Johnny “Guitar” Watson: You’ve Got a Hard Head + Loving You + It’s All About You
From Listen (Fantasy, 1973)

Renee Geyer Band: Hard Head
From Really Really Love You (RCA, 1976)

I’ve always liked the grain of Watson’s voice ­ a tinge of nasal but very distinctive ­ and he gets to work it out on this deeply soulful LP. Unlike his funkier fare from the later ’70s (“A Bad Mutha For Ya,” “Superman Lover,” etc.), this album is strictly on the bluesy ballad tip and it’s some of the best slow-cooked soul albums I know of. His accompaniement is lush but not as syrupy as say, Gamble and Huff. Maybe it’s the blues influence, which helps keep the music on the sparser side (well, sparse + an orchestral string section.

It’s always hard for me to pick a favorite song off this album since, frankly, I really love the whole thing, especially the first side which has nary a bad moment. That’s why I decided to pluck three from Side A alone. Normally, I’d keep it to two, but I can’t bear having to choose “It’s All About You” over “Loving You” or vice versa. Unfortunately, this album is only available on import CD ($$$) but now that Fantasy has gotten bought out by Concord, perhaps there will be a push to reconsider their reissue priorities.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who’s a fan of this album since Australian vocalist Renee Geyer covered Watson’s “Hard Head” for a concert album recorded in 1976. I like how she keeps true the original arrangement but her vocals are a nice contrast in style and sound.