Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ted Taylor - An Introduction To

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon Ted Taylor - most likely a Facebook friend, so thank you, whoever it was! - but I'm glad I did. This soulful singer, born in Oklahoma in the mid-30's, began as a gospel singer influenced by the Soul Stirrers, moved to LA and was convinced to change to secular music by the Bihari Brothers' Modern Records and his group became the Cadets (also recording under the name the Jacks), who scored big with "Stranded in the Jungle" (although Wikipedia says Taylor did not sing on that cut). From there he went solo and recorded for a number of different labels until he ended up with the legendary Okeh Records for his first hits, though he continued to migrate until his untimely death in 1967 in a car crash.

This CD compiles cuts from the Jewel and Ronn labels so I don't know if the sticker's claim of "best of the best" in completely true - I certainly want to hear some of the other numbers he has done - but this is still a stellar collection. At first listen you will wonder whether this is a man or a woman singing since his tenor range is so wide that it dwarfs most women's soprano. But it sounds natural on Taylor and he is expressive and full of soul.

The material ranges from Otis Redding-styled emotional ballads to early r'n'r/doo-wop inspired boppers to Stax-ish dance groovers and all with excellent musicians backing him up - often the legendary Muscle Shoals sidemen. The man's influences show, from the southern soul & r'n'b to gospel to doo-wop and all working within the Ted Taylor sound. One highlight is his version of "The Road of Love" that I know from Clarence Carter's take with Duane Allman - while this doesn't have Duane, it is damn near as strong. The funky, wah-wah flavored "I Feel a Chill" and groove-alicious "Something Strange is Going on in My House" are stand-outs, as well.

Hell, the whole record is cool! Great funky soul with a terrific vocalist and amazing backing musicians! What more do you want?!