Bill Withers has a new album out. It’s called Still Bill and contains his hit single Lean on Me, that is currently riding high on the single charts.
I thought his first album disappointing, even though it contained a few good tracks. But this new set is a vast improvement on even the best of that initial release. There are very few other soul artists who can not only produce uncluttered, funky dance music, but also write extremely sensitive, adult songs.
Bill Withers succeeds in every way. Even the use of strings does not allow the sentiments to become syrupy – a fault that all too often happens with arrangers who permit the sound they create to swamp an artist’s talent and originality. The string arrangements used here either help to set a mood or bring in a needed tension to supplement the lyrics.
Soul music has been progressing considerably recently and this album is one of the best examples of this welcome trend. Listen to it a few times before forming any opinions, it really does need a little concentrated listening before you fully realise the amount of thought and perception that has gone into producing this very stunning and rewarding record.
Lean on Me is a very beautiful track, instantly appealing, as its chart success indicates. But songs like Another Day To Run, Take It All In And Check It All Out, and Who Is He (And What Is He To You)? further portray the maturity of Wither’s vision and musical accomplishments.
This record should prove to be one of the soul ballad albums of the year. Don’t miss out on it.
The new ‘greatest hits’ collection from Tamla Motown is the Hits of Edwin Starr. The album contains not only Starr’s recent chart singles, but also his earlier successes. These include numbers such as Headline News, 25 Miles and Agent Double O Soul, which previously only had limited exposure in this country when first released, although they have always been firm discotheque favourites
Of his later period, chart-toppers such as Time and the incredibly arranged and produced War still prove to be as exciting as ever.
Edwin Starr has shown over the years that he can produce consistently good soul sounds, which are both original in concept and fun to dance to.
The lyrics of his songs always make me think of him as the Chuck Berry of soul music. For while some may say the words are banal, if you listen closely enough they reveal valid reflections of space age society.
In conclusion, this is a top-rate, good value (14 tracks) collection of one man’s contributions so far to soul music. And it’s a must for parties or whatever you call the gatherings you attend.