Monday, March 2, 2020

Billy Preston - 1975 - It's My Pleasure

Billy Preston 
It's My Pleasure

01. Fancy Lady 5:46
02. Found The Love 4:04
03. That's Life 3:41
04. Do It While You Can 6:17
05. It's My Pleasure 3:51
06. Song Of Joy 3:22
07. I Can't Stand It 6:34
08. All Of My Life 5:51

Bass – Kenny Burke (tracks: B4), Reggie McBride (tracks: A2, A4, B3)
Congas – Rocky Dzidzornu (tracks: A1)
Drums – Ollie Brown (tracks: A1 to B1, B3, B4) (tracks: B1, B4), Shuggie Otis (tracks: A2, A4, B3), Tony Maiden (tracks: B1)
Harmonica – Stevie Wonder (tracks: A4, B1)
Producer, Engineer, Programmed By [T.O.N.T.O] – Malcom Cecil*, Robert Margouleff
Vocals – Syreeta Wright (tracks: A1)
Vocals, Piano [Acoustic], Clavinet, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes], SynthesizerBilly Preston

The balance is a little upset here: compared to The Kids & Me, Billy's follow-up only has eight compositions on it, and you can guess why that is — either out of a general lack of ideas, or be­cause the dance attitude of the age prevailed so heavily, many of the songs are cruelly stretched out, usually way past the point at which they have anything to say to anything but your limbs.

No, actually, scrape that from the record: ʽI Can't Stand Itʼ, one of the album's longest numbers, is not about dancing at all — it is a slow, moody, pensive instrumental that could have been brilliant if not for the fact that all of its brilliance is immediately unveiled in the first twenty-five seconds; from then on, it is all either an infinite number of repetitions or a few sidetracking, distracting solo passages. That is Billy Preston in a nutshell for you: one good idea makes the man so happy that he smears it all over the plate until it ends up looking... well, kinda thin for an idea.

There is also a more pronounced emphasis on synthesizers throughout, although Billy strictly ad­heres to the Stevie Wonder formula, preferring a guitar-like sound to his electronics rather than using them to emulate strings and organs, like many (if not most) of his contemporaries. This makes the album somewhat dated, but not in an ugly way — the instruments sound live enough and sufficiently emotional, much like Billy himself, whose optimism and energy was still pulsa­ting — perhaps boosted somewhat by the success of ʽNothing From Nothingʼ.

Other than ʽI Can't Stand Itʼ (which should have been compressed to three minutes), the main highlights here are: ʽFancy Ladyʼ, a bouncy-catchy duet with Syreeta Wright (marking the begin­ning of a long-term partnership: apparently, a fancy for synthesizers was not everything that Billy inherited from Stevie Wonder — his ex-wife and partner, too, had made the grade); ʽThat's Lifeʼ, the album's disco-est number that is simply infectiously enthusiastic; and the almost surprisingly moving solo piano ballad ʽSong Of Joyʼ, elevated from fodder level to something higher by the unexpected bass twist at the end of chorus — just as you become assured that this is just one of those «thank-you-for-all-the-happiness» songs, the melody swerves and enters darker territory, with a big question mark that might make you want to revisit it some other day.

Still, there are serious disappointments, such as the drastically overlong ʽDo It While You Canʼ, a rather pointless soft-funk jam that is not particularly salvaged by Stevie Wonder's harmonica parts, as the song never really decides what sort of mood it is aiming for. The rest of the tracks, too, are somewhat non-descript, and given how few of them there are overall, It's My Pleasure shows the curve going down again — not a bad record by all means, what with the creative synth sound and the esteemed guest stars (and I haven't even mentioned a certain «Hari Georgeson» adding guitar ornaments to ʽFound A Loveʼ), but where The Kids & Me had Billy in full adequate control of his element, this here is yet another pretext to showcase his limitations. And so I'd like to give it a thumbs down, but «officially» I won't do that — there is so much worse to come.

