Sunday, September 28, 2003

I feel the need to say more about J.J. Barnes, whose raw, southern soul flavoured vocals are just too good to ignore. Aside from his classic cut on A Cellarful of Motown, seven of his songs are available on the CD The Sounds of Detroit, which is a two-fer disc featuring the J.J. Barnes/Steve Mancha split album Rare Stamps, and the Darrell Banks album Here to Stay. This album, put out on Stax/Volt, is essential for fans of the southern soul sound.
J.J. Barnes belts every one of these seven songs out with such fierce passion, by the end of his last song you're left desperate to hear more from him. It's a crime that Volt didn't give more attention to this artist after putting out Rare Stamps, which concluded his stay with the label.
The album opens with "Baby Please Come Back Home" (mis-titled here as "Come On Back"), which begins with whopping drums and a piano rhythm that takes us into "Heard It Through the Grapevine" territory, until the strings come in, which moves away from the Gaye hit and leaves us with an upbeat and gorgeous single. Originally released in 1967, mentions that this was a hit at the ice rinks, but does not comment on it's actual chart success, if any.
"Easy Living" contains a melody reminiscent of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There," and is dedicated to a girl with whom the song's author travelled the world to find. Promising easy living in the sunshine, it's surprising that this track didn't become a summer smash in the when released in the late 60s.
Barnes' first five songs are produced, arranged, and co-written by Dave Davis, a Detroit producer who worked with a number of artists, most notably Johnnie Taylor and Carla Thomas on Stax.
Unfortunately, the music accompanying Barnes' work is often too similar to other, more popular songs, but Barnes' vocal talent is what makes his work on Rare Stamps so important. Motown may have considered him too similar to Marvin Gaye (though this only really comes out on "Got to Get Rid of You" and "Snowflakes" (both featured here in mono)), but Barnes vocal talents rank up there with many of the southern soul artists who are still talked about today. Hopefully more of Barnes' work will be made available in the near future, as this is a talent we should not ignore.
posted by Jonathan


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