CD REVIEW: LENNY WILLIAMS: ULTIMATE COLLECTION (HIP-O RECORDS
Lenny Williams is best known as the "voice" of that MONSTER FUNK BAND, Tower of Power’s most famous songs. This compilation from our friends at HIP-O records proves that even outside of the context of Tower of Power, Lenny Williams is truly a force to be reckoned with. Shame that he was never promoted as such, he is a force as POWERFUL as Teddy Pendegrass.
In his book "Funk: The music, The People and the One", author Rickey Vincent makes the point that "funk bands are almost ALWAYS fronted by a truly POWERFUL soul singer." This simple fact is something that we all know as fans, but rarely think about or articulate. However, because of his relatively low profile we don’t even think about Lenny Williams in this way.
This CD combines the best of his work with Tower of Power and his solo career.
Don’t sleep on it
(this is one of the BEST releases of the year 2001)
1. LOVE HURT ME, LOVE HEALED ME
"Generic Slow Jam" (nice try tho)
2. CAUSE I LOVE YOU
The song is as gut wrenching and painful as anything that you are likely to hear from the so called "southern soul" genre. " Cause I Love You" is an EPIC of soul music that is in the same class as Harold Melvin and the Blue notes – "Be For Real". The song checks in at nearly EIGHT MINUITES and tells a story, and even includes a long spoken word "rap" in the middle (a’ la Blue Magic!). How many of us would have thought it possible from the lead singer of Tower of Power? I have never heard this song before, it’s now one of my favorites 🙂
3. SO VERY HARD TO GO
Since you are here at this web site, reading this, I will go way out on a limb and assume that you have heard this song before 🙂 But just in case you haven’t, take it from me, this song is one of the finest moments in the history of Soul music. (nuff said) Sure, we all know that tower of Power is a west coast based STANK FUNK BAND, however this song sounds like it’s in a class with the very best of the east coast style songs coming out of NY, Philly, DC, etc that SLOW JAMMIN FOOLS like me pushed sweaty young ladies up against basement poles so many years ago. (and that is EXACTLY what we did when "So Very Hard to Go" would come on during those "Blue Light parties" of my long ago, but still fresh in my mind youth)
4. JUST WHEN WE START MAKING IT
Lenny Williams is the BOMB!!!!!!!!!!
5. DON’T CHANGE HORSES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREAM
Once again I am going to assume that you have heard this song before 🙂 However, just in case you haven’t..Tower of Power is sometimes called "east bay grease". Just let your imagination run wild with that term.
It means just what you think it means..
Lenny Williams is the "grease" inside of that "east bay grease". The other thing that you need to know about this song is the fact that not only did Lenny Williams write this song, he co-wrote it with none other than JOHNNY "GUITAR" WATSON
6. WHAT IS HIP?
Hell, what is FUNK? I think that whatever it is (Lenny Williams knows), and he’s giving us some MAJOR clues here on this song 🙂 "Hipness IS… WHAT IT IS, and sometimes hipness is what it AIN’T."
7. SINCE I MET YOU
This song starts out like it’s gonna be some "Memphis soul stew", a’ la Al Green/Otis Redding/Mighty Sam McClain and then Lenny comes in with just the perfect mixture of Philadelphia Soul, 1950’s doo wop and somebody’s "gut bucket blues" and makes this song sound something like something that should have been a big hit in 1966
8. DOING THE LOOP DE LOOP
Remember the song "Love Rollercoaster" – Ohio Players? This song has got the same theme.and has a very tasty "blues harp" solo in the middle.
9. PROBLEM SOLVER
Very nice tune, Lenny does a nice job
10. I’VE BEEN AWAY FROM LOVE TOO LONG
Nice pop ballad, probably could have crossed over back in 1979, had it been promoted as such when it was initially released
11. LET’S TALK IT OVER
Once again, Lenny Williams takes us from Oakland’s East Bay to the sounds of Philadelphia. This is a slow jam that would have fit right in at those basement parties. The song is produced by Frank Wilson (of Motown fame)
12. MIDNIGHT GIRL
Another Frank Wilson production. Makes me wonder where I was in 1979 when this song was released (and why I didn’t buy it?). It reached #20 on the R&B charts
13. LOOK UP WITH YOUR MIND
This song was released as a single for some reason. In my mind it’s really just album filler". It stalled at #78 on the R&B charts
14. YOU GOT ME RUNNING
This song is another Frank Wilson production (remember he produced most of Eddie Kendricks solo stuff). It’s a disco song and clocks in at nearly 8 minutes. I remember not liking it then, and my feelings about the song haven’t changed. The song reached #40 on the R&B charts
15. CHOOSING YOU
This is another disco song, I like it better than "You got me Running"
16. SHOO DOO FU FU OOH
This song’s got a strange title, but it’s a great song. It’s got a groove that is reminiscent of Jackie Moore’s "Precious One". It’s got an infectious groove that sounds autobiographical story of a young singer who meets an industry executive and then winds up being on "American bandstand, Soul Train, Rock concert, Dinah Shore and Sammy and Company.." Great song and it provides a wonderful ending to one of the best releases of the year 2001!