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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...Sooth The Local Unwed Mother..." - Just As I Am by BILL WITHERS (2012 CD Remaster), 31 May 2012
Mark Barry "Mark Barry" - See all my reviews
Mother of God - but I'm in Soul Heaven! This is one of my favourite albums of the early Seventies - and at last - in 2012 - a mere 40 years after the event - "Just As I Am" by Bill Withers is finally getting the sound quality its always deserved and needed.

As a "Hall Of Fame" reviewer and long-time contributor to Amazon - I've raved about Britain's BIG BREAK RECORDS before and have bought and reviewed seven of their reissue titles (see list below - Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (2 titles), The O'Jays, Heatwave, The Isley Brothers (2 titles) and Johnny Nash). Each has been uniformly superb - especially for those of us looking for great sound quality rather than the half-hearted efforts thrown at us by the majors (when they can be bothered). But BBR has excelled in every way on this lovely and timely reissue. The remaster on this sucker is TRULY GORGEOUS - and after decades of the occasional track on a compilation in only-ok sound - fans of this great songwriter will be duly taken aback by the clarity on offer here. Here are the details...

UK released 7 May 2012 as a 40th Anniversary issue (15 May 2012 in the USA) - Big Break Records CDBBR 0143 breaks down as follows (35:41 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 12 are his debut album "Just As I Am" - released May 1971 in the USA on Sussex Records SXBS-7006 and June 1971 in the UK on A&M Records AMLS 65002.

SINGLES: Although there are no bonus tracks or outtakes - this release will allow fans to sequence the two USA 7" singles that were released around the album - "Ain't No Sunshine" b/w "Harlem" on Sussex 219 (June 1971 - originally issued in April 1971 with the same catalogue number - but with the tracks reversed) - and "Grandma's Hands" b/w "Sweet Wanomi" on Sussex 227 (October 1971). Britain had slightly different configurations - "Everybody's Talkin'" b/w "Harlem" on A&M Records AMS 845 (May 1971), "Ain't No Sunshine" b/w "Harlem" on A&M Records AMS 858 (September 1971) and "Lean On Me" b/w "Better Off Dead" on A&M Records AMS 7004 (August 1972) [the A-side is on the Sony Legacy CD of his 2nd album "Still Bill"].

This reissue comes in one of those rounded-corner jewel cases and has a jam-packed 16-page booklet with liner notes by Washington-born Soul aficionado RICO "SUPERBIZZAE" WASHINGTON (Editor of the US magazine "Free"). There's a history of the West Virginia Soulman's humble beginnings, label repros of the two Sussex singles off the album and collected colour photos from various TV appearances at the time. The front sleeve was actually shot on a lunch-break from his job at the airlines - lunch-pail in hand. And there's even an interview with the great man (recently featured on a superb BBC documentary film). It's really nicely done and features recording details and album discography on the last pages. But the real news is the SOUND...

Remastered from 1st generation tapes by both NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London and BBR's own WAYNE A DICKSON at their own studios - the clarity is beautiful. "Just As I Am" is not so much Funky-Soul but more Folk-Soul - so a lot of the tracks have just acoustic guitars and lots of air around them. I went through so many copies of the (frankly dodgy) US Sussex LP and even the British A&M tan label original - and they were always good rather than great - and in some instances hissy as Hell. Not so here. It hasn't been trebled to the nines for the sake of it - it's just breathing.

Right from the off the acoustic guitars and drums on "Harlem" are amazing - as are the strings, soft bass and vocals on his masterful "Ain't No Sunshine" - all so sweet. The fantastically personal and socially aware "Grandma's Hands" still has the power to move (lyrics above) and it's a blast to finally get unheard gems like "Hope She'll Be Happier", "I'm Her Daddy" and "Moanin' And Groanin'" in top-notch sound quality. In fact of the 12 tracks - Withers impressively wrote 10 - the two covers being Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" (made famous by Nilsson in "Midnight Cowboy") and a very nice uptempo soul take on The Beatles' "Let It Be". Favourites - I particularly love "Do It Good" where the MG's play a blinder in terms of sheer slinky feel. And even though the gunshot at the end of "Better Off Dead" is still too abrupt - it's such a great tune. Yes folks. Love it. Love it. Love it.

