William Bell – 1973 – Relating
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Rip & research by Mr.Moo
Posting & additional info’s by Nikos
Relating is a great return to basics for William Bell – and an album recorded with a warm, intimate quality that we really love! The vibe here is almost in the style of some of the growing Malaco work coming out of the Jackson scene – with a sound that’s smooth, but somehow even more deeply soulful than before – lots of room up top for the lead vocals to come across with a sense of personal commitment – but also some full, rich backings that include organ, guitars, and even a bit of strings.
A1. Lovin’ On Borrowed Time 3.56
A2. All I Need Is Your Love 2.41
A3. Such A Fever 3.03
A4. Nobody Walks Away From Love Unhurt 3.45
Α5. Gettin’ What You Want (Losin’ What You Got) 3.30
Β1. I’ve Got To Go On Without You 3.50
Β2. Drinkin’ And Thinkin’ 4.32
Β3. You’ve Got The Kind Of Love I Need 3.08
Β4. You Don’t Want A Man 2.53
Β5. Nobody But You 4.35
Is this the best William Bell album? And the best late Stax album? Over the years I’ve swung back and forth on my feelings for this record. As a young 80’s r&b digger, I picked it up for the label alone but judged it too little Stax and too 70’sh. Yet I found myself listening to it with pleasure from time to time. Bell was never a favorite Stax singer of mine, except for “Private Number“, and listening to his output between that and his 1976 disco-hit “Trying to love two“, I always wondered what kept his record-deal going. Inconsistant albums, strings-loaded ballads So not Stax. But over the years I have dismissed some of the Stax in my collection. Otis still thrills, but the Sam & Dave records gradually moves from listening to Discogs sales listing. Unlike Bell’s “Relating”. I’ve found that it is one of the few late Stax albums, that doesn’t point into the label dead end but points to a better artistic path than the one Stax did take. This is mature, 70’s soul. This is not just a single or two and fillers but like Marvin Gaye William Bell moves on to the album format, laying down a set of songs that fits each other. The instrumental side has matured as well. The MG’s Duck Dunn and Al Jackson has an important role laying down some of the best.
Although released in 1974, ‘Relating’, Bell’s final album for Stax, was actually recorded in 1972-’73. After his highly creative and social conscientious album ‘Phases of Reality‘, Bell got down on the hardships, blood, sweat and tears of romantical relationships, creating another ‘concept LP’ in the process.
The achingly beautiful, smooth, slow sailing “Lovin’ on Borrowed Time” – Bell’s penultimate hit for Stax – makes for a great opening. The production is sparse yet warm, featuring classy, jazz guitar licks and great male background vocals.
“All I Need Is Your Love” starts off gentle and blissfull, with Al Jackson – who also produced the LP – kicking in a tight, sturdy yet gentle groove, with simmering strings and a gently purring Hammond guiding Bell through another majestic vocal.
There’s a late night, easy goin’ vibe present on the sensual, mid-tempo “Such a Fever“, which climaxes in a thoroughly steamin’, horn filled finale, whereas “Nobody Walks Away From Love Unhurt” sports an irresistible Latin groove, with Al Jackson not only manning the drums, but also playing the congas. Amazing stuff.
Bell’s very last hit for Stax, “Gettin’ What You Want (Losin’ What You Got)“, treads the smooth soul territory more overtly, a slow burning, subdued but sternly delivered warning against the ultimate backfire that comes out of infidelity (Bell even quotes Johnnie Taylor’s “Love Bones” hit in mid-song) that dreamily flows along while soft, wailing horns glide in and out.
Some nice fills on acoustic guitar (courtesy of Bobby Manuel) give a delightful country-soul vibe to the remorseful, pensive “I’ve Got to Go on Without You“, but the absolute highlight of ‘Relating’ surely must be the lenghty, sad, introspective “Drinkin’ and Thinkin‘”: Vibes, a touch of strings, gentle brass, a wicked sax solo and William delivering a terrific, sweet, sensitive vocal. The ultimate early morning ‘I got the Blues‘ soundtrack for distraught lovers everywhere…
“You’ve Got the Kind of Love I Need” is less spectacular to me, borrowing a little too much of the Philly sound for my taste, but Bell’s vocal is top notch. Far grittier is the bass heavy ‘down in the dumps’ mid tempo ballad “You Don’t Want a Man“, which features a bridge that’s slightly reminiscent of Bell’s most loved composition “I Forgot to Be Your Lover“.
This luscious album ends on a more uplifting note as “Nobody But You” rides a gutbucket, rock solid groove while horns blare behind Bell and the back up singers. Stylish sax solo as well.
Give ‘Relating’ a spin on one of those lonely summer evenings, with a beverage of choice in your hand. Then let the music take your mind…