Sir Charles Jones (21st Century)
Daddy B. Nice's #1 ranked Southern Soul Artist
Sir Charles Jones (21st Century)
Composed by Charles Jones
September 1, 2015:
Updating The Singles: See right-hand column.
August 15, 2015: Re-Posted from Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews:
October 12, 2014:
SIR CHARLES JONES: Portrait Of A Balladeer (Endzone Ent.) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.
Five years since his last album dropped--six if you're counting the years since his last collection of original material--Sir Charles Jones finally overcomes his mid-career recording malaise with Portrait Of A Balladeer, a collection that begins awkwardly but picks up energy, confidence and even a modicum of transcendence as it abides.
Sir Charles' professional life has been a case study in bewaring what you wish for. In the early years of the new century, only three people were talking about the illegitimate bastard form called "southern soul": Charles' first producer, Senator Jones (no relation to Charles and not a politician); Sir Charles, who had the chutzpah to call himself the "King of Southern Soul"; and media writer Daddy B. Nice, who was hunkering down in Mississippi towns like Jackson, Greenville-Leland, Indianola, Hattiesburg and Vicksburg, memorializing this unique sound that heralded a new era of rhythm and blues or--conversely--a little-known genre doomed to be lost forever.
A few "industry" people used the term "southern soul" begrudgingly (while constantly searching for other euphemisms), but Senator Jones, Sir Charles and Daddy B. Nice were the only ones who wouldn't shut up about it. And that was due primarily to the breakthrough represented by Sir Charles Jones's music, which brought a new sound to the table, one legitimate enough to compete with the older stars.
Then, as first Johnnie Taylor passed, then Tyrone Davis, then Little Milton and (later) Marvin Sease, Southern Soul flagship label Malaco Record's Tommy Couch, Jr. pronounced "southern soul" dead.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery. A new generation of young stars embraced the sound ushered in by Sir Charles Jones and southern soul rebounded with a vengeance, becoming more popular than the naysayers ever imagined.
One could have reasonably assumed that creatively speaking, as a songwriter and producer, Sir Charles Jones would ride this wave of interest in southern soul music like the "king of southern soul," Superman cape rippling in the wind. And yet, the mantle of "king" hung heavily on Sir Charles, a blessing onstage but a curse in the lonely room at home or in the studio, a creative burden, a hard-to-achieve perfection he had to live up to or be seen as a failure.
As his original "discoverer" and guiding light, Senator Jones aka WMPR Jackson, Mississipi's late-night DJ Uncle BoBo passed away, then his good friend, the late recording genius Reggie P., and finally his musical mentor, Marvin Sease, Sir Charles lost confidence in his songwriting abilities.
To make things worse, Charles's early recording hassles with labels, including rejection by Malaco and betrayal by Mardi Gras, made him wary of all commercial avenues to producing and distributing his music. So Sir Charles became a commercial loner, rejecting (with exceptions) any and all labels and shrugging off the sale and distribution of what little music he made in the fallow years, a paranoia about marketing which lasts to this very day: witness the current unavailability of Portrait Of A Balladeer so soon after its release.
DBN NOTES: There are new links to Sir Charles' PORTRAIT OF A BALLADEER since that writing. Here's one: Portrait Of A Balladeer
In effect, Charles has relied on his sporadic singles to bolster his concert revenue, which has steadily grown. And in this Charles reflects the changing times in the music industry, with CD sales plummeting even as concert income grows--especially in southern soul, with its devoted fans.New stars like Cupid and J-Wonn are following the same formula: free music/pay me at my next concert.
But Charles' long bout of "writer's block" has been as worrisome to his fans as it has been a hardship to him. Thus, Portrait Of A Balladeer begins apologetically ("I've been away a long time"), with a tentative piece of TV-familiar sentimentality called "Glow," in which, rather than just getting into the good stuff, Charles makes unnecessary demurrals in an effort to re-connect with his audience. It may be the most un-soulful song he's ever recorded, and you get the sinking feeling the album may be a disaster.
In the second track, "Tear Our Love Down," Charles is still not himself. He is easing himself into "his old self"--the one we want to hear--by way of digression, but you can hear something primal in him beginning to stir.