Billy Preston - 1974 - The Kids & Me

Billy Preston 
The Kids & Me

01. Tell Me You Need My Loving 2:45
02. Nothing From Nothing 2:34
03. Struttin' 2:38
04. Sister Sugar 3:07
05. Sad Sad Song 2:30
06. You Are So Beautiful 4:55
07. Sometimes I Love You 3:14
08. St. Elmo 2:32
09. John The Baptist 3:26
10. Little Black Boys And Girls 2:30

Banjo – Albert Perkins
Bass Guitar – Bobby Watson
Drums – Manuel Kellough
Guitar – Tony Maiden
Keyboards – Hubert Heard, Kenneth Lupper
Keyboards, Vocals – Billy Preston
Slide Guitar – Joe Walsh

Billy Preston sho' nuff was a super talented versatile funky soul brother... the problem I have with most of his albums is that they're so inconsistent... The man put it all together; hard socking soul, vicious funk rock, jazz, standards, showtunes, instrumentals, synth-work-outs... It's really all over the place.

'The Kids & Me' is no exception. Aside the inclusion of the stupidly funky "Nothing From Nothing", the big hit, it's a mixed affair to say the least...

When Billy gets in a funk bag, it's sheer heaven: opening track "Tell Me You Need My Loving" starts off as a sleazy, thick groovemonster, but here too Preston is bent on adding some puns; it goes into double-time on the chorus, transforming it into a rock & roller. The funk 'n' rock go better together on the stomp "Sister Sugar" and the gurgling bass-driven "Sometimes I Love You".

"Struttin'" is a warbeling, funked-up instrumental in the "Outa Space" and "Space Race" vein, and his synth stylings are way more in place here than on a truly corny vocal-less rendition of his own "You Are So Beautiful". The synth is all over updated readings of "St. Elmo" and "John the Baptist" as well.

But Billy proves his soulful genius once more with the truly groovy gospel-rocker "Sad Sad Song", maybe this disc's most underrated piece of work. Nearly as appealing is the disc's sole message track, the subdued, Latin-esque "Little Black Boys and Girls".

The LP ends with a wah-wah'd, synth-driven rompin' instrumental aptly titled "Creature Feature".

There's no denying the genius of Billy Preston... even if this set includes some less than spectacular waxings, it still features enough sure-shot funk goodies.

Billy Preston - 1973 - Live European Tour

Billy Preston 
Live European Tour 

01. Day Tripper 1:55
02 .The Bus (Medley) 10:40
03. Let It Be 2:20
04. Let's Go Get Stoned 1:05
05. Billy's Bag 3:15
06. Will It Go Round In Circles 3:55
07. Outa-Space 4:05
08. Higher (Vamp) 7:00
09. Get Back 5:10

CD Release Japan:

US Version:
01. Day Tripper
02. The Bus (Medley)
03. Let It Be
04. Will It Go Round In Circles
05. Let's Go Get Stoned
06. Space Race
07. Amazing Grace
08. That's The Way God Planned It
09. Outa-Space
UK Version:
10. Day Tripper 1:55
11. The Bus (Medley) 10:40
12. Let It Be 2:20
13. Let's Go Get Stoned 1:05
14. Billy's Bag 3:15
15. Will It Go Round In Circles 3:55
16. Outa-Space 4:05
17. Higher (Vamp) 7:00
18. Get Back 5:10

Billy Preston: All keyboards, melodica, lead vocals.
Mick Taylor: Guitars, backing vocals.
Hubert Heard: Keyboards.
Kenneth Lupper: Keyboards.
Manuel Kellough: Drums, percussion.

In the mid-'70s, A&M Records began releasing live albums by many of its key rock artists (Peter Frampton, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Flying Burrito Brothers, etc.). Billy Preston's, recorded along his 1973 European tour with a band that included Mick Taylor -- moonlighting from the Rolling Stones (from whose lineup he was soon to be liberated) -- might be the most impressive of them all, capturing a funky, soulful, soaring, and overall spellbinding performance that embraced just about every side of his work. Preston's rendition of "Let It Be" is the only one this reviewer has ever heard that could challenge the original on its own ground, and Preston also turns in killer renditions of his own hits "Will It Go Round in Circles" and "That's the Way God Planned It," a gorgeous organ instrumental version of "Amazing Grace," and a scintillating performance of "Let's Go Get Stoned" (where he gives a loving homage to Ray Charles). The obligatory "Space Race" and "Outa-Space" are also present, the latter expanded into an eight-minute jam that leaves it not too recognizable but still a fair amount of fun as a finale. The sound is excellent and the only flaw might be the fact that there's only 40 minutes of music on this disc, which is an excellent addendum to Hip-O Records' Ultimate Collection. As of 2002, Live European Tour has been reissued by A&M's Japanese division in killer sound, and is well worth tracking down.

