El Willie (New CD Review!)

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"You Got Me Where You Want Me"

El Willie (New CD Review!)

Composed by El' Willie




July 1, 2017: Re-Posted from Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

July 1, 2017:

EL' WILLIE: The Game Changer (William Travis Jr. & El' Willie / Twilight Records)
Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

If you're burned out from listening to too much Pokey Bear, I have just the album for you: El' Willie's new The Game Changer. The first time I put this disc in the machine, I was blown away. I had been stressed, and even when I wasn't feeling the stress, I had been listening to pretty much exclusively, admittedly terrific, fast-jumping music like Jeter Jones' jam, "Single Footin', music--in other words--that chafed my butt if I was sitting down on it. El' Willie's slow-jam set was like nothing I had heard in a long time: slow, peaceful, lounging music, meditative and soothing, like an aural hot-tub and massage.

And I wasn't just blown away by the peacefulness of the music. I was staggered by the fact it was El' Willie. In my years of reviewing southern soul, this artist had been all over the map, up and down in ways that made "erratic" an understatement. I didn't even remember the extremes of his fluctuations. If anyone had told me I'd once awarded El' Willie Best Male Vocalist of the year, I'd have said, "Nahhh," but I had, and I did--in 2007 for his vocal on "You Got Me Where You Want Me." (Sorry, but the YouTube link isn't the much better original version.) And if anyone had reminded me that I once gave an artist a one-star review ("A Disappointment. Avoid."), I'd have said, "Nahhh. Never." But I had and I did, for El' Willie's The Anthem, which--subsequently--El' never distributed as a full album.

There was, however, a harbinger, of what was to come: the song "Nobody," or, "Ain't Never Had Nobody To Love Me Like You Do" in....

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------DECEMBER 2016-------

4.

"Nobody"-----El' Willie

Ever wonder what Willie would sound like on a professionally-produced record? Pretty impressive, as it turns out. Willie told me he sent me the wrong mix, and I said, "No, you didn't." A long, leisurely, Herbie Hancock-ish, instrumental intro leads into El's intimate, velvet-baritone vocal, and it's worth the wait--justified in the way you would wait to be ushered into a bishop's inner chambers. Reminiscent of the jazz/blues of Charles Brown.

Listen to El' Willie singing "Nobody" on YouTube.


What first impressed me about "Nobody" was the audacious length of the instrumental introduction, a "Summer Madness"-like keyboard-synth solo that only a very confident recording artist would dare foist on the listener. And when the solo segued into the vocal, El's intimate voice--double-tracked on the chorus--more than justified the leisurely preamble, coalescing in one sweet and successful catharsis.

What I didn't know at the time the "Nobody" single launched was that El' produced it all. And what I had taken to be a more professional producer's "help" was that darned Willie just doing his thing--writing, arranging, producing and almost everything else short of standing on his head--only at a much higher and consistent level than in the past.

Yes, the arrangements are what mainstream critics call "sparsely produced," and those dreaded synthetic horns rear their "Dollar General" (I was going to say "nickel and dime" but I guess that term is outdated) heads once in awhile. And yet, in its simplistic way, each song is flawless, a distinct identity--genuine and self-contained--and El' Willie communicates each with aplomb, with the dominant sound a meditative organ that perfectly fits the contemplative tone. The scope of the album is panoramic (the Willie has been busy) and the tunes float into one another like ripples in a quiet lily pond.

I'm especially impressed by Willie's delivery--how he sets up a song. I don't know how to describe it other than El' Willie now sounds natural. That is, there are no misguided song choices, no blips, no failures of nerve or execution.

In the past, a voice-over like the one that starts and intermittently emerges in "Sexy Lady (Remix)" would strike a false note, a flaw that might originate in the arrangement as much as in the words--it was hard to tell. The whistling in "Sexy Lady," for instance, might seem like a mis-step. But either I'm getting awfully used to The Willie or the whistling--simple and crude as it is--works to perfection, meaning I like hearing it again and again. The addition of the striking Clinton Powell guitar solo on "Sexy Lady" also tells you how much you've missed in the form of embellishment from Willie's historically routine fare.