Fans will know he's in his element instantly during the talking introduction--vintage Charles--to the third track from the set, "Independent Ladies."
"I want to dedicate this song to all the independent ladies all around the world," he says in his best, gutteral, sexy voice of old.
"Lord knows I take my hat off to every woman that's being a woman and being a woman about hers. All the independent ladies in the world, keep your head up. This song is dedicated to you from Sir Charles Jones."
You can sense the women melting "all around" the world--at least the ones who've heard that voice before. The song has already amassed almost 13,000 hits on YouTube as of this writing, more than doubling the number of listens of most of the other tracks off the album.
What follows is a delight by any measure for anyone who's been waiting since MY STORY'S "Happy Anniversary" for the kind of Sir Charles Jones music that transports you to an emotional space you'd almost forgotten existed.
Although there may not be a single masterpiece on the order of "Anniversary," there are eight great tracks, not counting the admirable "Independent Ladies" and the two opening tracks already discussed.
Sir Charles utilizes a lot of new songwriting talent, including Kortez Harris III, co-writer of "Sweet Sweet" and "So Beautiful," and Jermaine Rayford, co-writer of "Nasty" and "Expire," and John Phillips, another co-writer on "So Beautiful."
Willie Clayton, whose imprint Endzone is the publisher of PORTRAIT, is all over the album, including co-writing credits on "So Beautiful," "Sweet Sweet" and "Do You Feel," on which the ubiquitous soul singer shares vocals with Charles.
Both "Do You Feel," and"So Beautiful" have been featured on Daddy B. Nice's Southern Soul Singles Review as follows:
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Review For. . .
2. "Do You Feel (Like Partying Tonight)"--------Sir Charles Jones & Willie Clayton
With expectations high, duets are almost always a little disappointing, but this collaboration defies the odds: it's the two right superstars at the right time, ready and willing to give one other unconditional respect. Both are in awesome vocal form, performing vocal acrobatics (like kids on a trampoline) over the robust and resonant rhythm track.
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Review For. . .
3. "So Beautiful"----Sir Charles Jones
And while we're giving into summer madness, are you ready to slow jam? How about yours truly, Sir Charles, with HIS new and magical song with a hint of the Far East? After the long hiatus from recording CD's, Sir Charles' vocal sounds oh-so-fresh, simultaneously relaxed and full of "want-to," and the lush instrumentation is served up with a technical flair that surpasses even his vintage work. Sir Charles' "So Beautiful" reminded your Daddy B. Nice of Malcom McClaren's 1984 electronica version of Madame Butterfly.
Musically, the songs are distinct and of a piece--not one even vaguely qualifies as "filler." "I Can't Breathe" opens and sustains with a Carole King-like piano riff.
"(Do Me The) Honor (Of Marrying Me)'s" doodling synth lines revisit the pungent, dreamy atmosphere of "Take Care of Mama."
"Expire," with the great line, "I've been hustling on the streets since 1991," plumbs the breathtaking emotional depth and male-female give-and-take in the fan-revered "The Letter (Guilty)," but with positive results.
Elements of Bill Withers' "Use Me" and Bobby Gentry's "Ode To Billy Joe" mingle and echo in the back hallways of the marvelous, churning stanzas of "Sweet Sweet."
And "Nasty's" voice-enhanced solo towards the end cries out for Sir Charles' natural voice, but the flaw ultimately disappears in the overwhelming wash of synthesized background.
By the time the album queues to the ballad "Sunshine,"
Sir Charles has returned to the mainstream balladeering with which he so awkwardly began the set ("Glow"), but now he's in full form, his southern soul genes handily co-opting the sentimental aspects of the majestic central riff and transforming it into deep, deep soul as only he can.
The album, astonishingly, is already out of print, but fans can watch for a re-issue and in the meantime stream the songs directly from the YouTube links provided in this review.
In the credits the songs are frequently and unfortunately constricted to one-word titles, so that "Honor" (which sounds military) stands for "Do Me The Honor" (actually a wedding proposal), and "Expire" (which sounds terminal) for "My Love Don't Expire." (Sic on the grammar.) In the case of "I Can't Breathe," the abbreviated title means something almost diametrically opposite to the fuller lyrics, "I Can't Breathe Without You."
