Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Soul Treasures: MICKEY STEVENSON & CAROL WOODS




Every generation and musical genre has it's own musical heroes, superstars and influential artists. Unfortunately, they also have hundreds, if not thousands, if worthwhile artists who end up flying below the radar, never earning the praise, fame and financial rewards that they obviously deserved. Thanks to an interest in reissues, many of these artists are finally seeing an interest in their music many years, even decades, after they walked away from the music business.

William "Mickey" Stevenson and Carol Woods are two such artists... and both have recently had classic studio albums reissued by the Fantastic Voyage label.


Mickey Stevenson was a producer, songwriter and A&R man for Motown Records in the '60s. He was the inspiration for The Miracles' hit "Mickey's Monkey" and helped to co-write Motown classics like "Dancing In The Street". He was also married to Marvin Gaye's former duet partner Kim Weston! Stevenson left the Motown label in 1967 and after becoming involved with other labels and producing more artists, he signed with Ember Records and finally issued his solo debut album in 1972: Here I Am. While the album does not live up to his '60s pedigree, it doesn't try to, either. Here I Am was a musical statement from a talented Soul artist who was not afraid to follow his own path. When other artists were trying to imitate the current Soul sounds of the day, Mickey was producing a perfect blend of what he FELT was Soul Music. The album is soulful Pop that crosses over into different genres, depending on the song. Sure, there are elements that recall some of the '70s work of his former Motown mates like Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson, but Mickey doesn't limit his musical vision and try to recapture a time gone by. There are strings on the album, but he uses them sparingly, allowing the vibe of the song to carry the melodies. Mickey's vocals are front and center, sounding passionate and reflective at times. The album features tracks written or co-written by Stevenson plus a few from the pen of the talented (and also overlooked) Leon Ware. Alongside the original re lease's 10 tracks, there are two non-album cuts including the amazing "I Need You So", which should have been a massive hit. Here I Am is a soulful slice of '70s musical history that is more than deserving of this long-awaited reissue...


Carol Woods' Out Of The Woods, was originally released in 1972 on the Ember label and is a classy Soul album that may not have set the charts on fire when first released but is sure to fire up any listener who loves '70s Soul with just a little touch of funky goodness. And Carol's voice soars and swoops through the songs like a woman in full control of her surroundings. She's sexy, passionate and on fire!
Where Mickey Stevenson's album embraced Pop, Carol Woods is completely locked into a sassy Soul groove that just so happens to come with some fine Pop-friendly melodies.
The album itself originally contained 10 tracks recorded over a two year period (1970-72) including cuts from two previous singles (of which "But You Know I Love You" is a real corker of a track) and this reissue features two additional non-album cuts: "I Wonder What Will Happen" and "We'll Sing In The Sunshine".
While Soul, Funk and R&B music began to morph in the '80s and beyond, the classic '60s and '70s recordings still have that powerful feeling that was and is so important in real Soul music. And Out Of The Woods just feels good all over.
Your Soul survivor,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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