Although Lamont Dozier enjoyed fame and fortune as part of Motown’s legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team, penning dozens of stone cold classics that defined 60s soul, few people are aware that he also had a productive recording career of his own in the 1970s. Dozier was obviously a crack songwriter, but he was no slouch as a singer either. One of his solo albums, 1974’s Out Here on My Own, yielded two Top Forty hits: the ballad “Trying to Hold on To My Woman” and the fiendishly clever and funky “Fish Ain’t Bitin’” (a song that took a dig at “Tricky Dick” Nixon). I own a copy of The ABC Years and Lost Sessions, a CD collection that includes songs from that fine album, as well as its solid follow-up, Black Bach, and as the title suggests, some unreleased tracks. Another compilation that includes most of the same songs is called The Legendary Soul Master. Both are import pressings from the UK.
Last year I was also delighted to find a copy of Dozier’s very first solo album, Love and Beauty, which was originally released on the legendary Invictus label. This edition of the album has been reissued in expanded form by Edsel in the UK. It includes the singles “Why Can’t We Be Lovers” (also a hit for Timmy Thomas, and later covered by Sade) and “New Breed Woman,” as well as tracks that Dozier recorded with the Holland brothers, Brian and Eddie. This is a two-CD set and includes a few too many versions of the same songs (single edits, album versions, instrumental, “alternate” versions) for my tastes, but overall the quality of the songs is consistently good. Just what you would expect from someone as talented as Lamont Dozier.
After the Holland brothers and Dozier acrimoniously left Motown in 1968, they started their own labels; Invictus and Hot Wax. Even though those new labels didn’t enjoy the same fame of Motown, there was no drop-off in quality, and they even managed to produce a few hits. Among the artists that recorded for those labels, and are also subjects of recent CD reissues by Edsel, are Freda Payne, Chairmen of the Board (whose lead singer, General Johnson, passed away last year), Laura Lee, Honey Cone, 8th Day, and 100 Proof Aged in Soul. With better distribution and less legal headaches (The Holland brothers and Dozier were sued by Berry Gordy soon after they left Motown and were prevented from using their real names in songwriting credits), many of these artists would undoubtedly have been more popular.
There is also a fascinating album originally released in 1970 by the early version of George Clinton’s Parliament, called Osmium, that was among those recent Edsel reissues. This album is packed with great songs that should have been monster hits, such as “My Automobile” and “I Call My Baby Pussycat.” It also includes “The Silent Boatman,” a haunting tune that includes bagpipes of all things. The overall sound is a bit more traditionally soulful and less weirdly funky than successive Parliament and Funkadelic recordings, but a definite keeper.