If ever an artist deserved praise and rediscovery from this classic Soul period - then it's Bill Withers. For me this is 'Soul Reissue Of The Year' with a bullet.
Buy it and enjoy. And remember - "it's not warm when she's away...only darkness every day..."

PS: As of January 2014 - Big Break Records are approching an impressive 220+ CD reissues and all of the ones I've acquired so far are top quality.
Here are the ones I've bought and reviewed:

1. Candles - HEATWAVE (1980) [see REVIEW]
2. Harvest For The World - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1976) [see REVIEW]
3. Go For Your Guns - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1977) [see REVIEW]
4. I Miss You - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1972) [known as "Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes" in the UK] [see REVIEW]
5. Black & Blue - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1973) [see REVIEW]
6. Love Is The Message - MFSB (1974) [See REVIEW]
7. All The Faces Of... - BUDDY MILES (1974) [see REVIEW]
8. I Can See Clearly Now - JOHNNY NASH (1972) [see REVIEW]
9. In Philadelphia - O'JAYS (1969) [see REVIEW}
10. Back Stabbers - O'JAYS (1972) [see REVIEW]
11. Ship Ahoy - O'JAYS (1973) [see REVIEW]
12. Ebony Woman - BILLY PAUL (1970 and 1973) [See REVIEW]
13. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - BILLY PAUL (1972) [See REVIEW]
14. War Of The Gods - BILLY PAUL (1973) [See REVIEW]
15. Smoked Sugar - SMOKED SUGAR (1975) [see REVIEW]
16. Just As I Am - BILL WITHERS (1971) [debut LP on Sussex/A&M Records] - [see REVIEW]
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best of Bill Withers, 7 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Just As I Am [VINYL] (Vinyl)
Ain't no sunshine is one of my favourite tracks of all time, and I've been interested Bill Withers' music for quite some time. I first heard ain't no sunshine in the film 'notting hill' and I love the song because it reflects the reality of lost love, and I use it as when I'm having a bad day, and I find this track a very standout one. There are many great tracks in this record that I gave it 5 stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Qaulity, 5 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Just As I Am [Clean] (MP3 Download)
Good quality, no messing about, it was so easy to purchase. I just looked on line Bought it! Listening To it!...
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute classic - and it was his debut, 28 May 2012
Andy Edwards "staxasoul" (Essex UK) - See all my reviews
Bill Withers didn't follow the usual path of a Soul man, not for him the stabbing brass of Southern Soul, the "on the fours" Motown sound, or the extended workouts just becoming popular at the time this was originally released. His was a more Folk oriented approach, with spare arrangements for the most part, which emphasised the quality of the songwriting, but which still had a Soul groove.

For a debut album this is an amazing collection, dominated by Wither's highly original take on some old topics (as well as a few new ones) with Booker T's production providing the perfect backdrop. The opener, Harlem, builds from a simple acoustic guitar riff, through pounding drums, adding organ and strings to a superb climax, "Ain't No Sunshine" needs no words from me, and "Grandma's Hands" is one of those original topics, beautifully rendered in just 2 minutes. There can seldom have been a better start to an album than these 3.

Other stand-put tracks are his version of "Let It Be", taken to church (where it always belonged??) with organ and tambourine and not much else, "I'm Her Daddy", which captures the pain of absent fatherhood and "Better Off Dead", whose jaunty tone belies a bleak and original subject matter. Tracks like "Hope She'll Be Happier", and "Moanin and Groanin" typify the spare production which served him best, while he does a straight rendition of "Everybody's Talking" which almost segues straight from his original "Sweet Wainomi".

As one of the greats of '70's Soul, WIthers debut album deserves the widest possible audience. If you have recently heard Michael Kiwanuka, without knowing one of his main influences, then get a copy of this. An essential purchase.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic album gets the reissue it deserves!, 5 Aug 2012
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Bill Withers' debut album at last gets a reissue on cd. Its a great package with in depth sleeve notes and period photos. The quality of the remaster is terrific with a really warm natural sound. I don't understand why Withers is so under-rated. His early work ranks up there with his soul contemporaries Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes.

His second album Still Bill is if anything even better and received a similarly great release by Sony back in 2003 - it's still available so you should buy that one too......
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