Gerald McClendon ‘Can’t Nobody Stop Me Now’ CD (Delta Roots) 5/5

I stumbled over this fantastic voice way back in 1999 when his “Choose Love” album was recommended to me by the late Dean Johnson, and then nothing until recently. Whilst trawling through YouTube, I heard a number of tracks advertising this new album, then within a few days, I heard the very same tracks played on soul radio, so I tracked down the album, which wasn’t cheap with new postage rates from the USA now more than the actual cost of the disc. From the moment it arrived it has taken up residence in the listening room and have been constantly playing.

Where the hell has he been? His voice is one that has been ‘lived in’, there’s no mistake, and with accompaniment by one of the best soundtracks I have heard on an album in a long time. We have to thank Twist Turner, another seasoned performer in his own right, who wrote the lyrics for all twelve tracks, every facet of life is played out, falling in and out of love, slipping around and all its pitfalls, I’m on record many times over the past 54 years in that I believe Clarence Carter is the greatest black storyteller of all time, well it seems Twist Turner is up there too – a fabulous writer who also recorded, produced and mixed the album at the Delta Roots Sound Studio in Chicago. Having said all that, we still needed a great voice to interpret the songs with passion and grit and in Gerald we have such a singer, who with consummate ease, ploughs his way through every episode that life can throw at you. When he tells you he’s falling in love with you, you believe him, when he’s out of love you feel his pain and of cause you’re shaking your head when he’s been caught slipping around and about to be cut once and shot twice. Gerald, also known as the ‘Soulkeeper’, is a native of Chicago, Illinois and has loved music from a very young age, he cites Marvin Gaye, Wilson Picket and Otis Redding as inspirations, he is able to ply his trade in various forms of music, be it rock, blues, country or jazz and has completed over 1000 performances to raving audiences while collaborating on countless musical projects.

The simply wonderful soundtrack is provided by Herb Walker, Joe Burba and Mark Wydra – Guitars, Roosevelt Purifoy, Sumito ‘Aryio’ Aryioshi and Brian James – Keyboards, Skinny Williams – Sax, John ‘Boom’ Brumbach, Delta Roots Horns – Horns with an unknown Trumpet player, Twist Turner – strings and drums, Art Love – bass. The album kicks off with a terrific dancer that in years past would have laid waste to UK dancefloors at the more adventurous soul nights. “Can’t nobody stop me now” has instant appeal and would have been very in-demand but sadly the days of new releases sitting next to endless DJ sets of rare soul are well and truly over. The same could be said of “Groove on tonight” set at a slightly slower pace but equally magnificent. The rest of the album provides mid-tempo and the odd stroller, all very enjoyable. The track that has risen to the top here is the mournful, “I think about you”, a deep soul opus with a tick-tock rhythm, bathed in horns and ticking all the boxes.

When I pen my thoughts to these albums it’s not from a theatrical, dishonest view of a music hack who has a vested interest in being nice so they can keep their feet in the trough and get freebies and lots of back-slapping. I do it at my own cost, and from the standpoint of an obsessive collector of soul music and in recent times I have found it hard to find complete albums, there appears to be very little promotion of the product, this release a classic example of finding purely by luck. I find about 40 MP3s every week that satisfy my taste, and so when a physical album hits the collection it makes the searching well worth the effort. I’m listening to “Runnin Wild” as I type, a blast of horns pave the way for our man to announce his arrival, all very restrained, that is until the sax arrives and dominates the proceedings. Lovely, simply lovely. “Mr Wrong” is also creeping up on me as I found myself humming this lowrider earlier, telling his woman that he has a love for her and can he be Mr wrong tonight until Mr right comes along. The strutting “I started over” is another joy, he’s telling us he’s a brand new man and starting over again, which fits perfectly into “You can’t take my love” a slow and torturous tune which just meanders along on a bed of percussion, bass and that sax is at it again with subtle horns just letting you know they are here.

Twelve tracks of majestic soulful beauty that will stand the test of time for sure, an absolute must. Twist Turner has an interesting autobiography out and also check the website for the excellent Z.Z. Hill Jr. album “Goin’ to Mississippi”. You can also find more about Gerald here

Brian Goucher