I. Gross Georg | Edmond, Oklahoma USA | 12/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This self-proclaimed "fat boy" was one of the most under-appreciated R&B singers of the late sixties or even the 20th century. Black radio played him a lot, and I remember as a little kid hearing a lot of these songs on the radio. That having been said, I remember giggling gleefully to the "bbbrrrrrrrrrr" and other vocal embellishments that were trademarks of the Billy Stewart sound. Hearing these songs again, I still have to laugh at some of it. My laughter is not the disparaging kind, though...Billy Stewart was no joke. He could write songs on the fly, which tells me this man had real talent that was only just coming to light in the late 60's. Billy Stewart's songs were meant, I think, to be fun, to make people smile. People certainly smiled at Billy Stewart; I mean, you just had to once you got a look at him! Whether he actually minded that people did so I'll leave for someone else to speculate. I used to wonder whether "Sitting in the Park" wasn't actually "Sitting In A Bar", and they changed the title to accommodate the censors. To me, this is what he is clearly saying; Billy's soul-scat was intense, but his diction was perfect...enunciation was not a problem with this man.Billy Stewart was a cousin to the Ruffin brothers Jimmy and David, known for their work with the Temptations and other Motown acts. He grew up with Marvin Gaye as well, and they were once in a band together. Soul-net.co.uk and Soulwalking.com, both British outfits, are the only sites I've seen that give an extensive biography of this 300 lb. talent. Once again it seems that the British have a better appreciation of our artists than we ourselves do.I have to mention that regarding his biggest hit, "Summertime", the last song on the CD, I was totally blown away by the version they have on this CD which I had never, ever heard before. 4 minutes long, with a sax solo, it is a stone cold jam that left my mouth wide open. I have the 2-minute single version, which before now was the only version I had ever heard these last 30 years or so. This cut is EXCELLENT.I miss this man. Had he and his band not been killed in a car wreck in 1970, who knows where he'd be today. As one might imagine, because of his size he had health problems, so it could be that he was not destined to stay long on this earth in either case. I don't think the music world knows enough about this unique talent, and I'm extremely happy that somebody somewhere recognized Billy Stewart enough to re-release his better recordings on CD. My only beef is that surely, there must have been some recordings that were never released that could have been included on the CD to make it a more complete collection, and not merely a greatest-hits package. I'm also appreciative of the comprehensive liner notes, that give those of us who still remember him some insight into his recording career, although I will say that the two aforementioned websites offer even more information. I think that ultimately a posthumous nomination into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame would be a wonderful tribute to Billy Stewart. It won't do Billy any good now, but it may help to ensure that one of the great rhythm and blues pioneers is not forgotten.I recommend this disc very highly both to people who have never heard of Billy Stewart and want to get a taste of some real classic soul, as well as to those who do remember this gentle giant and wonder what became of him. To people like me, who fall into the latter category, it's a bittersweet but long overdue trip to yesteryear."
Uncle Steven | Pikesville, Maryland USA | 01/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"DC's own Billy Stewart was one who was doin it for Chess Records, I heard that he won a talent contest in DC @ the legendary Howard Theatre in 1955 which won him a contract. Of course his biggest two hits "I do love you", and "Sittin in the Park" was both covered by the 70's band GQ. One of my favorites "How Nice It Iz" is not on this Cd. Billy had a style like no other. Everytime I hear these songs, I can remember being a child in the early 60's. ( I did go see Billy @ the Howard in 1962. I recommend this cd to all R&B fans all over the world."
Became a Billy Stewart Fan with this CD
Doug | 03/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased this to get a good copy of "Sitting in the Park". After listening to the CD I became a Billy Stewart fan. The recording quality is excellent. The long version of "Summertime" is amazing and far better than the version played on the radio. I agree with previous reviewer, a HUGE talent gone way too soon."
J P Ryan | Waltham, Massachusetts United States | 07/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Billy Stewart was an utterly singular vocal magician who belongs to a long ago era, when an enormously gifted black man could astonish listeners by writing and recording something so utterly disarming as "Fat Boy" (Bo Diddley, another unreconstructed genius, discovered Billy and obviously had a hand in the song's production). Billy Stewart could dazzle with that voice of his, but his deepest and truest music speaks to the fat boy in each of us, somehow empowering anyone whose heart ached, or who was "different", or felt unworthy of love. What makes "Sitting In the Park" such a heavenly experience is that shimmering waterfall of a bridge, when the long suffering narrator's "Why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh whys?..." mark a revelatory moment of frustrated longing, after which he decides not to sit on that park bench yet again, waiting for his beloved - who may or may not show up. Just as the fat boy needs and finds love, "Park's" narrator eventually realizes he doesn't deserve abuse or indifference, and walks away. "I Do Love You" sweeps the listener into the ecstatic intensity of Billy's boundless love, a vocal reverie that swells with joy, with the Chess session stalwarts - especially Leonard Caston's piano - creating a soundscape of stunning beauty for Billy's exquisite vocal performance, in which he finally seems to dispense with mere words altogether. Billy Stewart was a man's man, a couragious artist whose fearless vulnerability, honesty, and sense of just how raw and squirmingly alive we all are underlies his gift, for we're elevated by how he applies that astonishing voice to songs and themes that resonate now. Billy Stewart, fat, diabetic, a vocal virtuoso, revelled in ecstasy, and embraced love yet refused to let pain and heartache define him as a victim. Sure, "Summertime" is a knockout, a musical and vocal tour de force, especially in this long version, but one is impressed more by technique than passion. That makes it exciting, and a pleasure to hear - but thankfully an exception; technique rarely trumps content in Stewart's work. The deeper secrets are revealed elsewhere, which leads me to regret that this is such a scrawny volume to represent such a big artist. And if you care about decent sound, this 2000 remaster is the only game in town. But be forwarned, "Millennium" offers 11 songs in 32 minutes, short by even vinyl standards. Why so skimpy? If you want more you have to buy the drab sounding 1990 comp, which has twice as much music. Billy Stewart really deserves a career spanning retrospective, with the sort of warm, detailed, full sound unthinkable during the early digital era (1990). You pay ten or twelve bucks for this appetizer. I'd gladly pay fifteen or eighteen to get a 25 track comp by this original and remarkable artist."
WWJ | 01/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I Do Love You and Sitting in the Park are absolutely outstanding. Simple but powerful arrangements; classic soul background vocal harmony; full, rich, warm, distortion-free stereo. These two alone are enough to put the CD at 5 stars."