Paul Kelly “Hot Runnin’ Soul” (KENT UK CDKEND 367)
By Sir Shambling
AN ESSENTIAL COLLECTION OF EARLY TRACKS BY A SOUTHERN SOUL GIANT
Chills And Fever; It's My Baby; Since I Found You; The Upset; Can't Help It; Only Your Love; I Need Your Love So Bad; Nine Out Of Ten Times; Sweet Sweet Lovin'; Cryin' For My Baby; You Don't Know, You Just Don't Know; If This Old House Could Talk; Glad To Be Sad; My Love Is Growing Stronger; We're Gonna Make It (After Awhile); Call Another Doctor (On The Case); Stealing In The Name Of The Lord; The Day After Forever; 509; Sailing; Hot Runnin' Soul; Poor But Proud; Soul Flow; Hangin' On In Here.
I’ve written about Paul Kelly several times over the years, most recently for the page on him on this website which you can find here. But I make no apology for returning to him again as he is a multi-talented individual who, if success followed musical gifts, would be a household name in the entertainment world. This splendid CD from Kent UK brings together all his earliest work, all the 45s from 1965 to 1971.
A good proportion of these tracks has been available on CD before, thanks to the efforts of Numero Uno, Charly UK, Warner Bros UK and Ace/Kent themselves, but having all of them in a single compilation is almost a dream come true. Compiler Tony Rounce has even kept the tracks in almost date order which surely is the right thing to do here so it’s possible to follow Kelly’s progress from raw talent to seasoned professional singer. Not to mention his increasingly confident songwriting.
The CD kicks off with his Lloyd tracks including the famous “Chills And Fever” which although it has become a Northern soul classic is pretty derivative stuff really. His best song from this period is undoubtedly the brilliant deep ballad “It’s My Baby” but sadly the flip “The Upset” is my choice for the worst track on the CD. After his Lloyd days Kelly teamed up with producer Buddy Killen, to whom he remained faithful for the rest of the 60s and all of the 70s. And it is primarily on Killen’s work with Kelly and Joe Tex during this time that his reputation as one of the best country soul producers rests.
Buddy put out a couple of releases on his own Dial label before signing Kelly to Philips. And it is the eight tracks on that label that should generate the most excitement for this CD as they have never been properly reissued before. And they are all high quality to boot. They were cut at Fame, AGP in Memphis and in Nashville, and all feature Kelly’s high intensity “slow burn” vocals, often double or triple tracked. The uptempo “You Don’t Know You Just Don’t Know” and “Sweet Sweet Lovin’ " are strong southern soul, but he was at his best on the ballad side of things. “If This Old House Could Talk” and “Crying For My Baby” are quite superb, but the killer is “Nine Out Of Ten Times”, on which the Muscle Shoals musicians display their customary skill, and Kelly gives one of his most forceful, passionate performances.
After a spell in New York, Kelly returned south to Killen who negotiated a contract with the West Coast based Happy Tiger label. There were four 45s released under this deal, and again the class of the music is extraordinarily high. The first single was the astonishing “Stealing In The Name Of The Lord”, whose truth-telling lyrics caused a big ruckus in the black communities, but whose energy and melody made it also his biggest hit. This was recorded in Alabama as were all the other Happy Tiger sides, and although the company put out Kelly’s first LP they were unable to get another top 20 entry. The album contained such fine music as “The Day After Forever” and “Poor But Proud” but not, oddly enough, either side of his second Happy Tiger single, the uptempo “509” or the reflective ballad “Sailing”.
Killen got Kelly onto Warner Bros on the back of the “Stealing” success, and together they made some of the best southern soul of the early 70s. After the disco boom ended commercial interest in the sort of real soul that Kelly made, he continued to record sporadically for the likes of Rounder, Ripete and his own Laurence label, but made most of his money from his songwriting for the likes of Jackie Moore, the Four Tops and Mavis Staples.
But his best tracks were really those from the Golden Age of soul, and many of them are included here. If you don’t know Paul Kelly, buying this CD is an excellent way to start, and if you do know him but don’t own the original 45s then this CD again will see you right. In fact if you read the pages of this website you need this CD. Essential.