Week 49: Positively Paul
Welcome back for another week’s worth of the good music!
Week 49’s post will be all about one of our favourite male vocalists, Paul Kelly. Initially it was our long-time follower and collaborator Ricardo who re-sparked our interest by contributing a rip of Paul’s 1974 album “Hooked, Hogtied And Collared”, posted in August last year on the old 4BB blog (you’ll find it reposted right here as well, go check out our Week 1 post)! About a month after that, thanks to our buddy Paros, we posted another Paul Kelly gem – “Don’t Burn Me” from 1973. So when I stumbled upon a just good-enough copy of Paul Kelly’s 1977 release “Stand On The Positive Side” on my latest trip to my favourite vinyl shop – this week’s post was a given! Especially after realizing that this album also is the perfect comeback to the recently posted Gene Page album (Week 39) – since Gene co-produced, arranged and conducted all tracks on “Stand On The Positive Side”! Can’t really miss an opportunity like this, right?!
Conveniently, the liner notes proved to be the perfect source for the write-up…check out Joe McEwen’s perfect “beginners guide” to Paul Kelly briefing:
Saying that Paul Kelly is the Von Freeman of soul music probably won’t mean much to a lot of people (Laf’s edit: Check this!). But the comparison is a compliment of the highest sort. Kelly, like the highly regarded Chicago tenor saxophonist, is something of a cult figure – a man whose body of recorded work for almost a decade has been laudably consistent, personal and cliché free.
Paul Kelly is a Southern singer and songwriter in the classic mold. A product of the intensely competitive Miami soul arena, Kelly’s style was honed singing with local groups like the Del-Mires, an outfit fronted by Miami stalwart Clarence Reid (Laf’s edit: To most, Reid’s alter ego Blowfly is more well-known). As a solo singer, Kelly continued his association with Reid who wrote and produced Paul’s first chart success, “Chills and Fever,” in 1968. It was also Reid who introduced Kelly to Buddy Killen (Laf’s edit: For more info on Buddy’s work, check this!), a Nashville country producer who was responsible for producing all of Joe Tex’s soul hits. Under Killen’s direction, Paul recorded for Dial and Phillips (including a little known gem called “Cryin’ For My Baby”), but it was a record on Buddy’s Happy Tiger label that made a lot of people aware of Paul Kelly. Conceived while listening to a preacher evangelize on the radio, “Stealin’ in the Name of the Lord” provided a potent message for listeners:
People I tell you what I see
A parasite is he
Ain’t much difference in what he’s doin’
Than B and E, that’s breaking and entering
That man is stealin’ in the name of the Lord
The song created a furor among many members of the black church who didn’t take kindly to Kelly’s wry observations. But the single hit home with an audience who recognized the type. A subsequent album, reissued on Warners as “Dirt,” offered a further glimpse of Paul Kelly’s considerable skills as a writer. “Poor But Proud,” “Hangin’ on in There” and “509” are effective and poignant narratives, heightened by some moody, understated gospel-soul arrangements. Though Paul worked effectively in the traditional soul vein, he explored other avenues as well: “Soul Flow,” for one, is an ambitious concoction of busy rock guitar and stormy, Southern funk that some aspiring band would do well to cover.
Since “Dirt,” two more albums have been released – “Don’t Burn Me” and “Hooked, Hogtied and Collared.” Both are more seamless than “Dirt,” with rough edges still intact; both were recorded in Nashville with Buddy Killen. More recently, Kelly released a rocking, iconoclastic single called “Get Sexy” that, sadly, barely dented the bottom of the soul charts.
“Stand On The Positive Side” is the first Paul Kelly record to be recorded outside Nashville in almost a decade. Smoother and more stylized than past efforts.
“Stand” still finds Paul Kelly deeply immersed in gospel and soul rootsiness… Fans of his previous albums will find “Feather In The Wind” and “God Can” much to their liking, while hopefully a new audience will be proselytized by songs like “To The Bone, Get It On” and “Ain’t Nothin’ Better.” Get positive.
If you need a more comprehensive bio, go check out Wikipedia’s entry on Paul right here!
Now, have a quick listen to one of my favourite tracks on the LP, the title cut “Stand On the Positive Side”:
To lay your hands on a copy of “Stand On The Positive Side” on precious vinyl, click here!
To support Paul and his music, please consider buying one of his later albums – like this one, available both on CD and as digital download!
Paul Kelly – 4BB salutes you! Thank you for all the fantastic music!
(Ps. By the way, I happened to mention to Paros that I was going to post this album next, and he e-mailed me back directly with a batch of Paul’s earlier work, including some of the 45’s mentioned in the liner notes…like “Chills and Fever” and “Cryin For My Baby” – I’ll be including them all in bonus link in the comments to the post!)