Billy Price may well be one of the best-kept secrets in soul music, unless you live in the Pittsburgh-Washington D.C. music axis or happen to be one of his many appreciative fans in Europe.
Since I’m from the Pittsburgh area, I’ve known Billy Price, and watched him perform, for many of the 50+ years in the title of this excellent career retrospective.
So it’s no surprise to me that this 3-CD set packed with 41 delicious songs that span his thankfully ongoing career is full of sweet, satisfying soul music.
It’s not like Price had to work very hard to fill this exemplary set. With the Keystone Rhythm Band, then the Billy Price Band, plus solo projects, he has released 20 albums, CDs, and DVDs. Not to mention the live shows he’s performed over the years.
To give you a brief overview of the man’s credentials: “This Time for Real”, an album with the late Chicago soul singer Otis Clay, received a 2016 Blues Music Award in the category of Best Soul Blues Album of 2015. His 2018 album “Reckoning,” produced by Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios for Vizztone, was nominated for a 2019 Blues Music Award in the category of Best Soul Blues Album of 2018. His 2019 album “Dog Eat Dog,” also produced by Andersen, was nominated for a 2020 BMA for Best Soul Blues Album of 2019. He was also nominated for a 2020 BMA for Best Male Soul Blues Artist. Oh, and early in his career he recorded as a vocalist with the late and very great guitar wizard Roy Buchanan.
And at this writing, Price is preaching to European audiences while touring with Anthony Geraci the Boston Blues Allstars.
The nature of soul music is that so much great music has already been written and sung, and much of Price’s early works covered the greats — Al Green, O.V. Wright, Bobby “Blue” Bland and more. But that’s just fine. There’s nothing wrong with being an interpreter of great music (there are still hundreds of cover orchestras interpreting Mozart!). And Billy worked hard to fill his bands with crack musicians and arrangements that always honored their source.
The first of the three discs here highlight some of that work, with a sprinkling of original material. Discs two and three sort of reverse that, adding more originals with a sprinkling of covers.
Price’s music ranges from tender to tough, hitting all the nuance in between, matching soulful vocals and ever-sharp horns, a soul music feature that Price has absorbed, polished and makes shine in everything he does.
An excellent microcosm of just how all of this works can be found on track 14 of Disc One. It’s a medley of three great songs, starting off with the Bobby Bland classic, “Cry, Cry, Cry,” moving into a Price original, “BP’s Dream,” then the O.V. Wright chestnut “Eight Men & Four Women,” and finally wrapping it back into “Cry,” all filled with passionate vocals, complete with the soulful pleading and testifying that mark Price’s style.
I’m not gonna write about all of those 41 tracks, except to testify myself about their scope and quality. This an exciting set of music by Billy Price. His vocals preach and plead, his bands crackle with kickass horns and sharp guitar work (some of the sharpest from the late Pittsburgh guitar great Glenn Pavone). Old fans will find great music to revisit, newcomers will just find great music.
Make that great soul music.
If you want to see a complete list of all those song credits, including composers and musicians (they’re not in the excellent CD notes by Price on his musical history), you can enjoy yourself with this comprehensive list from Price’s web site.
Here’s a great live performance of one of the cuts, “It Ain’t a Juke Joint Without the Blues”:
1 I Know It’s Your Party (I Just Came Here to Dance) (Live Version)
2 Why Can’t We Be Lovers
3 Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown
4 This Time I’m Gone for Good
5 When the Lights Came on
6 Absolute Love
7 Nothing Stays the Same Forever
8 This Magic Hour
9 It Ain’t a Juke Joint Without the Blues
10 No Matter How You Turn or Twist It
11 Soul Sailin’
12 You Don’t Exist No More
13 You’ve Got Bad Intentions
14 The Jury of Love: Cry Cry Cry – BP’s Dream – Eight Men & Four Women
1 Real Time
2 Let’s Get Married
4 Under the Influence
5 Is It Over?
6 Power of Love – I Didn’t Know the Meaning of Pain (Live Version)
7 My Love Comes Tumbling Down
8 One and One
9 Slipped, Tripped, and Fell in Love
10 The Big Show
11 Since You’ve Gone Again
12 The Hard Hours
13 Something ‘Bout ‘Cha (Live Version) – That’s How It Is (Live Version) – Blind Man
14 39 Steps
1 Let’s Go for a Ride
2 Beautiful Feeling
3 Part Time Love
4 Your Time to Cry
5 Can I Change My Mind (Live Version) – Is It Something You’ve Got
6 Don’t Leave Me Starving for Your Love
7 I Can’t Lose the Blues
8 Mine All Mine All Mine (Live Version)
9 Love Ballad
10 Who You’re Working for
11 I Betcha Didn’t Know That
12 Ain’t It Funky Now – Back from the Dead
13 Dangerous Highway