‘Twas not so many years ago that music lovers didn’t have to wait three years or more for their favourite artists to release follow-ups to their previous albums. It didn’t matter whether you were the Beatles or Mantovani, when you signed your record deal it usually called for the delivery of at least two albums per year, if not more. Amazingly, this level of enforced activity actually used to inspire artists to work hard at their craft, and to produce fantastic, individualistic long players that almost always upheld the standards of what went before.
Soul artists, in particular, always had a ‘hard row to hoe’ in this respect. For example, discounting ‘Hits’ compilations but including live sets and no less than three collaborations with Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, for example, released 12 albums of new recordings between May 1968 and August 1970, including their three psych-soul groundbreakers “Cloud Nine”, “Puzzle People” and “Psychedelic Shack”. Of course, the Temps had Motown’s staff of writers at their disposal, and did not have to do anything other than sing what they were given. But it was seldom easier for self-contained, ‘do it all’ artists. Picking just a few at random from Billboard’s “Top Rhythm & Blues Albums 1965-1998”, Barry White, for instance, released four long players of his own between April 1973-1975, as well as writing, arranging and conducting three all-instrumental Love Unlimited Orchestra albums during the same timeframe. Jimi Hendrix wrote and recorded “Are You Experienced”, “Axis: Bold As Love” and the double LP “Electric Ladyland” in the space of about 14 months. And faced with the impressive success of “Caught Up” during the winter of 1974/5, Millie Jackson assembled, recorded and co-produced its equally-admired follow up within nine months of the former’s first showing on the Billboard R&B albums chart.
STILL CAUGHT UP is the conclusion of the saga set out on its predecessor and the subject of the latest in our short series of expanded editions of selected Millie Jackson long-playing classics. Originally released on Spring in July 1975, the LP took the story a few years on from where “Caught Up” had left it and added a further dimension to the memorable love triangle that involved Millie, as “narrator” and “Mr & Mrs Jody”. As before, Millie seamlessly married familiar material with some specially written songs to produce a story line that made your average Jerry Springer Show look meek and mild by comparison. Recorded in the Southern soul Mecca, Muscle Shoals, “Still Caught Up” featured several songs that will always be associated with Millie, regardless of who cut them first – Loving Arms being perhaps the most obvious example.
Although the LP did not get the chart success of “Caught Up”, the story line and the music was no less compelling and, thirty years on, many fans profess to prefer it. For this expanded reissue, Sound Mastering’s Duncan Cowell has gone back to the analogue production master that Spring delivered to its distributor, Polygram, and from which the original album stampers were created, to produce a sonic quality that all previous CD reissues have lacked. To boost the comparatively short running time of the original track listing, Ace’s ‘man on the mix’ Rob Keyloch and I have continued our trawl through the original multitracks, for some bonus material – including a previously unissued song, which Millie was as excited to hear as the rest of us, with no memory of having recording it!
It’s been nearly 15 years since Ace’s CD issue of “Still Caught Up” (released on Southbound). Whether or not you own that reissue, you will be delighted to add this new edition – featuring a lengthy annotation and the usual array of record label shots and contemporaneous ephemera – to your collection of classic soul albums on compact disc. Especially if you already have our expanded edition of “Caught Up” – after all, you wouldn’t want to read a book without finding out how the story ends, would you?
By Tony Rounce