One of Junior's Best!
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 04/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since there is no such thing as a bad Jr. Walker album/Cd, it would almost be redundant to describe this, but I'll go ahead.This is another one of Jr. rough but lovely albums, featuring his "gritty but pretty" style of playing and singing. Here he also takes on the work of his fellow Motowners such as Marving Gaye's "How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You" and Barrett Strong's "Money." The former is fine but he REALLY rocks out on the latter in two parts and like good artists should, he turns it into something all his own! Truly a wonder to behold. Makes you get on your knees and thank God for allowing Thomas Edison to invent the phonograph!It is a CRIME that more of the wonderful recordings of Jr. Walker and the All Stars are not more readily available in America. So when you see his Cds out there like this, DO NOT HESITATE-BUY THEM WITHOUT DELAY. Put them on your CD player after a hard day at work or school, and let the good times roll!"
Party sounds abound
Laurence Upton | Wilts, UK | 05/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Together with the twofer Shotgun/Soul Session this pair of CDs collect all the studio material released by Junior Walker and the All-Stars in the sixties, including both sides of nearly all three singles they recorded for the Harvey label in 1962 and 1963 (Brainwasher Pt 2 is the exception), before it was swallowed up by the Motown empire. There was also the album Live! in 1967. This was briefly made available on a CD which now fetches over £100 a copy.
Junior Walker had spent many years honing his individual style during the fifties, inspired by players such as Illinois Jacquet and Earl Bostic, and playing in bands like the Jumping Jacks before being discovered by Johnny Bristol and introduced to Harvey Fuqua, the ex-Moonglow singer who was running his own label.
Road Runner Junior Walker and the All-Stars' third album, released in August 1966, a while after the single (I'm A) Road Runner had made the US national top twenty. That had been lifted from the album Shotgun, but had a second innings at the start of side one of the new album. Not to be confused with the Bo Diddley song Road Runner, it remains one of Junior Walker's best known and loved tunes, thanks in part to some KFC adverts.
The album had four other A-sides: How Sweet It Is came out a month or so before the album and showed there was plenty more mileage in the Marvin Gaye number by hitting the US top twenty; Money (That's What I Want), seemingly recorded by all Motown artists, and split into Parts Two and One for the single) came next and Pucker Up Buttercup/Anyway You Wannta' followed in 1967, while Twist Lackawanna had been their first ever single back in 1962.
Baby You Know You Ain't Right, a thinly-veiled re-write of James Brown's Out Of Sight, had already been out on the back of the re-issue of Cleo's Mood in 1965, and Mutiny eventually surfaced on the B-side of Home Cookin' over two years later. As well as the Motown covers and the new material on the album, there is a fine sax-led version of Freddy King and Sonny Thompson's composition San-Ho-Zay.
It is clear what was the function of the record. Several of the tracks have party noises and the lyrics and vocal interjections are peppered with the dance crazes of the time. If the music lacked surface sophistication, it certainly made up for it in honkin' sax, atmosphere, energy and feeling, plus it was brilliantly played, with a gospel-like fervour. I would guess it enlivened many a soul party in the sixties.
On the CD booklet liner notes the band is listed for both albums as Junior Walker (vocals, sax), Willie Woods (guitar), Vic Thomas (keyboards) and James Graves (drums), augmented in the studio by Motown's Funk Brothers band, but James Graves had left the band in April 1966 and so for Pucker Up Buttercup and all other tracks recorded after that, Billy "Stix" Nicks, an old friend from Jumping Jacks days, was on drums. On this album these would seem to include How Sweet It Is and Anyway You Wannta'.
Home Cookin' was launched on New Year's Day 1969, and was largely business as usual. The title track was riding high in the R&B charts, and two other tracks had already featured as singles: Come See About Me, their Supremes revival, with an added chorus (the Andantes?) unusually in evidence in the background; and Hip City (Parts One and Two), here merged into one unbroken long track. However, the final single to be extracted, in April 1969, What Does It Take (To Win Your Love), showed the beginnings of a new more laid back vocal and musical style, complete with a string arrangement and smoochy vocal harmonies. It gave Junior Walker his biggest hit since Shotgun, also making number one on the R&B chart, but was less interesting to me than the other more raucous sounding material on the album. These include the fine instrumental B-sides Sweet Soul and Nothing But Soul (included as a bonus track in a longer mix than the single and in first-time stereo) and the previously unreleased instrumental Whiplash.
The whole album was recorded between 1966 and 1968, after Bill Nicks had joined, with the exception of a boisterous stomp through Buster Brown's Fannie Mae, held over from sessions for the Shotgun album in March 1965.
This CD is a seventy minute romp through six years of the All Stars' recording life containing a lot of uninhibited, spontaneous and creative playing from some fine soulful musicians who wanted their audience to have a good time, captured from an unrepeatable bubble of time."