Marvin Sease is semi-legendary in a way. He’s been bringing his lascivious and weirdly-romantic songs to black clubs all over the southern US for years, selling whatever records he can on whatever label he can get signed to, and he doesn’t really care what anyone else thinks about him; he just keeps keepin’ on. This collection only collects tracks from his recent stint on Zomba Records, as well as one song from last year’s live record on Malaco, so it’s nowhere near a definitive overview. But despite some serious problems, it’s good enough, so let’s talk about it.
There are two Marvin Seases, it seems. One is the soul singer who croons lovely little dusty jams like “Don’t Forget to Tell on You” and “Don’t Go.” These are mostly gloppy ballads, and they’re heavily repetitive and kind of boring, but his voice is convincing—read “soulful” if you must—enough when he wants it to be. Especially digging “I Gotta Clean Up,” where he testifies for almost seven minutes in a post-Otis way.
The other Marvin Sease is the loverman with no shame whatsoever. This one made him famous; he does songs that just come right out and say what’s on their mind. The first song, “Do You Need a Licker?”, is a paean to oral sex, complete with over-orgasmic backup actresses who carry on enthusiastically for the track’s entire length. It’s pretty bad, cringe-worthy, etc., and probably shouldn’t be leading off any collection for the casual fan.
But if you can make it past this one, then the rest are better: “I’m Mr. Jody” continues the Joe D. Grinder tradition in fine style, with Sease responding to a wronged husband with little or no sympathy whatsoever. And during “Hoochie Momma”, Sease calls out all the female stars of the chitlin circuit as hoochies, which is either a great strategy or a stupid one.
I wish there was a lot more lowbrow stuff here, actually, as it would be a lot more fun. But any record that has the awesome male-female interplay of “Do You Qualify” is okay by me, and the live version of Sease’s 1987 smash “Candy Licker,” where he threatens/promises to take off all his clothes onstage in Montgomery, Alabama, is really something to behold.