Welcome to ISC HiFi. Explore new records daily from our growing collection of classics and rarities from around the world. Discover the stories behind the records. Experience the ISC listening space from home through our (( ROOM RECORDING )) audio player below.

“To hear more, say less.”

Our website uses cookies
Read our privacy policy.

I Agree

Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be: The Sounds of Jazz-Soul Legend Terry Callier

Written By: 
DM
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

A look into the genius singer-songwriter who explored northern soul, “new folk sounds” and jazz, while always flying just below the radar.

Terry Callier seemed destined to play a significant role in the 1970s soul scene. Growing up in Chicago’s north side, he was childhood friends with Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance and Jerry Butler, singing in doo-wop groups through his late teens. He penned tracks for Minnie Riperton in her Rotary Connection days and a few for the extremely popular vocal group the Dells. 

Instead of jumping straight into the vast sea of soul music, though, his debut album was a folk record — albeit one with strange time signatures, the odd use of two basses and informed by the music of John Coltrane. He would later expand this “new folk” style into psychedelic sounds, rhythm and blues, Northern soul and powerful politically inspired vocal jazz.




Below, we present a retrospective on a singular artist with multiple identities, Terry Callier.

The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier (1965)

After gigging in Chicago coffee houses, and even a few shows as a duo with David Crosby, Terry caught Samuel Charters’ attention. Charters, the music historian and multi-label record producer who also discovered a like-minded Joseph Spence in the Bahamas while researching for Folkways, courted Callier to make his debut for Prestige. After these 1962 sessions, however, Charters mysteriously took the tapes and ran off to Mexico. 

The album didn’t see a proper release until three years later, and Callier himself didn’t even know of its release until his brother saw it for sale in a bookstore. A strange series of events, yes, but had it been released in 1962 he most likely would’ve been grouped alongside the folk-revival movement’s greats. The album is full of those traditional lonely folklore tales — but coupled with the abstract Coltrane stylings. Hence the use of double bass, the subtle Eastern tempos and phrasing, and of course, Callier’s deeply haunting voice.   

Terry Callier – Occasional Rain (2000, CD) - Discogs

Occasional Rain (1972)

Having spent most of the late ‘60s writing records for Chess and its subsidiary label Cadet, Callier finally wrote a hit, the Dells’ “The Love We Had Stays On My Mind.” The hit earned him a solo recording contract. He paired up with Charles Stepney, who would produce these next three critically acclaimed yet commercially unsuccessful records. The first, 1972’s Occasional Rain, was his entry into soul music, except added in was his earlier folk sound. The result is a transcendent listen with psychedelic sounds (see the title track), epic orchestration and somber jazz ballads guided by heartache and poetic social awareness.

What Color Is Love' Back On Vinyl For Jazz-Soul Hero Terry Callier |  uDiscover

What Color is Love (1972)

Callier followed up Rain with What Color is Love. It was supposed to be his magnum opus. Initially, he intended it to be a double album but as he was turning it in, Chess Records was sold to the more mainstream-oriented GRP. The new label heads forced Terry to shelve most of the record; only seven tracks survived the cutting room floor. However, those seven proved to be a kaleidoscope of orchestral and psychedelic beauty. Evocative and epic, it summons the spirits of Nina Simone, his childhood friend Curtis Mayfield and, weirdly, the surrealist cowboy production of Lee Hazlewood. The whole of it is one monumental highlight but forced to pick one; we highly recommend you listen to the gorgeous title track.

TERRY CALLIER, Phil Upchurch - I Just Can't Help Myself - Amazon.com Music

I Just Can’t Help Myself (1973)

The final installment in the Stepney partnership was 1973’s I Just Can’t Help Myself. Considering that the previous two records were commercial flops, Terry seemed to rely on sounds of contemporary radio of the time, like his take on Motown soul-funk a la Marvin Gaye. It also features a cover of Duke Ellington’s jazz standard “Satin Doll.”

Terry Callier ‎– Fire On Ice – Vinyl LP – Mr Bongo

Fire On Ice (1978)

After a series of lay-offs and label trades, Callier released his first record for Elektra five years later. The time seemed to change him musically as well; still in the Chicago soul arena, here he takes his first stab at disco with “Disco in the Sky” and R&B in “Love Two Love.” This album may be a misstep, but some highlights include the Gil-Scott-Heron-esque “African Violet” and his tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., “Martin St. Martin.”

