14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
"Lost Masterpiece", "Forgotten Classic", "...An Album You Must Hear Before You Die" - take your pick - because 1972's "Occasional Rain" genuinely fits them all - it really does.
Hailing out of Chicago and a childhood pal of Curtis Mayfield, Terry Callier had put out only 1 album before this called "The New Folk Sound Of..." on US Prestige in early 1965. It did little business. Session years then went by until his signing to the Chess offshoot label Cadet, where he made 3 albums with legendary producer and writer CHARLES STEPNEY - the other two albums are "What Color Is Love" (1973) and "I Just Can't Help Myself" (1974) which are equally good - especially "Color".
Charles Stepney is another big name in small circles - a hero of sorts for soul lovers. He was involved in The Rotary Connection with Minnie Riperton, produced four albums with The Dells and even twiddled the knobs on the iconic and now much-vaulted psych-blues-fusion album "Electric Mud" by Muddy Waters. I'd personally scour down anything he had a hand in...a genius...
Released July 2008 on Universal/Verve Originals 0602517664883 (Barcode 602517664883) the CD breaks down as follows (43:26 minutes):
1. Segue No.1 - Go Ahead On
2. Ordinary Joe
3. Golden Circle
4. Segue No. 5 - Go Head On
5. Trance On Sedgwick Street
6. Do You Finally Need A Friend
7. Segue No. 4 - Go Head On
8. Sweet Edie-D
9. Occasional Rain
10. Segue No. 2 - Go Head On
11. Blues For Marcus
12. Lean On Me
13. Last Segue - Go Head On
Two other words printed on the back inlay beneath the CD also give this reissue the edge - GAVIN LURSSEN. He's an American sound engineer and I've sung his praises before (see separate reviews for "Gold" by THE CRUSADERS and "Careless" by STEPHEN BISHOP). Lurssen has just short of 900 mastering, remastering and audio restoration credits to his name (Universal, Hip-O Select) - his work stretches back decades, so he knows his way around a master tape or two.
I mention this because a lot of the songs on here are quietly soulful, Stepney didn't clutter them with instruments except when it complimented the melody - so the remaster needed the deftest of touches and Lurssen has done that. The sound quality isn't trebly or loud or showy - it's just there - sweet as a nut - the music just 'sails' out of your speakers in the most gorgeous way. You're left with a genuine sense of shock on two fronts (a) why has this beautiful soul album gone unnoticed for so long by the vast majority of music lovers out there and (b) a sense of relief - that in finally releasing "Occasional Rain" in 2008, Universal have picked the right guy to do the job.
Musically it breaks down like this - there's eight 8 songs separated by five 40-second "Segue" bits. No one knows why the first Segue is called "Go Ahead On" and the other 4 "Go Head On" (which is what the lyric is)? Some people think the Segues cool, while others feel they haven't worn well and now sound gimmicky. Personally, I find the songs surrounding them so beautiful that I don't notice...they're that good. I would love to hear the full song proper...
The most famous track off the LP is "Ordinary Joe" which has turned up on Acid Jazz type compilations and was a big draw in the UK. Other highlights are the acoustic urban trouble song "Trance On Sedgwick Street" which along with "Blues For Marcus" features the beautiful Cello work of EARL MADISON - and combined with Callier's impassioned vocals makes the tracks sound like Cat Stevens meets Nick Drake - really lovely and soulful. The love songs are up there as well - "Do You Finally Need A Friend" and the truly gorgeous "Golden Circle" (lyrics above). There's a strange guitar ping that floats over "Occasional Rain" giving it an ethereal other-worldly feel - very soulful and very Donny Hathaway in structure and churchy feel. Then comes the album's big finisher - and what a peach it is. "Lean On Me" is an impassioned six and half minute long friendship song with backing vocals from Minnie Riperton and Kitty Haywood - it's just gorgeous and finishes the mellowest of LPs on a genuine high.
Downside - although the gatefold card digipak is nice to look at, for me one of the big let downs is the complete lack of a booklet and therefore a sense of history, photos, insights etc... If ever a soul album deserved a little more luxury shown, then "Occasional Rain" is it.
If you're unconvinced and have heard too many praising reviews before - the entire LP is available on iTunes as a download - I'd recommend trying "Golden Circle" or "Occasional Rain" or "Lean On Me"- you'll be hooked. (The 2008 "Originals" remaster of "What Color is Love" is also available on iTunes).
Like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On", Donny Hathaway's "Extension Of A Man" and Stevie Wonder's "Innervisions" - this is a proper soul album - a gem all the way through and sill beautiful and inspiring to this day - some 30/40 years after the event.
Of late Terry Callier has morphed (like Richie Havens) into a sort of elder statesman of soul still spreading his gospel of love and understanding - check out "Timepeace" from 1998 - unbelievably good and relevant to the now and not just past glories.
I've warbled on a bit I know, but this album deserves it.
Buy it, cherish it, enjoy it - and I envy you the journey...
PS: This disc is part of Universal's "ORIGINALS" CD Series - digipak CD reissues of Jazz, Soul, Funk, Fusion and Latin albums (120+ and counting) spread across a vast number of the company's labels - see the 'comment' attached to this review for a full list
on 23 June 2014
Occasional Rain has to be up there with the great soul albums and its criminal that its hardly known.
A fusion of classic soul and folk, the best know track on the album is the sublime "Ordinary Joe", however "lean on me", "Do you finally need a friend" and the title track are stunning.
What I particularly like is the way the vocals are delivered. The singing is not always pitch perfect (this album was recorded well before auto-tune and other studio nasties) but this enhances rather than detracts from the songs as they have an almost live, intimate feel. The sympathetic arrangements and nice sound on the re-issue add to this.
The segues (the same song broken up into small parts) give the album a flow, although its a pity they didn't include the whole song as a complete entity on the album.
The packaging on the verve re-issue is a bit naff (horribly cheap digipak with no booklet) but when the music is this good, who cares.
One day this album will get the recognition it deserves. It is not an album of background music but demands the listeners complete attention.
Anyone with any kind of interest in this sort of music should purchase and enjoy this wonderful album.