William Bell

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William Bell

A principal architect of the Stax/Volt sound, singer/composer William Bell came to prominence with his classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” one of the quintessential soul records to emerge from the Memphis scene. William cut his teeth backing Rufus Thomas, and in 1957 recorded his first sides as a member of the Del Rios. After joining the Stax staff as a writer, in 1961 Bell made his solo debut with the self penned “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” an archetypal slice of country soul and one of the label’s first big hits. A two-year Armed Forces stint effectively derailed his career, however, and he did not release his first full-length album, "The Soul of a Bell", until 1967, generating a Top 20 hit with the single “Everybody Loves a Winner” (#18 R&B/#95 Pop); that same year, Albert King also scored with another classic Bell composition, the oft-covered “Born Under a Bad Sign.”

Bell’s next solo hit, 1968’s “A Tribute to a King,” (#16 R&B/#86 Pop/UK Pop #31) was a poignant farewell to the late Otis Redding; the R&B Top Ten hit “I Forgot to Be Your Lover” (#10 R&B/#45 Pop) soon followed, and a series of duets with Judy Clay, most notably “Private Number,” also earned airplay (#17 R&B/#75 Pop/UK Pop #8). In 1976 Bell capped a major comeback with “Trying to Love Two,” for Mercury Records, which topped the R&B charts and became Bell's only Top 40 Pop Hit (#1 R&B/#10 Pop). In 1985, he founded the label, Wilbe. In addition to issuing subsequent LPs, in 1987 Bell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and that same year also received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s R&B Pioneer Award. After 1992, Bell released "Bedtime Stories" before taking a lengthy hiatus from the recording studio, though he still performed regularly.

In 2003, he was honored by the Blues Foundation with the W.C. Handy Heritage Award. In 2007, Bell showed that he still ‘had it’ when he wowed the crowd at the Stax 50th Anniversary Reunion show and released the album "New Lease On Life", which was a big success in the Southern Soul market.. He went on to perform at SXSW in Austin and the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans that year, and followed that up with an extensive tour of Europe and a July 2009 appearance at Lincoln Center in NYC.

Bell made a dramatic return, reuniting with Stax Records for the 2016 effort, "This Is Where I Live". It received universal acclaim and was nominated for two Grammy Awards (winning for "Best Americana Album").

Album Discography

"The Soul of a Bell" (Stax 1967)

1. Everybody Loves a Winner
2. You Don't Miss Your Water
3. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
4. I've Been Loving You Too Long
5. Nothing Takes the Place of You
6. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
7. Eloise (Hang On in There)
8. Any Other Way
9. It's Happening All Over
10. Never Like This Before
11. You're Such a Sweet Thang
12. You Don't Miss Your Water - (alternate take)
13. Any Other Way - (alternate take)

"Duets" (Stax 1968)

1. Love-Eye-Tis
2. Left Over Love
3. Love's Sweet Sensation
4. Strung Out
5. I Need You Woman
6. I Can't Stop
7. All I Have to Do Is Dream
8. Leave the Girl Alone
9. Let Me Ride
10. Lonely Soldier
11. Get It While It's Hot
12. Private Number
13. My Baby Specializes

"Bound to Happen" (Stax 1969)

1. Western Union Man
2. My Whole World Is Falling Down
3. Everyday People
4. Johnny, I Love You
5. All God's Children Got Soul
6. Happy
7. By the Time I Get to Phoenix
8. Bring the Curtain Down
9. Smile Can't Hide, A (A Broken Heart)
10. Born Under a Bad Sign
11. I Got a Sure Thing

"Wow..." (Stax 1971)

1. I Can't Make It (All by Myself)
2. Till My Back Ain't Got No Bone
3. All For the Love of a Woman
4. My Door Is Always Open
5. Penny For Your Thoughts, A
6. You'll Want Diamonds
7. Winding, Winding Road
8. Somebody's Gonna Get Hurt
9. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
10. I'll Be Home

"Phases Of Reality" (Stax 1973)

1. Save Us
2. True Love Don't Come Easy
3. Fifty Dollar Habit
4. What I Don't Know Won't Hurt Me
5. Phases of Reality
6. If You Really Love Him
7. Lonely for Your Love
8. Man in the Street, The
9. Lovin' in Borrowed Time

"Relating" (Stax 1974)

