Everybody down south knows about Frank-O, host of the radio show, The Frank-O Smooth Soul Show. He's also a columnist/record producer/label owner/singer/songwriter. Possessing a rich, classic soul voice ala Johnnie Taylor he is responsible for some great modern soul. His songs have been covered by greats like Bobby "Blue" Bland, Willie Clayton & many more. He first recorded when he was only 14 and was eventually on the Motown team and wrote songs for the likes of The Supremes and Bobby Womack. The Temptations' "Gonna' Get You," Aretha Franklin's "I'm Not Strong Enough" and Thelma Houston's "I've Been Doing Wrong So Long, It Just Comes Natural" were nominated for Grammy awards. He went on to produce artists like Johnnie Taylor, Ernie Johnson and Gwen McCrae and set up his own label called Phat Sound Records. One of the most underrated modern soul singers we have.
"Flashbacks" (Traction 1987)
"Pick Up The Pieces" (Traction 1988)
1. She Just Came to
"Jealous" (Traction 1990)
1. Turn The Light
"Back Streets" (Ace 1992)
1. Back Streets
**** Good collection of some of Frank-O's best songs, like the classic "Back Streets" (aka "Back Street Love Affair" as done by Johnnie Taylor) and "Love Stealing Ain't Worth Stealing" (also done By Willie Clayton). He also does versions of George Jackson's brilliant "Strugglin' Lady" & the ruminating "When A Fool Takes His Turn".
"OJ I'm Guilty" (Ace 1996)
1.O.J. I'm Gulty 4:49
*** Forget about the jivey and dated cover, this is seriously good soul music by a exceptional singer. Lee Fields joins Frank-O for a hit remake of Joe Tex's "Hold On". Meanwhile "Let's Make Love Tonight" is a stone classic- a definite hit for somebody (it was covered by Bobby "Blue" Bland) if not for Frank-O. The gorgeous hook on "Talk Dirty To Me" sounds suspiciously like Johnnie Taylor's "Still Crazy" (written by Rich Cason). "Night Time Love/Daytime Pain" is a deep soul cheating song while "Somebody Called My Wife" is a humorous romp with Frank-O name dropping some so-called "friends" who may have blew the whistle on his two-timin' ways. The title cut has a big soulful chorus that you will be singing hours after you heard it.
"Faces Of Frank-O" (Phat Sound 1998)
1. It Hurts Too
Much to Talk About It
** First release on his own imprint, Phat Sound, is an uneven affair. Here Johnson ranges from country soul ("It Hurts Too Much To Talk About It"), Neil Diamond-like pop ("Rock & Roll Ladies"), smooth R & B ("My Lady"), gospel ("He's Coming Back") to straight up country ("Ghetto Cowboy"). As always Johnson sings great but the material is not the best he can do.
"Live In Atlantic City" (Phat Sound 2000)
1. Can You Feel It
**1/2 Although this disc claims to be "live" I suspect it might have been "live in the studio" considering the overdubbing. Actually, I'm grateful for this fact as "Live In Atlantic City" doesn't suffer the limitations a straight live recording would. This is especially sweet since there's material here available on no other Frank-O Johnson disc. After a humorous introduction of the "the fabulous one himself...Frank Ohhhhhh!" the Stax-sounding opener "Can You Feel It" starts things off right and gives way to the funky "Whammy", featuring a heavy rolling bassline and raspy vocal throw downs from Frank-O. Wilson Pickett would have had a hit with this circa 1964! Johnson slows things down next on a delicious reading of his "Let's Make Love Tonight" before the funk starts up again. The one-two punch of "Get Rid Of Hoochie Mama" and "Uh! Uh! Uh!" may be the best moments here, but later we have Gwen McCrae singing her soul out with Frank-O on the hit "Long Way Home"...so it's a close race. Other "new" songs are "A Little Bit Of Loving" & "What Matter Of A Man". FUN album...but it ain't live.
"This Must Be A Cheating Town" (Phat Sound 2002)
1. This Must Be a
**** It is likely that only soul aficionados have even heard of Frank O Johnson. Or perhaps those familiar with his "The Frank O Smooth Soul Show" that airs on radio stations in the south. Like me, they know that the man has a classic voice- part Johnnie Taylor- part Bobby Womack- part himself- and this 15-song cd is THE showcase. It's essentially a "Best Of" collection with four new cuts. The first three cuts are new- all midtempo R & B, funk (the thumping "This Must Be A Cheating Town"), slick R & B pop ("Love Maker") and bluesy soul ("Anna Mae") but when you hit track 4 the southern soul show begins. It is a greatest hits revue Frank O's popular songs: ("Let's Make Love Tonight", "Talk Dirty To Me", "Love Stealin' Ain't Worth Stealing", "Back Street Love Affair", "Night Time Love", "Hold On", "Midnight Holiday", "Love Don't Love Nobody") and more taken from his past Ace Records discs "BACK STREETS" & "OJ I'M GUILTY". The final song is a homage to the Sept. 11 attacks in the USA ("Sad Day In America"). Overall this is grade-A soul expertly sung.
"Only Time Will Tell" (Phat Sound/CDS 2012)
1. Only Time Will Tell