JOHNNIE TAYLOR was born in Crawfordsville Arkansas in 1934. He grew
up in West Memphis where he performed in Gospel groups as a
youngster. Johnnie would later take the place of Lou Rawls in the
Gospel group, Highway QCs, a sextet that also helped launch the career
of Sam Cooke, the Highway QCs’ founder, who Johnnie would go on to
replace in The Soul Stirrers in 1957 as Cooke concentrated on his solo
A few years later and JOHNNIE TAYLOR was signed to Sam Cooke’s
independent label, SAR Records where he recorded ‘Rome Wasn’t Built
In A Day’ in 1962 and stayed there until the untimely death of Sam
Cooke in 1964 when the label subsequently became defunct.
By 1966 JOHNNIE TAYLOR had moved to the legendary Stax Records
where he was dubbed “The Philosopher Of Soul” and recorded with
Stax house band, Booker T. & The MGs, releasing a string of chart hits
and Gold records and established himself as a flagship artist for Stax
alongside greats such as Isaac Hayes and The Staples Singers. After the
demise of Stax JOHNNIE TAYLOR signed to Columbia Records where he
would record EARGASM, the album that would create his best known
hit- DISCO LADY.
Recorded in 1976, EARGASM’s first single, DISCO LADY, was a #1 hit in
both the US Pop and R&B charts and even scored an impressive #25 in
the UK. The follow up single, SOMEBODY’S GETTIN’ IT, was also well
received scoring a top 40 position on the competitive US Pop chart and
rose all the way to #5 on the R&B charts. Other notable tracks on the
album include the B-Side to SOMEBODY’S GETTIN’ IT, PLEASE DON’T
STOP (THAT SONG FROM PLAYING). A smooth, soul number with subtle
additions of great, funk guitar licks and a lovely string section. Also
YOU”RE THE BEST IN THE WORLD which was recently sampled on Kraak
and Smaak 2008 hit – Squeeze Me.
BBR is very excited to present this wonderfully repackaged and
beautifully re-mastered edition of JOHNNIE TAYLOR’s EARGASM
complete with liner notes and added bonus content.
Released in deluxe Super Jewel cases, EARGASM is a must have for all
Soul, Funk, Gospel, R&B and Disco fans out there!
1. Disco Lady 4:27
2. Please Don't Stop (That Song from Playing) 2:55
3. Don't Touch Her Body (If You Can't Touch Her Mind) 3:13
4. I'm Gonna Keep On Loving You 4:02
5. You're the Best Girl In the World 3:18
6. Running Out of Lies 4:52
7. Somebody's Gettin' It 4:01
8. It Don't Hurt Me Like It Used To 3:12
9. Pick Up the Pieces 4:55
10. Disco Lady (Extended 12" Disco Version with Rap) 7:44
11. Somebody's Gettin' It (Instrumental/Version) 3:55
12. Disco Lady 3:58
Label: Big Break Records
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Review By Derek Anderson.
Visit also his Musicblog : http://dereksmusicblog.wordpress.com/
By the time Johnnie Taylor released Eargasm in 1976, he was one of music survivors, capable of adapting with the ever-evolving musical landscape. During Johnnie Taylor’s career, he’d sung gospel, blues, soul, funk, R&B and by 1976, disco. Johnnie’s career had spanned three decades, and much had changed in music. Indeed, just the year before he released Eargasm, which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 26th November 2012, the label where Johnnie Taylor had made his name had folded. At Memphis based Stax Records, Johnnie Taylor enjoyed the most successful period of his career so far. Indeed, it was at Stax Johnnie Taylor earned the reputation “The Philosopher of Soul.” Then when Stax folded, Johnnie Taylor signed to Columbia and released Eargasm, which contained the first single to be certified platinum, Disco Lady. Before I tell you about the music on Eargasm, I’ll tell you about “The Philosopher of Soul’s” career.
Johnnie Taylor grew up in Memphis, Arkansas and like so many future soul singers, cut his teeth singing gospel. His first break in music came when he replaced Lou Rawls in the gospel sextet Highway QC’s, which had previously, launched Sam Cooke’s career. After the Highway QC’s Johnnie replaced Sam Cooke in the Soul Stirrers in 1957. Then when Sam Cooke founded the his own label, SAR Records, Johnnie was one of his first signings. Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day, a song made famous by Sam Cooke, was Johnnie’s first single. Then when Sam Cooke died in 1964, SAR Records, without its founder and driving force at the helm, eventually folded. Somewhat ironically, this resulted in Johnnie signing to the label where he enjoyed the most successful period of his career.
Following the demise of SAR Records, Johnnie signed to Stax in 1966. One of Johnnie’s first releases for Stax was the Isaac Hayes and David Porter penned I Got To Love Somebody, released in 1966. Then in 1967, he released his debut Stax album Wanted One Soul Singer. 1968 saw the release of one of Johnnie’s classic Stax albums, Who’s Making Love, with the title-track that became one of Johnnie’s biggest and best known singles, selling over one-million copies and resulted in the single being certified gold. It reached number five in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts. By now, Johnnie was one of Stax’s biggest stars. 1969 saw Johnnie release a trio albums, The Johnnie Taylor Philosophy, Raw Blues and Pure Stamps. As the sixties drew to a close, and a new decade dawned, Johnnie’s star shawn as brightly.