1. All I Need Is Your Love
2. Such a Fever
3. Nobody Walks Away from Love Unhurt
4. Gettin' What You Want (Losin' What You Got)
5. I've Got to Go on Without You
6. Drinkin' and Thinkin'
7. You've Got the Kind of Love I Need
8. You Don't Want a Man
9. Nobody But You

"Comin' Back For More" (Mercury 1977)

1. Tryin' to Love Two
2. If Sex Is All We Had
3. Relax
4. You Don't Miss Your Water
5. Malnutrition
6. Coming Back For More
7. Just Another Way to Feel
8. I Absotively, Posolutely Love You
9. I Wake up Cryin'
10. You've Really Got a Hold on Me

"It's Time You Took Another Listen" (Mercury 1977)

1. I Don't Want Nobody to Love Me
2. Yesterday I Lied, Today I Cried
3. Morning Glory
4. Shed a Little Light on the Subject
5. Satin Sheets
6. Hollywood Streetwalker
7. Your Love Keeps Me Going
8. Let It Shine

"Survivor" (Kat 1983)

2.Private Number
3.Playing Hard To Get
4.The Truth In Your Eyes
5.Smiling Aint Gonna Be Easy
6.Bad Time To Break Up
7.Trying To Get To You
8.I Might At As Well Be In Love
9.Survivor part II

"Do Right Man" (Charly 1984)

1. You Don't Miss Your Water
2. Any Other Way
3. I'm Waiting on You
4. Somebody Mentioned Your Name
5. I'll Show You
6. Don't Stop Now
7. Crying All by Myself
8. Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need)
9. Never Like This Before
10. Everybody Loves a Winner
11. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
12. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
13. Eloise (Hang on in There)
14. It's Happening All Over
15. Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday
16. Tribute to a King

"Passion" (Ichiban 1986)

1. Passion
2. Lovin' On Borrowed Time
3. That's What You Get
4. Headline News
5. Whatever You Want (Feelin' Guilty)
6. Let Him Pay The Band
7. I Don't Want To Wake Up
8. Heavy On The Love Side
9. I'm Lighting Somebody's

"The Best Of William Bell" (Stax 1988)

1. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
2. Private Number
3. Born Under a Bad Sign
4. My Kind of Girl
5. Lonely Soldier
6. Save Us
7. Penny for Your Thoughts, A
8. My Baby Specializes
9. My Whole World Is Falling Down
10. All for the Love of a Woman
11. Till My Back Ain't Got No Bone
12. I'll Be Home
13. Smile Can't Hide, A (A Broken Heart)
14. Gettin' What You Want (Losin' What You Got)

"On A Roll" (Ichiban 1989)

1. Getting Out of Your Bed
2. If You Don't Use It
3. I Need Your Love So Bad
4. When You've Got the Best
5. On a Roll
6. I'm Ready
7. I Can Do It
8. Short Circuit
9. Holding on to Love

"Bedtime Stories" (Wilbe 1992)

1. Bedtime Story
2. Shake Hands (Come Out Lovin')
3. I'd Rather Be Blind
4. Baby Don't Rush
5. Private Number
6. How Long Is My Love
7. Movers and Shakers
8. Paper Thin
9. Keep Your Body Warm
10. I'll Be Around
11. Crazy 'Bout Your Love
12. Ain't Nothing I Won't Do

"A Little Something Extra" (Stax 1992)

1. She Won't Be Like You
2. All That I Am
3. Let's Do Something Together
4. Forever Wouldn't Be Too Long
5. You Got Me (Where You Want Me) - (slow version)
6. Quittin' Time
7. That's My Love
8. You Need a Little Something Extra
9. There's a Love
10. Never Let Me Go
11. We Got Something Good
12. You Got Me (Where You Want Me)
13. Will You Love Me Tomorrow
14. Love Will Find a Way
15. What Did I Do Wrong
16. Sacrifice
17. Love Is After Me
18. Life I Live, The
19. Wait
20. You're Never Too Old

"Greatest Hits Volume 1" (Wilbe/Ichiban 1994)

1. Tryin' to Love Two
2. Bring the Curtain Down
3. Everybody Loves a Winner
4. Lovin' in Borrowed Time - (up-tempo version)
5. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
6. Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday
7. I've Got to Go on Without You
8. Any Other Way
9. I Don't Want to Wake up (Feelin' Guilty)
10. Born Under a Bad Sign

"Greatest Hits Volume 2" (Wilbe/Ichiban 1995)

