Billy Paul

360 Degrees of Billy Paul

  • AllMusic Rating
    7
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Paul's first album for Philadelphia International was straight club jazz; sales were slow. This time, Gamble & Huff gave Paul material strong enough to make his sophomore release a viable commercial entity. "Brown Baby's" speaks of people of color making their parents and others proud. "I'm Just a Prisoner" is real, but would have been better served without the string section. It's a stark depiction about a man who has served five years and is contemplating his future. It is about the unsettling fact that he's just a prisoner. Its chilling chorus tells it all -- "The cell is cold as hell, you'll never get use to the smell, my bed is hard as wood, I got to fight to keep my manhood," the riveting saga doesn't just end, the fade is lengthy, and features a dejected Paul woefully mourning the conditions, the situation, and the turmoil of prison life. He sounds believable and frustrated belting out "Me & Mrs. Jones," a classic that many relate to, and those who don't have no problem being down with the passionate singing and clawing lyrics describing the unapologetic infidelity. His "It's Too Late" is a fine rendition of Carole King's classic. You might not recognize "Let's Stay Together," popularized by Al Green. Paul does it it MOR/Jazz style, with a lot of improvising before crooning the original lyrics. It shows versatility, but it's unlikely that people who bought Green's "Jones" appreciated it. A version of Elton John's "Your Song" introduced the Brit to fans of soul music. Vince Montana's magical vibes punctuate the rhythm, which turns into a lightweight gospel revival. "Am I Black Enough for You" fit in with the times of overt black consciousness, a social message moved along by a perky bongo and clavinet-dominated beat, and well-spaced, brassy horn hits. A too staid "I'm Gonna Make It This Time," co-written by Bunny Sigler, marked Paul's second adventure in urban club jazz on 360 Degrees; this one has bite, and Billy sings it with fire.

blue highlight denotes track pick