- Love is a very special thing
Born in Columbus, Georgia, Charles Williams – not to be confused with the saxophonist Charles Williams who recorded for Mainstream records – started his musical career very early. He was only six when he had his first performance in a local church. Soon after a short period abroad, his family had moved to San Bernardino, California. Few years later, he started studying classical music at Music Teachers’ Association. By the late 1960s he had switched to rock and soul, and his first public performance from that period was in a religious concert in 1969 in front of 11000 people. And he got standing ovations. After a short period when he had a jazz trio called Sensations, he formed his own soul rock group called Manna. On that group was playing one Billy Carson, who followed Charles to Finland and later played drums and percussion with for example Jukka Tolonen and Timo Kojo. Billy Carson did by the way the first rap recording in Finland with Kojo in 1982 (it was released in 1983 on Kojo’s Time won’t wait album). They also recorded an album with Manna but it never got released - although the raw mix versions got some airplay in California. By the mid 1970s he had already recorded most of the tracks intended for his forthcoming album when he met a Finnish girl in Cali and followed her up north to Finland.
“When I got here I soon realised that there wasn’t that much soul music in Finland. One day I heard Kirka singing his cover of “Living for the city” and it sounded nice to me. I contacted his label (EMI) and I told I had done such music myself. They took my music for listening and they liked it. So next I went to the Marcus Music studio in Stockholm to do the final mixing for the album. Why Stockholm? Because I knew Marcus Music was the place in Scandinavia.”
The band backing Charles Williams on this album (except on “Reason to make you smile”, that was backed by Finnish musicians) was called Psalm 150. They were all white gospel-rock band - although they called themselves funky gospel band. They recorded two albums in mid 1970s but the second one remains unpublished to this very day. Their only album that came out was called Make up your mind and it was released in 1974 by Manna music. It’s also released in Sweden by Pilot if somebody got interested. I guess by the time Love is a very special thing was released, Finland wasn’t ready for soul music as sophisticated as this was. The album sold poorly and the distribution was very minimal, thence the album is extremely rare and in some circles very in demand.
Musically Love is a very special thing is very soulful and calm toned with strings and Williams’ falsetto. It starts with the blaxploitation anthem sounding instrumental “Theme from long road” with strong percussion work by Greg Eckler, wistful strings and very catchy horns stabs. Williams had said that this tune came to his mind while driving his car on a highway. There was nothing good on the radio so he started to hum something he wanted to hear. For me it’s clearly the best track on the album. Next is a guitar heavy ballad called “Helen”. It’s followed by the reason why the record is in demand, the crossover soul track “Standing in the way” where Williams does himself his own backing chorus. “Standing in the way” was also released as 45, but it’s ever rarer than the LP. It was also reissued on 45 by Lifesaver records ten years ago. Last track on side a is another ballad, “Reason to make you smile”, the only track that was composed and recorded in Finland. B-side starts with another funky midtempo soul track “Change it”, which was also on the a side of the “Standing in the way” 45. According to Williams it wasn’t intended to be for dancefloors, it was a reflection of a person shouting ‘I wanna change it’. Next comes again another ballad, the title track “Love is a very special thing” followed by the instrumental of “Standing in the way” called simply “Standing”. Finally the last track, epic ten minute “Your life” ends the album. It’s a main theme from the film Too late to wait - although I’m not sure if such film was ever made. Overall Love is a very special thing is quite a nice album as a listening experience, though I personally don’t consider it worth the 200-300 euros people keep asking for it.
Theme from long road
Standing in the way