Popcorn Wylie ‘Extrasensory Perception’ (Dusty Groove) 5/5

Detroit rightly earned a reputation for some of the classiest soul music and this wonderful mid-1970s album does little to dissuade one of this view. Richard ‘Popcorn’ Wylie began his career as one of many aspiring musicians and singers at Motown, and indeed cut a couple of late 1960s 45s for the label in addition to performing for a time as in-house pianist. However, by the early 1970s Wylie had decided to focus on his songwriting skills and instead began a fruitful collaboration with the Holland brothers on Motown subsidiary Invictus. Thus by the time it came to record the album contained within in 1974, Wylie had not only acquired substantial experience as a songwriter, but could also count upon the support of some of the cream of session musicians on offer. The all-round strength of the album songs and its timeless feel is testimony to the multiple skills deployed here. Add in the formidable writing skills of one Lamont Dozier, the arrangements of Paul Riser and Gene Page, and a classy album was always on the cards. Soaring strings and gorgeous harmonies abound on ‘Lost Time’ and the opener ‘Singing about you and me’. Wylie’s vocals are not dissimilar to those of Dozier and his rasping voice is used to good effect on the mid-tempo stormer ‘Georgia’s after hours’. A terrific left-field track is the instrumental ‘How did I lose you’ which sounds like something off a Marvin Gaye soundtrack album. Inspired vocals and arrangements are in abundance on ‘ESP’ and one cannot fail to be impressed by the beautifully crafted production. An exceptionally strong album, then, by a musician’s musician and this uplifting and neglected masterpiece is fully deserving of re-issue.

Tim Stenhouse