Hip-O made a natural choice for this repackaging of two Millie Jackson LPs: her love-triangle classic Caught Up from 1974, and its follow-up, Still Caught Up, from 1975. Sounding better than they ever have, this pair of albums chart the course of one of the most disastrous affairs in musical history. The first features sides from each perspective, with Jackson brazenly discussing her affair with her lover's wife (on "All I Want Is a Fighting Chance") and later, taking the wife's part, giving up all hope of getting her husband back ("I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You"). The production is lush and the playing, by a crack team of Southern soul names, is crisp and effective. While Still Caught Up can't help but suffer an energy loss, it's a surprisingly strong record, featuring an unbelievable closer, "I Still Love You (You Still Love Me)," featuring Jackson being dragged away to an institution screaming (she even reprised the act for her stage show). In total, Caught Up/Still Caught Up is basically the equal of any solid Millie Jackson compilation, with highlights scattered all over the disc: "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," "It's All Over but the Shouting," "Making the Best of a Bad Situation," "Leftovers," and "I'm Tired of Hiding".
It's hard to argue with this two-fer issued by the fine Beat Goes On label from Great Britain, as it pairs two of former Traffic guitarist Dave Mason's finest records on a single disc. Alone Together featured the hit "Only You Know and I Know," as well as "Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave," and "Look at You, Look at Me." Headkeeper contains "Pearly Queen," his solo version of "Headkeeper," "Feelin' Alright?," and "World in Changes." What these discs most reveal is just how deep Mason's roots went into R&B, soul, and into country as well. If anything, Mason would have been right at home on a Delaney & Bonnie record as his sensibilities were closely allied with theirs. Mason was always underrated and, in America at least, under-noticed. These records are as fine as anything Eric Clapton ever issued solo. The comparison is fair because they were both digging into the same territory at the time, only Mason's delivery and understated guitar playing come off as far more emotionally honest.
This 1998 CD reissues keyboardist Patrice Rushen's first two recordings as a leader except for one selection ("Puttered Bopcorn") from the first date that was left out due to lack of space. Twenty at the time of the earlier set, Rushen showed a great deal of potential for the future, potential that (at least in the jazz world) was unfortunately never realized. Rushen is heard on the Prelusion album heading a septet that includes tenor-saxophonist Joe Henderson (the most memorable soloist), trumpeter Oscar Brashear, trombonist George Bohanon and Hadley Caliman on reeds; the music is essentially advanced hard bop with touches of fusion. The later date has a similar group (without Henderson) and with guest spots for flutist Hubert Laws and guitarist Lee Ritenour. The R&B-ish vocal by Josie James on "What's the Story" hints at where Rushen would be going in the future: straight to the pop market. So overall this CD, which should have served as a bright beginning for the young keyboardist, is practically the artistic high point of Patrice Rushen's erratic career.
Faded old-world flowers adorn both sides of the cover with a big strip of black grease disturbing the lovely imagery on the back. Beginning with Arthur Crudup's "My Baby Left Me," like that other band of famous backup players, the Section, how can this be anything but very musical? Guitarist/vocalist Henry McCullough's "Mistake No Doubt" has eerie backing vocals and is suitably well done, as is his "Let It Be Gone," and though this is far from commercial, it is important to have this document of the guys who made magic behind Joe Cocker in 1969 and Marianne Faithfull in the mid-'70s. This came right in the middle, and the Grease Band's collaborative effort, "Jesse James," could be mistaken for Doug Yule singing Lou Reed's "Train Comin' Round the Bend." It's got that chug-a-lug subdued rock sound. With Henry McCullough's Wings connection, The Grease Band gets a touch of the Beatles' guilt-by-association mystique. As intriguing and wonderful as this album is, had Joe Cocker guested on bassist Alan Spenner's "Down Home Mama" or had Marianne Faithfull taken on the traditional "To the Lord," there would have been that something extra, that intangible that makes records so very special.