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Fell, Frank - Yesterday's People

Fell, Frank - Yesterday's People

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Title:  Yesterday's People
Company: Guinness
Catalog: GNS-
Year: 1977
Country/State: Hallsboro, North Carolina
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

So rather than recreate the wheel, here's Frank Dell's biography in his own words:

Frank Dell was born in Hallsboro, North Carolina. He completed high school in Chadbourn, North Carolina. He graduated from Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina with a B.A. degree in Social Studies with a minor in music.
While attending Claflin College, Frank joined the local band and performed in clubs throughout the South Carolina and Georgia areas.
During Frank's junior year in college he and his older brother Warren, formed a singing group called "The Essence." The group performed at the Apollo Theater Amateur Show and won three consecutive weeks. Frank had to return to college and was unable to complete the fourth and final week of the contest.
Frank has recorded for Mercury Records, Starflower Records, Valise Records and is presently with Gothel Records."

Looking at it, Dell was the perfect candidate for a tax scam record label like Guinness Records. Starting in the mid-1960s, with support from songwriter David Blake and producer Phil Medley, he recorded a series of obscure (but highly sought after and valued) singles for a series of known and unknown labels:

credited to Big Frank & the Essence:
- 'I Won`t Let Her See Me Cry' b/w 'The Secret' (Blue Rock catalog number B-4012)

credited to Big Frank Murphy:
- 'It's All Over but the Pain' b/w 'You My Love' (Philips catalog number 40362) 

credited to Frank Dell:
- 1967's 'He Broke Your Game Wide Open' b/w 'I'll Go On Loving You' (Valise catalog number 6900-A/B)
- 1967's 'Baby You've Got It' b/w 'Need' (Valise catalog number VA 6901-A/B)

In the early 1970s Dell apparently briefly reunited with Blake and Medley, recording some new material. For whatever reason those sessions didn't see a commercial release until 1977 when the notorious tax scam Guinness label somehow got hold of the material. As mentioned above, of course it you thought about it, Dell's background was perfect for a tax scam label like Guinness - Dell already had a catalog of obscure material which eliminated the need to spend money on studio time and since he was a largely unknown commodity that minimized the need to pay royalties. In typical tax scam fashion 1977's "Yesterday's People" showcased a mixture of Dell's earlier releases ('Baby You Got It', 'I'll Go On Loving You', and 'He Broke Your Game Wide Open') along with more recent material which was largely written by Blake and Medley.  

Dell was blessing with a wonderfully textured voice that variously recalled Ray Charles ('I Want What I Want'), Tom Jones (not kidding - check out 'Don't Come Running Back To Me'), and Teddy Pendergrass ('Yesterday's People'). Judging by these ten tracks he was quite versatile, equally at home on hardcore soul, or more MOR pop moves, That diversity was somewhat unfortunate in that his talents were largely wasted on more pop-oriented tracks like the title track and 'Love's Battle'. In contrast his earlier soul sides were simply killer. Material like 'Baby You Got It', 'Down On the Waterfront' and 'Nobody Loves Like You Baby' was near perfect old school soul that left you wondering how it was possible he hadn't become a major soul star.

- The title track was a nice showcase for Dell's deep, rugged, and extremely soulful voice. Unfortunately the Phil Medley tune simply wasn't very good - way too MOR, over-orchestrated, and literally dripping with over-the-top sentimentality which recalled something Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff might have dumped on Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in one of their fits of social activism. Yech. Not a very good way to start off an album. rating: ** stars
- The opening notes to 'Baby You Got It' weren't very promising, leaving the distinct impression this was going to be another slice of pseudo-Broadway crapola. Luckily those opening notes were nothing more than a brief distraction with the rest of the song turning into a great slice of Motown-styled soul with a chirpy female backing chorus and one of those instantly memorable hooks that Motown effortlessly churned out. Holland-Dozier-Holland would have been happy to write something this good. Fantastic way to rebound !!! rating: **** stars
- 'I Want What I Want' found Dell turning in his best Ray Charles impression (and it was almost scary good). Nice bluesy keyboard-propelled number, though it was a touch too supper club-ish for my own tastes. rating: ** stars
- Judging by the sound, 'Down On the Waterfront' was a mid-1960s track resurrected for the album. Another cool slice of Motown-styled soul, with its summer-at-the-beach theme (including some great beachfront sound effects), this one was hysterical. Probably the most playful track on the album.  rating: **** stars
- 'Love's Battle' was best described as an adult contemporary ballad. Imagine something off of a Brook Benton album. Wrapped in a slow, bluesy arrangement, it again showcased Dell's nice voice but the Medley-penned tune was simply plodding and dull. Easy to picture drunk couples slow dancing to this one in a smoky club.  rating: ** stars
- In spite of the sophisticated orchestration, complete with horns, woodwind, and strings, 'Everything Is Everything' was a surprisingly effective blues number. Hearing Dell return to his nifty Ray Charles impersonation was just icing on the cake. The track would have been even better with a paired-down arrangement. rating: *** stars
- OMG !!! A classic soul tune with fuzz guitar ... could it get any better than this ? All hyperbole aside, 'Nobody Loves Like You Baby' was one of the top five songs across the entire Guinness catalog and might have been enough to justify the entire cost of this album. Simply one of those lost soul classics that people dream about. Fantastic.  rating: ***** stars
- There was no questioning the fact Dell had an amazing voice, but 'Don't Come Running Back To Me' displayed a disturbing penchant for MOR pop standards. In this case, his performance sounded like a second rate Tom Jones track. The album's first disappointment.  rating: ** stars
- Maybe it was just my increasingly damaged ears, but 'I'll Go On Loving You' sounded like a bad Engelbert Humperdinck cover. Yeah, this one was that bad ! I suspect this may still be one of his group's wedding standards. rating: ** stars
- Thankfully the first side ended with another lost soul classic in the blazing 'He Broke Your Game Wide Open'. What can you say about this one other that it was a near perfect slice of 1960s soul.   rating: ***** stars 

Shame producers Blake and Medley didn't unearth more of the man's 1960s catalog since it would have made for a true lost classic. As it was, there were still at least three 'must hear' soul classics on this set.

"Yesterday's People" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Yesterday's People (Phil Medley) - 
2.) Baby You Got It (David Blake - Frank Dell) - 
3.) I Want What I Want (Jimmie Stewart Jr.) - 
4.) Down On the Waterfront (Phil Medley - Roy Nelson) - 
5.) Love's Battle (Phil Medley) - 

(side 2)
1.) Everything Is Everything (Phil Medley - Jesse Mims) - 
2.) Nobody Loves Like My Baby (Phil Medley) - 
3.) Don't Come Running Back To Me (Phil Medley) - 
4.) I'll Go On Loving You (David Blake) -
5.) He Broke Your Game Wide Open (David Blake - Frank Dell) - 
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