2008 audio CD release< read all 1 reviews
I began my lifelong obsession of collecting records in the spring of 1965.
There were so many amazing sounds emanating out of our little transistor radios in those days. There was folk, the British invasion, Motown and so much more. It was an exciting time to be a teen! Right around this time a phenomenal 23 year sax player burst onto the scene. His real name was Autry Dewalt II. His stage name was Junior Walker and his backup group was known as the All Stars. Junior Walker played a brand of sax that I never heard before and frankly have never heard since. The 2008 single disc compilation "Junior Walker and the All Stars: The Definitive Collection" offers up a total of 18 of the groups biggest and best hits. This is a collection that is long overdue.
Junior Walker had signed on with Harvey Fuqua's Harvey label back in 1962. His earliest recordings were primarily blues instrumentals. When one of them, a tune called "Cleo's Mood" began to catch on, Fuqua realized that he did not have the wherewithal to promote and distribute the record properly. And so it was that Harvey records was folded into Berry Gordy Jr.'s Motown juggernaut. Junior Walker and the All Stars were on their way to becoming national recording stars. In February of 1965 Motown released a single called "Shotgun". The disc was an instant smash and climbed all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. Not only was Junior Walker featured on sax on this record but he also sang lead. Over the next few years Junior Walker and the All Stars would amass an impressive total of 21 charted singles. And as you might expect they were even bigger on the R & B charts. You will find all of the groups biggest hits on "The Definitive Collection" including "(I'm A) Road Runner", "Do The Boomerang" as well as the 1966 hit recording of "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)". Although this tune was a hit for Marvin Gaye in 1964 and once again for James Taylor nearly a decade later I believe that the Junior Walker version is the better one by far.
As time goes on tastes change and so it was that in 1969 Motown assigned a brand new producer to Junior Walker and the All Stars. Johnny Bristol correctly perceived that audiences were now looking for a bit of a softer sound. The results were a handful of terrific singles that included the group's biggest hit of all-time "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" from the summer of '69 as well as tunes like "Gotta Hold On To This Feeling" and a clever and pleasing reworking of the Guess Who's "These Eyes". Sadly, the groups last chart appearance was in 1972. There was only one more time that Junior Walker's classic sax could be found on a hit record. Foreigner's 1981 hit single "Urgent" featured a brief sax solo that was vintage Junior Walker.
We lost Junior Walker to cancer in 1995. But he left us with an impressive body of work. "Junior Walker and the All Stars: The Definitive Collection" is probably the best collection of this classic Motown group that I have ever seen. I enjoyed perusing the informative 12 page booklet that we included. Junior Walker ranks right up there with King Curtis and Earl Bostic as one of the greatest saxophone players in the history of rock and roll. If you love the sax as much as I do then I urge you to give this one a listen. Highly recommended!
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