R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases

Memphis Meets Detroit

01 NOV 10 DAVID NATHAN

Despite its weird cover art, 1971's One Step Beyond was more like one step back to the kind of material that had taken Johnnie Taylor to the heights in '68. The LP features the powerful "I Am Somebody," the proud theme fit the mood of African-Americans who were experiencing self-empowerment in the wake of the advances made through the civil rights movement. Reverend Jesse Jackson used the song's title to motivate and inspire through speeches at rallies nationwide.

Upon joining Stax in 1965, he began working with the then-fledgling production and writing team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. The trio had some measure of R&B success with bluesy tunes like "I Got To Love Somebody's Baby" and "I Had A Dream" until then-new Stax president Al Bell suggested Taylor work with Detroit-based producer Don Davis. The result was an instant smash, 1968's "Who's Making Love" and Johnnie was off and running.

Other cuts from One Step Beyond, such as "I Don't Wanna Lose You" and "Don't Take My Sunshine," are standouts thanks in part to Taylor's opening raps. And the singer's soulful take on fellow Southern soul man Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away" is masterful. Taylor even takes a well-known standard "Time After Time" and puts his stamp on it, again with the kind of spoken rap intro that reinforced his popular moniker as "The Philosopher Of Soul."