Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Albums of 1971: O.V. Wright: A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades


Release Date: 1971

Produced by Willie Mitchell

Track Listing: Don't Let My Baby Ride; Born All Over; Ace of Spades; Eight Men, Four Women; He Made Woman for Man; I Can't Take It; Afflicted; When You Took Your Love From Me; A Nickel and a Nail; Don't Take it Away

In a year of superb soul albums, O.V. Wright's 1971 LP  A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades was among the best.  With The Memphis Horns and the Hi Rhythm Section supporting Wright's passionate vocals, the record is stellar from the opening to closing track. O.V. Wright (1939-1980) was known as one of the great gospel singers who like Sam Cooke transitioned into secular music, building a lasting reputation as one of the great soul performers of the era.

"Don't Let My Baby Ride" is the classic Memphis sound personified with vocals and instrumentation wonderfully playing off each other. "Born All Over" recalls Wright's beginnings in Gospel.  On "Ace of Spades" Wright sings "I ain't no fool/I'm Memphis Cool" in a swaggering soul song. "Eight Men And Four Women" refers to a jury, creating vivid imagery and muses on the lengths one will go for love. "He Made Woman For Man" is a tender hymn of devotion. 

The bluesy "I Can't Take It"  is a lament of loss, "Afflicted" a haunting expression of devotion that turns into obsession. On "When You Took Your Love From Me" Wright intones "I'm a prisoner of your love baby" in another ballad of emotional wreckage. With the horns playing minor chords on "A Nickel and a Nail" reflects on (almost) losing everything and coming out stronger on the other side. "Don't Take it Away" ends the record with a plea for reconciliation. 

The upbeat first side is countered by the more brooding second side emphasizing loss and loneliness, bordering on gothic. Despite legal and personal issues, Wright continued recording throughout the 1970s, passing away from a heart attack at age 41 in 1980. Wright's impressive body of work continues to influence a new generation of soul singers. 

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The Albums of 1971: O.V. Wright: A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades

Release Date: 1971 Produced by Willie Mitchell Track Listing : Don't Let My Baby Ride; Born All Over; Ace of Spades; Eight Men, Four Wom...