Originally published 9 October, 2012
Billy's bubblin' over about his new recordings. He tells B&S about his hopes for them, and about his new act, his production plans, and his deep gratitude to his wife for her help and understanding.
"IT'S THE new Billy Paul, that's what 'Let 'Em In' is," enthused an excited Billy Paul in his throaty voice — the husky one that wooed the world on "Me And Mrs. Jones"!
"I was doing a concert in Bermuda when I actually heard that song and I went up to my room in the hotel to make a note of it and there was a message to call Kenny Gamble waiting for me. So, I called him and guess what he was so caught up about…'you've got to come to Philadelphia right now, Billy, and cut a song called "Let 'Em In",' he said.
"But I honestly feel it's my best album yet; every cut is a potential single, I feel. I think my favourite is "I Trust You". But without trying to boost my own ego, there are so many 'Let 'Em In', 'We All Got A Mission', 'How Good Is Your Game', the whole of that first side.
"It's funny because that whole side runs into each other and that's the way it was to record — it all flowed naturally.
"I've actually dedicated the album to my sister, you know. We were going to call the album 'Without You' but when my sister died back in June, that's when I changed the title to 'Let 'Em In' because somehow it seemed more appropriate. Her name was Pauline Williams; you know my name is Paul Williams really but there is already a Paul Williams so they put my name backwards — William Paul or Billy Paul".
We've already made reference to "Me And Mrs. Jones" and of course that has been the high spot in Billy's career to date. There must have been times when even he wondered if that gigantic success was holding him back, though.
"No, not really," he began. "I think though that a lot of mistakes were made at the time. The biggest one was releasing 'Am I Black Enough For You' straight after 'Mrs. Jones'. People weren't ready for that kind of a song after the pop success of 'Mrs. Jones'. They were looking for a sequel or at least something that wasn't provacative.
"You'll remember at the time that I told you I was 100% against it and history has proven me right. But though it was a company mistake, I'm still satisfied with both CBS and Philadelphia International.
"They're still young and growing and learning, man. After all, this is my ninth album with them and they've all sold so how can I really — complain.
"And then I've been lucky all over the world — even when things are quite at home. Like 'Let's Make A Baby' getting to No. 1 R&B and into the pop charts in Britain. Yes, it was a personal statement but the title provoked people to think that was what I wanted. And then last summer 'July, July, July' was No. 1 all over South America and that was good, too.
"But I'm now prepared to be judged completely on this new album. It really is my best and people can now decide if they like me or not!"
We recently reported that Billy was starting to broaden his horizons within the business and, more especially, within Philly Int. It was announced that he would produce an album on former Earth, Wind and Fire/Friends of Distinction lady, Jessica Cleaves.
"That's right," Billy asserted. "I've got to get an album on myself finished by the summer and then we hope to start on Jessica's album in the early fall.
"You know, it's hard to explain how it will come out — Jessica is Jessica and she's unique. There can be no real direction such as Deniece Williams or a Jean Carn because she is so different from anyone else I know of. I feel that because of her talent and experience, she has far more to offer than these other girls singers.
"I'd like to say she's like a modern-day version of Dionne Warwick but she is far funkier than Dionne. I guess you'll have to wait and see how it turns out!"
With "I Trust You" looking a likely smash in Britain, what are the odds of seeing the behatted gent in this part of the world soon? "Love to come! Love to come! Only this time it'll be a show they won't forget.
"I've just added a new trio of girl singers who are out of this world. They are Nadine Harper, Sherrie Williams and Edith Daniels and I call them Triple Treat. And I've got my band — the 360 Degree Sand — and they're all raring to go".
Finally, I would just like to pay a little tribute to Billy's lovely wife. Every time I have met Billy, his wife has been there with him, helping him and generally standing by him — which is, after all, a loving wife's duty! But in the case of an entertainer, that's a difficult thing to successfully achieve.
"She's contributed so much to my career and my life in general," Billy gently explained — but with purpose in his voice. "She works out my budget and then she'll work with the girls, generally keeping everything together. She understands me and my temperament and she accepts my frustrations.
"I'll tell you straight, without her I wouldn't be where I am today and that's a fact. When I was ready to give it all up, it was she who made me carry on, believed in me and kept me going. And if there are any rewards, it'll be she that deserves them."
And that's the kind of thing that has helped 'Me and Mrs. Paul' become one of the nicest, most respected couples in the soul fraternity. Maybe "I Trust You" is his own way of acknowledging his wife's help.