11 Dec Billy Paul – 1975 – Got My Head On Straight

Billy Paul – 1975 – Got My Head On Straight

From the height of Billy Paul‘s career, nestled in between 1973’s classic ‘War Of The Gods’ and ‘When Love Is New’ from 1976, “Got My Head On Straight” appears to be one of his most ignored albums. The fact that it is only available on vinyl is also testament to its obscurity by an artist of Billy Paul’s stature. Well to rectify the injustice, we are proud to present the LP this week – and from a crisp, now unavailable, PIR CD pressing, courtesy of our regular scribe Trakbuv.

We would also like to state for the record that this is one of his greatest achievements to boot – an ambitious and totally successful concept album with an invigorating sense of positivity. Hope you agree.

This is a @320 rip of the now unavailable PIR CD

Tracks
A1 July July July July 5.29
A2 Billy’s Back Home 4.32
A3 I’ve Got So Much To Live For4.49
A4My Head’s On Straight3.12
A5 Enlightment4.32
B1 When It’s Your Time To Go 4.59
B2 Be Truthful To Me 3.08
B3 Everything Must Change 5.19
B4 Black Wonders Of The World 4.57

Review by Trakbuv

Billy Paul needs no introduction to a column like this, and is yet another sad reminder of what today’s music is crying out for – singers whose gifts are instantly recognisable and distinctive from the first few ruffles of the larynx. Boy were we treated to the good stuff like gold ran from the tap. Appearing in concert with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, and Miles Davis, it was clear that his style would embrace a Jazzy sway. And coming from North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was also only a matter of time before he would bump into Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The fruits blossomed fat and juicy on his first two LPs, ‘Feeling Good at the Cadillac Club’ (Gamble, 1968) and ‘Ebony Woman’ (Neptune, 1970), both having strong jazz inclinations that were important developments for his vocal delivery and his relationship with Gamble and Huff over the ensuing years. ‘Going East’, his first official release on Philadelphia International Records in 1971, was the transitional chrysalis before the far more soulful ‘360 Degrees’ spread its wings in 1972. The LP contained his iconic ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ and was an awesome demonstration of how his husky expressive boom fitted as snug as a bug in the rug of the establishing Philly groove. Probably his strongest LP of all followed in 1973. ‘War Of The Gods’ was arguably self-indulgent containing just 6 tracks, but is a wonderful time-capsule of the amazing versatility and inventiveness of the blossoming Philly sound.

His next studio album didn’t surface until 1975 – enter “Got My Head On Straight” stage right. This is my personal favourite of all his collective 33 and a thirds. I am probably standing in a corner all on my own – but the title says it all. It is an incredible assertion of life, living life and embracing every last breath. It is the equivalent of Cassius Clay hitting you around the head with one glove of optimism and the other full of positivity, while kicking in your tender area with a bootiful of gleaming joy – all the while with a stupid grin. “July July July July” sets the tone – with the sunshine beaming down and lighting up an incredible horizon ahead of you – I wish I could change the words to ‘Soul music soul music soul music soul music’ because this captures what it means to me perfectly !! Then we have the spellbinding “Billy’s Back Home”. Dexter Wansel is one of my personal heros, and this is one of his earlier contributions to PIR not long after he had graduated from Yellow Sunshine and a year before his debut ‘Life On Mars’. His synthesizer embellishments give the orchestral arrangement an added warmth and freshness that I simply cannot play enough – and a ultra mellow taster of his classic ‘Nights Over Egypt’ to come.

Back to the beach again folks. Sand in your toes and shouting at the bright orange sun. “I’ve Got So Much To Live For” is one of those calypso-flavoured ditties that Philly excelled at, and it perfectly cradles the glowing sentiments. Tie that crazy ass to the floor – I can’t resist shaking a positive vibe to this one ! And it’s more philosophical magic in the captivating title track. “My Head’s On Straight” has a tingling undercurrent of pathos while still sounding upbeat – I cannot fathom how they have managed to achieve such an incredible sensation. And for me – one of my two all-time favourite Billy Paul tracks comes up next. “Enlightment” is a possible successor to the earlier epic ‘I See The Light’, but it has its own message and is one of Gamble and Huff’s crowning glories. Utter utter genius from the first note to the last – I cannot praise this high enough. It is also a clear inspiration for the classic ‘Blind Baby’ LP by the New Birth that came out the same year. Or was it the other way round ? Spooky.

