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Mr Johnnie Taylor - “The Philosopher Of Soul” as his record company Stax billed him, and where he spent an extremely successful stay typified, I suppose, by “Who’s Making Love” in 1968. Prior to Stax, Johnnie was a member of The Highway QCs, later replacing Sam Cooke as lead vocalist in The Soul Stirrers, before signing as a solo artist to Sam’s record label SAR until that closed following his sudden death in 1964. When Stax was no more, Johnnie moved to Columbia Records where, to be honest, only one global, crossover hit was released bearing his name: “Disco Lady” in 1976.

Here we have a pair of albums first released at the close of the seventies/early eighties, depicting another phase in his recording life. “Little Dancin’ Queen”, disco-fied but not overly so, starts off the set with its uptown feel and sliding southern soul riff. “Play Something Pretty” changes the pace; a medium mover, while the CD’s title is another aimed squarely at the dancefloor. This time the sound is more defined, more positive. With its spoken introduction, “Love Account” hits the spot, with its sympathetic support vocals blending beautifully with Johnnie’s crisp, direct, yet warm voice. “I Can’t Leave Your Love Alone” is further testament to the love train of thought. More upbeat, with a glorious chorus and must-have feeling.

Into “A New Day” now with more romantic angst courtesy of “I’d Rather Hurt Myself”. Not as immediate as the other brushes with love but nevertheless the melody hits hard. Likewise, “Baby Lay Down”, a full-on delicious ballad, with lyrics to melt the heart, particularly when those sumptuous backing voices appear. Yum, yum! Johnnie created a soul legacy during his lifetime (1934 – 1999 when he died following a heart attack) and while this pair of albums didn’t set the world on fire the first time around, their musical content is so representative of his smooth, soulful and emotive craftsmanship and styling, - and as such is a very worthy re-issue.

Rating: 8

About the Writer
Sharon Davis ran the Four Tops fan club before spearheading Motown Ad Astra, catering for all the Motown acts, where she edited the in-house magazine TCB. Was publicist for Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul before joining Motown Records in London. Formed her own press/promotion company Eyes & Ears, worked for Blues & Soul magazine and website, and became a full time author and researcher. To date Sharon has written eleven books (her last A Girl Called Dusty published by Carlton Books) and she’s working on her next - Divas Of Motown. As a researcher, Sharon assisted Diana Ross with her autobiography Secrets Of A Sparrow, and is now in constant demand for her knowledge about Motown and its artists.



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