Another stand-out track is "Caller I.D.," in which Willie sings--

"Strange as it seems,
That's the wrong number.
It was the right number
For me."

--over a melody so precious you want to put a tiara on it. Accomplished vocalists like O.B. Buchana or Tre' Williams or Nelson Curry--perennially starved for first-rate material--could transform "Caller I.D." or other of the songs on the set into southern soul blockbusters.

The mid-tempo "Dance" is the most brisk of the CD's tunes, along with the mid-tempo title track, "The Game Changer," perhaps my least favorite of the album's eleven distinct songs. Everything else is balladeering. (The compelling and durable "Feel Real Good" is done twice--an original and a remix.) The touching "Love Story" and "My Baby" (with a nod to the Temps' "My Girl") are drenched in a sincerity neither overblown nor sophomoric.

These songs are so good, many of the tunes don't even utilize the hooks available to be improvised within their structures. Take, for example, the barely-audible guitar riff/progression on "Feel Real Good," which would transform the song entirely if accentuated. Like many of the songs on the CD, the tune exists like an unopened treasure chest of musical possibilities.

Willie has recorded songs like "Love Land," with its story line of a woman calling him up at two a.m. in the morning, in the past and they've more often than not come across awkwardly and somewhat self-serving. Here, in the seamless context of this essentially flawless set centered on love and friendship, it comes across as genuine.

Listening to "You Were Always On My Mind," I couldn't help wondering, "Isn't that a Willie Nelson song?" And sure enough, El' gives credit to Willie Nelson in the credits. The selection fits, too. El' writes ballads with the same kind of affection and proprietariness the legendary country singer/songwriter does. I also note a resemblance in the synthetic strings to some of Sir Charles Jone's early slow jams.

The Game Changer is a tapestry of refined mood--an anomaly in the last decade of southern soul music. You can almost go back to the reasons you once loved Dave Brubeck's and Paul Desmond's "Take Five"--and the way that sound influenced the soft jazz of the seventies--in the "peace" this music emanates. What this means is that you can put on this album for the same reason the "grown folks" used to put on Johnny Mathis or Nat King Cole: for dim-light, wine-and-dine romantic background that never falters in its steady gushing of intimate ambience. And yet, it's southern soul, it's still El' Willie, southern soul's iconic version of "smooth contemporary".

One note of caution. The two gospel songs that close out the set--although solid on their own merits--do break the romantic ambience, and the more invested you are in that mood, the more compelled you'll be to skip them.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy El' Willie's THE GAME CHANGER album at CD Baby.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist to El' Willie.

*********

May 29, 2017:

New Album Alert!


Sample/Buy El' Willie's new THE GAME CHANGER CD at CD Baby.

THE GAME CHANGER TRACK LIST:


1. Feel Real Good

2. Nobody

3. Come On Over To My Place

4. Love Story

5. The Game Changer

6. Dance

7. My Baby

8. Caller I.D.

9. Love Land

10. You Were (Always on My Mind)

11. Sexy Lady (feat. Mr. Clinton Powell)

12. Feel Real Good (Remix )

13. Jesus: The Anointed One, Pt. 1 (feat. Elder Lizzie M. Byrd)

14. Jesus: The Anointed One, Pt. 2 (feat. Elder Lizzie M. Byrd)

There are no YouTube videos of the album at this posting, but here's a representative CUT from El Willie's CD, UP CLOSE & PERSONAL....


Listen to El' Willie singing "It's Getting Kind Of Rough Out Here" on YouTube.

Daddy B. Nice notes: THE GAME CHANGER surpassed my expectations. Very tight and technically adept. Much better across the board than any of his previous work. Watch for the upcoming review.

Sample/Buy El' Willie's new THE GAME CHANGER CD at CD Baby.

--Daddy B. Nice

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

For the latest updates on El' Willie, scroll down to "Tidbits." To automatically link to El' Willie's charted singles, CD's, citations and other references on the website, go to "El' Willie" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

June 2, 2017:

Listen to El' Willie singing a new version of "You Got Me Where You Want Me" on YouTube.