But the songs themselves constitute the best assortment of new Sir Charles material in a decade, a soulful fabric far richer than MY STORY, a set sophisticated enough to hark back to the definitive LOVE MACHINE. The songs all vary, but they all have that Sir Charles sound: a modern-day Johnny Mathis forged in a cauldron of the blues.
--Daddy B. Nice
Note: Sir Charles Jones also appears on Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (90's-00's). The "21st Century" after Sir Charles' 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.
Daddy B. Nice's Updated Profile:
November 1, 2013:
I won't say there would be no contemporary Southern Soul without Sir Charles Jones. But your Daddy B. Nice can't imagine what it'd look like.
Mel Waiters works a lot harder. Willie Clayton puts out better records. Bobby Rush has more moments of genuine inspiration. Even generational rival T.K. Soul has out-toured and out-recorded him.
So how is Charles more deserving? Is it because he's better-looking? More of a heart-throb?
Don't sneer. Johnnie Taylor gained his 20th-Century Southern Soul throne in no small part because he was an impossibly good-looking man with a demeanor to match. And Johnnie Taylor inspired the most fervent response from his audiences, especially women.
Remind you of anyone?
Clayton has disdained being labeled a "southern soul" artist, although that doesn't make him any less central a figure.
Bobby Rush is off in his own conceptual universe, but like Clayton is a beneficiary of Southern Soul radio and fans, whom he plays like a violin approximately every other album.
Mel Waiters is arguably the truest other contender for the contemporary Southern Soul crown. Indeed, there is a YouTube video--complete with WorldWrestlingEntertainment-style fronting--of Sir Charles and Mel onstage together in a "battle" to finally settle who is #1 and "The King Of Southern Soul."
But Sir Charles is the only one who had the balls to call himself "The King Of Southern Soul" from the beginning.
On the other hand, Waiters has been around longer. (He's mentioned by Charles himself in "Friday" when he croons "Mel Waiters on the radio, / Singing about the whiskey.")
And Waiters (like Clayton) has been far more productive than Jones, releasing records annually right up to the present, while Jones’ albums have come almost fitfully, with a disconcerting fallow period since 2009.
That was the year Tribute To The Legends came out. It's been five long years since any original CD-enclosed Sir Charles Jones material (2008's My Story.)
Even more puzzling to his fans and advocates is Charles' lackadaisical approach to promoting and selling the music he does make.
Charles has notched some sensational southern soul YouTube videos ("You Ain't The Father Of The Child" and "Country Boy," a remake of Will T.'s "Mississippi Boy") while neglecting to put out a corresponding single for sale, even on indie sites like CD Baby. (The exception: YouTube's On My Own Again," is also for sale on CD Baby.)
If Charles worked harder to market his more recent product, would the songs vie in fans' minds with the early classics?
As it is, there is an almost total disconnect with recent material--otherwise worthy songs like "Happy Anniversary," "You Ain't The Father," "My Latest, My Greatest"--when fans think of Charles.
The true audience connection goes back to "Friday" and "Is Anybody Lonely?"
Maybe it's the incredible impact of the early work--the surprise of it, the freshness of it, never again to be re-captured--that defines Charles and makes it impossible to ever match again.
Think about it. Turn of the century. Nobody saw it coming. The Southern Soul stars of the last dozen years were dying. Charles had the right sound at the right time.
Nevertheless, it was the sound to which Tommy Couch, Jr. of Malaco & Waldoxy Records of Jackson, Mississippi gave a big thumbs down, devastating Charles.
This was the label that had published Charles' mentor, Marvin Sease. This was Malaco, the flagship of southern soul, and they were rejecting him, the would-be "king of southern soul," a snub which critic David Whiteis reports Charles suffered bitterly.
Luckily, producer Senator Jones (and his alter ego WMPR graveyard-shift deejay Uncle Bobo) came to the rescue. Senator Jones was working at Malaco, and he saw the artistic promise Sir Charles represented. He contacted his friend Warren Hildebrand at New Orleans' Mardi Gras Records and the rest is history.
