Taylored In Silk by Johnnie Taylor is the second of the three initial releases of the Concord Music Group’s new reissue series, Stax Remasters. They are focusing on individual releases rather than compilation albums.
Johnnie Taylor (1934-2000) began his career during the mid-1950s as the third of three legendary singers for the gospel group, The Highway HQ’s. He replaced Lou Rawls, who had replaced Sam Cooke. His big career break occurred when he signed with the Stax Records label in 1966. He would remain with the label until it ceased operation in 1975. During his time there, he created one of the best soul and R&B discographies of the era.
Taylor was a recognized star when he went into the studio to record 1973’s Taylored In Silk. It would become one of his signature albums.
Taylor would depart from the norm at the Stax label and not record the album at their studios on McLemore Avenue in Memphis, TN. This would mean he did not use their noted house musicians as well. The majority of the album was recorded in Muscle Shoals with such musicians as keyboardist Barry Beckett, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist David Hood, and drummer Roger Hawkins. The strings and horns were dubbed in at a later date. Taylor then added his smooth vocals. While the process was somewhat disjointed, it all added up to a smooth and polished album.
Taylor was able to appeal to a cross section of music fans. He placed dozens of singles on both the R&B and pop charts. “I Believe In You (You Believe In Me)” is a laid back, mid-tempo track. It combined flutes and strings with the lyrics of eternal love. “Cheaper To Keep Her” has a pulsating bass foundation and cynical lyrics, as the title would suggest.
“We’re Getting Careless With Our Love” contains an emotional and sexual vocal that translates the raw lyrics of cheating. Near the end, he slips in a clever mention of Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones.”
He also raided the Stax vaults for a number of cover songs. Mel & Tim’s “Starting All Over Again” is a classic soul ballad with a simple but silky vocal. He turns Little Willie John’s “Talk To Me” into a full-blown, over the top classic, complete with strings, horns, and female backing singers. His interpretation of Dinah Washington’s “The Bitter Earth” has a smoky lounge feel.
There are six bonus tracks that formed the A and B sides of three of his singles issued near the same time as the album. “Hijackin’ Love”/”Love In The Streets (Ain’t Good As Love At Home),” “Standing In For Judy”/”Shackin’ Up,” and “Doing My Own Thing (Part 1)”/”Doing My Own Thing (Part 2)” are all representative of his sound at the time and makes a superior album better. The best of the three is the two-part “Doing My Own Thing,” which settles into a nice brassy blues groove.
The sound of all three releases in the series is clean and pristine, as they were remastered from the original tapes. The accompanying booklet gives a nice overview of Taylor’s life, career, and the album’s recording process.
Johnnie Taylor is a sometimes forgotten star of the 1970s and 1980s. Taylored In Silk is a superb introduction to his music and is well worth adding to your music collection.