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  Johnnie Taylor - A Tribute The Soul Selector

Johnnie Taylor - A Tribute

You got Papa Ray the Soul Selector here to praise the passing of one of my All-Time favorite singers in American music, and I'll bet you there won't be any tributes in People mag ---or for that matter, on BET cableTV---but Johnnie Taylor was as great a soul act as I have ever seen in my life, and although mainstream media never seemed to have a clue about one of the longest running success stories in R&B, the largely-black-based audience over the past 4 decades voted their choice, over and over. For example, 1996 saw the man with the biggest release his current label MALACO had since Z.Z. Hill's success in the early 80s, & at Vintage Vinyl the #1-selling album Good Love---outselling Rock, Rap, and Alternative, OK?? Taylor also had the biggest hits in the history of major labels he recorded for in the 60s & 70s. So why was he invisible to the media taste-makers in the USA? Maybe because, like Tyrone Davis, Taylor's appeal to working -class black audiences and a lack of cross-over dreams to Top 40(although both of these singers had mega-hits on the charts) rendered them Invisible Men to all but the loyal fans who bought albums and attended shows in great numbers, almost exclusively in the South and Mid-West ---shit, talk about 'roots music', for my money Johnnie Taylor was a whole damn forest of great funk-amental sounds through his career...

Taylor was in many ways the ultimate R&B Soul Singer, as great a voice & performer as Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, but never getting the same acclaim as those two from the mainstream media. But if JT wasn't as well known as Otis, he lasted longer, and recorded with the same core of musicians at the mighty STAX label; if not as famous to Blues Brothers followers as Pickett, he kept getting chart hits and toured as a headliner long after Pickett's heyday passed. And unlike Redding or Pickett, Taylor was anointed and washed in greatness in more ways than a career stretching far beyond theirs in working popularity. After all, it was Taylor who was -hand-picked by Sam Cooke as his replacement in the Soul Stirrers when Cooke went Pop, and when Sam began his own label , SAR, guess who was his first artist signing? So. Taylor's career both pre-dated and outlasted virtually every living soul performer of the past 50 years, which means that his death May 31st, of a heart attack in Dallas at the age of 63 (or 66, according to some folks) meant he was out there performing and singing as a teenager in the 50s. And Anotha' Thang---Johnnie Taylor was no mere oldies show, some sort of musical wax museum on the road packaging by-gone nostalgia. To the end, he was a contemporary headliner; to the end, he carried a large and impressive big band on the road, playing a mix of his hits along with his newest singles on Malaco, to audiences virtually all-black and ready to party. His last show was as the top-billed finale to the Birmingham Alabama Blues Fest on May 27th, mere days before his demise, while the next week-end would have seen him as headliner in Chicago's blues fest. He never made the Today Show, but right to the end JT was gettin' paid as one of the all- time success stories in American R&B. Anyone 'knowing soul music' who's not hip to Mr. JT has a big plate to look forward to...

There's no better place to start than Johnnie's first album on the STAX label, entitled Wanted One Soul Singer , originally released in 1967. Everything befitting this major soul stylist is fully in place; the Memphis studio wizards of Booker T.&the MGs, the fat Stax horn section, great songs wrtten by the team of Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter, along with inspired covers from Herbie Hancock and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer('Watermelon Man' and 'Blues in the Night', respectively), all fronted by an impassioned and soaring JT at the very highest level of performance in 60s soul music. Let me say this again---if you think you've heard the best soul music by only checking Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, or whoever , guess again. This release gives you as great a soul singer who ever lived, beginning his career of hit songs and touring triumphs(did you know his single for Columbia in 1975, the very un-disco-ish "Disco Lady" was that label's biggest hit ever, from that year until well into the 90s?), all at the cool-low price of 9.99. I swear, 60s Memphis soul never got better than this---the Soul Selector says so.



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