Sunday, June 16, 2013

Paul Kelly -- Don't Burn Me (album review)




Paul Kelly, "Don't Burn Me" (Warner Bros., 1973)





Tracks

A1 Come Lay Some Lovin' On Me 3:41   
A2 (You Bring Me) Joy 2:57   
A3 I Wanna Get Next To You 3:20   
A4 I Could Never Love Nobody Like I'm Lovin' You 3:21   
A5 Come With Me 2:30   
A6 Love Me Now 3:22   
B1 Wrapped Up In Your Love 4:21   
B2 Sweetness 3:24   
B3 Come By Here 3:26   
B4 My Love For You Won't Die 3:20   
B5 I'd Be Satisfied 2:41   
B6 Don't Burn Me 2:55





Paul Kelly was born June 19th, 1940 in Miami, Florida. Before he joined Clarence Reid’s Del-Mires  in the early 60’s, Paul Kelly had already had his own — albeit short-lived — group. In 1956, Paul’s brother Henry asked him to join his own group, The Superiors. That came as a “super-surprise” to Paul who said in an interview with the Basement magazine that  Henry had told him he couldn't sing and that he “never was going to be a singer.” Henry’s Superiors, however, didn’t stay together for very long either because Henry left Miami to go to college. The rest of the group formed first the Spades and later the Valadeers. 

In 1960 Paul eventually went solo. His first recording attempt for the Dade label resulted in a disagreement over money, and the record was not released.
His debut single for the small Lloyd label “The Upset” b/w “It’s My Baby” (1965), co-written by Clarence Reid was, compared to his later recordings, a typical middle-of-the-road 60’s release. As was his rather successful “Chills and Fever” — another Northern Soul title that did not even come close to doing justice to the artist’s talent. “Sweet Sweet Lovin,” written by Kelly himself and released in 1967 for the Philips label, came much closer to showcasing the full potential of Paul’s vocal abilities. Compared to this release, his 1965 recordings sounded feeble and uninspired.
The 60‘s were over, and with the start of the new decade, it seemed, Paul Kelly had found his artistic identity. In 1970, he released the song that would forever be tied to his name: “Stealing In The Name Of The Lord” (Happy Tiger).  The song pilloried the hypocrisy of dubious preacher tactics to swindle their faithful followers out of their money. Paul Kelly wrote the song for Sam and Dave. But Sam Moore, it is said, found the theme objectionable.

Obviously, at the start of the new decade, Paul’s music had begun to change. The aggressive anti-church-corruption song had started a blaze within Paul Kelly. A new kind of urgency and passion pervaded both his compositions and deliveries.

When Happy Tiger records closed shop in 1971, Warner Bros. signed him up. Between 1972 and 1977 he released 4 LP’s for the new label.
Although “Dirt”, his first album, probably got the lion’s share of attention, his second album, in my opinion, deserves a closer look. “Don’t Burn Me”, was released simultaneously in the U.S. and Great Britain. All 12 songs are written by Paul Kelly himself and produced by Buddy Killen whose heavy slant towards country music becomes quite noticeable in some of the recordings. Nevertheless, the album offers an astonishing variety of musical arrangements and is inspired by various musical genres.
Nothing  is left to be desired on this album. From the the singing and lyrics to the participation of such choice musicians as Chips Moman and Reggie Young, everything provides a pleasant experience. Both the strings and horn sections are nothing short of superb. Paul Kelly’s singing has matured from the early, rather streamlined approach to  his idiosyncratic style. He sings with genuine passion, emotes without theatrics. The rawness of 60’s Soul is still present; the roughest edges, though, have been smoothed out.


The album balances more or less upbeat titles with slower ones. There are no unwelcome surprises having you wonder how they ended up on an otherwise wonderfully balanced, harmonious selection of songs.

The songs on the upbeat side “Come Lay Some Loving On Me,” “I Could Never Love Nobody Like I’m Loving You,” “You Bring Me Joy,” and the title song “Don’t Burn Me” have all made it into the favorites section of my i-tunes library.  

The opening song,”Come Lay Some Lovin’ On Me” utilizes a generous dash of psychedelic sound and leans heavily to the funky side. The emphasis on the bass as well as the interaction of guitar- and horn parts give the title a well-rounded sound. For those who love some nice drum work: Hayward Bishop is cited as being on the drums.

On “I Could Never Love Nobody Like I’m Loving You” the theme is joy and happiness. Hearing the unburdened organ, easy-going drums, dancing guitar, and smiling strings, I feel like greeting spring after a long and dull winter. Flamboyant and invigorating, this song never fails to induce a surge of endorphins.

“You Bring Me Joy”  and  “I’d Be Satisfied” keep the guitarists busy. You will love the bass guitar on both songs. Paul, so tot speak, joins Juanita Rogers in the background vocals. On these two titles, the horn section and strings remain in the background, providing  the canvas on which Paul’s vocals splashes the colors.

His ability to express and evoke emotions shows again — and best — in the slower titles like, for instance, “I Wanna Get Close To You” and “Come With Me”.  These songs also impress with the muted, understated horn section. Paul shows his expertise in switching from soft and silky-romantic yearning to excited and impatient passion. “Come With Me” is reminiscent of 60’s folk music.  

“Wrapped Up In Your Love”, “Sweetness” and “My Love For You Won’t Die” are simply beautiful and deserve to join the ranks of classic soul songs. They incorporate a moderate amount of both country and deep southern soul.

Now, the big surprise to me was “Love Me Now”.  I only knew Johnny Adams’s version before I came across “Don’t Burn Me.” This title owes much of its hauntingly beauty to the sophisticated instrumentation — especially the almost etherial strings. They seem to be meant to be felt, not heard. The horns are swaying like gentle waves that carry you to a place where nothing but bliss and joy do rule. I can’t get enough of that song. If you know the passionate version of Johnny Adams, it may take a few listenings to fully appreciate the understated sensuous quality in Paul’s version. It’s like comparing two different lovers: one whose fire might burn you, the other one whose longing envelopes you with the warmest glow … This song is a gem.
All in all, “Don’t Burn Me” is an album of a homogeneously high quality. You will enjoy it.

by Raggedy

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