Billy Preston - 1973 - Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music

Billy Preston
Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music

01. Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music 1:10
02. You're So Unique 3:18
03. How Long Has The Train Been Gone 2:27
04. My Soul Is A Witness 2:51
05. Sunday Morning 1:45
06. You've Got Me For Company 2:12
07. Listen To The Wind 3:14
08. Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music (Reprise) 0:23
09. Space Race 3:21
10. Do You Love Me? 2:55
11. I'm So Tired 4:26
12. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) 3:49
13. Minuet For Me 2:12

Banjo – Dennis Coates
Choir – Church Of Divine Guidance Youth Choir
Drums – Manuel Kellough
Guitar – David T. Walker
Keyboards – Hubert Heard, Kenneth Lupper
Bass, Keyboards, Vocals – Billy Preston

Billy Preston loved all kinds of music. His solo albums usually represented this ecclectic taste, but his most ambitious and varied offering came in the shape of his 1973 LP 'Everybody Likes Some Kind of Music'. Preston taps into a slew of styles, and the end-result is pretty remarkable.

The up-tempo soulful rocker "You're So Unique" stomps on nicely and is followed by the Big Band/Swing cocktail number "How Long Has the Train Been Gone".

Foot-tapping country church revivalism explodes from the raucous "My Soul Is a Witness", whereas the deceptively titled "Sunday Morning" actually rides a traditional country rhythm.

"You've Got Me for Company" puts emphasis on melody, and is a gorgeous mid-tempo ballad with a nifty string arrangement, while the equally pensive "Listen to the Wind" is more of a Leon Russell-styled swamp rock excursion.

The follow-up to his hit "Outa Space" is here as well: "Space Race" follows the same pattern as its high charting predecessor, a monster funk instrumental featuring Billy's trademark, oozing synth solos.

Back to basic blues is here too, in the guise of the harmonica-heavy "Do You Love Me?" which also stars a fatback horn section and, less orthodox, a huge string chart. "I'm So Tired", on the other hand, is quintessential early '70s funk rock Billy Preston style: a gutbucket groove laden with horns, gospel piano and swirling, oscillating synth wails.

Before closing procedures with the classical (!) "Minuet for Me", Preston turns in a funked-up rendition of the Bob Dylan classic "It's Alright Ma".

A pot-pourri of styles, to be sure, but nonetheless the experiments mostly work.
On Everybody Likes Some Kind of Music, Billy Preston attempted to put together a sound as wide-ranging as the album title. The jazzy "How Long Has This Train Been Gone?" is clearly patterned after classic show tunes, while "My Soul Is a Witness" is a straight-ahead gospel song, complete with a choir. Add to that the country of "Sunday Morning," the '70s soul of "I'm So Tired," and the funky instrumental "Space Race," one of Preston's most enduring classics, and the result is a wildly diverse album. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that it's a completely successful one. Because most of the experiments are so short (barely clocking in at two or three minutes), they don't really register as complete songs, the way the longer soul and funk tracks do. That's not to say that Preston is a dilettante, since each of the genre tracks are well-performed and carefully produced. It's just that Preston should have chosen one or two genres to experiment with and composed fully developed songs, since he clearly has the talent to do so. The funk and soul tunes are excellent, much more thought-out and constructed, and are what make the album worth listening to. Everybody Likes Some Kind of Music is well-performed and solidly produced, but with some more focused songwriting, could have been an impressive set. As it stands, it's an interesting, but flawed collection.

