I’d like to preface this single review by saying I’m really glad to read the Cultures of Soul Records description of this record by Emmanuel Taylor:
“It sounds like Stevie Wonder, looks like Stevie Wonder, and smells like Stevie Wonder so it must be Stevie Wonder, right?”
I was worried my upcoming Stevie Wonder references were probably laughable having been exposed to nothing more than top 40 radio funk and soul growing up. I also can’t keep crying ignorance thanks to all the records from Colemine and Cultures of Soul…but it’s still a huge unknown in my book, but that being said maybe now it’s obvious and my Stevie reference is actually even worse.
"You Really Got a Hold On Me" begins with Emanuel’s high tremolo, quivering Stevie Wonder power. This is a super punchy record with a slight wah with even a string section sliding in behind the arrangement. Beating the snare like a TV static filled shaker. The tom fills are just groups of tighter snares arranged in a circle. Tambourine solos and rolling lower strings under his quick vocal delivery. He’s got a high, ultra controlled vocal that he arranges with a falsetto backup, a little like those Nick Drake arrangements with the orchestral string notes in the background. This track has a huge, heavy sound with a hint of garage in it's raw, straightforward percussion. There are layers here of clicks and high hat stand hits, tambourine clangs, a huge amount of style without the usual sort of obvious trappings. It’s really a hyper alternate B-Side Stevie hit, belting out a crystal clear vocal, without peaking and a weird sense of Bee Gee’s prowess. His range is crazy - the backup ladies could only dream of getting to this place. There's a slight disco feel here, but the strings reel it back in or it's these heavy brass sections. The piles of percussion could be the starting place of the disco funk and they keep pulling it back into soul the entire time.
"Society" starts with beat perfection and the title vocal in a ‘across 110th street’ style, this is solidly almost in the eighties. Something about the production here has more of that crazy chorus of odd orchestral timing. Rising horns taking liberties with their own micro melodies peeking out of the whole. Something about the vocal compression…maybe the more upfront use of wah, a more synth bassline and this orchestral stuff is taking more of a backseat. The disco is gone and replaced with a heavy rock funk, more about vocal acrobatics and everyone stepping in to flutter all over the scales.
A nice find, with not much out there about Emanuel, plain white sleeve from Cultures of Soul Records.