William Bell ‘This Is Where I Live’ (Stax) 5/5

william-bellNow then, you mention ‘Stax’ Records and William Bell in the same breath and you are immediately transported back to the halcyon days of Otis Redding, David Porter, The Soul Children, Isaac Hayes, Carla Thomas, Fredrick Knight to name just a few of the vast artist roster this legendary label flirted with. The ‘Stax’ story is now well documented and its demise was eventually secured by the ‘White’ machine that simply couldn’t or wouldn’t put up with a thriving entirely black owned legitimate business. For me having started out collecting Detroit’s Motown sound at the age of 12 I quickly became enamoured with the harder southern sound of ‘Atlantic’ and ‘Stax’ which then led me to the likes of Fame, Goldwax etc. It seems William Bell has been with me from the those early days of discovery, visiting The Diskery record shop in Birmingham and having Jimmy thrust Bell’s deep as you like “I forgot to be your lover” and then later “Happy” a joyous superb dancer. His Mercury albums are a particular delight, and so to his latest album, his return to the re-freshed ‘Stax’ label is something I never thought I would encounter again and it’s an absolute joy, it’s not the horn led hard sound normally associated with the label, William appears to have created a new sound for ‘Stax’, softer, more rounded, dare I say it, at times the tracks are the most exquisite sublime soul tunes I’ve heard in a long time. Take the opener “The three of me” and then straight into “The house always wins”, two of the finest pieces of thinking mans soul I’ve heard in years, both are getting huge radio plays by soul jocks on Solar, Starpoint, 365 and others and for more of the same “I’ll take care of you” raises the bar even higher. There are too many highlights to mention, but special attention must go to the stunning “More rooms in a house” – not the usual relationship breakup but from the standpoint of the house, no food being cooked in the kitchen, the nursery never got to be used, neither did the dinner service, and finally he tells us “There are more rooms in the house than the bedroom” and “it feels like someone else’s house”. William, and producer John Leventhal, have created lyrically one of the finest albums of the genre in recent times, a simply wonderful album that I can’t get out of the laser flicker. Essential.

Brian Goucher