Lou Johnson - Incomparable Soul Vocalist
Peter Burns | London, England | 03/23/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"So here it finally is Lou Johnsons' superb complete Big Top collection. This is an album that a few of us have been trying to get released on CD for 25 years or more (I wrote my first feature about him in August 1968). Though Lou had a couple of hit singles with the original versions of `Reach Out For Me' ('63) and `(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me' ('64), his record label seemed hell bent on wrecking his chances of becoming a star. They ceased trading on a couple of occasions and changed their name three times in their short life. The ten singles he cut were of exceptional high quality and there were no throw away B-sides either. As his producer, Burt Bacharach turned in some of his finest work as he and Johnson blueprinted a sophisticated soul style with `If I Never Get To Love You', `The Last One To Be Loved' and `Kentucky Bluebird' (plus those already mentioned) before Burt left to launch Dionne Warwick at Scepter. Undaunted Lou went on to record a half dozen more superb records with producers Bill Giant, Bernie Baum & Florence Kaye including `Please Stop The Wedding', `A Time To Love, A Time To Cry', `What Am I Crying For' and the earlier `It Ain't No Use'. As if this were not enough the soul miners at Kent Records uncovered the previously unissued `Love Build A Fence', `Who Is It Now', `No Other Guy' (originally on his scheduled but unissued album `Anytime') and the fantastic original version of `The Panic Is On', later cut by Roy Hamilton. Every one of the 25 tracks on this masterwork is a gem so don't miss this opportunity to hear the incomparable Lou Johnson's finest album.
Peter Burns [..]
Regarding the "monaural" sound content
J. C. Bartlett III | Millersville, MD United States | 07/20/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A couple of people who've reviewed this CD on this, and other, sites have made note of the fact the all selections are in "mono" (I have not yet heard this CD myself). Those who collect the "Big Top" label are aware that very little of that label's output exists in stereo, although (probably) most of Big Top's recordings were originally made in multi-track. Apparently, the Big Top tapes have disappeared over the years. The most recent tale I heard is that Big Top may have stored their tapes in the vaults of their New York neighbor...Atlantic Records...after shutting their doors. Sometime during the 70's, Atlantic suffered a disastrous tape vault fire, that resulted in the loss of a lot of material. This could explain what happened to the Big Top tapes, if this is true. Furthermore, quite a lot of Big Top's output consisted of material leased from EmBee Productions of Detroit (Del Shannon, Don & Juan, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Bobbie Smith & The Dreamgirls and several other acts). Over the years, those tapes disappeared as well, though to where, no one seems to know. In the 1980's, some good-quality mono Del Shannon tapes were discovered in Germany and a two-track production master of his "Little Town Flirt" album was unexpectedly found. The stereo "Runaway With Del Shannon" CD was mastered from the very rare vinyl LP, as those tapes are long gone. Some Big Top stereo Johnny & The Hurricanes tracks have also surfaced...but from unknown sources. That's about it for Big Top stereo. For Big Top tracks released outside the USA, there are very likely mono copy tapes on file in various foreign tape vaults...for example England's London Records and Germany's Heliodor Records (where the mono Del Shannon tapes were found, in the 80's). I have no information on the Lou Johnson material. Since I do not yet have the CD, I'm unable to say whether or not any such info (about possible tape sources) is in the CD booklet. However, I look forward to getting this shamefully-overdue compilation."
rollo | usa | 03/27/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lou Johnson is the most underated Brill Building r&b singer who ever recorded in N.Y.. I am so glad that his recordings on Big Top records have been compiled and released, even if they are monaural. This is soul history here."