Johnnie Taylor was an accomplished soul artist despite having little instrumental skill and he rarely wrote any of his own material. He was known variously as the ‘Blues Wailer’ and the ‘Philosopher Of Soul’ and recorded over 30 albums and 120 singles throughout a career that cemented his status as one of the leading male soul vocalists during the late sixties and throughout the seventies.
He started his recording career mid-50s with the doo-wop group The Five Echoes and gospel groups The Highway Q.C.’s and then in 1957, The Soul Stirrers, replacing Sam Cooke who had left the group for a solo career. Taylor followed that path a few years later signing for Cooke’s SAR label. and had a minor hit in 1962 with “Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day”.
in 1964 he moved to Stax Records where he started as a blues artist enjoying many fruitful years, most notably with “Who’s Making Love” selling more than a million copies. Following the unfortunate demise of Stax in 1976 he moved to Columbia Records where he went platinum with the hit “Disco Lady” (ironically not a disco track at all) and the album from which it came ‘Eargasm’ (1976) was a commercial peak he would never scale again. However, he continued with many collectable releases before moving to Beverly Glen Music in the early eighties and then Malaco Records in 1984, where his style became the more soul-blues based sound that was synonymous with the label. He remained with them until he died of a heart attack in Dallas aged 66 in 2000.
“Let’s Get Back On” Track comes from the CD ‘Gotta Get The Groove Back’ (1999) produced (and co-written with Charlie Brooks) by Frederick Knight, who also used the same backing track some 7 years later with his production of the David Sea track “Stay In My Arms” which was a modern soul favourite and will help to register the significance of this earlier production. It is now available as a vinyl release for the first time. It was taken from his final album although Malaco released ‘There’s No Good In Goodbye’ posthumously in 2003
Robert Calvin Brooks, known professionally as Bobby “Blue” Bland spent his early career in Memphis, developing a sound that mixed gospel with blues and R&B and was known as the ‘Lion Of The Blues ‘and the ‘Sinatra Of The Blues’. His father abandoned the family not long after his birth and he acquired his name from his stepfather, Leroy Bland. His formative musical years were centered around the Beale Street scene and he was scouted by Ike Turner for Modern Records.
His progress was interrupted by a two year stint in the US Army and when he returned to Memphis he signed for Duke Records, run by Don Robey. Bland was illiterate and Robey helped him sign his contract which only gave him half a cent per record sold instead of the industry standard of 2 cents. He had his first hit in 1957 and continued a successful run of R&B chart entries without breaking through into the mainstream markets and was ranked number 13 of the all time chart-topping artists in Joel Whitburn’s “Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995”.
Duke Records sold out to ABC and with them he managed to return to the R&B charts but he still couldn’t succeed in the pop charts. In 1985 Bland signed for Malaco who were specialists in the Southern black music sound and he recorded many albums and toured for them, frequently with B.B. King, and was inducted into the ‘Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’ in 1992.
Whilst “Heart Open Up Again” was a vinyl release in 1985 it was not chosen to be the single release from the Tommy Couch & Wolf Stephenson produced album Members Only (1985). This beautiful ballad, penned by George Jackson/Robert Miller/Michael Wooten, was never before released as a single and is a fabulous pairing with the topside – two of the best from two of the all-time greats.
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Johnnie Taylor - Let's Get Back On Track
Bobby Bland - Heart, Open Up Again