Willie Wright

Telling the Truth

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Willie Wright is certainly no household name nationwide and maybe not even in his own hometown. These are the types of releases that music lovers have come to expect from the Numero Group. Telling the Truth had an initial run of 1,000 pieces when originally issued in 1977. An LP with those types of numbers isn't necessarily the magic formula that most labels look for in a reissue campaign. But that's not the case with these Windy City self-professed record nerds -- they relish the fact that they can dig up such gems. While the Numero Group gets a lot of publicity for their Eccentric Soul series (even though they issue fare from many genres), this Willie Wright album is a different specimen. That much is apparent by the replication of the original back sleeve as it heeds: "WARNING: This is not a disco record. It's designed for ADULTS of the world. TEENAGERS, this album may be too lyrically heavy for you, especially if you're into fast music. YOU WILL, however, enjoy this record if you're into GUITARS!" Even without many fast songs, it's a well-paced album. The album's first song, the jaunty "Nantucket Island," is a tribute song to the place where Wright found himself employed as a performer at various restaurants (and eventually where he'd relocate) in the mid-'70s. With a catchy, sweet-nothing-like "diddly dum dum day" chorus and a swaying melody to back it up, it easily could be translated to a Caribbean anthem with just a touch of an accent.

Wright, whose singing pipes can remind you of Lou Rawls, is captivating as a vocalist. In lesser hands, a vocalist with his sound might come across as boring, especially with the limited range that he sings with on this album. "Lady of the Year," a song that you might guess would be meant to woo, is instead a conversational pick-me-up, albeit laced with wistfulness, concerning a friend trying to cheer up another heartbroken friend. "Just because it rains/That don't mean the sun won't shine again," he calmly tells her. Although it may seem bland in print, when sung it's calming and reassuring. In a pace changer, "I'm So Happy Now" finds a bouncy, funky bassline leading the charge in a song that has a stepping feel to it. What sells it is Wright's daughter Sheila providing mockingbird responses as they sing, "I've finally decided (finally decided)/We can't be divided (we can't be divided)," made all the more moving by the fact it was a reunion song of sorts for the pair, as Wright had left his family about a decade earlier. Given that, it's tough to discern whether his use of the lyric "I'm so happy child" is a remark made toward her instead of a passable love song, as the rest of the song might be construed. Wright could also tackle social anthems, as he proved in his cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Right on for the Darkness," a bonus track on the album that had been issued on 45 along with his own original, "Africa." The latter song as well as "Indian Reservation" found him singing about his heritage, as his mother was part Cherokee. The Mayfield cover is sung with strong conviction, even if he appears to not dig in vocally. Instead, his work on flute and a searing set of congas lift it into an incendiary performance.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Amazon
2 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick