Monday, 9 January 2017

"Hang On In There Baby" by JOHNNY BRISTOL (2016 Universal Spain/MGM/Elemental Music CD Remaster in Gatefold Card Repro Artwork with Inner Sleeve) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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One of the albums in this rather excellent series of CD reissues from Elemental Music is David Ruffin's debut from March 1969 "My Whole World Ended". I mention this because like so many great (unsung hero) songwriters of the day - Johnny Bristol was all over it - co-penning six of the 12 songs on a number 1 US R&B LP for The Temptations' Lead Singer. He'd also penned tunes for Kiki Dee, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Supremes and The Marvelettes to name but a few.

Here it's five years later and the landscape has moved into Disco, Funk, Jazz Funk and Fusion with a smidge of Soul still in there somewhere. The massive single "Hang On In There Baby" hit in July 1974 (MGM 14715) and went to No. 2 on the US R&B charts - even gaining a No. 3 slot in Blighty with the album following chart-suit in October - a rare thing in England in 1974. It's an LP that's remembered with great affection to this day - and that's where this superb new 2016 CD Remaster comes in...

Part of a European Reissue Series from Universal Spain distributed in the UK by Elemental Music – Elemental are a reissue label specialising in Disco, Soul, Funk and Fusion LP titles that are long out of print on both vinyl and CD. With access to the vast back-catalogue of Universal - you get mainly US rarities and obscure albums originally on Polydor, Chess, Cadet, People, Mercury, Capitol Records and of course the huge Motown repertoire including Rare Earth, Soul, Tamla and Gordy (see list below). They’ve been releasing titles steadily since November 2015 and into 2016...

Each CD Reissue is housed in a gatefold LP replica card sleeve with an Inner (a limited edition). It doesn't say anywhere on their glossy packaging (inners or CDs) who or even where these were transferred or remastered despite the claims of such on the stickers on the outer shrink-wrap. Having said that the repro sleeves are accurate - tactile to touch - all coming with a gatefold artwork when most of their original album covers were single sleeves - and best of all have superb Audio care of Universal UMC. If was to hazard a Remaster Engineer guess - it sounds like the work of Gary Moore or Kevin Reeves - both of whom have handled huge numbers of these genre albums for Universal in their extensive 200+ 'Originals' Series. Here are the details...

Europe/UK released November 2016 (June 2016 in the USA) - "Hang On In There Baby" by JOHNNY BRISTOL on Universal Spain/MGM Records/Elemental Music 88518 (Barcode 8435395501153) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1974 10-track LP originally on MGM Records and plays out as follows (35:25 minutes):

1. Woman, Woman
2. Hang On In There Baby
3. Reachin' Out For Your Love
4. You And I
5. Take Care Of You For Me
6. I Got Your Number [Side 2]
7. It Don't Hurt No More
8. Memories Don't Leave Like People Do
9. Love Me For A Reason
10. Woman, Woman (Reprise)
Tracks 1 to 10 are his debut LP "Hang On In There Baby" - released August 1969 in the USA on MGM Records M3G 4959 and September 1974 in the UK on MGM Records 2315 303. Arranged by H.B. BARNUM and Produced by JOHNNY BRISTOL - it peaked at No. 7 in the USA on the R&B charts and No 12 in the UK on the Pop Charts.

The glossy black and white inner gatefold provides the lyrics to the whole album for the first time while the inner sleeve has a photo of JB on one side and the track details, musician credits and other discography info on the other (see photos attached). The CD label is MGM Records in Stereo and the Remastered Audio is beautifully clear even though there are no RM credits.

The albums opens with an out-and-out booty-wiggling emancipation winner - "Woman, Woman" – a groove that feels like the New Orleans Funk of Allen Toussaint crossed with the wah-wah guitar of Isaac Hayes and the string section of Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra. It's immediately followed by 'that sweet moment of surrender' song that swept dancefloors all over the world "Hang On In There Baby" – Johnny assuring listeners everywhere that there's 'true love between us' and he doesn't just want to get into the flares of the lady on the grass verge (front cover photo). Next up is the obligatory talking-lurve song "Reachin' Out For Your Love" where our Johnny wants his baby to touch him (no problem - I'll get right on it). It's a great smoocher with keyboards, backing singers and strings all working the emotional impact. After the slow set slow down - it's back to funky-funky with the superb slink of "You And I" - and when you hear its 'whole lot of fun' upbeat feel (so similar to the sound of the title track) - it’s hardly surprising that MGM chose it as the second 45 to give the album more legs. Released August 1974 it was coupled with Side 2's "It Don't Hurt No More" and they were rewarded with a No. 20 R&B chart position and a 17-week stay for the LP.

