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Sings the # 1'S

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Album Review

Soul singer Willie Clayton, 55 years old upon the release of Sings the Number Ones, has often been compared with a slightly earlier generation of R&B performers including David Ruffin and Bobby Womack, and on this all-covers collection he embraces those comparisons. On his version of Teddy Pendergrass' number two R&B hit "Turn Off the Lights," he declares, "I'm just doin' it my way." Clayton's way involves his own soul singing style, which includes more falsetto than the gruff-voiced Ruffin or Pendergrass tended to use; Clayton is still closer to Al Green (whose music is notably absent here) than to them. But it is very much in their soul tradition. The concept of "Number Ones" is liberally interpreted, at least with regard to placings on the Billboard R&B and pop charts, though several of these songs did top one or the other of those charts, but these songs were hits, mostly in the 1970s. Clayton employs arrangements based on drum and synthesizer programming that some old-school soul fans may find less felicitous than ones entirely using "real" instruments. But what really matters is Clayton's singing, which is given excellent showcases by these soul favorites. He doesn't generally eclipse the originals, but he solidifies his position as a rightful heir to the soul singers who just preceded him.

Biography

Born: 29 March 1955 in Indianola, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A gifted Southern soul singer, Willie Clayton has been performing since the late '60s. One of 11 brothers and sisters, the Mississippi vocalist debuted with "That's the Way Daddy Did" on Duplex. He moved to Chicago in the early '70s and became a club and city favorite. Clayton was introduced to Al Green's producer, Willie Mitchell, after appearing with Green, and Mitchell signed him to a deal with Pawn, a subsidiary of Hi. Mitchell produced some fine Clayton efforts, including "I Must Be Losin' You,"...
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Sings the # 1'S, Willie Clayton
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