Daddy B. Nice's #56 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"If They Can Beat Me Rockin'"
December 18, 2012: NEW ALBUM ALERT
--Daddy B. Nice
About Vick Allen
Vick Allen was born in Jackson Mississippi, where he honed his skills in church and performed for family and friends at an early age. By the time he was in high school, he had self-produced a CD. After high school, he joined the Canton Spirituals, one of the South's most respected Gospel groups.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"So if you want this love I'm giving,
VICK ALLEN: Truth Be Told (Soul 1st) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.No, your Daddy B. Nice hasn't fallen into a time warp. This album-- Truth Be Told --came out in 2009. And its first single, "Forbidden Love Affair," was rocking the playlist of every deejay in Southern Soul already in late 2008, commencing a series of hit singles that have been fixtures on Southern Soul playlists ever since.
So this isn't as much a review as it is a celebration, a "toasting" (not "roasting") in honor of an achievement that has already transpired, much to the amazement of people who didn't think Vick Allen had it in him.
And lo and behold, Truth Be Told is still generating hit singles in 2011, the latest being the feet-thumping, piano-crushing "I Need Some Attention," a track accompanied by one of the hottest Southern Soul videos made to date.
I never had a chance to review the CD when it came out in 2009, and in a recent exchange with Vick Allen about new material (coming later this year), your Daddy B. Nice told Vick that it would be a pleasure and a service to readers to give Truth Be Told some of the belated praise and analysis it deserves.
Five years ago, I frequently heard Vick Allen disparaged. The knock on him was that he wasn't "bluesy" enough--an argument, by the way, that never held much water for your Daddy B. Nice.
You can always find umpteen gradations of blues purists--even in the chitlin' circuit scene--who can be counted on to disown Southern Soul on the grounds that it's too pop, too rock and roll, too hiphop or whatever, accompanied by dire predictions of the genre's imminent demise.
But the doubters' criticisms weren't entirely without merit. Vick Allen's music was professional, it was well-written and fairly well-performed, but like so many other singer/songwriters of today, the material was limited in its appeal. The musical territory it covered was pretty narrow. It wasn't the kind of "sound" you'd enjoy hearing song after song for any given length of time.
Baby Come Back Home (Waldoxy, 2007), was the pivotal point of the change, the harbinger of special things to come, the "next level" toward which Vick had been slowly but methodically building.
The CD (or EP) was unique in that it contained only seven songs, as if Allen was determined to avoid any filler--a risky statement of artistic integrity if ever there was one.
The atmosphere of the recordings was dense and unforgettable, like the strong scent of ocean to an inlander. Although the music was still in Allen's somewhat monotonous tenor register, Vick infused these songs with incredible, piercing details, both musical and lyrical.
"Breakin'" Me Down" made Daddy B. Nice's "Top Ten Singles" in December 2007. "Baby Come Back Home" was a nominee for Best Male Vocal in 2007. And "When You Pack Your Bag" was a candidate for Best Male Vocal of 2008.
Then, in 2009, came Truth Be Told.
"I'm Hooked" was actually the first single, and at that point I didn't think it was particularly special. A continuation of past work, "I'm Hooked" had that "pop" thing that Vick Allen was known for--or, in detractors' eyes--that labelled him.
"I'm Hooked" capsulated Vick Allen's career--like a Joey Ramone of Southern Soul--pumping out short, catchy, hard-hitting pop tunes, one after another, generous and bounteous to a fault. But on this CD, with all the firepower to come, the otherwise anchor hit "I'm Hooked" was just a minor piece.
"Forbidden Love Affair" was, by comparison, an event, one of the most popular Southern Soul songs of 2009. It played on Stations of the Deep South all through the year, so much so that it grew tiresome.
Its popularity was based not only on its musical succintness, which was really quite unprecedented, but its lyrics. The fair sex in particular loved this story of a blameless girl in seemingly innocent circumstances--church!--falling into temptation anyway.
If you can't find shelter from the storm in your house of worship, where can you be safe?
But. . .
"I made love to the preacher,
And he's got kids and a wife.
My friends all say I must be crazy.
I'm beginning to think they're right."
The fact that just about every Southern Soul performer started singing as a child on Sunday imbued the tune with a special resonance. By the end of "Forbidden Love Affair," Vick had completely turned the tables on the gospel & rhythm & blues yin-yang. He was preaching to the preacher:
"Don't bother mine,
And I won't bother yours.
Just stick to the good book.
That's what we come here for."
And yet, with all that "Forbidden Love Affair" had going for it, your Daddy B. Nice was still skeptical. Although I'm a "word guy," I put more weight in the music than I do the words. I always felt that I was standing on the sidelines, watching the panorama that was "Forbidden Love Affair," rather than actually on the bandwagon.
In "The Year In Southern Soul" for 2009, in recognition of its popularity, I wrote that "the enthusiastic, year-long response to Omar Cunningham's "The Beauty Shop" and Vick Allen's "Forbidden Love Affair" proved once again that the Southern Soul audience likes its music with a story line." And, based on that popularity (as opposed to any strong musical connection on my part), I likewise posted it as one of the Top 25 Southern Soul Songs of 2009.
Then came the song that lay your Daddy B. Nice to waste. "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'." You could have dropped me to my knees in front of Vick Allen like those two TV stoners do--can't think of their names right now--bowing like an Arab at prayers, repeating "I am not worthy, I am not worthy." Any and all resistance I ever had to calling Vick Allen a certifiable genius fell away faster than a bursting levee.