***********

Daddy B. Nice's Original Profile:


El' Willie is the golden baritone of Southern Soul. His ballad, "You Got Me Where You Want Me," self-produced with El's brother and longtime musical associate, Stan Travis, showcases this wonderful instrument--El's singing--to stunning effect.

Listen to El' Willie singing a new version of "You Got Me Where You Want Me" on YouTube (a two -minute fragment).

From the album Dance With Me (Hep'Me Records, 2007), "You Got Me Where You Want Me" plies the mid-tempo sweet spot of Southern Soul with the easy-going style that El' Willie has maintained ever since.

A certified loner, El' Willie--with rare exceptions--has insisted on doing all the work on his CD's, everyone of which has born the legend: "All songs written, arranged, produced, programed and sequenced by El' Willie." A sax player (he got his start in music playing the horn for The Drifters), El's occasional brass fills are the only time you'll hear a real instrument.

Another consequence of his loner personality and easy-going style has been a lack of exposure due to poor marketing and distribution of his product. Since his last two "finished" albums, Dance With Me and Situations (MVP, 2008), his CD's have been almost impossible for fans to find. Come Together, Me & Little Willie, and The Anthem (Get Your Shit And Go!!!) have been published without national distribution, available only by contacting the Shadow Mack Agency of West Palm Beach, Florida.

In 2007 El' Willie won a "Daddy" for "Best Airplay Breakthrough By An Aspiring (But Not New) Southern Soul Artist" based on his songs, "Marry Me," "You Got Me Where You Want Me," and "Crazy Kind Of Love." And that same year, based on the song "You Got Me Where You Want Me," Daddy B. Nice awarded El' Willie an even more prestigious honor as Best Male Southern Soul Vocalist of 2007.

Although El' Willie's "You Got Me Where You Want Me" stands heads and shoulders above the body of his work, he's recorded many singles of note, many of which are featured in "Recommended Tracks," on the right-hand column of this page.

El' Willie's recent albums have lacked strong songwriting and star-power focus (see Daddy B. Nice's CD reviews below), but his work as a whole begs for the greater exposure that a "Greatest Hits" album might bring to this deserving artist with one-of-a-kind pipes.

Much of his recent work errs on the side of quantity, not quality. What El' desperately needs to reinvigorate his career is a solid single: one song into which he pours every ounce of inspiration--and yes, every gimmick and trick he knows. He is too big a talent not to take his extraordinary musicianship to the next level.


--Daddy B. Nice


About El Willie (New CD Review!)

El' Willie's (born William Travis) career started in the seventies as a saxophone player for The Drifters. He went on to play with Eddie Cornelius ("Treat Her Like A Lady") and the doo-wop group The Flamingoes.

He entered the Southern Soul scene as a songwriter after moving to Atlanta and hooking up with Theodis Ealey under his given name, William Travis. "Stand Up In It" and "All My Baby Left Me Was A Note, My Guitar & The Cookie Jar" were the two hits, in fact, that made Theodis Ealey a star on the chitlin' circuit.

El' Willie released his first solo CD--El' Ever Easy--on M.V.P. Records out of West Palm Beach, Florida in 2006. He has recorded regularly ever since.

El's finest solo accomplishment remains his Dance With Me CD (now out of print), and in particular the song "You Got Me Where You Want Me," in which his clear, intimate baritone and easy, jazz-based minimalism were perfectly realized.

Discography:

El Over Easy (2006)
Dance With Me (Hep'Me) (2007)
Situations (MVP) (2008)
Come Together (2009)
Me & Little Willie
The Anthem (2010)
Up Close And Personal (2012)
Story Teller (2014)
Try Me (2015)
Old School: The Total Package (2016)
The Game Changer (2017)

Most of El' Willie's CD's are self-published and distributed through CD Baby.


Song's Transcendent Moment

"Yes, I lay back and relax
Kick back and enjoy you, babe.
Go on and do what you do.
What am I supposed to do?

You got me where you want me, babe.
You say you been waiting for a long time, baby.
I've been waiting, too."