The sound was different. Synthesizer washes, dirge-slow ballads, perky and idiosyncratic rhythm tracks, synthetic brass. The sound said you could go in a different direction. You didn't necessarily have to have the deep-soul keyboards and live horn sections (although Charles would have undoubtedly had live or faux-live horn sections if Malaco had signed him).
The sound is something we take for granted today, when we hear a cutting-edge, solidly 21st-Century Southern Soul-sounding song like Nellie "Tiger" Travis's "Sexy Man" (written by Floyd Hamberlin Jr.), which I heard a deejay proclaim (with some hyperbole) the other day "the number one song in America!"
Your Daddy B. Nice used to refer to the little roller-coaster of ascending and descending notes from "Is Anybody Lonely" as the "Sir Charles Jones horn hook" in commentary over the years. L.J. Echols used the melodic hook intact in his Sir Charles-produced "I'm Gone Party."
I went through all the songs and tallied the presence of this signature chord progression in a number of Jones' songs:
"Is Anybody Lonely?" Love Machine (Mardi Gras 2001)
(This is most people's connection with the "hook," Charles' signature song: he opens concerts with "Friday" but he ends them with "Is Anybody Lonely?")
"Just Can't Let Go" Love Machine (Mardi Gras 2001)
(same horn hook as "Is Anybody Lonely");
"The Letter (Guilty)"
Sir Charles & Friends: A Southern Soul Party (Hep' Me 2004)
(the same horn hook as "Is Anybody Lonely?"; in "The Letter" the chord progression seems to be also imbedded in the melody line;
--and, after a hiatus of a few years--
"I Came To Party" My Story (Mardi Gras 2008)
(the song features a snipped version of the "lonely" hook, for the first time in a fast-tempo song).
The point being, the first three of those four songs are stone cold classics. The "hook" never grows old.
Now Listen to Charles' "horn hook" in L.J. Echols' "I'm Gone Party," produced by Charles.
Marvin Sease may have schooled Charles, but it was Senator Jones who helped shape his recorded sound. Senator Jones was a fascinating man who lived by night and was just getting into his prime about 3 am in the morning.
Then, between the hours of 3 and 6 am on Jackson's WMPR, Senator would shamelessly play track after track of this new, hybrid Southern Soul music, mostly Sir Charles Jones and The Love Doctor, whose blockbuster hit "Slow Roll It" was written, produced and background-sung by Sir Charles.
The songs spread to chitlin' circuit clubs and deejays like wildfire. Others took notice, like Ecko Records in Memphis with Sheba Potts-Wright's even more successful cover of "Slow Roll It." And the game was on: you could be young and sexy and still love Southern Soul.
Senator Jones may not have been a "hands-on" producer, as Carl Marshall once maintained in an interview with Daddy B. Nice, but Senator more than made up for it with his ear. He advised and channeled Charles in ways Charles never approached again.
Much of that early, "classic" Sir Charles sound came from Senator Jones' love of gospel music, and in particular the style of gospel that borrowed from the smooth, streamlined, singing-cowboy style of 50's and early 60's western troubadors. It was a clean, minimalist palette against which Charles' heart-tugging tenor sprang to emotional life.
Mundane phrases like "washing my own clothes" (from "Is Anybody Lonely?") took on significance, ambiguities, shadings of feeling, experience, loneliness and vulnerabilility out of all proportion to the everyday meaning of the words.
So the hits rolled out in those early years of the century: "Better Call Jody," "Just Can't Let Go," "Friday," "Is Anybody Lonely," "Slow Roll It," "Take Care of Momma," "For Better Or Worse." Most of them graced Jone's landmark second album, Love Machine, arguably the single most influential album in 21st Century Southern Soul music.
The younger generation (which the old school blues and R&B artists had written off) took to the new sound like kittens to catnip, and Charles embarked on a collaborative career--best memorialized in the equally ground-breaking and influential Sir Charles Jones & Friends: A Southern Soul Party--that brought dozens of young artists into the reborn genre, and influenced hundreds more musicians who would nurture their own Southern Soul dreams in the years to come.
