The latest reissue reviews from Sharon Davis….
CURTIS HAIRSTON: CURTIS HAIRSTON EXPANDED EDITION (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
What a wonderful breath of fresh air this re-issue of the 1986 album has turned out to be. A year prior to its original release, Curtis hit the UK top twenty with “I Want You (All Tonight)” which he followed with “I Want Your Loving (Just A Little Bit)” and this CD’s first track “Chillin’ Out”. There’s no fuss or frills here, just honest, well rounded sounds with infectious melodies and choruses. Largely aimed at dancers – check out “The Morning After” or “Let Me Change Your Mind” for starters. The fact that this gifted singer/composer was taken from us at the young age of thirty-four years, left us bereft of what could have been. And it’s this statement alone that makes us treasure this one and only long player recorded as a soloist, having been in the membership of The BB & Q Band. A handful of remixed, extended bonus tracks offer a harder, forceful flavour, particularly on the before mentioned “The Morning After”. Four tracks here were composed by ex-Labelle Nona Hendryx about whom he credited as being a huge influence on him, while I detect there’s a little Rick James influence here also. Although not totally relevant to this review, I’d like to include the following because when his mother recalled her son’s singing debut at three years old, she said “My father had asked Curtis to get up in church and sing. He walked up there, reached up and grabbed the mike like it belonged to him.” That first move was the change his life and as he grew in years, Curtis developed a vocal style akin to Peabo Bryson and Luther Vandross to carve a distinguished career and name for himself in the dance world. Albeit a tragically short one.
NANCY WILSON: JUST FOR NOW/LUSH FOR LIFE (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
Sheer elegance from one of the world’s most celebrated of stylists. And what a total joy it is from start to finish. On the first CD, Ms Wilson aims for adult pop with versions of “Winchester Cathedral”, “Born Free” and “Alfie” among others, before changing course to inject a soulful slant into Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. Several of the songs are associated with Frank Sinatra simply because Billy May was his regular working associate, and was responsible for the bulk of the tracks here. Emotional ballads like “If He Walked Into My Life” bring out the tender, almost desolate side of the singer. So much so, that it’s hard not to be drowned in her torment. Then there’s the second album “Lush Life”, a more engaging, crisper and meatier side to her talent, where she so succinctly fuses adult mainstream with jazz, although this isn’t, to be honest, as spontaneously attractive as the first. A little blues filters in with “River Shallow” , while Ms Wilson treats “Sunny” to a lazy melody. Yet, a direct stab at the heart dispels any thoughts of complacency when she delivers tracks like “(I Stayed) Too Long At The Fair”. The fact that this wonderful singer/stylist, or whatever category you wish to place her, can so effortlessly switch musical track, simply highlights once again her innate talent given to a few. Her voice soars and dips, pleads and teases, and, of course, can reduce us mere listeners to tears in the blink of a note, is testimony to the genius that is Nancy Wilson, the consummate artist.