Billy Preston - 1972 - Music Is My Life

Billy Preston 
Music Is My Life

01. We're Gonna Make It 3:13
02. One Time Or Another 2:49
03. Blackbird 2:48
04. I Wonder Why 5:43
05. Will It Go Round In Circles 4:28
06. Ain't That Nothin' 3:47
07. God Loves You 2:50
08. Make The Devil Mad (Turn On To Jesus) 5:22
09. Nigger Charlie 6:31
10. Heart Full Of Sorrow 3:35
11. Music's My Life 3:58

Organ, Vocals - Billy Preston
Bass – Louis Johnson
Drums – Manuel Kellough
Guitar – George Johnson
Horn – Buck Monari, George Bohanon, Jim Horn, Paul Hubinon, Tom Scott
Keyboards – Hubert Head
Strings – Campbell Kurban String Section

Billy Preston's 1972 LP 'Music Is My Life' ranks as one his more consistently funky in my book. And even when Preston delves into a ballad, he delivers his most hauntingly melodic soul searcher with the beautiful "Heart Full of Sorrow".

But the bulk here consists of electrifide, keyboard-heavy funk and gospel-rock. The uptempo foot-stompin' opener "We're Gonna Make It" takes it to church right away, showcasing Billy's skills on gospel piano. And the services continue with "One Time or Another", where a lurching Hammond comes wailing in as Billy and company go for some creepy early-Funkadelic styled vocalizing/chanting...

After the almost mandatory Beatles-cover "Blackbird" (where Preston adds the clavecimble), the band unleashes all its fury on the groove beast "Will It Go Round in Circles", one of Billy's most hardcore funk waxings, with its incessant drive, and greasy, fatback drumming courtesy of Manny Kellough.

Billy gives his two cents on the state of the world with the funk jam "Ain't That Nothin'", a rollicking message tune that reprises the sanctified gospel delivery heard on the preceding protest song "I Wonder Why".

Country-fried gospel rock returns on the uplifting, anthemic "God Loves You" and the feel remains on the brooding, gurglin' swamp boogie of "Make the Devil Mad". Then Billy launches into the vicious funk rocker "Nigger Charlie", a self-written tribute to 'slave Charlie', the run-away.

The album closes with the title-track; a gospelish tune featuring just Billy on piano, where he gives thanks to God for his musical talents.

This album offers Billy Preston as I like his music best: rough, raw and funky.

Billy Preston - 1971 - I Wrote A Simple Song

Billy Preston
I Wrote A Simple Song

01. Should've Known Better 2:28
02. I Wrote A Simple Song 3:28
03. John Henry 3:15
04. Without A Song 4:57
05. The Bus 3:32
06. Outa-Space 4:08
07. The Looner Tune 2:47
08. You Done Got Older 3:08
09. Swing Down Chariot 4:13
10. God Is Great 3:32
11. My Country 'Tis Of Thee 4:27

Backing Vocals – Clydie King, Douglas Gibbs, Duane Rogers, Eugene Bryant, Jesse Kirkland, Merry Clayton, Merna Matthews, Patrice Holloway, Sherrell Atwood, Venetta Fields
Congas – King Errison
Drums – Manuel Kellough
Guitar – David T. Walker
Lead Guitar – George Harrison
Keyboards – Billy Preston
Tenor Saxophone – Rocky Peoples
Trumpet – Charles Garnette

Billy leaves Apple and scores a big hit!
Excuse the "South Park" quote, but "this kicks a..!" This is Billy Preston's debut album for A&M Records and was produced by Quincy Jones. It features George Harrison on guitar ("Simple Song") and contains virtuoso keyboard work throughout. This album convinced me to become a musician. The influence of his time with Ray Charles is clear ("Should've Known Better" and "Without A Song"). Gospel aficionados will love "God Is Great" and "Swing Down Chariot." Now, if they'd only re-release "Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music" and "It's My Pleasure," I'd be happy.

