There was a brief window of time in the early seventies for soul music unlike any other. I'm talking about the years 1971-1974, the period just after Marvin Gaye's masterpiece What's Goin' On (1971), and just before the rise of disco. It was during these halcyon days that Johnnie Taylor's Taylored In Silk (1973) was first released, and it is a gorgeous record.
As part of the Stax Remasters series, Taylored has just been reissued, with six bonus tracks. Although JT scored a smash in 1976 with "Disco Lady," he never really received the type of accolades that someone like Al Green did. The music business is a strange beast when it comes to who makes it and who does not. Drop your figurative needle down anywhere on Taylored In Silk, though, and tell me why it is not considered a definitive soul album.
It's all there in the opening track, "We're Getting Careless With Our Love." The lush orchestration meets gospel arrangements, topped off with Taylor's supremely assured voice making for a terrific combination. The public seemed to agree, pushing the single to to number five spot on the R&B charts. The most familiar track on the album is most likely "Cheaper To Keep Her." Over a steady, walking bass line, the "Soul Philosopher" lays out the reasons a man should watch when it comes to steppin' out on his woman. JT has one word: "Alimony."
The eight cuts that comprised the original album favored the ballad overall, which is fitting when one is blessed with a voice like Taylor's. "Talk To Me" is a stirring confessional, as is the third sing from the record, "I Believe In You (You Believe In Me)." The LP closed with "This Bitter Earth," a fine update of the 1960 Dinah Washington hit.
The six bonus tracks appended to the disc comprise the A and B sides of three singles Taylor recorded for Stax before the album; all six highlight a much funkier sound than most of it, too. Check out "Doing My Own Thing (Parts 1 and 2)" in particular.
When Stax folded in 1975, Johnnie Taylor moved to Columbia - and "Disco Lady." Incidentally, that song was the first single ever to be certified platinum. Great stuff, to be sure, but I am partial to his Stax material. For these ears, it doesn't get any better than Taylored In Silk.