John Gary Williams – 1973 – John Gary Williams
An obscure one from Stax, only solo effort from John Gary Williams, who earlier headed up the excellent Mad Lads (“Don’t Have to Shop Around,” “I Want Someone”) vocal group for the label!
Williams is working here with a fairly sophisticated set of arrangements – ones that almost have a Curtom Chicago sound to them, instead of the usual Stax groove – and we mean that in a good way, as the overall quality of the album’s sweet soul arrangements is quite strong – really pushing the material in a way that’s different from Memphis soul, and which has made the record an overlooked gem from the legendary label!It was produced almost entirely by the artist with help from notable members of Isaac Hayes’ Movement and features some lovely covers – Ask The Lonely, How Could I Let You Get Away and a surprisingly successful, slowed down and extended version of Bobby Goldsboro’s Honey – and several original titles by Williams, including the under-the-radar smash political-groover, “The Whole Damn World is Going Crazy”.
The whole thing’s light years from familiar southern soul modes, and a real standout from Stax.
A1 I See Hope 3:02
A2 I’m So Glad Fools Can Fall In Love 4:13
A3 Honey 6:37
A4 Loving You (It Ain’t Easy) 2:44
B1 Ask The Lonely 3:31
B2 How Could I Let You Get Away 4:00
B3 Open Your Heart (And Let Love Come In) 3:12
B4 The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy 3:10
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger
John Gary Williams had been a longtime member of the Stax soul vocal group the Mad Lads before starting a solo career after the group broke up in the early ’70s. His self-titled 1973 album is one of the most obscure Stax LPs, in part because it was issued as the company started to cease operations. He wrote five of the eight tracks on the record, producing five of them as well (and co-producing the others).
Though not a major effort in the scheme of either early-’70s soul or the Stax catalog, it’s a pleasant assortment of sweet soul tracks, with a slightly earthier edge than many recordings in the genre boasted. Most of the songs are upbeat romantic numbers highlighting Williams’ smooth, high vocals, inserting covers of songs by the Four Tops, the Spinners, and (more unexpectedly) Bobby Goldsboro.
The most impressive cuts, by a long shot, are the ones that steer away from the usual romantic themes to make general social observations. The opener “I See Hope” is a lively, dramatic expression of optimism; the closing “The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy“, in contrast, reflects the pessimism infiltrating much early-’70s soul, the gently percolating grooves and soaring strings offsetting lyrics of confusion at the backstabbing state of the modern world.
A great album for all lovers of early seventies soul music.