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Terry Callier (1945 - )

Related: American music - soul - folk music - Chicago

What Color is Love (1972) - Terry Callier

"It was like time had stood still, I had all his albums and they were special, but this was different. It was shivers down the spine time, lumps in the throat. Pure emotion. I could see that everyone was feeling the same, and it wasn't just me. I've always thought that if you've got the right stuff, the right make up inside of you, then it's going to hit you as well." -- Bob Jones, 1997, on Terry Callier live.

Timepeace (1998) - Terry Callier
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Terry Callier (born May 24, 1945) is an American Jazz, Soul and Folk guitarist singer-songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. Callier, a childhood friend of Curtis Mayfield, began recording in 1963 but never reached stardom despite a series of regional hits in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1983, he gained custody of his 12-year-old daughter Sundiata and decided to retire from music to look for a steadier income. He took classes in computer programming and landed a job at the University of Chicago in 1984.

He reemerged from obscurity when British DJs discovered his old recordings and began to play his songs in clubs in the early 1990s. Acid Jazz Records head Eddie Pillar brought Callier to play clubs in Britain beginning in 1991 and he began to make regular trips to play gigs during his vacation time from work.

In the late 90's Callier began his comeback to recorded music, contributing to Beth Orton's Best Bit EP in 1997 and releasing the album Timepeace in 1998, which won the United Nations' Time For Peace award for outstanding artistic achievement contributing to world peace. Curiously, his colleagues at the University of Chicago never learned of Callier's life as a musician, but after the award the news of his secret life as a musician became widely known and subsequently led to his firing.

Callier today is continuing his recording career having currently released five albums since Timepeace. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Callier [Aug 2006]

The Jazz Café, Camden, London. 1995

The Jazz Café, Camden, London. 1995. A few hundred hardcore music lovers are squeezed into the club, waiting for Terry Callier to walk down the stairs, and onto the stage. There's a burst of applause and whistling as he appears, and a hush as he stands in front of the mic, cradles his acoustic guitar, closes his heavy eyes and lets an ear-to-ear smile cross his face. Then the warmest flow of deep velvet soul pours out, crossing boundaries between soul, jazz and black folk music, reducing many of those present to tears. The lost hero of soul had come home. "In thirty years of music, he's one of my top three live performers," says Dr. Bob Jones, which is some recommendation.

Terry Callier makes understated, intense songs which meander from ballads through to dance numbers laced with a sprinkling of disco, songs created in the soul of an urban griot. Some people call it folk-jazz. Some people call it soul-jazz. "We don't mind what they call it," offers Callier, "because it has the spirit of all that."

It's only now that TC is getting his dues. He's always appealed to the obsessives and soul heads, Paul Weller, for example, is a big fan. Gilles Peterson, the good Dr. Bob Jones, even Pete Tong in his pre- Radio One days spun Terry Callier tunes such as the gospel disco favourite, 'I Don't Want To See Myself (Without You)' on the pre-E dance floors of the North and the South. It sowed the seeds for this most welcome resurrection, and from a few select soul-jazz dance floors, the word spread as the music passed through hands and ears. The Way things are now, you'd be hard pressed to get the 1992 Charley re-issue of choice tracks entitled 'The Best Of Terry Callier On Cadet', let alone any of the originals, which change hands for silly, silly money.

But what of his new album, 'Time Peace', recorded in London and his home town Chicago ? "The music on Time Peace is multi-cultural, like the old tunes, multi-emotional just like the old songs, and it has different levels of meaning, like the old songs...I hope," explains Callier modestly. His current day credentials include a professional love for the music of Erykah Badu and Maxwell, a recent collaboration with Heavenly's Beth Orton on her 'Best Bits EP' and on Urban Species' 'Religion and Politics'. The latter is an extra-appropriate hook-up, as Urban Species sampled 'Candyman' on 'Listen', and there's even talk of a DJ Shadow hook-up.

Instead of opting for the easy route of rehashing old numbers, or indisputable classics like 'Ordinary Joe' and 'Dancing Girl', Callier has opened up a new chapter in his musical book. 'Lazarus Man', a tale of rebirth and redemption, is classic Callier; there's earthy, naturalistic percussion twinned with Callier's voice; there's a story told; there's a message. 'Time Peace / No-one Has To Tell You / Build' features spiritual sax master Pharaoh Sanders, and 'Love Theme From Spartacus' is Callier and his guitar, gently carving out a song of freedom. 'People Get Ready / Brotherly Love' starts with Callier singing Curtis Mayfield's call to arms, (he grew up in the same neighbourhood as Mayfield) before updating the theme into a call for some L.O.V.E. That's the message. The album title has many meanings, and the music does too.

After countless bad experiences with a shark-like music industry, Callier found himself at a full stop. He'd been plagued by record company politics, and bizarre incidences that included his producer disappearing off to 'find himself' in the desert with nothing but the masters of Callier's 'New Folk Sound' album. In 1983 he used the last of his money to record 'I Don't Want To See Myself (Without you)' with his friends. "It was like the last hurrah, the studio was just like a party, and that feeling transcended into the recording. I was hoping we'd touch something that would catapult me into being able to support myself through music. But it didn't." At the time, it didn't save him.

He got a job programming computers, and gave up music to earn money and bring up his daughter (there are echoes here of Chicago's more recent electronic soul exile, Larry Heard.) He disappeared off the music scene, and that, as far as he knew, was that. As the clock ticked away, kids in London and Manchester heard and listened, culminating in a sleuth-like phone call in 1991, that Acid Jazz label-head Eddie Pillar out in to an office he'd tracked down in Chicago. "Can I speak to Terry Callier, please..."

Five years later, past a handful of gigs and one new album, Callier's rehabilitation to the general public is complete. There are already plans for Callier's second Talkin' Loud album, and Gilles Peterson is on the lookout for the ideal person to arrange the strings and produce it. " We need to find the new Charles Stepney," says Peterson, of the legendary, and recently deceased Rotary Connection producer. "And that," he says, "will be The Shit." Put on the headphones, relax into Terry Callier's joyous, emotional, and truly inspirational sound, and if you ever get the chance to feel the surge of soul that he produces live, grab it with both hands.

"Here in downtown Manchester, Terry Callier is considered the forgotten Prince of Chicago soul. People you need these tunes."

Dean Johnson, Expansion Records, on the sleeve notes to 'The Best Of...'

'Time Peace' was released on Talkin Loud through Mercury Records on February 2nd, 1998, followed by the single 'Love Theme From Spartacus' in March 1998 (remixes from 4 Hero and Roy Davis Jnr.) --http://www.thenetcurtain.com/terry.htm

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