One Step Beyond was Johnnie’s first album of the new decade, released in 1970. It contained Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone, which reached number twenty-three in the US Billboard 100. Then came 1973s Taylored In Silk, a slice of the smoothest soul for The Philosopher of Soul. It contained another number one US R&B singles, the Mack Rice penned Believe In Me (You Believe In Me), which was certified gold, having sold over a million copies. Taylored In Silk also contained another track that would become synonymous with Johnnie, the bittersweet Cheaper To Keep Her, which reached number two in the US R&B Charts. After Johnnie’s Magnus Opus Taylored In Silk, he only released one further album for Stax, 1974s Super Taylor. Then when Stax folded in 1975, Johnnie signed to Columbia, trading Southern Soul for disco.
For the second time, Johnnie Taylor had been signed to a label that subsequently folded. First SAR Records, then Stax. At Columbia, Johnnie’s new label, he was able to experience and enjoy stability. Like other artists who’d been signed to Stax, namely The Staple Singers and Isaac Hayes, Johnnie Taylor had crossover and enjoyed mainstream success. Here was a singer with two gold discs to his name. One man who’d played an important part in Johnnie Taylor’s success was his engineer, producer and songwriter Don Davis. He was signed along with Johnnie. They were, after all, a team. Indeed Don Davis would cowrite eight of the nine tracks on Johnnie’s Columbia debut Eargasm.
For Johnnie’s Columbia debut, he’d record one of the tracks Don Davis cowrote. Disco Lady saw Johnnie trade soul for disco. Disco Lady was written Don Davis cowrote with Harvey Scales, Al Vance, George Worrell and David Van Pitte. The other eight tracks saw Don Davis collaborate with a variety of songwriting partners, including his collaborators on Disco Lady. Of the nine tracks on Eargasm only You’re the Best Girl In the World wasn’t co-written by Don Davis. Instead, it was a collaboration between Norma Toney, Carl Robinson, Rudy Robinson and David Van Pitte. It seemed Don Davis and his songwriting partners were on a roll when then penned the tracks on Eargasm
When it came to recording the nine tracks on Disco Lady, recording took place in three studios. At Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, some of the best session musicians of the time played on several of the tracks, including a rhythm section of drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood and guitarist Jimmy Johnston. Add to this keyboardist Barry Beckett. The other sessions took place at United Sound Systems, Detroit, Michigan. Among the musicians were Bootsy Collins, who played bass on Disco Lady. Johnnie laid down his vocals at the Sundance Studios in Dallas, Texas. Not only was Don Davis engineer and producer, but played guitar on several songs. Once Eargasm was complete, Johnnie Taylor was about climb onboard the disco bandwagon. It was a journey that would prove successful.
Before the release of Eargasm, Disco Lady was released as a single in January 1976. Disco Lady gave Johnnie a dual number one single. Not only did it give Johnnie his third US R&B number one single, but reached number one in the US Billboard 100. It sold over two million copies and became the first single to be certified platinum. Over in the UK, Disco Lady peaked at number twenty-five. When Eargasm was released in March 1976, it reached number five in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Somebody’s Gettin’ It was then released in May 1976, reaching number thirty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts. It seems Johnnie’s move from Stax to Columbia and from soul to disco had transformed his career. With Don Davis at his side, Johnnie was enjoying the most successful period of his three decade career. Why was Eargasm so successful? That’s what I’ll tell you, as I tell you about the music on Eargasm.
Eargasm’s opening track is the platinum single Disco Lady. There’s no making the listener wait for the big hit, it’s first out of the block. It’s one of the eight tracks penned by Johnnie’s right-hand man Don Davis. Mellow keyboards, chiming guitars and a pulsating, funky rhythm section open Disco Lady, before Johnnie’s sassy, vampish vocal enters. He almost struts his way through the arrangement, with equally sassy, feisty and foxy backing vocalists and blazing horns for company. Everpresent is Bootsy Collin’s uber funky bass-line, which provides the track’s heartbeat. Johnnie calls upon all his experience and sass, delivering a vocal tour de force, helped no end by Brandy’s backing vocals. Even after just one listen, you’ll realize why this track sold over two million copies. It’s sassy, sensuous and downright funky.
Trying to followup a track like Disco Lady isn’t easy. Please Don’t Stop (That Song From Playing) penned by Don Davis, Wade Marcus and Carl Austin has to try. Given it’s a quite different style of song, comparisons can’t be drawn. Johnnie returns to smooth, silky soulful side. His vocal is heartfelt and laden with emotion, the arrangement understated, allowing his vocal to take centre-stage. Lush strings, keyboards, a subtle rhythm section and cooing backing vocalists accompany Johnnie as he delivers a vocal that’s vintage Johnnie Taylor, and oozing with sheer soulfulness.