Tidbits

1.


CD Review: May 11, 2009

EL' WILLIE: Come Together (MVP) Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

There are two charming cuts on this CD by El' Willie, "I'm In The Mood" and the title track, "Come Together." They are melodic if modest songs, and in spite of their minimal arrangements, nice-sounding easy listening. The two tunes have graced Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten Southern Soul Singles in successive months ("I'm In The Mood" in April, "Come Together" in May), but don't look for much more in El's new Come Together CD.

There's not a lot of soul in El's vocals. He's slipping away from Southern Soul into--if not bubblegum--the kind of mainstream pop you can hear from hundreds if not thousands of singer/songwriters. The songs are bland, slow, and all too similar, thanks to their anorexic arrangements. Many tracks are so minimal they sound amateurish. Songs like "It's Too Late" flirt with being elevator music.

Indeed, El' Willie's latest CD reminds me of a smooth-jazz, 70's singer-songwriter named Michael Franks who gained some fame (and a subsequent long career) writing songs that equated love with vegetables ("Eggplant") and "Popsicle Toes." But Franks' music was well-produced. El' Willie's is not. And when you look at the credits, it's all El' Willie: "Songs written, arranged, produced, and sequenced by El' Willie, all background vocals by El' Willie, all sax solos by El' Willie," and so on.

There are no barriers or goals to be conquered in these songs--never a conflict (including sexual) of any kind, no humor to speak of, no passion--just El' mooning in verse, stuck in some eternal, romantic-adolescent time warp, like Romeo in the garden, looking up at Juliet from underneath her balcony.

I've been an advocate and champion for El' Willie since his Dance With Me album, and I went back two albums (his last outing was also sub-par) to listen again to the song "You Got Me Where You Want Me," for which your Daddy B. Nice awarded El' Willie the Best Male Southern Soul Vocalist of 2007.

It's still a very good song, and it's arranged at least a little more fully, with a fairly decent background chorus (all El' Willie, of course). You can see what I saw in him: a great songwriting talent, and--on the evidence of this cut--potentially a great vocalist. I expected El's material was going to be all "up" from "You Got Me Where You Want Me," but the truth is it's been all downhill since.

El' Willie (or his management--same difference) even takes a slacker approach to his marketing, so that now, when he's got his new songs out, circulating among Southern Soul deejays and picking up airplay--the CD is still not available for national distribution and sale. Like his last album, it will eventually appear on indie site CD Baby, long after El' could have gotten some "bounce" from being featured on charts like your Daddy B. Nice's.

I know. El' likes to be easy. "Easy" is his thing. But sometimes "easy" demands some behind-the-scenes perspiration. If El' Willie doesn't get more serious about his music, there's going to be no reason for anyone to take him seriously.

--Daddy B. Nice

********
2.

February 6, 2010:

EL' WILLIE: The Anthem (MVP/MAMMIE MAE) One Star *
A Disappointment. Avoid.

Despite a handful of albums to his credit in recent years, El' Willie's claim to fame remains his songwriting accomplishments for fellow Georgian Theodis Ealey early in the century under his given name, William Travis.

"Stand Up In It" and "All My Baby Left Me Was A Note, My Guitar & The Cookie Jar" were the two hits, in fact, that made Theodis Ealey a star on the chitlin' circuit.

El's finest solo accomplishment remains his Dance With Me CD (now out of print), and in particular the song "You Got Me Where You Want Me," in which his clear, intimate baritone and easy, jazz-based minimalism were perfectly realized.

The song garnered El' Willie a 2007 "Daddies" Southern Soul Music Award for Best Male Vocalist.

Sample "You've Got Me Where You Want Me" and you'll immediately see why I held El' Willie in such high regard.

"You've Got Me Where You Want Me" had the purity of first-class acapella, and it held the promise of an idiosyncratic but vivid career in Southern Soul. (Think of Frank Mendenhall.)

But it's been downhill since--at least from a Southern Soul perspective--with much of the decline reported in these pages: a decline so precipitous, in fact, that I found El' Willie's last CD, 2010's Me & Little Willie, too embarrassing to review. (Mercifully, it was never distributed.)

