This review of his last album All Dues Are Paid is Bluesdoodles tribute to Frank Bey.
Frank Bey (born Frank Bass; January 17, 1946 – June 7, 2020)
Frank, changed his last name from Bass to Bey at age 27 when he joined the Moorish Science Temple of America.
Frank Bey was born and raised in Millen, Georgia, he was the seventh of twelve children born to gospel singer Maggie Jordan. He began his singing career performing gospel at the age of four and entertained with his music for the next seventy years.
RIP Frank Bey, ‘The Southern Gentleman of The Blues’.
Soulful blues maestro Frank Bey has had a torrid journey of highs and lows as he played the music scene with such diverse talents as Otis Redding and the funk band, Moorish Vanguard. After a record deal with James Brown went awry he was so disillusioned that he left music behind for nigh on twenty years. The desire never left him however and, despite suffering kidney failure, he began to put everything back together in his own way…and on his sixth album, All My Dues Are Paid, he has proven beyond doubt that he still has the voice and feel to bring a fresh outlook on the soulful blues genre he’s made his own. Helped out by the redoubtable Kid Anderson, Rick Estrin and the ever strong Nola Blue label he released this eleven song set in January 2020: apologies to all of the participants for this tardy review but, as we all know, things have changed in this weird and yet still wonderful world of ours. There are brave cover choices as well as a couple of co-writes that will make you reassess the originals too.
It opens with a song about civil rights that may be from the 70s but is, unfortunately, still very current. Written by Eddie Palmieri, Idle Hands has wah guitar, keys, horns, and a superb bass/drum backline. Frank’s vocals are as powerful and soulful as always as he pours emotion into every word and the whole band match him all the way. The sax solo is well thought out, even if I’d have preferred that lovely sounding guitar to take centre stage…but that’s just me; this is a strong start to a strong album. Things turn soulfully sad as Frank does his rather inventive take on the Billy T Band’s One Of Theses Days…layered with lovely keys and backing vocals, it is better than the original. Calling All Fools is from the Nightcats catalogue but adds extra horns and neat piano as the blues are melded into the smoke of a jazz lounge.
The Mike Schemer song, It’s A Pleasure, is proper R’n’B with Frank’s deft soul touch adding another level to a familiar phrasing. Listen out for the superb acoustic guitar work that is buried a bit too deep as is the ingenious bass line. The title track is a collaboration with Kathy Murray (of Kathy & The Kilowatts), Estrin, and Andersen and embraces the Memphis blues as the vocals pull soul and blues together beautifully in this autobiographical song.
He moves into country next with the George Jones song He Stopped Loving Her Today but adds a depth that country isn’t usually associated with (in my mind anyway). The guitar behind the emotive vocals is the saviour for me…it’s subtle, clever, and is the only reason I listen to this track. I Bet I Never Cross Your Mind lifts us back into jazzy blues with another Nightcats tune. The Hammond is my highlight on this slow burner as the solo ignites the whole track. Percy Mayfield gets the Frank treatment next with some tasty jumpstyle blues as Never No More is a fairly faithful and deft interpretation. The Hammond and (at long last) a great guitar solo are the highlight as it gives it the edge over the original.
Ha, Ha In The Daytime is another Mayfield song from his Ray Charles days and this version comes across like Charles was overseeing it. Slow and moody, it’s lifted by the piano work in the background and a subtle and clever bit of guitar work that is simple but varied and very effective.
If It’s Really Got To Be This Way is back into country with an Arthur Alexander composition which shows its heritage but has bit more bite, with the guitar and keys again lifting it high. Perfect Day is the Lou Reed song that was purloined and ruined by multiple ‘celebrities’ for the BBC…I wasn’t a huge fan of the song when Lou did it, and that charity version did it in altogether for me. Frank gives it some gospel and the acoustic guitar is a brilliant touch and nearly wipes those memories. One Thing Every Day is Schemer again and it is funk/gospel/Stax in a heady mix; soulful is the ideal word as Frank and backing singers put a sheen on this song.
Frank closes the album with a six-minute plus version of the John Lennon song, Imagine. At the risk of being lambasted (not an illegitimate sheep…sorry, love that pun!) I have never been a big fan of the Beatles or solo Lennon…I never got the hysteria surrounding them when, to me, there were far better groups around at the time…in saying that, the guitar intro is exquisite and, although I will never love this song, Frank and the band do a damn good version that should be widely heard….especially the middle section where the various instruments exchange melodies.
As always, with artists like Frank, the soul is in front of the blues but if you like that recipe then you will love this confection. Powerful, emotive singing backed by a superb group of musicians makes for a strong album with highlights aplenty for the more blues lovers amongst us.
Bluesdoodles rating: Wonderful addition for soulful blues lovers.
- Idle Hands
- One Of These Days
- Calling All Fools
- It’s A Pleasure
- All My Dues Are Paid
- He Stopped Loving Her Today
- I Bet I Never Cross Your Mind
- Never No More
- Ha Ha In The Daytime
- If It’s Really Gotta Be This Way
- Perfect Day
- One Thing Every Day
Frank Bey: vocals
Kid Andersen: guitar
Jerry Jemmott: bass
Alex Petterson: drums
Martin Winstad: percussion
Nancy Wright: tenor sax
Eric Spaulding: tenor sax
Jack Sanford: baritone sax
John Halbeib: trumpet
Paul Olguin: bass
Paul Revelli: drums
Lisa Leuschner: backing vocals
Recorded atGreaseland Studios, San Jose and produced by Kid Andersen and Rick Estrin
(The iTunes run on song delivered the undervalued blues of Frank Goldwasser on the superb Feels Like Home from his Bluju album.)