Carl Hall: You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972
Compared to the singer, one does not know a thing about love. But feel it, yes one does!
The most frequent comment made by fans and critics about soul singer Carl Hall was that he sounded like a girl. Not in the Little Jimmy Scott style, where there is a sexual dynamic at work, but in the ultra-masculine black music convention that posited the higher pitch a man sang, the deeper his manliness and ability to feel joy and pain. Hall reinforces this conception through his strong performance style. He belts, begs and boasts with emotive energy. The listener feels the vocals more than hears them with one’s ears. This soul is for the body!
Hall’s recordings have been hard to find, and there weren’t that many of them. This new 19-track CD includes his six 45 RPM sides and 13 previously unissued cuts from the era. You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 proffers a wealth of wonderful Soul music from its greatest period. Hall’s four-octave range gives him the ability to go to vocal extremes. He can plead long and loud one minute and then just go deep and mull the lyrics the next. It’s as if singing was an act of strength. Taking a song to its limits served as a badge of conviction: the further Hall went, the more persuasive and sincere he became.
The material lends itself to Hall’s thrilling vocals. Even a seemingly innocuous tune like “Dance Dance Dance”, with lyrics such as “Now listen, you can do the monkey / you can do the dog / you can shing-a-ling baby”, emits a powerful resonance as the singer asks his girlfriend not to dance to close to another man when the band plays a slow song. The title track is a slow burner that would sound right at home with the classic Soul tracks of the sixties. The gospel influence on Hall’s style is clearly evident in the intensity of his supplications. The horns blaring in back announce the glory in every sense of the word. By the time Hall’s finished, the listener realizes that compared to the singer, one does not know a thing about love. Know nothing, indeed. But feel it, yes one does!
There are some familiar songs on the compilation. Hall covers the Sammy Davis Jr. hit, “What Kind of Fool Am I”, The Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road”, the Irma Thomas / Rolling Stones’ “Time is On My Side” and a version of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” as “Need Somebody to Love”. The last cut mentioned offers an interesting example of Hall’s style. The word “need” belongs in the song’s title because Hall declares and implores his desire for love. The instrumentation gets downright sultry as this is no platonic request. The need is physical. The need for a body. To love. That means sex. There is no hiding from the truth here. Grace Slick sounds delicate in comparison—a term not usually linked to the formidable singer—but that’s how powerful Hall’s performance it.
There has been a soul music revival during the past few years, and Brit artists like Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Sam Smith in addition to Americans such as Sharon Jones, Raphael Saadiq, and Charles Bradley, have done much to restore the music to its grandeur. This disc is part of the ur-soil from which it emerged. It’s the real deal.