Billy Paul – 360 Degrees of Billy Paul (2008)

Billy Paul - 360 Degrees of Billy Paul (2008)
Artist: Billy Paul
Album: 360 Degrees of Billy Paul
Genre: Funk, Soul, R&B
Label: Legacy
Released: 2008
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)
Tracklist:
01. Brown Baby [04:35]
02. I’m Just A Prisoner [08:04]
03. It’s Too Late [04:33]
04. Me And Mrs. Jones [04:45]
05. Am I Black Enough For You [05:16]
06. Let’s Stay Together [06:26]
07. Your Song [06:32]
08. I’m Gonna Make It This Time [04:23]
09. Me And Mrs. Jones (Live In London 12-73) [Bonus Track] [09:04]

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Paul’s first album for Philadelphia International was straight club jazz; sales were slow. This time, Gamble & Huff gave Paul material strong enough to make his sophomore release a viable commercial entity. “Brown Baby’s” speaks of people of color making their parents and others proud. “I’m Just a Prisoner” is real, but would have been better served without the string section. It’s a stark depiction about a man who has served five years and is contemplating his future. It is about the unsettling fact that he’s just a prisoner. Its chilling chorus tells it all — “The cell is cold as hell, you’ll never get use to the smell, my bed is hard as wood, I got to fight to keep my manhood,” the riveting saga doesn’t just end, the fade is lengthy, and features a dejected Paul woefully mourning the conditions, the situation, and the turmoil of prison life. He sounds believable and frustrated belting out “Me & Mrs. Jones,” a classic that many relate to, and those who don’t have no problem being down with the passionate singing and clawing lyrics describing the unapologetic infidelity. His “It’s Too Late” is a fine rendition of Carole King’s classic. You might not recognize “Let’s Stay Together,” popularized by Al Green. Paul does it it MOR/Jazz style, with a lot of improvising before crooning the original lyrics. It shows versatility, but it’s unlikely that people who bought Green’s “Jones” appreciated it. A version of Elton John’s “Your Song” introduced the Brit to fans of soul music. Vince Montana’s magical vibes punctuate the rhythm, which turns into a lightweight gospel revival. “Am I Black Enough for You” fit in with the times of overt black consciousness, a social message moved along by a perky bongo and clavinet-dominated beat, and well-spaced, brassy horn hits. A too staid “I’m Gonna Make It This Time,” co-written by Bunny Sigler, marked Paul’s second adventure in urban club jazz on 360 Degrees; this one has bite, and Billy sings it with fire.
Review by Andrew Hamilton

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