Terry Callier – Turn You To Love – Elektra/Asylum Records (1979)/Speakers Corner Records (2020) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 41:21 ****:
Jazz guitarist, singer/songwriter Terry Callier enjoyed an unconventional career in music. A Chicago native, he was childhood friends with Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler. He sang in doo wop groups and recorded briefly at Chess Records. Another piece of interesting trivia…he played in a folk duo with David Crosby. After a brief stint on Cadet Records provided limited success, he was signed to the jazz fusion division at Elektra Records. There, Callier enjoyed a brief renaissance recording Fire On Ice (1977) and Turn You To Love (1978). This earned him an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival and a charting single (“Sign Of The Times”) on the r & b charts. The remainder of his professional endeavors was sporadic and he never garnered sufficient acclaim, despite his talent,
Speakers Corner Records has released a 180-gram vinyl re-master of Callier’s signature album, Turn You To Love. This is a prime display of polished late 70’s soul/funk. Side One opens with “Sign Of The Times” (co-written by Callier and fellow guitarist Terry wade). It is a textured combination of studio production with horns, a heavy bottom mix and synthesizers. Callier’s lyrics have social contexts, but not quite the biting gravitas of Gil Scott-Heron or Marvin Gaye. The repeat coda is catchy. “Pyramids Of Love” has a slower tempo with exotic shading. The swirling, expansive sound permeates the easy-going vibe. The title track is more atmospheric with hypnotic string shading. Callier’s silky baritone articulates a spiritual message of love with excellent phrasing. There are subtle touches like mandolin and a well-timed guitar run. A certain highlight is the cover of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again”. Here, Callier’s smoky vocals are a contrast to the reedier vocals of the original. Instrumentally, the players distill the rhythmic essence and meticulous song construction of Becker/Fagan with excellent percussion and muscular horns and saxophone. it is more jaunty and less moody, and a jagged electric guitar solo precedes a rousing finish.
Side Two kicks off with a breezy pop-oriented arrangement on “Ordinary Joe”. Callier utilizes a higher voice register and some impressive vocalese. Ernie Watts’ tenor saxophone solo is compelling. There is an instrumental shift on “Occasional Rain”. This melancholic introspection is framed against acoustic guitar and violin. The scaled-back aesthetics are catchy and include subtle jazz inflection. “Still Water (Love)” is a great homage to the concise, melodic compositional skills of Smokey Robinson. The band engages in an evocative sway and the backup singers are terrific. “You And Me (Will Always Be In Love)” is reminiscent of the vaunted Philly sound with its patented hooks and sweet vocal finesse. There is also a nimble guitar solo. The finale, “A Mother’s Love” is straightforward maternal gratitude with an engaging Island-infused glow.
Kudos to Speakers Corner records for giving some relevance to an under-appreciated r & b performer. The overall mix is excellent with quality stereo separation. The layered acoustics are rendered with precision and mellowness. This vinyl pressing is flawless.
Terry Callier – guitar, vocals; Reginald “Sonny” Burke – keyboards, synthesizer; Earl Van Dyke – keyboards; James Gadson – drums; Keni Burke – bass; James Jameson Jr. – bass; Larry Wade – guitar; Wah-Wah Watson; David T. Walker – guitar; Robert White – guitar; Tommy Tedesco – guitar, mandolin; Oliver C. Brown – percussion; Michael Boddicker – synthesizer; Fred Wesley – trombone; Ernie Watts – saxophone; Bill Green – saxophone; Harry Bluestone – violin; Oscar Brashear – trumpet; Steve Madaio – trumpet; Arthur Mabe – french horn; Barbara Korn – french horn; Gail Levant – harp; James “Alibe” Sledge – background vocals; Patricia Henley Talbert – background vocals; Elizabeth Howard – background vocals; Harry Bluestone – concertmaster
Side One: Sign Of The Times; Pyramids Of Love; Turn You To Love; Do It Again
Side Two: Ordinary Joe; Occasional Rain; Still Water (Love); You And Me (Will Always Be In Love); A Mother’s Love
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