The Capitol Sides, from Willie
Hightower, is the third wonderful reissue from EMI-U.K. this past year, (see
the Best of 2004's releases in this issue). All of these releases have
been culled from the vaults if Capitol Records and have not been
released by a U.S. company due to contractual differences. All three
releases had their roots in the Fame Recording Studios of Muscle Shoals
Of the 18 great tracks that appear here, some highlights are Hightower's "Time Has Brought About A Change," an answer to Sam Cooke's civil rights song "A Change is Gonna Come." Willie's most obvious nod toward the civil rights movement was his classic interpretation of Pete Seeger's "If I Had A Hammer," which was a huge hit for Trini Lopez in 1963. "Nobody But You" once again shows the Sam Cooke influence.
As described by Barney Hoskins
in his classic book, Say It One Time for the Broken Hearted, Willie
could sound uncannily like Sam Cooke, but he was far more than just a
copyist. He always got away with it because his voice not only recalls
Sam's in tone and timbre but also in its spirit and soul. Just like
Sam, Willie was a great communicator of tenderness, sadness and
vulnerability one moment and joy and optimism the next.
Willie's alive, still performing around Alabama, and currently planning his long awaited second album. Perhaps the re-release of these classic sides will serve as an impetus for some enterprising record company to get that second album recorded.
-- Alan Shutro
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