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Johnnie Taylor: Taylored in Silk

C. Michael Bailey By

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Concord Music Group begins a Stax Remasters series with the release of The Staples Singers' Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972), Booker T and the MGs' McLemore Avenue (1970) and Johnnie Taylor Taylored in Silk (1973). The Taylor's disc is most notable for sharpening the definition of "Memphis Soul." Johnnie Taylor today is best known for his 1976 Columbia single, "Disco Lady." But it was long before then that Taylor began to leave his footprint on American music.

Born in Crawfordville, Arkansas, outside of West Memphis, where he lived. Taylor came to music through the church, ultimately taking Sam Cookes' place in the Soul Stirrers in 1957. A decade later, Taylor came to the Stax studios where he was dubbed the "philosopher of soul" and went on to become a successful R&B star. Taylored in Silk was the singer's seventh album for Stax, and is considered his purest soul release.

The musician credits for Taylored in Silk are way light, with no one but Taylor identified, and the engineering/editing done by committee: recording at Muscle Shoals; rhythm tracks laid down United Sounds in Detroit; strings dubbed at A & R Recording in New York City; and the final remixing back at United Sounds. Taylored in Silk was stepped on more times than Mexican black tar, but that is part of its charm—its overproduction. The same was true of RCA's treatment of Elvis Presley.

So what makes Taylor a purveyor Memphis soul, and how is it different from Southern soul? Memphis soul is thought to lack the hard edge of the Southern soul practiced by Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Little Willie John, or Otis Redding; Memphis soul, on the other hand, tends to be more polished and produced, giving the music a lushness in place of rustic gospel blues. Based on Taylored in Silk, Taylor can be viewed as a transitional figure between the earthy passion of Redding and and the Memphis soul perfection of Al Green.

The blues of "Doing My own Thing" and gospel of "Love in the Streets," juxtaposed to "Starting All Over Again" and "I Can Read Between The Lines," define either end of the spectrum, with "Hijackin' Love" and "I Believe In You" bridging the center. Taylor foreshadowed "Disco Lady" with the funky "Shackin' Up"—which, like the earlier "Whose Makin' Love" and the present "Cheaper to Keep Her," border on novelty. Taylor can be viewed as an important soul personality, if not a seminal soul artist.

Track Listing: We're Getting Careless With Our Love; 4:01Starting All Over Again; Cheaper To Keep Her; Talk To Me; I Believe In You; (You Believe In Me) One Thing Wrong With My Woman; I Can Read Between The Lines; This Bitter Earth; Hijackin' Love; Love In The Streets (Ain't Good As The Love At Home); Standing In For Jody; Shackin' Up; Doing My Own Thing, Pt. 1; Doing My Own Thing, Pt. 2.

Personnel: Johnnie Taylor: vocals; other musicians unidentified.

Title: Taylored in Silk | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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