BILLY PRESTON: EVERYBODY LIKES SOME KIND OF MUSIC (1973)
1) Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music; 2) You Are So Unique; 3) How Long Has The Train Been Gone; 4) My Soul Is A Witness; 5) Sunday Morning; 6) You've Got Me For Company; 7) Listen To The Wind; 8) Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music (reprise); 9) Space Race; 10) Do You Love Me; 11) I'm So Tired; 12) It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding; 13) Minuet For Me.
Billy Preston unofficially recommends: if you do not know how to write a good song, write a good concept, and you will have yourself a perfect excuse for each individual instance, because didn't your mother ever explain to you that the sum is always greater than the parts?
And the concept is good out here, because it is quite simple, unambiguous, and universally relevant. "Everybody likes some kind of music" is, after all, a nearly-true statement (especially if we include Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift into the «some kind of music» category), and every nearly-true statement like that can easily do with a concept album built around it. In this particular case, Billy exerts himself in producing a set of songs — all but one written or co-written by himself in person — that represent, one way or another, all the musical genres he had come in touch with over the previous two decades. Not all genres as such — you won't see any Indian ragas or heavy metal on here — but as much as one Billy Preston can handle in half an hour.
The challenge, as such, would be interesting in the hands of any professional artist — even if the ambitions are not supported by actual genius, the diversity of approaches, from the very outset, will stimulate curiosity. Technically, the idea is carried out well: there is never any feeling here that Billy is doing «something he shouldn't ought to», not even when he is pulling a Chopin on ʽMinuet For Meʼ, daring to close the record with a little traditionalist classical composition. But in substantial terms, of course, all of these songs are rather weak on their own.
Besides the «bold» advance into classical territory, tackled genres include: (a) light lounge jazz (ʽHow Long Has The Train Been Goneʼ, perhaps with a slight subtle reference to Duke Ellington); (b) gospel — Billy's mother milk (the fast-paced ʽMy Soul Is A Witnessʼ); (c) country-western — the somewhat deceptive ʽSunday Morningʼ, which starts out totally in ʽOb-La-Di Ob-La-Daʼ mode, but then quickly moves from ska to banjo-adorned cowboy territory; (d) lush pop balladry (ʽYou've Got Me For Companyʼ — as if we didn't realize that already); (e) gritty electronic funk — ʽSpace Raceʼ, a direct, but not as particularly interesting, sequel to ʽOuta Spaceʼ; (f) blues-de-luxe — ʽDo You Love Meʼ, which would eventually serve as the lazy basis for The Rolling Stones' ʽMelodyʼ on Black And Blue; (g) Bob Dylan — with an ominously orchestrated and slightly funkified take on ʽIt's Alright Maʼ which is... alright, I guess.
With the addition of a few «regular» R&B pieces like ʽListen To The Windʼ, this does broaden Billy's usual scope a lot — he'd never ventured into pure jazz or country territory before, let alone classical — and, combined with his ever-present charisma, makes for a fun listen. That said, what the album lacks in the process is one or two standout tracks: all of these exercises are predictably formulaic and, for the most part, exploit progressions that are so standard and so over-abused that it makes no sense whatsoever to discuss the numbers on their own.
As an experiment, the album «makes the grade», but is quite forgettable once the grade has been made — proving, unfortunately, that not only is Billy Preston no John Lennon/Paul McCartney combined, but he ain't even no Todd Rundgren (much as I consider Todd Rundgren seriously overrated by the hipster crowd as an exemplary pop master). That said, Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music got as much soul as any given Billy Preston album, and if you are not into Billy Preston for the soul, I have no idea what else is there that you might be into Billy Preston for. Oh, and the overall production and playing are at the usual high / tasteful level for the early 1970s, but if we are talking 1973, that is to be expected, on the whole.