His first foray into funk comes in “When it’s your time to go” – this time attempting to put a positive shine on falling off this mortal coil – yep, nothing is safe from the optimistic vibe ! Wonderful. Probably the most lightweight and pop-flavoured track, “Be Truthful To Me” is still incredibly catchy and so hard to dislike. Bernard Ighner’s perennial “Everything Must Change” is given a similar treatment to Bernard’s from Quincy Jones ‘Body Heat’ LP the year earlier. Apart from demonstrating Bernard’s much more limited vocals, I do feel this was possibly an unnecessary inclusion when there are so many other songs they could have chosen to cover. But it is still an incredible tribute to Billy’s vocal prowess and is definitely in keeping with the concept of the album. Also, this sombre epic does provide a masterful intro for my favourite all-time Billy track. This track is just TOO GOOD. I weep for my ears when I put this on – they are being spoiled far too much for a mere mortal ! “Black Wonders Of The World” is the purest synergy of the best of Billy, Kenny, Leon and whole damn Philly mothership – the greatness of this tribute could only have been conceived by powers greater than we. My goosebumps are screaming for a holiday after this triumphant triumph that, at nearly 8 minutes, is far too short ! And just to add more compliments to the pile, I venture to suggest that Stevie Wonder’s ‘Black Man’was inspired by this very track. And all credit to Billy Paul who, together with the title track, helped in writing the song.

Well you may have guessed that I have a special place in my musical heart for this LP. An extraordinary life-affirming concept album from and extraordinary bunch of folk. And one of the most underrated gems out there, especially when you consider the might of the associated personnel. Get to the program, get to the vibe, and get involved.

You can also enjoy his 1973 classic album “360 Degrees of Billy Paul” including the timeless “Me & Mrs. Jones” in our back pages here.

Buy the Album

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36 Comments
  • alex
    Posted at 13:58h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    Brilliant! I love Billy Paul.

  • Chris C
    Posted at 15:22h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    Hmm.. seems very odd that I don’t have this LP. Although I’m sure that this little number is great. Nice heads up as always.

  • manny
    Posted at 16:45h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    Hey, Trackbuv!

    I feel like a “soul – twin brother” of you, reading those emotive notes about one of my all-time soul heros. I’m aged 49 years old and one of my first LP purchase was “Let ’em in” (with my favorite “How good is your game”) that was the only one LP by Billy Paul in the store of my little town in Spain, when i was 14 years-old. Obviously, I searched (and found) all the PIR albums by Billy Paul along the years. One of my first adquisitions was “El sonido de Filadelfia vol. 3” that includes the mellow “Billy’s Back Home” an the vol. 2 with “Be Truthful To Me” and when i find the album I was immediatelly hipnotyzed with “When Is Your Time To Go”. This track, significatively, is included in the various artists CD “Diggin’ Deeper, vol. 5” (Columbia, 2000), with the “THE ROOTS OF ACID JAZZ” (!!!) subtitle.

    Gamble, Huff, Bell, Wansel, H-B-Y, Eli, Montana, O’Jays, Billy Paul, Teddy,… what a group of folks so innovative and seminal… we can say they “invented” many things, including jazz-poetry-hip hop (if you heard Jean Claude T 1977 album!!).

    One Billy’s track I have on vynil (the 2 x LP “Best Of”) that do not belongs to no one album and is not available on CD is “My Old Flame” with a nice big-band orchestration. This, jointly with these 2 tracks of this album reviwed and the ones he sings with “scat” technique (“Billy Boy”, “Malorie”,…) are my absolute favorites.

    A great salute and Soul Food!

  • mp
    Posted at 19:04h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    thanks for the quality of your music drops! the 70’s were thought of as a lost decade, but the music says otherwise. best wishes

  • Nikos
    Posted at 19:22h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    mp and friends,
    speaking in musical terms, the 70’s were the best decade till now. Think of the artists and albums in Funk and Soul,Disco and Groove, the beginning of Rap, Classic Rock masters, Progressive Rock, Punk and New Wave.. Everything is up there with great quality.
    To me 60’s comes second and 80’s next.

  • Ian
    Posted at 19:55h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    damn, reissue needed

  • Holly
    Posted at 20:05h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    Thank you very much – this is new to me, and lovely.

  • k02
    Posted at 21:26h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    Thanks Nikos

  • Larry
    Posted at 23:34h, 12 December 2010 Reply

    I do really like to get this kind of post. Great album and emotional but very true review. Thanx.

  • Ophelia
    Posted at 07:36h, 13 December 2010 Reply

    This is the music of a man who truly sang from his soul – I LOVE it! Thanks so much for the excellent post! I think I’ll go listen to Me and Mrs. Jones now!

  • rich
    Posted at 22:35h, 13 December 2010 Reply

    good billy paul record thanx nikos

  • Soul is the Music
    Posted at 22:39h, 14 December 2010 Reply

    Billy Paul blends his more conventional pop, soul and funk styles with electronic and psychedelic influences. He is usually identified by his diverse vocal style which ranges from mellow and soulful to low and raspy. Amazing artist. Thanks for the digital copy.

  • Jack Grey
    Posted at 02:54h, 16 December 2010 Reply

    Utterly brilliant!! Thank you!

  • jahcisco
    Posted at 03:07h, 16 December 2010 Reply

    Thanks.

  • Tag
    Posted at 12:34h, 16 December 2010 Reply

    This is an excellent album, it stands out as a strong piece of (Philly) Soul Music through the years coming.
    Thank you so much for sharing!
    Shine on!

  • Trakbuv
    Posted at 13:47h, 16 December 2010 Reply

    Hi Manny – hi fellow soul lovers – glad you are enjoying this one – one of my earlier influences in soul as a lad – and it’s great to finally share the love after all these years surrounded solely by rock music fans. 😉

  • Jonas
    Posted at 10:53h, 17 December 2010 Reply

    Amazing share guys. Much appreciated.

