Charles Wilson (21st Century)
Daddy B. Nice's #34 ranked Southern Soul Artist
Charles Wilson (21st Century)
September 5, 2015: NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Listen to Charles Wilson singing "Sweet & Sour Loving" on YouTube.
Sample/Buy Charles Wilson's new SWEET & SOUR BLUES at Blues Critic.
Even more than Wilson’s superb 2003 Delmark CD, If Heartaches Were Nickels, this is a straight blues album, with a nice balance of shuffles, grinds and slow blues broken only by the funky beat of Hard to Teach, Hard to Learn. The backing’s from a real band throughout, with a full horn section and Haddix’s crackling guitar leads at times recalling Uncle Milton’s. Haddix’s biggest contribution, however, is the disc’s 11 songs, as he proves that his knack for a good lyric extends beyond the risqué humor for which he’s best known.... I don’t expect to hear a more satisfying blues album this year.
(From the complimentary review by Jim DeKoster in LIVING BLUES MAGAZINE'S AUGUST 2015 issue.
March 31, 2015: NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Sample/Buy Charles Wilson's new BEST OF ME CD at iTunes.
January 4, 2015: NEW SINGLE ALERT!
See Daddy B. Nice's #3-ranked Southern Soul Single for January 2014:
"Mississippi Boy Part 2" by Charles Wilson featuring J-Wonn.
...from the upcoming album:
BEST SIDE OF ME.
Note: Charles Wilson also appears on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (90's-00's). The "21st Century" after Charles Wilson's name in the headline is to distinguish his artist-guide entries on this page from his artist-guide page on Daddy B. Nice's original chart. Readers primarily interested in "Mississippi Boy" should go directly to that guide, or to Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Will T.
To automatically link to Charles Wilson's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other citations and references on the website, go to "Wilson, Charles" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century Artist Guide to Charles Wilson
(To read Daddy B. Nice's original artist guide to Charles Wilson focusing on "Mississippi Boy," click here.)
He covered "Good Thing Man" by Frank Lucas, "Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool" by Jimmy Lewis, "Mississippi Boy" by Will T., "Plumber Man" by James Smith, and even "Is This Love?" by Bob Marley.
Now he's covered the old Joe Simon standard "Get Down, Get Down" to spectacular effect.
Along with Willie Clayton, Shirley Brown and Denise LaSalle (and in earlier years, Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis), this artist is one of Southern Soul's premier interpreters of contemporary soul material.
He possesses a honey-tinged tenor accessorized with seasoned soul-singer techniques--impeccable phrasing, occasional (and rare in soul music) vibrato and perfect pitch.
He's a chameleon, changing guises from album to album and era to era, seizing upon the latest trends and trying to capitalize upon them.
And yet, he's never had an undisputed hit single--one, that is, that wasn't also associated with a prior performer--unless one counts the little-known but solid singles from his Ecko days in the late 90's: "In The Room Next To The Room" and "It's Sweet On The Back Street."
And now, in his latest decade of continuous musical activity, he is confused with and usually overlooked in favor of a brilliant new soul singer with a slightly different name and no shortage of hit singles: Charlie Wilson of "My Name Is Charlie (Last Name Wilson)" and "There Goes My Baby."
He is Charles Wilson.
If Wilson has any flaw as a singer that would explain his lack of high-profile singles, it is arguably his lack of power and immediacy, ingredients that have catapulted less-talented singers (Marvin Sease, for instance) to chitlin' circuit stardom.
Both Wilson and Willie Clayton began as proteges of Al Green--or, more accurately the smouldering slow side of the Stax/Hi catalog, also Syl Johnson--and their emphasis on technique to this day is part of that legacy. So is their emphasis on ballads, although it's safe to say that it was Green's uptempo tunes that made him a star.
Wilson brings a finesse and softer touch to his delivery that is more typical of jazz-singers than soul singers. One can't imagine him releasing a raw, in-your-face single like Grady Champion's 2011 surprise single, "Make That Monkey Jump," for example.