"Taking Care Of You For Me" is probably the sappiest melody on the album and like "Love Me For A Reason" is Osmonds territory. Far better is the 'uh baby' Funk of "I Got Your Number" which opens Side 2 with a wallop. "It Don't Hurt No More" is a 'when love is gone' smoocher - a lovely melody that would have made a very cool A-side too. "Memories Don't Leave Like People Do" is a sexy high-hat groove with strings - the kind of song Barry White would have made a hit of. "Love Me For A Reason" is poisoned for me by the like of The Osmonds and Boyzone who made massive UK hits of it 20-years apart - a No. 1 for The Osmonds in 1974 and a No. 2 for Boyzone in 1994 (I dare say Johnny's bank manager wasn't complaining). It ends on 45 seconds of "Woman, Woman" in a Funky Reprise...restoring the faith...

Johnny Bristol's "Hang On In There Baby" is the kind of album that simply couldn't be made in 2017 - that hybrid of Seventies Soft Soul and Disco and Funk that's just so damn good on the ear and easy on the couch. This cool little CD Reissue has done that forgotten nugget a solid. Fans should dig in pronto and the curious check out the songwriting schmooze of Carolina's Johnny Bristol...yeah baby...

Titles in the 2015/2016 'Universal/Elemental Music' CD Reissue Series

1. Hang On In There Baby (1974 LP on MGM Records) - JOHNNY BRISTOL (Universal/Elemental 88518 - 8435395501153)
2. The Original Disco Man (1979 LP on Polydor) - JAMES BROWN (Universal/Elemental 88523 – Barcode 8435395501450)
3. Music To Make Love By (1975 LP on Chess) - SOLOMON BURKE (Universal/Elemental 88528 – Barcode 8435395501627)
4. Hot On The Tracks (1976 LP on Motown) – THE COMMODORES (Universal/Elemental 88511 – Barcode 8435395500965)
5. Breakin' Bread (1974 LP on People) – FRED (WESLEY) & THE NEW JB’S (Universal/Elemental 88522 – Barcode 8435395501252)
6. Doing It To Death (1973 LP on People) - THE JB'S [with James Brown] (Universal/Elemental 88517 – Barcode 8435395501146)
7. People...Hold On (1972 LP on Tamla) – EDDIE KENDRICKS (Universal/Elemental 88501 – Barcode 8435395500569)
8. Mother Nature's Son (1968 Stereo LP on Cadet, Charles Stepney Production) – RAMSEY LEWIS (Universal/Elemental 88504 – Barcode 8435395500590)
9. Them Changes (1970 LP on Cadet) - RAMSEY LEWIS (Universal/Elemental 88516 – Barcode 8435395501139)
10. Fire (1974 LP on Mercury) - THE OHIO PLAYERS (Universal/Elemental 88506 – Barcode 8435395500973)
11. Skin Tight (1974 LP on Mercury with 1 Bonus Track) - THE OHIO PLAYERS (Universal/Elemental 88510 – Barcode 8435395500958)
12. Get Ready (1969 LP on Rare Earth) – RARE EARTH (Universal/Elemental 88505 – Barcode 8435395500866)
13. Soulin' (1966 Stereo LP on Capitol) - LOU RAWLS (Universal/Elemental 88515 - 8435395501122)
14. Smokey (1973 LP on Tamla) – SMOKEY ROBINSON (Universal/Elemental 88503 – Barcode 8435395500583)
15. My Whole World Ended (1969 Stereo LP on Motown) - DAVID RUFFIN (Universal/Elemental 88527 – Barcode 8435395501542)
16. The Groove Governor (1970 LP on Soul) – JIMMY RUFFIN (Universal/Elemental 88513 – Barcode 8435395501108)
17. Still Waters Run Deep (1970 LP on Tamla) – THE TEMPTATIONS (Universal 88502 – Barcode 8435395500576)
18. Face To Face With... (1971 LP on Gordy) – THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH (Universal/Elemental 88509 – Barcode 8435395500941)
19. Together Brothers O.S.T. (1974 2LPs on 20th Century, Single CD) – BARRY WHITE and THE LOVE UNLIMITED ORCHESTRA (Universal/Elemental 88507 – Barcode 8435395500880)

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