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Billy's Bag

Billy Preston

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Album Review

It's too bad the otherwise thorough liner notes don't admit to exactly what releases these 13 tracks first appeared upon, or give any songwriting credits. The title is accurate as far as it goes, though, in that these are early Preston sides from the mid-1960s featuring his organ. All of them are instrumental, so they're not too much in line with the vocal soul material he did after reaching fame as a solo artist. If you're looking for instrumental organ '60s soul with dashes of rock, jazz, and gospel, Preston was one of the best at his game, concocting joyful swirls and unpredictable trills that do much to make the basic R&B material swing. What keeps this from being in the same league as, say, Booker T. & the MG's is the pedestrian nature of that material, which usually sticks to standard R&B progressions, and doesn't do much to redefine the familiar cover tunes, like "Slippin' & Slidin'" and "Shotgun." At its very best, as on "Soul Derby," "The Octopus," and "Let Me Know," he transcends the unmemorable songs by virtue of sheer passionate virtuosity, taking the organ into some pretty adventurous territory with his dense textures and rapid-fire bursts without abandoning a compelling dance groove.


Born: 02 September 1946 in Houston, TX

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

It's advantageous to get an early start on your chosen career, but Billy Preston took the concept to extremes. By age ten he was playing keyboards with gospel diva Mahalia Jackson, and two years later, in 1958, he was featured in Hollywood's film bio of W.C. Handy, St. Louis Blues, as young Handy himself. Preston was a prodigy on organ and piano, recording during the early '60s for Vee-Jay and touring with Little Richard. He was a loose-limbed regular on the mid-'60s ABC TV series Shindig, proving...
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Billy's Bag, Billy Preston
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