Terry Callier

Turn You to Love

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This is easily Terry Callier's most underrated album. Chalk it up to the slick arrangement, jazzy charts, and funky rhythms in the heat of the disco era, but the year after Callier missed the boat with Fire on Ice, he was back with a slicker, shinier record. But, unlike its predecessor, it has no fat in the songwriting department. Leaving Richard Evans' production behind, Callier and Don Mizell enlisted Sonny Burke to produce, arrange, and conduct the large band. Callier handled a lot of the guitar work himself but he did have help from stalwart Larry Wade, his songwriting partner, and Tommy Tedesco. Also in the house was Motown's Randy Dunlap -- courtesy of Smokey Robinson -- and horn heroes Ernie Watts and Fred Wesley. The song selection here is impeccable, from the hard, growling gospel funk of "Sign of the Times" to the serpentine love song "Pyramids of Love" and a pair of awesome covers: Smokey's "Still Water (Love)" and Becker and Fagen's "Do It Again." On the former, Callier reaches deep into his mellifluous tenor bag for all the soul crooning gospel he could muster, to chilling effect. On the latter, the snaky, complex rhythms are accentuated and the horn section soars above the dense, heavily layered pumped up-tempo mix. Callier gets to hang back and enunciate, slipping his down and dirty funky tip on the lyrics. But the greatest surprise on the album is Callier re-recording his classic, "Occasional Rain." With a shimmering, sparse string section accompanying his acoustic guitar, Callier sings half an octave lower than the original as ghostly bells slip through the center of the mix. Every two bars or so another instrument is added, but the gauzy texture of the mix holds throughout. The listener keeps holding her breath waiting for a string section crescendo -- given how polished these proceedings are -- to wash over her, but it never comes, thank God. The set ends with the weakest, but nonetheless very soulful track on the album, "A Mother's Love." It's sentimental, but, given how sincerely Callier delivers his lyrics, it comes off as sincere, not hackneyed. This is a gorgeous set that showcases an entirely different side of Callier than the legends note. He is every bit as fine an R&B singer as he is a folksy soul singer. The man's voice and his sincerity know no limits and this disc is a perfect testament to his genius.

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