Ralph Graham – Differently (1974/2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 35:25 minutes | 727 MB | Genre: Soul
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Sussex Records
“To the best of my knowledge, a 1969 single on A&M was all that was heard from Ralph Graham prior to his signing with Sussex in late 1973 and, despite this fine album for the label and a further pair on RCA, by the end of the seventies, Ralph’s name had disappeared from the record labels except with regard to writing credits. Doug Kinan, Ralph’s manager at the time, contributed this to the album’s back cover: “We won’t kid you – this is not an album that has sold one million copies before it hit the stands, nor is Ralph Graham an artist who has been labelled a ‘star’ before his time has happened. Everyone has worked long and hard to get this out to you and only you can give is a true measure of where Ralph Graham is going as a singer and writer of songs… Please, let us invite you to listen ‘differently’ to Ralph Graham.” The ‘everyone’ who ‘worked long and hard’ included the production crews of Terry Woodford and Clayton Ivey, responsible for six tracks laid down at Broadway Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama, and Jimmy Briggs, whose four tracks are shared between New York and Hollywood, California.
Ralph Graham wrote or co-wrote eight of the ten tracks here, including having sole input to the opening title cut, which we featured in these pages as a stand-alone track back in issue #6. At the time, I said: “I remember when I first heard this and was totally gobsmacked. The combination of this man’s beautiful voice, the self-penned lyrics and melody was just awesome.” That reaction stays the same with every play, as Ralph performs his ballad in brilliantly understated fashion. (Other artists who have subsequently recorded the song include Thelma Houston, Freddie North and Al Wilson.) The mood lightens just a little for the harp-intro’d ‘What Do I Have To Do’ and the Woodford/Ivey team give way to co-writer Johnny Briggs, who brings in some backing vocals for the beat-ballad which has a touch of the Bacharach & David’s about it in places. Again it’s a fine song and the debut 45 from the album. Knowing a good song when they hear it, 5th Dimension and O. C. Smith also recorded Graham’s “I Don’t Know How To Look For Love’, a gentle floater with some occasional changes of tempo and a catchy hook. The backing voices are kept well back in this low-key treatment – Woodford/Ivey again. ‘Ain’t no Need’ and ‘My Love Goes With You’ were supervised by Jimmy Briggs, whose own ‘Ain’t No Need’ raises the tempo and the force of Ralph’s vocals as he offers up a rippling dancer just a tad above mid-tempo. A rather mournful sounding orchestra opens up ‘My Love Goes With You’ and indeed it is something of a sombre ballad as Ralph sings “…I can see that you’re not happy here, I can see that the end is near…”. The relationship is coming to an end but not of his volition, as he tells his sad tale over five minutes-18 of sadness. The song found its way to the b-side of that debut 45.
Side two opens with the second Sussex 45, ‘I Don’t Want To Play This Game’, picked up by Bill Coday on Epic a couple of years later. A commercial, up-tempo funker with a slight country tinge and some tongue-in-cheek lyrics regarding a woman’s infidelity, remarkably neither artist met with chart success via the number. Unassisted by Graham, Messrs Woodford and Ivey penned ‘I See Some One New In Your Future’, a complex number which starts easily before picking up both tempo and guts, gathering instruments along the way and carrying a hook solely by way of the title line. ‘Got To Find Somebody’, another of Ralph’s own songs, finds things easing a little on the tempo as his forceful vocals are abetted by a funky background of horns and drums, sweetened by strings and a real southern-style organ popping up back in the mix. Jimmy Brigg’ only contribution to side two comes on ‘Let Me Love You’, where he acts as both producer and co-writer. A string swirl opens the track, turning into an easy-floater over a gently orchestrated back-up and a song that nicely complemented ‘…Game’ when paired on single. (Just the two were taken from the album and, amazingly, the title track was overlooked.) This fine album goes out with ‘Stay On The Good Side’, a cautionary tale as Ralph tells of the advice given him by his mother over gritty southern backing, full of brass and something of a swamp style. Reflecting the tones of the set, although the front cover shows our man with a smile on his face, the back cover close-up finds tears coming from his eyes. Wonder what happened to Ralph Graham post RCA?” (David Cole)
02. What Do I Have to Do
03. I Don’t Know How to Look for Love
04. Ain’t No Need
05. My Love Goes with You
06. I Don’t Want to Play This Game
07. I See Someone in Your Future
08. Got to Find Somebody
09. Let Me Love You
10. Stay on the Good Side