Included in the creative swathe Charles made in those formative years (roughly 2001 to 2008) was an unprecedented series of collaborations:
The Love Doctor:
Sir Charles Jones wrote the bulk of the tunes for The Love Doctor's first album, Doctor Of Love. "Slow Roll It," the Love Doctor's classic, remains arguably Sir Charles' finest piece of songwriting, and he performs it in concert.
"Baby Don't Leave Me Alone"
2003 from Cunningham's Hell At The House album.
Same melody and sound as Sir Charles' "The Letter (Guilty)." Sir Charles Jones added technical support on the CD, and although the credits aren't specific, the musical marks (and voice) of Sir Charles Jones are all over the track, "Baby Don't Leave Me."
Indeed, for Sir Charles Jones' fans, this song--with its stately melody and impeccable, instantly-recognizable arranging style--constitutes a major contribution to the Jones oeuvre.
Andre Lee's profile took a huge leap forward during the Sir Charles Jones era at Mardi Gras Records (out of New Orleans) in the early 2000's, when he contributed backup vocals to many of the young wunderkind's projects (such as La Keisha's exceptionally evocative "Morning Rain") and secured a niche on arguably the best Southern Soul sampler ever, Sir Charles' Ultimate Southern Soul collection (on Mardi Gras) with his song "Pony Ride."
"Booty Do Right's" (Jody Sticker) distinctive synthesizer fills--straight out of the Sir Charles vocabulary on Jones' own "Tell Me How You Want It" and The Love Doctor's "You Got To Roll It Slow"--represent a huge chunk of creative territory reclaimed from what was beginning to look like Southern Soul oblivion.
Sir Charles also shares vocals with Jody Sticker on "Roll That Thang," a super-evocative sexual plaint, and "Sacrifice For Love," which sounds like a direct out-take from a Sir Charles album.
Terry Wright's debut album, Anytime Man was released by Hep'Me Records in 2004. Two of the album's premier tracks were "Anytime Man" and the mid-tempo. Sir Charles Jones-influenced "Ooh Wee." (Sir Charles also sang background vocals).
"Ooh Wee," was included in a Mardi Gras Records sampler the same year (Hot New Southern Soul, Vol. 2). Another song from the Anytime Man CD, "Sophisticated Freak," was featured on Sir Charles Jones' Southern Soul Party album (Hep'Me, 2004).
Young singer Sorrento Ussery first came to the attention of the chitlin' circuit on the Sir Charles Jones CD, Southern Soul Party: Sir Charles Jones & Friends (Hep'Me) in 2004.
"Put That Thang In Motion" (from Make Sweet Love, Hep'Me, 2004) leaped a half-decade ahead in terms of style if for no other reason than it bore the arranging mark of Sir Charles Jones.
Despite his sparse recording, the late Reggie P. was Charles' true equal as a southern soul vocalist. Shy by nature, the late Reggie P. was also Charles' fishing buddy and frequent touring partner.
Sir Charles and Reggie hooked up most prominently on "P's And Q's" and "I've Got The Feeling."
Come Back Kind Of Love, with a title tune written and co-performed by Southern Soul star Sir Charles Jones, was released in 2008 (Allison).
Calling him her "little brother," Roni ("Fool On My Hands") has been both a longtime advocate for and beneficiary of Sir Charles Jones.
In 2007, "I'm Just A Fool For You," became a big hit for J. Blackfoot in two versions, a duet with Lenny Williams and a subsequent duet with Sir Charles Jones.
"I'm Just A Fool (Part 2)" by J. Blackfoot w/ Sir Charles Jones (Winner of Daddy B. Nice’s Best Southern Soul Ballad 2007)
Daddy B. Nice wrote:
A marriage of two songs ("I'm Just A Fool For You" and "Is Anybody Lonely") made in Soul Heaven. Ironic, when you think about it, though. The most potent nostalgia comes not from the older man's material, which you would expect, but the younger man's classic, "Is Anybody Lonely."
L. J. Echols
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles For. . .
1. "I'm Gonna Party"-------------L. J. Echols w/ Sir Charles Jones production (the song that borrowed the "Sir Charles horn riff" DBN)
Tyree Neal is the late Jackie Neal's brother. Forging the same path laid down by Sir Charles, Tyree has become an ever-stronger producer, writer and musician, helping to revitalize the careers of Big Cynthia and Stephanie McDee, among many others.