1. Save Us
2. You Don't Miss Your Water
3. Private Number
4. Tribute to a King
5. Happy
6. Headline News
7. I Need Your Love So Bad
8. Eloise (Hang on in There)
9. Lovin' on Borrowed Time
10. Easy Comin' Out (Hard Goin' in)
11. Everybody Loves a Winner - (unplugged)

"A Portrait Is Forever" (Wilbe 2000)

1. Operator
2. Listen With My Mind
3. That's My Job (24-7)
4. Come in Out of the Rain
5. Take Advantage of a Good Thang
6. After the Paint Comes Off
7. Lifestyles of the Poor & Unknown
8. I Can't Leave Your Love Alone
9. If You Can't Handle the Finance
10. Like a Man
11. You Should've Covered Your Tracks
12. Just a Man (Working Hard)

"Greatest Hits Collector's Edition" (Wilbe 2002)

 1. Tryin' to Love Two
2. You Don't Miss Your Water
3. Private Number
4. Everybody Loves a Winner
5. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
6. Happy
7. Eloise (Hang on in There)
8. Tribute to a King
9. Any Other Way
10. Lovin' on Borrowed Time
11. Easy Comin' Out (Hard Goin' In)
12. I Don't Wanna Wake Up (Feelin' Guilty)
13. Everybody Loves a Winner
14. Born Under a Bad Sign

"New Lease On Life" (Wilbe 2006)

1. New Lease on Life
2. Playaz Only Love You (When They're Playing)
3. Part Time Lover (Full Time Friend)
4. My Body Don't Know
5. Honey from the Bee
6. You Got a Hold on Me
7. Keep a Light in the Window
8. Got an Island Feelin'
9. Treat Her Right (Like a Lady)
10. Up Close and Personal
11. Save Us
12. Every Sunday Morning

**** Leave it to one of the Godfathers of Southern Soul to strike back and show all these young guns how it's done. Don't call it a comeback though as (the) Bell's been tolling in the six years since his last disc, "Portrait Is Forever". He's helped make a name of Jeff Floyd, producing two fine records for the man. Bell also sang with Floyd on the smash "Somebody's Gonna Lose A Good Woman", which is still garnering heavy airplay. Blues Critic online readers voted Floyd and Bell a Blues Critic Award for "Best Performance By A Duo Or Group" for the song. But now he's back out in front on what turns out to be a perfect summer disc of sweet Soul & R & B. The title track, the first single, is one of those instantly classic, head-nodding Southern Soul gems that define the genre. A coasting shuffle bumper with a seamless melody. Smash. On the terrific "Playez Only Love You (When They're Playing)" this one-time player decries the womanizing for the love of a good woman who ends up playing him. Boomerang. It ain't worth it. "Go on home and go back to your woman...ain't nothing in these streets" he says. But later he's creeping on the sultry jam "My Body Don't Know" where he falls in love with his "best friend's girl". Superb production on this track by Bell and Reginald "Wizard" Jones who also co-wrote this number and six others. Dig the spacey guitar weaving throughout the track (Darryl Smith or Al "Purple" Hayes). Bell is joined by Floyd on the sleek, midtempo groover "Part Time Love (Full Time Friend)". Another of many potential singles here. The bouncy, feel good "Honey From The Bee" is pure ear candy. Makes me think of eating ice cream basking in the sun when I hear it (among other things thank you very much). "Treat Here Right (Like A Lady)" is another irresistible shuffle-bumper with a right-hearted message. Further good vibrations crop up on the lovely "Every Sunday Morning" where Bell yearns for the "old fashioned values in life" with tight families and neighborhoods. Certainly a timely sentiment in an age of moral decay. That Gospel n' socially conscious feeling is also represented by "Save Us", a track rescued from an obscure mid-90s collection. Good Soul music is born from such empathetic observations as much as it is sex. Tracks like this help make "New Lease On Life" a full course meal- running the gamut on what fuels "Soul" from subject to sound as Bell even connects to 60s roots with the retro vibe of "Up Close And Personal". Forget Prince, this is "musicology".

