William Bell – 1972 – Phases Of Reality

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Rip and research by Mr.Moo

Intro Review  by RDTEN1  Main Review by Soulmakossa

Posting & additional info’s by Nikos

Today, if most people recognize the name William Bell, its probably for his work as a writer (‘Born Under a Bad Sign’, ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’, etc.), rather than as a singer.  That’s unfortunate since Bell’s solo catalog is surprisingly strong.

1972’s self-produced “Phases of Reality” is a perfect showcase for Bell’s talents.  Propelled by Bell’s likeable voice and  the cream of Muscle Shoals sessions talent, unlike many Stax LPs, this one’s quite diverse.  Exemplified by the title track, ‘Man In the Street‘ and several other songs, lyrically the album was certainly more activist than his earlier work. Normally that might boit be a good thing, but in this case most of the eight Bell-penned tracks featured something worth hearing – a neat melody, an interesting lyric, the title track stands as one of the earliest uses of a drum machine that we’ve heard.  Highlights include the percussive opener ‘Save Me‘, ‘Fifty Dollar Habit‘ (sporting a surprisingly blatant anti-drug lyric) and the reggae flavored ‘Lonely for Your Love‘.  Elsewhere Stax tapped ‘Save Us’ b/w ‘If You Really Love Him‘ (Stax catalog STA-0128) as a single. 

One of my favorite Bell releases …

Tracks
A1
Save Us 3:17
A2
True Love Don’t Come Easy 2:49
A3
Fifty Dollar Habit 3:33
A4
What I Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Me 3:44
B1
Phases of Reality 3:09
B2
If You Really Love Him 3:57
B3
Lonely for Your Love  2:45
B4
The Man In the Street 2:56

Soul singer William Bell, one of the earliest hitmakers for the legendary Stax label (“You Don’t Miss Your Water“, 1962), was a great writer as well as a performer, although his own recordings seem to get lost in the shuffle many a times.

The man who (co-)wrote wrote peerless classics such as “Born Under a Bad Sign” and a slew of songs for aces as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, released high quality albums under his own name as well.

This particular one is my favorite: the cover is sheer brilliance, another fantastic artsy collage of early ’70s (social) despair craftily painted in the sweet face of Bell himself.

Bell never was an avid ‘protest singer’, but on this album he got seriously righteous. Aside three gorgeous country-soul styled ballads and the reggae-esque “Lonely for Your Love“, the other half of the record features some very intense funk based political songs.

Save Us“, written by Bell as far back as 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, is a blasting piece of fiery funk, complete with congas and wah wah guitars, sporting an infectious yet almost desperate plea for reflection.

Fifty Dollar Habit” is a eerie tale of drug addiction, set to a loping groove that features the clever use of the sitar. Truly one of Bell’s most captivating compositions.

Phases of Reality“, the title-track, sounds unnervingly similar to Sly Stone’s drughazed slurring on “Family Affair”. This is no pun, though: the gloomy, almost sarcastic groove fits Bell’s deliberately ‘apathic-sounding’ vocal here to a T. Crucial stuff, this one.

Finally, the LP closes with the straight up, soulful lament “The Man In the Street“. A great funky tune dealing with that part of the population that always gets hit the hardest: the common man and woman.

Another overlooked gem in the Stax catalog… Essential.

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Conversation for album: William Bell – 1972 – Phases Of Reality

26 Comments
  • rich
    Posted at 20:30h, 20 August 2012 Reply

    thank u mr. moo and nikos for this wonderful post

  • DAMNTRAX
    Posted at 02:47h, 21 August 2012 Reply

    you guys keep me going I love this shit god damn

  • EleganT
    Posted at 17:34h, 21 August 2012 Reply

    what music is supposed to sound like.

  • slowdevine
    Posted at 08:20h, 22 August 2012 Reply

    long-waited for new post! Thank you guys

  • DJSas
    Posted at 13:37h, 22 August 2012 Reply

    Amazing William Bell. Thank you.

  • Frost
    Posted at 20:47h, 23 August 2012 Reply

    What a fantastic site! I really appreciate your great work!

  • zobba
    Posted at 10:09h, 24 August 2012 Reply

    thanks. nice post

  • Kissme
    Posted at 00:42h, 25 August 2012 Reply

    I used to listen to it with my older sister. A legend.

  • Jaja
    Posted at 00:55h, 25 August 2012 Reply

    Μust be heard by all. Thanks so much for uploading this!

  • brotherpete
    Posted at 03:29h, 25 August 2012 Reply

    thanks for keeping up the good work.
    why no lossless flac instead of lossy mp3?

  • Vince
    Posted at 23:53h, 25 August 2012 Reply

    Excellent! Thank you!

  • jahcisco
    Posted at 22:35h, 26 August 2012 Reply

    Thanks. Much appreciated.

  • Alias
    Posted at 20:05h, 27 August 2012 Reply

    Amazing songs. It makes me realize how old i am and how fast all this years passed by.

  • ΖΡΤ
    Posted at 19:43h, 28 August 2012 Reply

    Τhis is proper soul music unlike a lot of today’s music.

  • Jerry
    Posted at 18:37h, 29 August 2012 Reply

    I always liked this gem, timeless music…

  • isitcoziisblak?
    Posted at 21:34h, 31 August 2012 Reply

    This is the shit! Why this was never up there with Sly etc; I don’t know… well I do but that’s another story…

  • Daredevil
    Posted at 09:33h, 01 September 2012 Reply

    Yes we all know… A must have. All his LP catalogue is worth to be heard!

  • Radek
    Posted at 22:06h, 01 September 2012 Reply

    A nice one, thanks! I always like it when slick soul singers try something more righteous.

  • Michael
    Posted at 11:27h, 06 September 2012 Reply

    Mr.Bell is always in good shape. What a song!

  • TropicalCake
    Posted at 19:44h, 07 September 2012 Reply

    60’s and 70’s soul and funk were so incredible. Now what do we got. Hip hop?? Rap. Jeez. What the hell happened????

  • PEDRO
    Posted at 14:35h, 09 September 2012 Reply

    GREAT SINGER ONE OF THE MAIN STAYS OF STAX RECORDS

  • Kanon25
    Posted at 19:57h, 09 September 2012 Reply

    Nice one – thank you!

  • Kanon25
    Posted at 20:22h, 09 September 2012 Reply

    By the way, you write really good liner notes here on your blog. Would be good if you included them in the folder so that one can read again at the time of listening. Might as well, since you already did the hard work of writing the description.

  • Daz
    Posted at 13:35h, 18 September 2012 Reply

    Absolutely superb album, many thanks and keep up the good work, it’s very appreciated!
    Daz

  • santoscurser
    Posted at 01:54h, 04 February 2014 Reply

    wow… and here i always thought Albert King wrote ‘born under a bad sign’, but it was Booker T and William Bell(wikipedia)… that alone means i will be checking this out!!!

  • Topaz Bon
    Posted at 15:12h, 13 August 2015 Reply

    Wow, what a great LP! I knew the track Save Us, I have the 45, but not the rest. Thanks so much

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