O.V. Wright – 1971 – A Nickel And A Nail And The Ace Of Spades
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Intro review by AMG Main review by Soulmakossa
Rip, Research, Posting and additional info’s by Nikos
The golden era of Southern soul was essentially over by 1971, but thankfully no one told O.V. Wright about this; this album, which as the title suggests featured two of his biggest hits, showed that his gifts as a vocalist were near the peak of their strength, and this is Memphis-style R&B in the grand tradition. Willie Mitchell produced these sessions at his Royal Recording Studio in Memphis, with the Hi Records Rhythm Section and the Memphis Horns providing the backing, and their performances lend the music a smooth, glorious burn like fine brandy, and are not unlike the work they did with Al Green, but reveal a darker and bluesier tone. Great as the band is, Wright headlines this show, and when he sings he dominates these sessions with grace and authority; the longing and hurt in his voice are a wonder to behold, and the burnished gospel influences in his voice meld the secular and the sacred with a powerful common belief, particularly on “He Made Woman for Man.” The lovers’ ache of “Don’t Take It Away” and “When You Took Your Love from Me“, and the blues-shot laments of “A Nickel and a Nail” and “Afflicted” are as powerful as Southern soul got in the early ’70s. Wright was a master of this form, and while he would lose his life only nine years after this album was released, A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades sounds like the work of an artist as powerful and vital as you could ask for.
Brilliant music, despite cover art that makes this look like a low-budget bootleg.
A1 Don’t Let My Baby Ride 3:02
A2 Born All Over 3:16
A3 Ace of Spades 2:12
A4 Eight Men – Four Women 2:56
A5 He Made Woman for Man 3:04
B1 I Can’t Take It 3:08
B2 Afflicted 3:43
B3 When You Took Your Love From Me 3:02
B4 Nickle and a Nail 3:40
B5 Don’t Take It Away 3:53
O.V. Wright really took off in 1970, permanently joining forces with Willie Mitchell and recording this masterpiece of funky Southern Soul in Memphis.
Taking the traditional gospel song “Don’t Let the Devil Ride” and transforming it into a very secular, sexually charged rhythm riot, “Don’t Let My Baby Ride” is the perfect opener. There’s the lazy, plodding groove, augmented with sensual female backing vocals, a purring Hammond and that thick, meaty bass. Also features a very bluesy guitar solo, a rarity among soul waxings from the era.
“Born All Over” harkens back to more orthodox sounds; a minor keyed, haunting slow winding, heavily gospelfide ballad. It’s followed by a track Wright had actually cut way back in ’67, the tormented “Eight Men Four Women“.
And then comes “Ace of Spades“… A tune personifying the perfect combination of Southern Soul and earthy, smokin’ Funk. A terrific stomper, Wright’s voice is perfectly suited for such hard funkin’ excursions. Everything here works; from the blazing horn chart to the fatback drums and the propellin’ bass. Wright’s vocal finale is amazing…
“A Nickel and A Nail” is just as awesome; another heavy funk ‘n’ soul workout that’s smothered in wailing brass, while riding a sinister sounding, down and out groove. Wright sounds at his most pained on this take… passion and despair oozes from every word he belts.
The sweetly funky “He Made Woman for Man” is more upbeat: fluid, Stax-esque guitar fills and soul sister backing vocals as O.V. celebrates the glory of love.
The bliss is short-lived, however, as Wright immediately glides back in one of his devastatingly realistic ‘I’m gutted and I don’t care’ bags with the haunting “I Can’t Take It“. The groove is just as lowdown on the slow, hypnotizing wailer “Afflicted”, another fine showcase for O.V.’s tremendous deep Soul vocalizing.
But you’re really getting slugged in the stomach as Wright rips through the mournful, downbeat, depressing “When You Took Your Love From Me“. An excruciatingly sorrowful vocal here, while the horns seem to despondantly blare on in the back as the drums keep marching a deceptively more jovial groove.
The album ends on a hopelessly pleading note as O.V. lets loose one more time on the slow grinding “Don’t Take It Away“. As the song fades out, you hear Wright wailing on as the gospelish choir mourns along with him.
Probably O.V.’s greatest LP.
One of the greatest soul albums of all time, it’s absolutely first-rate all the way through.
You can also enjoy his other masterpiece “Memphis Unlimited“ in our back pages here.