Terry Callier – Turn You To Love (1978, Vinyl) - Discogs

Turn You To Love (1979)

Callier returned with s slick and polished funk record produced by one of the Mizell brothers. His first without Chicago-based Musicians, the album includes the funk opener “Sign of the Times,” dressed up reworks of “Occasional Rain” and “Ordinary Joe” and, interestingly, a cover of Steely Dan’s “Do It Again.”

Timepiece | Terry Callier

Timepiece (1992)

“A Major Rediscovery, Jazz-Soul-Legend Terry Callier Returns with New Music for New Times,” reads the CD cover of 1992’s Timepiece. Terry released plenty of noteworthy albums before and after Timepiece, but this is one later period Terry record that sticks out. A return to form and a standout from a “Jazz Soul Legend.”

Related Articles

Sort By
2020
4AD
7"
99 Records
A&M
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Ace Tone
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid House
Acid Punk
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Greenberg
Alice Coltrane
Amazon Music
Ambient
Amoeba Music
Amplifier
Anatolian Rock
Andy Warhol
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Dudley
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Arthur Russell
Article
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Balearic
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bauhaus
Bayou Funk
BBC
BBC Radiophonic
Beats in Space
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Beverly Glenn​-​Copeland
Big Band
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Blues Rock
Bob Marley
Boogie
books
Boredoms
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazil
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Cabaret
CAN
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Cartridges
Casio
Cassette
Cats
CD
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Choral
City Pop
Classical
Coctueau Twins
Compass Point
Compilation
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cosmic
Cosmic Folk
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark Entries
David Bowie
Davida
Deep Dive
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Dennis Bovell
Denon
Detroit
Devotional
Dick Verdult
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
Documentary
Don Cherry
Donald Byrd
Downtempo
Dr. John
Dream House
Dream Pop
Dreamy
Drone
Drum Break
Drum Machine
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dub
dublab
Dubwise
Düsseldorf School
Eames
Earl King
Early Electronic
East African
ECM
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Environmental Music
ESG
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Event
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Fela Kuti
Field recording
Fingertracks
Fishing with John
Fleetwood Sound Company
Floating
Floating Points
Folk
Folk-Rock
Fonts
Fourth World
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Garage Rock
George Martin
Gilberto Gil
Gospel
Grado
Graphic Novel
Group Sounds
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Henry Lewy
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Hidden Gem
Highlife
Hip Hop
history
Holger Czukay
Holiday
Hollywood
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
IDM
In Conversation
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
instock
Instrumental
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Isolation
Italy
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japanese
Jazz
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
John Fahey
Joni Mitchell
Judee Sill
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Keith Haring
Kitty Records
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kosmische
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Lafawndah
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Laurie Spiegel
Leaving Records
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Liquid Liquid
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Luaka Bop
Mad Professor
Marantz
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Melody As Truth
Metal
Mid-Century
Milford Graves
Minako Yoshida
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mizell Brothers
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
Modal
Modern Classical
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
Motown
MPB
Munich
Music Blog
Music from Memory
Music Interior
Music Video
Mwandishi
Narrative
Neptunes
New Age
New Music
New Wave
News
Nico
Nina Simone
No Wave
Noise
Northern Soul
Now Sound
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
On Screen
On-U Sound
online radio
Organic
Organic Music
Ornette Coleman
Ortofon
Oswalds Mill Audio
Outsider Pop
Painting with John
Pandit Pran Nath
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
Paul McCartney
PBS
Pensive
Percussion
Pharoah Sanders
Piano
Pioneer
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Political
Pop
Pop Rock
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Power Pop
Premiere
Private Press
Productions
Professor Longhair
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Psychedelic
Psychedelic Rock
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
R&B
Radio
Rare Groove
rca victor
Receivers
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reissue
Reissues
Remix
Revelation Time
Rock
Roland
Room Recordings
Roots Reggae
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakmoto
Sade
Sam Gendel
Samba
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Sensual
Shamisen
Shoegaze
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Solid State
Songwriting
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Collage
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South African
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Stereophile
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Streaming
Street Soul
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Suzanne Cianni
Suzanne Kraft
Synth
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Takoma Records
Tangerine Dream
Tapes
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
Terry Callier
Terry Riley
The Beatles
The Broad
The Meters
The Mizell Brothers
The Music Center
The World Stage
Thelonious Monk
Third Side Music
Third Stream
This Mortal Coil
Tim Sweeney
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
Tube
TV
Underrated
Vanity Fair
Velvet Underground
Video
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Visible Cloaks
Vocal
Vocoder
Walearic
Wally Badarou
Water
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Yacht Rock
Yasuaki Shimizu
Yellow Magic Orchestra
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither
ISCHiFi ((ROOM RECORDING))
0:00 / 0:00
0:00
0:00