The collection had no less than seventeen tracks and resembled a songwriter's rough smorgasboard of demo's.

Now comes The Anthem: Get Your Sh*t And Go!!!! and it's more of the same. El' Willie remains stubbornly "easy," refusing to give his songs anything resembling a novel arrangement to set one off from another.

No real instruments (except El's sometime sax), no background singers, no background choruses, no gradual crescendos, no voice-overs, no exotic musical elements for detail and embellishment, nothing--in short--to fulfill the potential of any given song.

And the care with which El' fashioned the arrangement and production of ""You've Got Me Where You Want Me" is absent and seemingly long forgotten.

All the myriad little tweaks of inspiration that other artists sweat over in ramping up the presentation of their music are like dust in the wind to El' Willie. El' just presents the music in its "birthday suit"--El's voice and the programming.

This is exactly the much talked-about problem many music lovers have with Southern Soul music. (Programming, poor production.) And, sadly, the El' Willie compositions themselves have lost their lustre, almost as if they too had become infected with the lackadaisical approach.

A handful of the songs on this CD have a glimmer of potential: "El' Over Easy," "James Brown LP Mix," "Snap" and "What's Going On In The World Today," but only insofar as another artist would record the songs more professionally.

Can a performer "devolve" back to being just a songwriter? That assumes the artist was truly a performer in the first place--and that being a performer is better than being a composer, neither of which is necessarily true.

In El' Willie's case it's already happened. Neither of his last two CD's--including this one--has even been distributed.

Too rough to recommend to the record-buying public as a studio artist, El' Willie is nevertheless an awesome, under-utilized resource for the musicians who create the music.

I'd encourage any performer in need of material to check out El' Willie's music. As demos, these CD's are well-crafted. The contact information is:

The Shadow Mack Agency of Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Florida. Patricia Pannell 561-758-2388, T. J. Rockafella 954-205-0616, Stan Travis 561-248-8556 MVP Records, El' Willie 404-775-3674.

As far as I know, these contacts are also the only place to buy El' Willie CD's (other than 2008's Situations.)

--Daddy B. Nice

3.


May 26, 2014: NEW ALBUM ALERT!

Sample/Buy El' Willie's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1.





If You Liked. . . You'll Love

If you liked T. K. Soul's "You Ring My Bell," you'll love El' Willie's "You Got Me Where You Want Me."



Honorary "B" Side

"I'm In The Mood"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy You Got Me Where You Want Me by El Willie (New CD Review!)
You Got Me Where You Want Me


CD: Dance With Me
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Dance With Me


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy I'm In The Mood by El Willie (New CD Review!)
I'm In The Mood


CD: Come Together
Label: MVP



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy You Got Me Where You Want Me (2) by El Willie (New CD Review!)
You Got Me Where You Want Me (2)


CD: Dance With Me
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Dance With Me


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Marry Me by El Willie (New CD Review!)
Marry Me


CD: Dance With Me
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Dance With Me


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Come Get Your Groove On by El Willie (New CD Review!)
Come Get Your Groove On


CD: Situations
Label: MVP

Sample or Buy
Situations


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Come Together by El Willie (New CD Review!)
Come Together


CD: Come Together
Label: MVP



3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Crazy Kind Of Love by El Willie (New CD Review!)
Crazy Kind Of Love


CD: Dance With Me
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Dance With Me


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Don't Ever Be Lonely by El Willie (New CD Review!)
Don't Ever Be Lonely


CD: Situations
Label: MVP

Sample or Buy
Situations


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy I've Got A Woman Who Love Me Right  by El Willie (New CD Review!)
I've Got A Woman Who Love Me Right


CD: Unknown



2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Dope Or Dogfood by El Willie (New CD Review!)
Dope Or Dogfood


CD: Situations
Label: MVP

Sample or Buy
Situations


2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Simple Girl by El Willie (New CD Review!)
Simple Girl


CD: Situations
Label: MVP

Sample or Buy
Situations


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