Sunday, February 5, 2017

Billy Price & Otis Clay – This Time For Real

I don’t know about you, but I love it when I’m talking to a friend in the business and she says, “Hey did I ever send you the Billy Price and Otis Clay collaboration?”
Uh, no, because we didn’t really know each other when it was released in 2015. That didn’t stop my friend from putting one in the mail that day and just a few days later, sweet soul music was playing in my house.
I absolutely love soul music. When I was growing up, it was all over the radio, if you knew where to look. Sometimes you couldn’t pick it up on your transistor radio during the day, but at night, those stations came in loud and proud. One of the great things about being an insomniac is the ability to do things long into the night. For me, that meant books and music.
Billy Price and Otis Clay may be separated by time, but the two are obviously related by talent and temperament. They’ve been friends for a long time, and have shared many a stage. But this album, oh, This Time For Real is a true treasure. That sweet southern soul gets under your skin and you can’t help but love the incredible harmonies and the great music.  
Besides Price and Clay sharing the vocals, the remaining musicians are Duke Robillard on guitar; Mark Teixiera on drums and percussion; Brad Hallen on bass; Bruce Bears on keyboards; Mark Earley on tenor and baritone sax; and Doug Woolverton on trumpet. Backing vocals were provided by Theresa Davis, Dianne Madison, and Diana Simon.
Somebody’s Changing My Sweet Baby’s Mind starts the album off with those sweet horns, bass, and keys supporting the great vocals of Price and Clay. This is the music I grew up listening to on late night radio, and immediately I am transformed back in time. I think this is going to be a great album.
Next up is a lovely ballad, I’m Afraid Of Losing You. The number is heartbreaking and those voices know how to pull the emotions out. I would put this song on late at night while remembering all of the loves I’ve lost. It’s gentle and beautiful.
The band gets funky on Going To The Shack, a throwback to some of those great STAX numbers. It’s fun and danceable and the kind of song that’s going to please just about every audience. Bears’ keyboard break is very cool, as is Robillard’s guitar run.
They slow things down for All Because Of Your Love. It’s soft and gentle and the vocals are truly wonderful to listen to. The horns are playful against the bass and there is a delightful optimism in the song.
The slow, sad, Love Don’t Love Nobody follows with a gorgeous sax bringing us into the song. There’s no hurry, it’s a languid number. When the vocals start, they reach deeply into your heart and soul. I doubt there are many people that can resist this number – it’s one that touches you quickly and finds those powerful emotions.
The next song, I’ll Never Do You Wrong, is another slow, controlled number. It’s a song of promises, of pledges to keep to prove love. It’s also got more than a modicum of humor in the lyrics. That feeling of promise continues with Don’t Leave Me Starving For Your Love. The two combine to form an interesting connection of promise and loss. It’s a sweet song.
There’s more funky fun on Broadway Walk. Where else but New York City could this energy take place. The horns add a lot, but the bass carries the song giving it that certain feel of actually walking down Broadway.
There’s a nice country soul feel to Book Of Memories. I’ve always felt these genres mixed nicely as they are more similar than not, and here the vocals blend beautifully with a sparse arrangement. So nice.
The horns and the driving beat kick off Too Many Hands. There’s a kind of Sam and Dave or Swanky Modes vibe here the way they trade off lyrics. It’s also got a real funk that if done live could blow the roof off the joint.
The beautiful stillness that starts Tears Of God is unique on the album. There’s a deeper passion that builds throughout the song. Gorgeous and emotional.
The album concludes with a song written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, who were two of the driving forces behind that STAX sound. You Got Me Hummin’ is a pounding number that delivers pure soul power and gives the band and Price and Clay a chance to showcase their strengths.
I will never back down from my love of soul music. I wish I could find more of it to add to ever expanding collection of blues, jazz, Americana, and roots. I don’t hear much on the radio these days and that is a real shame.
Since Clay left us in 2016, we no longer can look forward to that voice surprising us with new work. This album will have to serve as a remembrance of his enormous talent and even bigger heart. And it saddens me just a little bit to think of what else might have come from this collaboration.
So thank you Billy Price, Otis Clay, and the musicians who made This Time For Real such an endearing album. It’s one that I will cherish and believe me, this one will get a lot of play – some on Time For The Blues – but mostly on my stereo system.

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