Billy Preston - 1970 - Encouraging Words

Billy Preston
Encouraging Words

01. Right Now 3:13
02. Little Girl 3:28
03. Use What You've Got 4:21
04. My Sweet Lord 3:21
05. Let The Music Play 2:42
06. The Same Thing Again 4:32
07. I've Got A Feeling 2:49
08. Sing One For The Lord 3:47
09. When You Are Mine 2:44
10. I Don't Want You To Pretend 2:35
11. Encouraging Words 3:32
12. All Things Must Pass 3:38
13. You've Been Acting Strange 3:20

Billy Preston: organ, piano, electric piano, harmonica, vocals, backing vocals, producer, writer
George Harrison: guitar, moog synthesizer, backing vocals, producer, writer
Eric Clapton: guitar
Delaney Bramlett: guitar, backing vocals
Carl Radle: bass
Klaus Voormann: bass
Jim Gordon: drums
Ringo Starr: drums
Jim Price: trumpet, trombone, horn arrangements
Bobby Keys: saxophone
The Edwin Hawkins Singers: backing vocals

Encouraging Words was about as fine an album as Apple Records ever issued by anyone who wasn't a member of the Beatles, and it's also better than many of the Apple albums issued by the ex-bandmembers; but it's also among the most obscure of any album that the label ever issued by a major artist -- without a hit single to drive its sales, the LP never did more than brush the very bottom of the charts, and it was quickly lost amid the financial collapse of the label and the implosion of the Beatles' business ventures; even many Billy Preston fans never had a chance to find out it was there, obscured as it was by his subsequent chart success with "Outta Space" on the A&M label. A bold and searing effort mixing gospel, soul, and rock sounds about as well as any record cut that year, Encouraging Words lived up its killer musical pedigree, partly an offshoot of the evolution of the Let It Be and All Things Must Pass albums, and of sessions that Preston and George Harrison had produced for Doris Troy; but it also picked up where Preston's playing for Ray Charles had left off in 1968. The surging, soaring blues "The Same Thing Again," and the driving rocker "You've Been Acting Strange," both Preston originals, were worth the price of the album, but for those requiring familiar fare, Preston's renditions of "My Sweet Lord," "All Things (Must) Pass," and "I've Got a Feeling" are here too, the first two as stunning gospel numbers (the second with some gorgeous jazz and classical embellishments) that make the Harrison versions seem pallid; and the latter a delightfully funky rendition that makes the Beatles' recording sound like a classy demo; and for truly, delightfully strange sound amalgams, "Sing One for the Lord" manages to couple soaring gospel with some loud lead guitar and a piano part derived from Tchaikovsky (at least according to the annotator -- this reviewer would have said Grieg). [The 2010 reissue of Encouraging Words was remastered by the same Abbey Road team who remastered the acclaimed 2009 Beatles reissues and was expanded by three bonus tracks: the previously uneleased “How Long Has the Train Been Gone,” the scrapped B-side “As Long As I’ve Got My Baby” and “All That I’ve Got (I’m Gonna Give To You),” cowritten by Doris Troy.]

Nowhere near as well-known, let alone commercially successful, as its predecessor 'That's the Way God Planned It', Billy's sophomore effort for Apple breathes the same kind of gospel funk, and maybe even more heavily so.

The fatback strut "Right Now" is hardcore funk drenched in high cholesterol horn riffs and Preston's bubbling clavinet work-out, whereas his gospel roots are most visibly at play on the future George Harrison mega-hit "My Sweet Lord" and "Sing One for The Lord".

A whole lot of sanctified sweat exudes from a funked-up rendition of The Beatles' "I've Got a Feeling" - which features some mean bass lines, probably courtesy of Klaus Voormann - and the soul-rock teaser "I Don't Want You to Pretend", with its exquisite rhythmic pattern.

The calmer "Little Girl" is a beautifully arranged R&B ballad that takes you away to lullaby-land in a second, but there's a rude awakening with the Ray Charles-styled gospel-rock venture "Use What You Got" and the low-down bluesy "The Same Thing Again".

Intense, hard-driven funk returns on the heavily syncopated "When You Are Mine" and the anthemic title-track, before Billy delivers a haunting version of another Harrison evergreen-to-be, the legendary "All Things Must Pass".

The set is closed with the menacing old-school rocker "You've Been Acting Strange".