"The Very Best Of" (Stax 2007)

1. You Don't Miss Water
2. Any Other Way
3. Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need)
4. Never Like This Before
5. Everybody Loves a Winner
6. Eloise (Hang on in There)
7. Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday
8. Tribute to a King, A
9. Every Man Oughta Have a Woman
10. Private Number
11. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
12. My Baby Specializes
13. My Whole World Is Falling Down
14. Happy
15. Born Under a Bad Sign
16. All For the Love of a Woman
17. Save Us
18. Lovin' on Borrowed Time
19. I've Got to Go on Without You
20. Getting What You Want (Losin' What You Got)

"Live In NYC" (Wilbe 2009)

1. Intro
2. Easy Comin Out/Can I Change My Mind (medley)
3. Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday
4. I Forgot To Be Your Lover/You Send Me (medley)
5. (Sitting On The) Dock Of The Bay/ Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa -Sad Song (Medley
w/Eddie Floyd)
6. Hard To Handle
7. You Don't Miss Your Water

**1/2 Frustrating. That's the word that comes to mind on this live set from the true "king of Southern Soul". Frustrating because the performance is very strong but the sound quality is subpar- definitely not a soundboard recording. I'm thus confronted on how to review this disc. If I were to just concentrate on the performance it's all aces but if that performance isn't captured with clear sound it's hard to ignore.

Bell delivers what must have been an energetic soul revue featuring medleys of hits like "Easy Comin' Put", "You Don't Miss Your Water" and "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" with classic covers ala "You Send Me", "Can I Change My Mind" and "Hard To Handle".

"This Is Where I Live" (Stax 2016)  

**** Who says you can't go home again? Soul legend William Bell made a name for himself via Stax Records from 1961-1974 with R&B hits like "You Don't Miss Your Water", "Everybody Love A Winner", "I Forgot To Be Your Lover", "Private Number" & "Loving On Borrowed Time". He also helped pen Albert King's timeless classic "Born Under A Bad Sign". While Bell enjoyed his biggest hit during a short stint on Mercury Records ("Tryin' To Love Two", a number 1 R&B smash and his only Top 40 Pop hit, #10) his most beloved work remains the Stax years. 32 years after he parted ways with the label he reunites with a terrific new album featuring that vintage Stax Records sound of horn-powered southern soul & funky rhythm & blues.

Bell has his own label, Wilbe Records, where he recorded himself (his last album, 2005's "New Lease On Life" being the most notable) and introduced Jeff Floyd and Lola to the world. So it came as a pleasant surprise to many that he had recorded one of those high profile "comeback" records with the legendary Stax, who were the pinnacle of Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues during the civil rights era and beyond.

Bell, now 76, hasn't lost more than a pinch of his Gospel-influenced voice. He still sounds warm, aching, ie "soulful" just as he did decades ago. Although the album was recorded in New York City and producer John Leventhal is better known in the alternative-Country realm (his wife is none other than Rosanne Cash) the sound of Memphis dominates the album. Leventhal co-wrote 9 of the cuts with Bell and he and his wife Rosanne wrote together ("Walking On A Tightrope"). Marc Cohn of "Walking In Memphis" fame also co-authored five songs, including the first single, "The Three Of Me". A reflective deep soul ballad where Bell looks back at his life. "Last night I had a dream/And there were three of me/There was the man I was, the man I am and the man I want to be". Bell himself adds some lovely harmony vocals but the cut gets one demerit for some obvious auto-tuning on the lead vocal. So unnecessary. Even better is track 2 "The House Always Wins", another wistful, mournful waltzing ballad. In fact "This Is Where I Live" is a ballad-heavy album. But "Poison In The Well" is a steady midtempo pounder with a swampy guitar line, the newly updated "Born On A Bad Sign" begins stripped down (hand claps, acoustic guitar) before riding a horn and organ wave on the way out. The title track is classic William Bell. One of those toe-tapping, head-bobbers with an irresistible refrain. Again, those glorious horns!

I also want to take a moment to highlight the funky "Mississippi-Arkansas Bridge", which, even sonically, sounds like a "bridge" that belongs in the Bayou with it's swampy guitar and rhythmic underbelly. It's a simple tale about an interstate tryst set in the backdrop of a "club across the river/across the bridge to Arkansas" where people there "didn't care about the law". Bell met a girl that made him "shiver". Cute little vignette. You just trust that Bell was there and the story is authentic. Authentic is the word that best describes this effort. Bell is the real deal after all and at the very least "This Is Where I Live" is a strong reminder....of where he lives.

"One Day Closer To Home" (Wilbe 2023)

1. I Still Go To Parties
2. I Will Remember Tonight
3. In A Moment Of Weakness
4. Brag About You
5. Human Touch
6. I've Got Feet
7. Let's Make Loving Great Again
8. We Can Never Go Back
9. One Day Closer To Home
10. When I Stop Loving You
11. Ain't Gon' Let It Bother Me
12. Georgia Peach


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