On Don’t Touch Her Body (If You Can’t Touch Her Mind), Johnnie dishes out relationship advice. No wonder he was dubbed “The Philosopher of Soul.” Where the previous track was soulful, this one is funky. Quivering, shivering strings join keyboards and a funky rhythm section that’s straight off a Blaxploitation album. They create a dramatic backdrop for Johnnie’s vocal, which is dripping in innuendo. His vocal is full of sass and confidence, tongue placed firmly in cheek. Backing vocalists sweep in and out as the rhythm section produce one of the funkiest and most dramatic arrangements on Eargasm.
I’m Gonna Keep Loving You has a broody, moody and dramatic backdrop. Just keyboards, rhythm section and emotive strings combine with Johnnie vocal. It’s filled with despndency and despair. Cooing backing vocalists reply to his call, while the arrangement is understated and thoughtful, with a funky twist. This allows you to focus on Johnnie’s vocal, which is laden with sadness and emotion. Synths are added, but thankfully, not overused. However, what makes this such a beautiful track, is Johnnie’s vocal, which brings to life the lyrics and their heartache.
You’re the Best Girl In the World was the only song not co-written by Don Davis. It finds a more optimistic Johnnie. The change in mood is apparent from the get-go. A combination of rhythm section, keyboards and cascading strings combine with woodwind, before Johnnie’s tender vocal enters. It grows in power and emotion, as the string-drenched arrangement unfolds. Bursts of drama are added, as Johnnie’s vocal grows in power. Rasping horns, flourishes of keyboards join Johnnie as he grabs the track by the scruff of the neck, injecting soul, emotion and passion into it. It’s a vocal masterclass from one of most experienced soul singers of the time.
Running Out of Lies sees a changed in style and tempo. Johnnie draws upon his three decades of experience here. A meandering, moody arrangement where stabs of keyboards join the rhythm section in accompanying Johnnie. His vocal’s full of confusion, hurt and guilt. He delivers his vocal in a style where blues, gospel and soul combine. Backing vocalists, lush strings and growling horns are added to an arrangement where the emotion, heartache and drama in Johnnie’s vocal is reflected. Later, Johhnie vamps his way through the lyrics, delivering them with raw emotion. It’s impossible not to be moved by his delivery, which is part desperation, drama and dispondency.
Somebody’s Gettin’ It was the other single released from Eargasm. It has a gloriously funky, slow and broody introduction. Growling horns, an uber funky rhythm section and wah-wah guitars are joined by Johnnie’s emotive vocal. Percussion and a wailing, atmospheric Hammond organ joins Johnnie’s vocal which is full of heartache and hurt. Bursts of percussion and grizzled horns add to the drama and emotion of this funk-laden track, which showcases Johnnie Taylor’s versatility.
The tempo increases on It Don’t Hurt Me Like It Used To and so does the heartache and emotion. Drums drive the track along, while wistful woodwind and emotive strings accompany Johnnie’s hurt-filled vocal. Cooing backing vocalists and rasping horns Johnnie, as strings sweep and swirl as Johnnie reveals the hurt and pain he suffered. Time he has healed the pain, with Johnnie whooping and hollering. This seems like bravado, although it sounds as if the pain remains. Although this track was recorded in 1976, it has a retro sound, as if it’s lain undiscovered in Stax’s vaults since the sixties. To me, it’s something of a hidden gem, from one of soul’s survivors.
Closing Eargasm is Pick Up the Pieces, where Johnnie returns to his soulful side and sound. He delivers one of his most impassioned, heartfelt vocals. His voice is filled with hurt and pain. Backing vocals tenderly accompanying his vulnerable vocal. The arrangement is understated, perfect for the track. As the rhythm section provides it’s emotive heartbeat, percussion punctuates the arrangement and strings shiver and quiver. Johnnie reveals one of his most impassioned, heartfelt vocals bringing Eargasm to a soulful conclusion.
Although the best known track on Eargasm saw Johnnie Taylor climb onboard the disco bandwagon, most of the other tracks feature Johnnie doing what he does so well, singing soul. Indeed, six of the nine tracks on Eargasm see Johnnie at his soulful best. Among the highlights are the quartet of I’m Gonna Keep Loving You, You’re the Best Girl In the World, Running Out of Lies and Don’t Hurt Me Like It Used To. These four tracks showcase Johnnie Taylor’s soulful prowess and demonstrate just why he was called “The Philosopher of Soul.” The other two tracks on Eargasm see Johnnie return to his funky side. Don’t Touch Her Body (If You Can’t Touch Her Mind) and Somebody’s Gettin’ It showcase not just Johnnie’s soulful side, but his sheer versatility. During the nine tracks on Eargasm, Johnnie also draws upon his experiences singing gospel and blues. He was equally at home singing these styles of music. In many ways, it’s a misnomer to refer to Eargasm which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 26th November 2012, as a disco album. Instead, Eargasm is a reminded of the sheer versatility and soulfulness of Johnnie Taylor a man whose career spanned multiple musical genres and five decades and saw him crowned “The Philosopher of Soul.” Standout Tracks: Disco Lady, You’re the Best Girl In the World, Running Out of Lies and Don’t Hurt Me Like It Used To.