William Bell

Phases of Reality

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Many Stax releases in the label's final years were dull soul. But by the standards of the era, Phases of Reality was an above-average affair that was more diverse than many such efforts of the time. The three songs Bell co-wrote with guitarist Horace Shipp Jr. were socially conscious tunes in a different bag than the straightforward, romantic odes Bell usually purveyed. "Save Us" is indebted to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On era, with a Philly-influenced funk-soul groove, and "Fifty Dollar Habit" is, of course, about drug use. Elsewhere Bell sticks mostly to love songs, self-penned and otherwise, getting into a pre-disco lope on the title track, a style of sweet soul balladry on "What I Don't Know Won't Hurt Me" and "If You Really Love Him," and some light reggae-influenced rhythms on "Lonely for Your Love." [This CD reissue combines Bell's final two Stax albums, 1973's Phases of Reality and Relating, in one disc.]

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