [Huey "Piano" Smith cover] [Side 2]
8. Compartments [Jose Feliciano/Bill Withers song]
9. Yes We Can Can [Allen Toussaint song, Pointer Sisters cover]
10. I'm Leavin' [Feliciano song]
11. Things Are Changing [Donald Paschal cover]
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "Compartments" - released May 1973 in the USA and UK on RCA Victor APD1 0141

It comes in the now customary card wrap (which lends the reissue a classy feel) and a jam-packed 24-page booklet with thoroughly comprehensive liner notes from noted writer JOHN O'REGAN. It provides lyrics to the first two albums on Disc 1 (but not "Compartments") - and as eagle-eyed collectors will notice - uses the reissue artwork for "That The Spirit Needs" which initially came in an untitled elaborate gatefold sleeve. The booklet is well done and extends it reach right up to 2014 on Feliciano's career. ANDREW THOMPSON did the expertly transferred remasters at Sound Mastering In London and they sound beautiful.

Most of the tracks on "Spirit" have the Acoustic Guitar to the fore accompanied on occasion by orchestral arrangements (from George Tipton) or guitar overdubs with Feliciano playing a wide range of instruments including Bass, Congas and Organ. Jim Horn putts in Flute on "Wild World" and "Mellow Feeling" with Buddy Emmons playing Steel Guitar on "My Last Farewell". The opening duo of "Come Down Jesus" and "The Spirit" are good rather than great while his fast-tempo take of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" doesn't really do anything for a lovely song. Things improve on "Border Song" where his voice is similar to that of 1971 Elton John. Other pretty entries include his "Daytime Dreams" and "Mellow Feeling".

He opens the "Memphis Menu" album with a great cover of J.J. Cale's wonderful "Magnolia" (from his "Naturally" album) and you immediately notice the improvement in Production Values (co-produced by Steve Cropper of Booker T. & The MG's.). Feliciano's own "It Doesn't Matter" is lovely feeling a little like a cross between Don McLean and Gilbert O'Sullivan. Mark James provides "One More Mile" (he wrote "Suspicious Minds" brought to Number 1 by Elvis Presley) and Marc Benno's "Good Times" is probably the best cut on the album.

But the best album of the three is "Compartments" which features some stellar guest contributions that genuinely up the game of almost every song (with the whole album again co-produced by Steve Cropper and Jose Feliciano). Leon Russell lends his distinctive piano style to "Me And Baby Jane" - a hurting tale about a first love in school who then later loses herself to drugs. Jim Seals and Dan Crofts play Guitars, Mandolin and sing Backing Vocals on their own "Don't Fail" (very hall & Oates kind of tune) while Loggins & Messina provide Background Vocals on two - "Simple Song" and "Peace Of Mind" (Messina also does a Guitar Solo on "Peace Of Mind"). His keyboard player J.A. Spell gets very Leon Russell meets Fats Domino on Jose's cover of Huey Smith's wonderful "Sea Cruise". None other than Soul Maestro Bill Withers co-writes "Compartments" with Feliciano and also plays Rhythm Guitar. Claudia Lennear (of "Brown Sugar" fame), Jessie Smith and Robbie Montgomery contribute Backing Vocals to the ballad "Find Somebody", the Soulful groove of "Hey Look At The Sun", the cool Funk of "Yes We Can Can" and finally the brassy pop hit "Things Are Changing". This is probably the best sounding of the two CDs.

These albums represent the lesser-heard sides of Jose "Light My Fire" Feliciano's cannon of work - and well done to all at BGO UK for getting them out there...

PS: Beat Goes On have also released "Alive Alive-O" (a double album) on BGOCD 794, "10 to 23/Fireworks" on BGOCD 795 and "A Bag Full Of Soul/Fantastic Feliciano" on BGOCD 817...

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