  • Freitas
    Posted at 13:42h, 17 December 2010 Reply

    The kind of what I want to play these days… Thanks!

  • Raggedy
    Posted at 06:46h, 18 December 2010 Reply

    Aw! Billy’s soft and creamy voice always gets me all dreamy. Thanks for sharing this album!

  • Vito
    Posted at 13:00h, 18 December 2010 Reply

    Irresistible! Philly sound at it’s best. Ace!

  • Armando
    Posted at 03:52h, 19 December 2010 Reply

    Thank you for bringing back this underrated LP to the limelight. We should give proper credit to Billy Paul for his influence in R&B music.
    Great post indeed.

  • Mary Criti
    Posted at 19:03h, 19 December 2010 Reply

    Love the youtube songs, can’t wait to check the album! Cheers man!

  • Jeff B
    Posted at 11:29h, 21 December 2010 Reply

    Wonderful album thanks Nikos & Trakbuv. Never heard this before and made my day. Thanks again!

  • Oak
    Posted at 18:07h, 22 December 2010 Reply

    Really cool. Keep it up folks.

  • Friderikos
    Posted at 18:28h, 28 December 2010 Reply

    Trakbuv, it’s superb. Thanks a lot man. Happy New Year.

  • Hank
    Posted at 18:50h, 03 January 2011 Reply

    Stunning how much music i never heard about way back then,
    Many thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Maxime
    Posted at 17:38h, 15 January 2011 Reply

    The story has me hooked. Got to listen to this one.

  • Downhome
    Posted at 18:36h, 15 January 2011 Reply

    Thanks so much. Have been waiting and waiting for this gem to be released on CD. One of his best, one of PIR’s best, and therefore one of THE best. Amazing album, and the perfect companion to the just as brilliant When Love Is New.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 17:35h, 18 January 2011 Reply

    Awesome production…A must buy. THX a lot

  • Zoao
    Posted at 15:01h, 30 January 2011 Reply

    What a treat !!! Great music by a very respectable figure. Thanks very much…

  • Martini
    Posted at 12:20h, 17 March 2011 Reply

    Splendid!

  • Delicious
    Posted at 22:52h, 20 November 2011 Reply

    Bad ass album. Well done guys. Now could someone please please please upload Feelin' good at the cadillac club. Album is sick sick sick… and MIA on da tintenet… upload please. Stay bless y'all

  • carlos
    Posted at 12:30h, 28 April 2012 Reply

    Great..album..and..my..best..to..both..of..you..for..this!

  • Clint Flournoy
    Posted at 07:43h, 28 April 2016 Reply

    h

  • Clint Flournoy
    Posted at 07:50h, 28 April 2016 Reply

    Hello BP fans,

    I’ll sure miss this wonderful brother, nobody could deliver a song to us with so much emotion and intensity. He was a small man in stature only standing 5′ 7″ yet, his vocal range could enormously swing from an almost quiet subtleness, gentle enough to put a baby to sleep, to a scream so majestically powerful, he could bring down the mightiest of giants! He was a Sagittarius, the humanitarian, full of LIFE and LOVE of the world and it’s people, he knew what to say, when to say and how to say it and to experience the versatility this man had with just about any composition, check out some of his lesser know yet beautifully done songs like “I’m just a prisoner” (360 Degrees), “I was married” (War of the Gods) and “Black wonders of the World” (Got my head on Straight), this brother KNEW what time it was at all times and with the style which he sang in, it’s hard for the best of vocalist to do his songbook!

    On “East” , he quickly put you in the frame of mind that you MUST travel EAST to find out who and what you are and if you’re an African American in America, you KNOW that your roots RUN EAST of wherever you are in this land. You can check this for yourself: The most educated Aframericans live on the east coast, the most well to do, live on the east coast and where were the MAJORITY of us brought from: EAST! Billy Paul instantly took us there when he bellowed out, ” I wanna go EAST, I wanna ride EAST, my LAND, my HOME…..”, he could definitely get your blood going yet, he could turn around and tell you about a deep love lost in the song, “I was married” and so many of US who’ve been married, can relate to it when he says, ‘but it just didn’t work out !”

    Without question, he was the LAST of the Griots who could tell US a story like nobody else could! Although he wasn’t much different from many of us with the issues he had in his life, like the Centaur he was, it never stopped him from fighting on because he’d give you his BEST, the final curtain was always his crowning glory! Those of us who loved him will miss him dearly but, his UNDYING love for US ALL will NEVER BE FORGOTTEN!

  • SoulFever
    Posted at 15:36h, 20 August 2016 Reply

    Hello, let’s hear this: i sent my condolence to Blanche Williams, Billy’s widow, when the singer passed away in may. we became mail friends and she’s been so generous and kind to send me Billy’s personal cd of the rarest Live world tour 99, wich is wondeful in the meantime…i was astonished by such humanity. so is Blanche Williams…thanks Blanche

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