Billy Price has been recording soul, funk, and blues for over 30 years.
East End Avenue is, by far, his best album for a number of reasons.
Thirteen of the 14 songs are originals (the only cover is the Dan Penn
ballad, "Faithful and True," by the late Z.Z. Hill). Five tunes
were co-composed by Price and the husband and wife team of Jon and Sally
Tiven (who have worked with Wilson Pickett, Sir Mack Rice, Little Milton,
and Ellis Hooks to name a few), six were penned by songwriter Mike Sweeney,
one by stellar keyboardist Jimmy Britton, and one by the Tivens with Ellis
Hooks. The variety herein includes infectious, sing-along street harmony
soul with the title track, a universally appealing reminiscence of a youthful
hangout, and the breezy stroller, "Soul Sailin’," both
penned by Sweeney; a strident blues shuffle and song of the year candidate
"Keep It to Yourself," with Price glibly testifying to misinformed
malcontents, perpetual victims of circumstance, and those whose lives
are one long emergency that silence is golden; another song of the year
candidate with Britton’s salacious slab of Nawlins R&B, "If
You Cook Like You Walk; slinky shuffle-bumps like "She Left Me with
These Blues, "Sweet Mistreatin’ Love," and "Only
Two Lovers" ; several deep ballads that explore the vicissitudes
of modern romance; and "Funky Like Dyke, Part 2," an ultra-funky
homage to one of Price’s heroes, the late Arlester "Dyke"
Christian (of Dyke & the Blazers, best known for the original version
of "Funky Broadway" from 1967 on the small Original Sound label,
it preceded Wilson Pickett’s better known version on Atlantic by
several months). A tragic figure who was shot to death in Phoenix in 1971
at age 28, Dyke’s music has been championed by Price for 30 years.
Price’s set closer for years was Dyke’s "Runaway People."
Dyke has also been covered by J. Geils Band and Bobby Radcliff. (I highly
recommend the indispensable Funky Broadway: The Very Best of Dyke
& the Blazers on Collectables.)
Not only is Price
in excellent voice throughout, crooning and hollering with equal aplomb,
his current band is his best since the much beloved Keystone Rhythm Band
of the 1980s. Fortuitously, KRB drummer David Ray Dodd is back in the
fold; his intimacy with Price’s muse is a difference maker live
and on record.
These impeccably crafted
songs are performed with fervor, panache, and scintillating soul. Saxists
Rick Matt and Eric DeFade and trumpeter Joe Herndon provide a wall of
sound and solo with wild abandon. Britton’s keyboard work is simply
magnificent. East End Avenue succeeds on every level and is Billy Price’s
finest moment on record. Not only is it an essential purchase for his
fans, it’s also a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the
East Coast King of Blue-Eyed Soul.
J. Cullen III