Sunday, 8 January 2017

"Soulin'" by LOU RAWLS (2016 Universal Spain/Capitol/Elemental Music CD Reissue and Remaster in STEREO with Gatefold Card Repro Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Love is A Hurtin' Thing..."

Released in the heady summer of 1966 – Lou Rawls was already a nine LP veteran when "Soulin'" went to the coveted No. 1 spot on the US R&B charts.

But despite those accolades and properly beautiful Production quality courtesy of cult hero David Axelrod – the LP's mixture of Jazz Standards and over-brassed swing tunes hasn't weathered well at all. Despite his great silken voice – the title "Soulin'" in today's context is misleading. This is not really Soul music or even Sixties R&B – it's more cheesy Jazz Lounge Music and I for one find it hard going to say the least. Having said that - fans of Rawls and Axelrod will find much to love in this beautifully presented CD reissue (top notch audio). More on that...

This 2016 CD Remaster is part of a European Reissue Series from Universal Spain distributed in the UK by Elemental Music – a reissue label specialising in Soul, Funk, Disco and Fusion LP titles long out of print. 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...

UK/Europe released 25 August 2016 (June 2016 in the USA) - "Soulin'" by LOU RAWLS on Universal Spain/Capitol/Elemental Music 88515 (Barcode 8435395501122) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1966 14-track STEREO LP originally on Capital Records and plays out as follows (35:53 minutes):

1. A Whole Lotta Woman
2. Love Is A Hurtin' Thing
3. So Hard To Laugh, So Easy To Cry
4. You're The One
5. Don't Explain
6. What Now My Love
7. Memory Lane
8. Old Man's Memories [Monologue]
9. It Was A Very Good Year
10. Growing Old Gracefully [Monologue]
11. Old Folks
12. Autumn Leaves
13. On A Clear day
14. Breaking My Back
Tracks 1 to 14 are the LP "Soulin'" - released August 1966 in the USA on Capitol Records T 2566 (Mono) and Capitol ST 2566 (Stereo) and February 1967 in the UK on Capitol T 2566 (Mono) and capitol ST 2566 (Stereo) – the STEREO mix is used for this CD Remaster. Arranged and Produced by DAVID AXELROD – it peaked at No. 1 in the USA on the R&B charts.

The inner gatefold is a track list on the left and a black and white publicity photo of a young Lou on the right. Unusual for these repro sleeves – the inner sleeve contains the lyrics to the songs on both sides – something the original issue didn't bother with on either side of the pond (see photos attached). The CD label is Capitol Stereo and the Remastered Audio is spectacularly good – beautifully clear as befits a major label.

The album’s big hit was "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" – penned by David Linden and Ben Raleigh. Capitol coupled it with the James Alexander and Sam Cooke song "Memory Lane" on the flipside of Capitol 5709 and saw the orange and yellow label 45 conquer the airwaves – only his second 7" single to chart and his first No. 1. To this day it remains a highlight on the LP. But the other stuff like Billie Holiday's "Don’t Explain" and Gilbert Becaud's French schmooze "What Now My Love" feel like Easy Listening Soul - and not in a good way. The two spoken songs called "Monologues" are just weird – one of which lasts only 17 seconds before going into "Old Folks". But you can't fault the Audio - genuinely superlative throughout.

"Soulin'" is a three-star Lou Rawls LP for me - given 5-star treatment here by Britain's Elemental Music. Fans should  dive in – others should try an iTunes listen first...

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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