You didn't have to look far to find the formula to its success. Omar Cunningham was blended in. It was like Sam meeting Dave. It was like Simon meeting Garfunkel. It was like Crosby meeting Stills meeting fricking Nash.
"If They Can Beat Me Rockin'" was a fantastic song (written by Cunningham), a coming-of-age vocal by Allen, an indescribably rich rhythm track and a hootenanny-style chorus that blended their two voices to perfection.
When I first put my stamp of approval on it (Daddy B. Nice's #2 Single, April 2010), I really didn't think Southern Soul deejays would follow. Unlike "Forbidden Love Affair," its lyrics were secondary to its musical sound, and its musical sound was--well--original.
(It was the second song written by Omar Cunningham in the space of a year to achieve classic status, the other being Karen Wolfe's "Man Enough.")
You know the rest. "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'" went on to capture almost everyone's heart, and by the end of the year everyone was playing it as regularly as they had played "Forbidden Love Affair" the year before.
Make no secret about it. The song's luster and durability owed much to the collaboration (the baritone and bass tones Omar Cunningham brought to counter Vick Allen's tenor and falsetto tones), but it was Vick Allen's song: so much so that it has now become his "signature song."
(I heard "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'" played after Aretha Franklin's "Respect" the other day, and it didn't sound out of place or out of its league.)
Your Daddy B. Nice awarded it the #1 Southern Soul Song of The Year honors just three months ago. Also Best Mid-Tempo Song ( the most prestigious song category).
Now, again from out-of-the-blue (although it was there all the time), comes "I Need Some Attention," yet another "heat-seeking" (as "Billboard" would say) song with a "bullet." I posted the following just three months ago:
DADDY B. NICE'S TOP TEN SINGLES REVIEW: JANUARY 2011
3. "I Need Some Attention"------------------Vick Allen
This song is big. How big? We'll see. But you can watch--and hear--Vick Allen scratching his way to a new and rarefied level.
Three months later, that piano-driven hook from "I Need Some Attention" has sunk into your Daddy B. Nice the way a big catfish swallows stinkbait. Coming after "Forbidden Love Affair" and "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'," "I Need Some Attention" is the coup de grace, the piece de resistance of Allen's TRUTH BE TOLD CD, with a superlative introduction, a mesmerizing mid-tempo hook, a stupendous vocal (running the gamut of emotions) and an indelible chorus. And the happy pairing of the single with the video is flattering to Vick Allen--he comes across as not only attractive but interesting.
"I Need Some Attention" makes TRUTH BE TOLD as "current" as any new CD. It's hot, and the parade of former hits only makes it hotter.
As for the balance of Truth Be Told, I don't really think there are any more hits of the magnitude of the songs talked about here, although when an album has had as many "lives" as this one, one takes nothing for granted.
Of my notes from a few listenings, only two other songs merited comment.
"I'm Thankful (For My Woman On The Side)."
Ballad. You can't do it much better. Full of authentic detail. Not just the usual peremptory treatments of chitlin' circuit themes of lesser artists. Sung with feeling, arranged with precision.
And. . .
"You Stay On My Mind"
Allen's tribute to Tyrone Davis. Vick deepens his voice to sound more like Tyrone. And he emulates Davis's more monotone delivery and his extended notes at the end of phrases. In short, he make you aware of Tyrone Davis's style.
Suffice it to say none of the songs, however slight the role they play on the CD, embarrasses or detracts from the general excellence of the collection as a whole. And the set in its entirety is effectively the best lyrical Southern Soul album since Willie Clayton's FULL CIRCLE.
How rare it is--and what a joy it is--to witness an artist realizing himself as a greater artistic entity. And possessing the rock-hard self-appraisal to do it.
This is the parable of an artist growing by leaps and bounds, an artist taking a major step forward, an artist creating work that brings in more fans. Vick Allen's talents aren't significantly different from any number of formerly middle-level Southern Soul composers and performers striving to reach the highest level. This first-rate, top-of-the-heap disc gives hope and inspiration to all.
--Daddy B. Nice
Bargain-Priced Truth Be Told CD
Comparison-Priced Truth Be Told CD
Watch Video of Vick Allen's "Forbidden Love Affair"
Watch Video of Vick Allen's "I Need Some Attention"
Watch Video of Vick Allen's "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'"
See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Vick Allen
See All of Vick Allen's CD's for sale in Daddy B. Nice's CD Store.
January 16, 2011:
Vick Allen's "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'" Wins BEST MID-TEMPO SONG OF THE YEAR And NUMBER-ONE SOUTHERN SOUL SINGLE OF THE YEAR: See 4th Annual "Daddies," Southern Soul Music Awards
See Daddy B. Nice's Breaking Southern Soul Single for January 2011: Vick Allen's "I Need Some Attention"
January 16, 2011: Update
Close readers of this Vick Allen Artist Guide will immediately notice a new number-one recommended single: "If They Can Beat Me Rockin'".
The original critique, which focuses on the former Daddy B. Nice Vick Allen number one--"Put Something Down On It"--will remain the same. But the promise I had seen in Vick Allen via that song (which was somewhat borrowed) has come to fruition in "If They Can Beat Me Rocking'."
It's the corner I've been waiting for Vick Allen to turn, and the hopes expressed below--written years ago--have been realized.
I've only heard three tracks from the so-far marvelous--
Truth Be Told CD
--"Forbidden Love Affair" having been the first single. Both songs reflect an artist in full creative flower and in full command of his powers.
And remember, Truth Be Told came out way back in late '08! Now comes "I Need Some Attention"--a very good song--with a hot new video besides. (See Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten Singles.)
--Daddy B. Nice
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
Honorary "B" Side
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