By James Calemine
Said I Had A Vision revolves around the talented songwriter/preacher/producer David Lee from Cleveland, North Carolina. Ray Harper–of the Harper Brothers–led the Paradise of Bachelors label to Lee’s door. Harper was the college roommate of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Maceo Parker as well as a friend to Marvin Gaye. This collection’s liner notes reveal this about Said I Had A Vision:
“David Lee, who is African-American, has made it his life’s work to traverse and transcend those borderlands–geographical, musical, cultural, racial–with grace and little regard for specious divisions and partitions imposed by others. Sacred and secular, country and soul, black and white are not mutually exclusive categories in Mr. Lee’s mind or music.“
Lee’s three record labels issued this small catalogue of 14 songs. Said I Had A Vision opens with the Charotte group the Yakety Yaks singing “Soul Night. Pt. 1”. Greenville, South Carolina, native Ann Sexton’s honey-laced voice sings the soulful “You’re Letting Me Down”. The Constellations render a powerful version of “If Everybody” on this collection of obscure diamonds.
A rockabilly element threads Bill Allen’s “The Party”, which illustrates the diverse musical interests of David Lee. Recorded in the late 70s by The Singing Mellerairs, “Ain’t It A Shame” emerges as a lost soul classic. “Peace In The Land” by the Gospel International Quartet weaves, soul, ska and gospel into one tune. A mercurial guitar run begins the R&B-flavored “Sweet Love of Mine” by Brown Sugar, Inc.
The Relations Gospel Singers recorded the emotive “On My Way Up” at a South Carolina church. The Sensational Gates deliver an amazing version of “Help Me To Understand”. Ann Sexton’s 1971 recording “You’ve Been Gone Too Long” sounds as if it would have fit on any soul collection on STAX Records. A song by the Constellations called “The Frog” emanates a surf music vibe. “Party Time” by Brown Sugar, Inc. culls Motown and Stax into one streamlined sound. Joe Brown sings a convincing version of David Lee’s song “Vision” that retains a timeless quality.
On this collection’s final track, David Lee sings “I’ll Never Get Over Losing You”. This number marries rock, soul and R&B into one countrified composition that should be heard by any musician. Said I Had A Vision proves there’s always a lot of obscure music out there to be heard.