Billy Stewart

One More Time: The Chess Years

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Put on Billy Stewart's One More Time: The Chess Years. When you hear Bo Diddley's opening guitar on "Billy Blues," you know you're listening to something special. Billy Stewart ices the cake with a hiccupping, apologetic vocal. That lovely guitar melody was plagiarized and reappeared as "Love Is Strange," a big hit for Mickey & Sylvia. It doesn't get much better than "Strange Feeling," a warm floating song about the joys of new love. "I Do Love You" is a creamily concocted ballad -- he sings as if in a trance, playing off excellent backing blends by uncredited male vocalists. Stewart dazzles again on "Sitting in the Park"; the slow ballad speaks of utter rejection, sitting in a park waiting on your girl, and she never shows. The backing is majestic, and pushes Stewart to undreamed of heights, such as "Love Me," where he sounds uncompromisingly happy. If you like cool, mid-tempo ditties then you'll go for "How Nice It Is," an R&B charter. The lovely "I Cross My Heart" is a tearjerker; it sounds like the Dells on backing vocals with Stewart crooning like he was born to hurt, his soulful howl on the fade will make you tingle. Better known to some are his revitalization of pop/MOR standards "Summertime" and "Secret Lover." You get the full, unedited dose of the former. He does it his way, performing complete makeovers on both. "Golly Golly Gee" and "I'm in Love (Oh, Yes I Am)" deserve honorable mention for being borderline great. The latter is similar in feel and melody to "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" by the Supremes & the Temptations. Stewart was one of a kind (Otis Redding's singing style and stage performance was probably influenced by the late, great Billy Stewart).

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