Billy Price is not that well known outside the East Coast bar circuit he traverses from his home base of Pittsburgh. But he's been one of the best blue-eyed soul singers around anywhere for the last 20 years. With a decent distribution deal, Price's new CD, Can I Change My Mind on Green Dolphin, could give the man some well-deserved recognition and introduce him to a much wider audience.
Price traveled to Los Angeles to record this CD in collaboration with soul veteran Swamp Dogg (aka Jerry Williams), who produced the disc and wrote eight of the 10 tunes here. The partnership between Price and Williams is like a marriage made in heaven. The end result is one of the best and most listenable CDs of the year.
Williams lined up a studio full of excellent backing musicians for the session. A tight horn section is an integral part of Price's music, and the trio of Jerry Peterson, Mark Goodman and Skip Waring are up to the task. These guys get to strut their stuff right away on the opening cut, the driving "Crack Crack (When Are You Coming Back)."
Williams' songwriting talents are most evident on the soulful feelgood number "Mine All Mine All Mine," written only the night before the session.
One of Price's strengths lies in his ability to bring the listener to tears on one song, then immediately get everyone into a dancing party mood on the next. The party tune here, rivaling his signature classic "Eldorado Cafe," is the New Orleans-sounding "I Know It's Your Party (I Just Came Here To Dance)." But later he adds a string section and pours the syrup on the slow ballad "What Is Love (What Makes You Think You Deserve Some)."
Guitarist Lance Armstrong's talents are showcased on the midtempo "No Matter How You Turn Or Twist It," even adding a flamenco guitar solo in the middle of the song.
No one can do Tyrone Davis numbers as well as Price, and several Davis songs have always been part of his repertoire. With all due respect to the original artist, Price's version of "Can I Change My Mind" just might surpass Davis' soul chestnut. The same recognizable guitar riff permeates the tune, but percussionist Reagae Clark adds a heavy Latin feel to it. Also different is the inclusion of a flute solo from Peterson.
The other cover on Can I Change My Mind, "One In A Million," was sent to Williams by a couple of Florida composers, Peter Brown and Frank Fuchs. This one's a light ballad, again heavy with strings, which really brings out the best in Price's voice.
The album closes with a standard cheatin' song, the catchy "Pass The Sugar," written by Williams, which would not be out of place being played in a country honky tonk juke box.
Can I Change My Mind is a superb album, one of my top ten for the year. If Billy Price is an unfamiliar name to you, then you need to familiarize yourself with this man's music, especially if you love good, classic soul music. For more info, check Price's web site.
--- Bill Mitchell
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