6 Motown albums from Jr Walker & The All Stars – all long overdue for reissue! First up is A Gasssss – a gas of a record from Jr Walker & The All Stars – a set that has the magical Johnny Bristol
producing – giving the group this really warm, soaring sound that's totally great! Walker still serves up plenty of strong tenor solos, but there's also some vocal currents in the mix – strong leads at times, but also some nice backups too – all of which really helps to keep things soaring! Titles a nice mix of Motown covers and original material – and titles include "I Was Made To Love Her", "Do You See My Love", "And When I Die", "Honey Come Back", "Holly Holy", "Riding High On Love", "At A Saturday Matinee", and "Groove & Move". Next up is Rainbow Funk – a record that definitely has Jr Walker & The All Stars picking up a bit of funk – but in a groove that still mixes things with that warmly soulful glow the group had right from the start! The basslines are definitely up a bit from before – although not rumbling in Norman Whitfield territory – and the sax solos get a bit more space to stretch out and bite on the longer numbers, but often with a bit of backing vocals to warm things up around the edges! Jr is great all the way through – Motown's very strong answer to King Curtis – and titles include "Right On Brothers & Sisters", "Way Back Home", "Feeling Alright", "Psychedelic Shack", "Pieces Of A Man", and "Teach Them To Pray". Moody Jr is a sweet early 70s groover from Jr Walker & The All Stars – a set that reunites the group with producer Johnny Bristol
, who always has a great way of helping them set fire to their sound! Walker and company may have shot from the gate with a mix of R&B tenor and Motown soul – but the sound here is much more in the latter, more matured mode of the label – with strong deep soul lyrics on a number of cuts, which are balanced out nicely by Bristol
's fuller production. There's plenty of sax solos too, of course – and titles include "Way Back Home", "Bristol
's Way", "Don't Blame The Children", "Me & My Family", "Still Water Medley", and "Groove Thang". Peace & Understanding is a record that has Jr Walker and the group stepping out with some of the righteous touches promised in the title – partly in the choice of songs on the set, which are all nicely tucked into that strong mix of deep soul vocals and saxophone lines that had become the Jr Walker groove! The set features work from a number of different arrangers – all the hipper side of Motown in the early 70s, as the list includes, Willie Hutch, Gene Page, and James Carmichael – and tunes include two great originals, one by Hutch, one by Leon Ware. Tracks include "It's Alright Do What You Gotta Do", "Soul Clappin'", "Gimme that Beat (parts 1 & 2)", "It's Too Late", and "Peace & Understanding Is Hard To Find". The self-titled Jr Walker & The All Stars album is maybe the rarest in the bunch – an obscure UK-only record from 1974, and one that has the group's usual approach warmed up by some more ambitious arrangements – a bit like the direction some of the vocal acts of the 70s were taking at the time! The production on most of the set is by Clarence Paul – and there's mostly a focus on the saxophone, not any vocals at all – which makes the set feel a bit like some of the Willis Jackson or Lou Donaldson work for Atlantic around the same time – or maybe even a bit like Hank Crawford on Kudu. Titles include "Boogie Down", "All In Love Is Fair", "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life", "Break Down & Sing", and "Dancin Like They Do On Soul Train". Hot Shot is a mid-70s stormer from Jr Walker & The All Stars – a set that glides along on a fuller set of backdrops than before, with Holland-Dozier-Holland production from Brian Holland returning to Motown – but in a hip 70s style that has strings and funk dancing along in a great way beneath the strong sax solos in the lead! There's a bit of vocals on the record, but the real strength lies in the instrumentation – especially some of the weirder, fuzzier guitar lines and keyboards. Titles include "Why Can't We Be Lovers", "Hot Shot", "Probe Your Mind", "I Need You Right Now", and "You Ain't No Ordinary Woman".