Or rather, one couldn't until the arrival of Charles Wilson's latest bid for a hit single, "Get Down" (Gaucho/Brittney, 2011).
Listen to Charles Wilson singing "Get Down" on YouTube while you read.
This Mel Waiters-produced tune sounds right out of the Sam & Dave--or Kool & The Gang--catalog of accessibility, and Wilson sounds exhilarated. He even uses a vocally-enhanced flourish on certain notes--not because he has to in order to hide his vocal inadequacies (i.e. Bigg Robb)--but because the technique turns up the intensity.
The backbone of the song is a killer bass line that's been used many times before but never more efficaciously than here. The lyrics are as simple and blunt as the rhythm track. The song features a line-by-line back-and-forth between Wilson's lead vocal and a background chorus (which sounds like Wilson partnering with Waiters).
Get out on the floor."
Chorus: "Get out on the floor
And let your body roll."
Wilson: "We're going to party hardy
'Till it's time to go."
Chorus: "Get out on the floor
And let your body roll."
Wilson & Background Chorus:
"Come on and get down
Hand-claps and a staccato snare drum do the rest.
Surely one of the simplest tunes he has ever recorded, "Get Down" nevertheless showcases Wilson's sugary tenor to optimum effect. "Get Down" brings Charles Wilson full circle, back to the early Southern Soul of "It's Sweet On The Back Street" and "In The Room Next To The Room" and "Two Steps Behind."
Listen to Charles Wilson singing "Two Steps Behind" on YouTube while you read.
Play them back to back and you get a vision of what Charles Wilson's career might have been like in an alternate reality: one focused on uptempo dance tunes with powerful backing tracks over which Wilson's wispy tenor circles in carefree glory.
Wilson's always hard-working career has taken an even more aggressive turn since leaving Ecko. At CDS he's experimented with new songwriters and producers (Carl Marshall, Simeo Overall) and collaborated with the best male artists of his generation, Mel Waiters and Willie Clayton.
The quality of the new recordings--Wilson's vocals, the instrumentals, and the mixing of the two--is technically superior to the early work, but something has been lost, too. The songs are often more mechanical than soulful.
Wilson began to put a renewed hint of soulfulness into the experimentation with Carl Marshall on "You've Got That Sex Appeal" and he did even better in the soul department with Waiters on "Something Different About You," the latter in particular a bare-bones version of mid-tempo Al Green. With a vintage Stax rhythm section, it would have been a track to remember.
That's why "Get Down" has been such a pleasant surprise. For once in his career, everything is perfect. A clarion-call of a vocal. A smashing background, including a great bass. The song may be a bit repetitive (what dance floor jam isn't?), but it's also effortless and buoyant and indisputably feel-good. (And, it should be noted, produced by Mel Waiters at Brittney Records.)
"Get Down" is hands-down a better song than either "In The Room Next To The Room" or "It's Sweet On the Back Street," and it would be interesting to see Wilson attack those songs of yesteryear (or songs like them) anew with the fresh, hi-def clarity, confidence and compression of "Get Down."
To survey so few Charles Wilson songs (Wilson has recorded over a hundred) would be unrepresentative in any other than a hit single context. "Get Down" (whose time may already have come and gone) may not be that magical tune that'll make Charles Wilson bigger than Charlie Wilson, but it certainly points in a potent direction.
Please consult "Recommended Tracks" in the right-hand column of this page, wherein Charles Wilson rates an inordinately large number of five and four-star tracks. Wilson has had a long, varied and artistically satisfying career, even if it has been lived largely out of the limelight.
To read more about Charles Wilson's past and often controversial career, go to Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to Charles Wilson.
Charles Wilson on I-Tunes.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Charles Wilson (21st Century)
Charles Wilson was born in Chicago in 1957. A child prodigy and nephew of Little Milton Campbell, Wilson was already performing and recording in the Windy City before he was old enough to shave. His first national exposure came touring with Bobby Rush, and opening gigs with Bobby "Blue" Bland, Otis Clay, Tyrone Davis and others solidified his R&B credentials.
Honorary "B" Side
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