In a recent post I suggested that later 70s albums from Barry White and Smokey Robinson could be classed as 2nd division soul. I have been feeling a bit twitchy about that assertion ever since.
After now listening to the two Barry White albums I have just acquired I am happy to promote the “Walrus Of Love” up to the 1st division. (Smokey also gets promoted because, well, he is woven into the fabric of soul music isn’t he?).
The Barry White album Is This Whatcha Wont? is from his 70s super stardom days, pretty much mid period. By then his distinctive sound had been well honed. Yes, it could be said that commercial forces were taking a successful formula and mining it to the max. But there are some nice touches on this album. The drums are pushed to the front of the mix (Barry did a bit of drumming himself, but I think the prolific session man Ed Greene was the drummer on much of Barry’s ‘70s output) and there is a lot going on under the surface in the lush arrangements. I find the whole album quite seductive (well, it’s Bazza after all), it’s very evocative but at the same time I think it avoids sounding dated.
The other album of his I picked up is No Limit On Love and I think is especially interesting. It was released in 1974 on Supremacy, a small offshoot label of Scepter. The material it contains obviously dates much earlier than ’74 though. It took me a lot of Google digging to get any sort of lowdown on this album. It turns out the album contains material Barry recorded at the Bronco/Mustang label, probably between late ‘66 and ’68. Bronco/Mustang was a west coast label set up by Bob Keane out of the ashes of his Del-Fi and Donna labels. Barry was brought in as producer and early releases, especially on Felice Taylor, very much mirrored the Motown sound. Included on this album is an alternate version of the first 45 Barry had released as a solo artist (not backed by, or part of vocal groups) under his own name – All In The Run Of A Day, released in 1967.The album alternates between vocal tracks and instrumentals (credited to the Barry White Orchestra). At least two of the instrumentals I believe were released as B sides of Felice Taylor Mustang 45s. But most of the tracks, as far as I can tell, were unreleased at the time. The sound is relatively unpolished – charming nonetheless – but you can tell Barry’s production instincts are already at work and as such this material could be seen as a prototype for the Love Unlimited Orchestra and his fully formed 70s sound.
All in all these two albums represent £1 very well spent!
A great intro on this one:
And here he gets all Righteous Brothers on us: