Don Bryant – 1969 – Precious Soul
Rip & Intro by Raphy Review & Research by Groovegirl
Posting & additional infos by Nikos
That’s the question, never judge a question before it is answered. Here in my little world of ignorance, I thought Don Bryant was an unheard artist…. I am so wrong. To be honest with you, he’s probably not known in the Caribbean, especially on the little rock I call home, Jamaica. But out of curiosity, I googled him and I’m pleasantly surprised that he’s not that obscured as I thought initially. I personally search and collect the rare soul gems, as long as I have the means to. To be honest, I can’t remember how I came by it, but I just love the look of the Lp’s sleeve. Just look for 10 seconds on those hypnotic bold letters that are plastered on the album cover. “Hey, WAKE UP”! LOLI know you were in a trance….It’s power probably in the word ‘Precious’ or ‘Soul’, be that the case, it’s a preciously soulful album. This was Don’s very first album. He pays tribute to many soul legends by singing their songs, almost as exact as the originals. Right there in my humble opinion he went wrong. When I listen to this Lp, I’m hearing: Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Oscar Tony Jr, Clarence Carter and other great luminaries. You have to possess a keen listening ear to find Don. There was another great singer that got lost because he did what Don did on this Lp, and I’m speaking of no other than the great Spyder Turner. All that I mentioned still do not take away the fact that this man was born to sing… and sing he did on this album. A more detail review will be written by one of our great writer and researcher. I know you are gonna enjoy this ‘spin’. This is my first contribution for this year. ENJOY! Raphy
A1 She’s Looking Good 2.46
A2 (You’re A) Wonderful One 2.27
A3 Funky Broadway 2.28
A4 Can I Change My Mind 2.58
A5 Soul Man 2.34
A6 Land Of 1000 Dances 2.08
B1 Slip Away 2.40
B2 For Your Precious Love 3.59
B3 Expressway To Your Heart 2.38
B4 Try Me 3.14
B5 When Something Is Wrong With My Baby 3.00
B6 Cry Baby 3.13
Brothers and Sisters of all human race, please hold hands and get ready to embrace. Another funk my soul blessing, will now start to praise the Lord of covers, and meaning to stop not even there! We are featuring a real strayed up till now gem treasure on Hi records, one of the 3 full LP’s ever cut by Don Bryant : “Precious Soul” 1969, followed by “What do you think about Jesus?” many years after, in 1987 and “I’m Gonna Praise Him” in 1989. Last two were ft. on Bryant’s own label By Faith records, neither though have been released commercially up till now. I couldn’t imagine feeling anything better, lending an ear to this rare generosity of tracks, a soul hearted match in an ear shake, a funk alertness straight to heaven by a voice pouring out the spirit of God with the G force of a gentle turntable rage. When first hearing Bryant you suppose he’s singing each time with that same quality factor of stadium energy even if it’s for one person on this page. He’s that kind of rocking soul stone with high voltage classification and yet intimately enough to make you stand in his shoes, throughout the progress of his song or story telling.
I know that perhaps most of you suppose that Don Bryant is first and foremost a writer, but as a vocalist he is able of showing his depth on the plate with a humble center core , unfortunately back in Memphis days you really had to have something special to stand out. It might have been the standards of the game and not the true raw talent that wins in the end, we all know that. Treasuring Dons “Clear days and stormy nights” he will always be a rarity for me to mention. Demon Music Group is showing some respect to re-issues the past years(Comin on Strong/Doing the Mustang VA) and UK Label London sourced the tracks of Precious Soul also.
The stand out: “Precious Soul” is all about 12 hit soul covers. Alas,a gigantic smile like the one Don has on the front album cover is to be put on your face. Songs written from the minds to fingers of Isaac Hayes, James Brown, David Porter, Eddie and Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Chriss Kenner and others. True to the originals by Tyrone Davis, The Soul Survivors, Dyke and the Blazers, Marvin Gaye etc. It’s as if, there was a diamond stone waiting to be carved again, after some passing years by the colors and harmonies of the splendid and powerful Bryant. Oh Lord, knows his majestic powers within him. My personal favorited is “Soul Man” just because it fulfills each way of attention to be paid. Strength, admiration, depth of prolific wonderings, I love him! Taking that 1967 track that was peaking first up on US R&B Billboard, and making it again a musical syntax of true commitment to the roots of the neighborhood is outstanding. Don Bryant put out 9 double sided Hi releases from ‘66 to ‘69. So at this point we could say that he was at a peak pressure of his so called career singing. The truth to this story, is the capability of being seen behind the curtains, I can assure you the star sign is loud and clear. If you have just become a fan try catching Hi Hexcd-50 UK release “The complete Don Bryant on Hi records/2000” (Including a duet with Marion Brittnam). While Al Green was climaxing on chart with Ann Peebles, Bryant got out a sound firmly on the Hi style which could have been “Stax”ed with nice rough edges, taking over an impact of Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd or Percy Sledge, showing it nice with a clear clench in the grooves. The Man makes the History.
Don Bryant was born in Memphis Tennessee on April the 2nd,1942. Growing up in a middle class neighborhood filled with friends, love, religion, adventure and singing on the street corners. His father Edward Bryant ran a clothing store while his mother Margie did domestic work and raised he and his nine brothers and sisters. Now that’s what I call family! Edward had a gospel group called Four stars of harmony,one of the first black gospel groups to broadcast on the radio in Memphis. Every Sunday he would take Don out on the road to do gospel chores and at the age of five in a small church known as Carnegie Church Of God in Christ, Young Bryant conceptualized his voice through the old spiritual “Sweet Little Jesus Boy”.
By the time he was in High School, Don and his brother Jamie had formed a vocal group of their own, The Quails. Doo Wop group singing under the streetlights most of the nights. They began hanging around 1340 WLOK radio in Memphis hoping to get noticed. It wasn’t long before popular dee-jay Dick Cole heard them and offered to let them sing live on his show, changing their name to The Canes. They won the legendary amateur night at the Palace Theater down on Beale Street, making them the most popular teens in town.
Willie Mitchell was the leader at that time of the band at Danny’s a busy night spot out on the strip in West Memphis. Legend Willie new with one audition that Don was an instant hit as he drove the audience in a dancing frenzy with covers of Rufus Thomas,James Brown, The five Royals, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and Garnett Mimms. Becoming Don’s legal guardian in papers,as he was still under age,in any event they soon became the hottest ticket in town, packing places like Curry’s Flamingo Room,The Manhattan Club and the Plantation Inn. The Four Dukes became The Four Kings by the spring of 1957 and were knocking em head to toe working with Willie at the club. After hearing them perform at the Manhattan Club in 1957 (age 15) local rockabilly legend Eddie Bond (whose guitarist was going to join Bill Black’s Combo at Hi label) signed them to his Stomper Time label. Two singles went up “Tell it to me baby “ and “Walkin’ Alone” in 1958. Local sellers but neither made it to the charts. They continued the work regularly when Mitchell signed on with Hi in 1962, bringing the Four Kings with him. Brother Jamie dropped out with the usual ego problems, the Four Kings went separate ways in 1963.
From 64’ to 68’ Don Bryant was building a reputation for one of the hottest singers and entertainers around ,his voice ignited the arise with an inferno of Soul. Bryant signed as a solo artist to Hi in 1964. His first release on the label was a cover of Chris Kenner’s “I like it like that”. Dons songwriting skills payed off on his next release, the superior “Don’t turn your back on me”. A sweet country soul record that could have been a hit if distributed on Atlantic records perhaps. Around that period he also gained a keen perception for writing, becoming staff writer and Head of A&R,penning songs for O.V Wright,Otis Clay, Soul Children member Norman West and his future wife of course Ann Peebles (just like hits including Ann Peebles Grammy Nominated Classic Titled “I cant stand the rain”).
Hi Label owner Joe Cuoghi as a jukebox distributor knew that he could push over the radio industry 150,000 copies of a record to the guys on the routes but never really bothered with the whole radio promotion status. So consequently a single could break really big in the local markets like Memphis and New Orleans,get played to infinity in bars and jukebox joints and never show up in national charts. That’s how large Don Bryant was in his surroundings ,and never got to be seen.
Vocalising for Mitchell’s two sider “That Driving Beat/Everythings gonna be alright” in 1965, Bryant would write a killer B side sounding like Jimmy Hughes, Solomun Burke or a Joe Tex record.
All the above now come into place. Don would release seven more singles for Hi under his own name in the next four years and all of them are worth trying to hunt down. An album of cover songs “Precious Soul” is where we stand today. By 1971,Don was beginning to turn a great deal more of his focus on writing rather than being the Artist, penning classics like A love vibration,99 Pounds and Fill this world with love. After Hi label being sold in ’79 Don continued to work in various studios by singing on a succession of demos and commercials but felt always a major change was on to him. In his words “I had tried the fame, the travelling, the glory, the shows, the money, It was all there for me but I needed something else, something much greater, So I did some serious thinking on it and I came to the conclusion that studying the word of God was the only thing I hadn’t tried”. Brother Bryant found himself back in Carnegie, where he long since discovered the gift devoting more and more time to Gods word along with musical ministry. In 2000, Don teamed up with Paul Brown to produce “It’s all in the word”. The album is a fifteen track powerful testimony, From Soul stirring melody lines of Rest Well to the Mountain Moving, Holy Ghost driven on He’s alright,it is apparent that God has flourished through every note on it.