A principal architect of the Stax/Volt sound, singer/composer William Bell remains best known for his classic “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” one of the quintessential soul records to emerge from the Memphis scene. Born William Yarborough on July 16, 1939, he cut his teeth backing Rufus Thomas, and in 1957 recorded his first sides as a member of the Del Rios. After joining the Stax staff as a writer, in 1961 Bell made his solo debut with the self-penned “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” an archetypal slice of country-soul and one of the label’s first big hits. A two-year Armed Forces stint effectively derailed his career, however, and he did not release his first full-length album, The Soul of a Bell, until 1967, generating a Top 20 hit with the single “Everybody Loves a Winner”; that same year, Albert King also scored with another classic Bell composition, the oft-covered “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
William Bell’s history illustrates just how singles-oriented soul was in the 1960s. Though he’d enjoyed a hit in 1961 with “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” it wasn’t until 1967 that Stax finally released his first album, the magnificent The Soul of a Bell. From that classic and Bell’s moderate hits “Never Like This Before” and “Everybody Loves A Winner” to heartfelt versions of “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” everything on this album (reissued on CD in 1991) illustrates the gospel-drenched richness of Southern soul. Meanwhile, the influence of Motown and the Four Tops is hard to miss on the riveting single “Eloise (Hang On In There),” which should have been a major hit, but surprisingly, never even charted. The 2002 CD reissue adds alternate versions of “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and “Any Other Way”.
by Alex Henderson, allmusic.com
William Bell-THE SOUL OF A BELL (1967)