Johnny Taylor’s She’s Killing Me/A New Day

11th November 2015

Title: She’s Killing Me/A New Day

Label: Soul Music

My goodness, Taylor knew how to ride the highs and lows of the music industry because his career spanned a respectable four decades. He tackled Southern soul, was a Stax soul man,  aimed ballads at ‘The ladies’ and had chart topping disco success to boot. He’s best known for his 1968 hit on Stax, Who’s Making Love but his biggest hit was in 1976 when he released Disco Lady that became the first ever single to hit platinum (sales of two million records at that time). He later moved to Malaco, releasing his first CD for that label in 1984: a refuge for ‘real’ soul singers during a time when ‘real’ soul singers were not marketable or particular sought after.

What we have here is a (cough) value for money ‘two-fer’. Specifically, She’s Killing Me (1979) and A New Day (1980). Both albums were not exactly part of Taylor’s finest hour. The problem was that they were products of pressure. Pressure from his record label, Columbia, to repeat the success of Disco Lady. In the meantime, the label also convinced this soul man to hang his reputation out to dry.

She’s Killing Me, they’re killing him? What’s the difference? The content of this album supplies the sort of mind-numbing blandness, in its dance pop-lite template, that is lethal to CD reviewers. Why? Because this CD took me about six hours to review. You find your attention starting to wander and time drifts by. You notice the colour of coats that people are wearing as they walk past the window of your office, exactly how many clouds there are in the sky, an urge to count blades of grass on a nearby field…things like that. Compare this CD with any of his later Malaco releases. They, in themselves, are not stone cold classic soul albums but each one is decent, solid stuff and, more importantly, Taylor believes in what he is singing over at the Malaco label. You can tell the difference. No, really, you can.

Meanwhile A New Day was possibly a promise signed in a bold font. A promise from Columbia, dangled in front of this poor man, that if he would possibly just stay long enough in the nice warm studio to record this rubbish, then they would unlock the door and let him out. This pseudo-disco tripe surely must have had this talented man wondering if his future career would consist of stacking shelves at his local supermarket. If you do ever listen to this CD, put your ear close to the speaker cone. You might just be able to make out the engine of the taxi running outside the studio. This was where Taylor was heading once this dreck had been recorded.

Yes Malaco, it was a haven indeed.