Benjamin McConner, who recorded as Bennie Conn, is a name that deep soul fans enthuse over for his 45s as well as for his excellent “Soul Music” LP from 1980. He was based mainly on the West Coast where he recorded his initial 45 for Magnum. Like many of his tracks the lovely deep I’m So Glad To Be Back Home came from his own pen. This simple ballad only had a small band backing so the emphasis is all on Conn whose gruff tones more than deliver. Production is by that fine blues writer/producer Jimmy Johnson.
His second release was for Bobby Sanders' famous Soultown and both sides are excellent. The sweet slow style of I Don’t Have, complete with some tasteful strings, features one of his very best soulful vocals. Have You Had A Love is taken at a slightly slower pace and once again Conn's rendition is gruff and compelling. Love those “Ha Ha” phrases at the start. A superb 45.
Satisfy My Hunger, was a one-off exercise by the infamous entrepreneur Charlie Greene, and it has a great touch of southern fried funk, but it’s Conn’s gruff, throaty vocals that will make you come back time and again. The rhythm tracks at least were recorded in Muscle Shoals but the vocals may well have been cut in LA where Greene was based. “I Just Wanna Come In Outta The Rain” is a very strong southern soul piece in its own right, well worth hearing.
In 1980 Conn recorded one of the finest deep soul LPs of the decade. The direction of the music was clearly stated on the sleeve – “Ah how we miss the music of Sam & Otis…” Although Conn’s voice wasn't quite as throaty as it was a decade before, the whole album is a joy from start to finish, with a special mention to Rene Hall for the quality of the arrangements. The throwback Sam Cooke styled It’s Time For Love, a tender ballad, was picked for the 45 from the set, coupled with the more bluesy “Steal Away” - not the Jimmy Hughes classic. Tracks like the highly melodic “Tell Me You Love Me”, “I Don’t” and “You Gave Me Love” give the album its solidity and strength, with the lively “Baby Please” making a good change of pace. All credit to Conn for the writing and production of this great LP. You can hear more of his talents in those directions for Ray Williams here.
Forgive me / I'm so glad to be back home ~ MAGNUM 741 (1967)
Have you had a love / I don't have ~ SOULTOWN 107 (1969)
Satisfy my hunger / I just wanna come in outta the rain ~ WAND 11211 (1969)
Steal away / It's time for love ~ GROOVE TIME 4 (1980)
Soul music ~ GROOVE TIME (1980)
Thanks to Marc Demuynck for putting me straight on Jimmy Johnosn.