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In Tune

Willie Hutch

Real Gone Music 2014

Review by David Bowling

William McKinley Hutchinson (1944-2005), best known by his stage name Willie Hutch, produced over a dozen albums, wrote such songs as “I’ll Be There” for the Jackson Five and “California My Way” for the Fifth Dimension, and scored the music for the films The Mack and Foxy Brown  in a career that spanned over four decades. Yet, he remains little known despite managing to chart a number of singles on the Cashbox Pop and Rhythm & Blues Charts.

During his early 20’s he was primarily a songwriter. The RCA label signed him as a solo artist in the late 1960’s, which resulted in his first two album releases. He released nine albums for Motown, 1973-1977 and 1985 and also served as a staff writer whose songs were recorded by the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and the Miracles.

During the late 1970’s he spent several years with former Motown producer and writer Norman Whitfield’s label. His two albums for the Whitfield label have now been reissued by Real Gone Music.

His first album for the label was issued during 1978 as the disco era was beginning to wane. While In Tune would not match the commercial success of his releases for Motown, it contained a number of excellent tracks that fit the music of the era well.

It is an album that travels in a number of directions and tempos. “All American Funkathon” and “Hip Shakin’ Sexy Lady” are the most modern sounding tracks as they bridge the gap between disco and funk. Pulsating bass with some brass thrown in for good measure are good foundations for Hutch to build his sound.

“Come And Dance With Me” is an energetic disco track complete keyboards and guitar driving the song along through two instrumental interludes. “Paradise” is a string laden ballad. “Easy Does It” is the best example of Hutch’s vocal versatility.

In Tune is in many ways a product of its era. It never settles into one consistent groove, which hurts its cohesiveness but many of the tracks, when approached individually, are excellent in their own right. A good reissue for an under appreciated talent.

Rating: ***

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