7. DBN's Top Singles 2008: "Whiskey And Beer"
----Tyree Neal w/ Sir Charles Jones
Fields' "I'll Put My Life On The Line" had the same atmospheric synth background that Sir Charles' songs did, but Fields didn't know what was going on in the South and never followed up with that song, which became an underground classic in the Delta…
"Shoo Da Wop" with Sir Charles Jones
(which Southern Soul's Daddy B. Nice called at the time "the best Sir Charles fast song ever")
If listeners who'll "pass on slow songs, thank you," really want to test their patience, they can refer to La'Keisha's duet with Sir Charles Jones on "Just Another Love Song." This song lurches forward so slowly, so tentatively, that you begin to wonder if the drummer's going to nod off and keel over backwards. The glacial pace puts the burden on the vocalists, and to their credit, Sir Charles and LaKeisha pretty much pull it off. From LaKeisha’s album Stop, Drop & Roll.
3. "Grown And Sexy"------------------Bigg Robb & Da Problem Solvas w/ Sir Charles Jones
Blues, Soul & Old School (2007)
Charles' best fast songs have involved other artists, and one of the finest was this collaboration with Bigg Robb, whose album Blues Soul & Old School followed the guest-artist formula set down by Sir Charles in Sir Charles Jones & Friends: A Southern Soul Party (Hep'Me, 2004).
Without the success of Sir Charles Jones, Bigg Robb's blend of Ohio funk, hiphop and southern soul themes may never have been accepted by the fans.
O. B. Buchana
.... And the collaborations continue to the present day (2013) as in O.B. Buchana's spirited duet with an equally-energized Charles: "Can't Get You Off Of My Mind."
Although any one of three other recording artists with more extensive experience and bodies of work--Mel Waiters, Willie Clayton, Bobby Rush--could as well claim the title, at this point in time (2013), Sir Charles Jones is 21st Century Southern Soul’s number-one draw.
Jones will have to deliver new music in the next few years to maintain his stature, but in terms of his influence and his emotional connection with the Southern Soul audience, Charles really has no peer. He showed the way for all the younger artists, and he made it cool for all the fans.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Sir Charles Jones (21st Century)
Charles Jones Jr. was born in Akron, Ohio on April 25, 1973. His father, Charles Jones Sr., was a regional gospel singer, writer and pianist, and his mother, Blanche--originally from Birmingham, Alabama--was a longtime civil rights activist.
April 12, 2015: NEW FREE DVD ALERT!
I've just come upon the entire 2008 Sir Charles Jones DVD on YouTube, a leisurely, forty-two minute journey through Charles' life and career. It was published on Aug 21, 2014. If you ever wanted to hear the story of Sir Charles and Southern Soul directly from Charles himself, this is the golden egg laid by the goose.
Watch "Sir Charles Jones, His Life and Times: Undisputed King of Southern Soul DVD (2008)" on YouTube.
October 12, 2014:
See Daddy B. Nice's new 5-star ("Pure Southern Soul Heaven") review of Sir Charles Jones' PORTRAIT OF A BALLADEER.
"The best assortment of new Sir Charles material in a decade, a soulful fabric far richer than MY STORY, a set sophisticated enough to hark back to the definitive LOVE MACHINE. The songs all vary, but they all have that Sir Charles sound: a modern-day Johnny Mathis forged in a cauldron of the blues."
--Daddy B. Nice
May 13, 2014: NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Sample/Buy Sir Charles Jones' new Portrait Of A Balladeer CD.
See Daddy B. Nice’s Corner
Honorary "B" Side
"Is Anybody Lonely?"
All material--written or visual--on this website is copyrighted and the exclusive property of SouthernSoulRnB.com, LLC. Any use or reproduction of the material outside the website is strictly forbidden, unless expressly authorized by SouthernSoulRnB.com. (Material up to 300 words may be quoted without permission if "Daddy B. Nice's Southern Soul RnB.com" is listed as the source and a link to http://www.southernsoulrnb.com/ is provided.)