William Bell Peals Across the Years

The theme of this year — all over the damn place — is “passages.” And the new Stax release by William Bell, this is where i live is a prime opportunity to reflect with your ears and head. Here’s what I played today getting ready to apprehend his new one:

Do Right Man, (Charly R&B, vinyl, 1984) Selected and annotated by Cliff White, who has a strong ear for the soul ballad. This features an unsurpassed selection and sequence with that emphasis (and good notes, of course), but badly needs a remaster.

The Soul of a Bell (Stax reissue, 2002) This is the standard best-of for ages when I was growing up. Version here enhanced by having that needed remaster and, crucially, the original mono version of “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” which is the most clear and passionate version. Yes, indeed.

Post-’60s Stax.

Two reissues — Wow/’Bound To Happen and Phases of Reality / Relating

Uneven sets in. But I will say that even mild soul fans should have Wow and Phases of Reality. Of course, ‘Bound to Happen includes the eternal “I Forgot to Be Your Lover.”

Then there’s the interesting earlier comeback noted by White, Survivor (Kat Family, 1983). It’s a bit shrimpy (nine tracks) and the title track is a dud — forced stab at P-Finkish grist —  but the rest is a not-old-guy who does know words and has kept up with the times and damn if the last track isn’t a fine, successful stab a P-Funkish grist.

And the first listen to the new one indicates that, yeah, all the praise for meticulous craft and preserving humanist smarts and variety are warranted.

What a surprise. (Not.) (But, yes.)


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