|VA: - Memphis Boys - The Story Of American Studios
There can be few with an interest in the music of the American South who didn’t welcome the recent publication of Memphis Boys, Roben Jones’ essential history of American Studios.
Established by songwriter-producer Chips Moman and his business partner Don Crews in 1964, it took a couple of years for American to find its true audio identity, but once the in-house group of key musicians – the Memphis Boys of Roben’s title – were all in place the steady trickle of hits and future classics quickly became a flood. Thanks to those players – Tommy Cogbill, Reggie Young, Bobby Emmons, Gene Chrisman, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and others – the American sound became as important a part of recording history as that which emanated from the studios of Motown, Cosimo’s, FAME and Memphis neighbours Sun, Stax and Hi.
The first Hot 100 biggies to be recorded at American – James & Bobby Purify’s ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ and Oscar Toney Jr’s ‘For Your Precious Love’ – were taped at the same session in March 1967, around the same time as Dan Penn was putting the Box Tops through their paces on ‘The Letter’, one of the biggest hits of 1967 and American’s first worldwide chart-topper. Not a bad year by anyone’s standards.
How quickly American’s stock rose in the eyes of others – particularly the companies that used the studio and the Memphis Boys on a regular basis – can be assessed by the fact that, by 1968, American was entertaining a client roster that included Neil Diamond, Petula Clark, B.J. Thomas, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield and a local boy by the name of Elvis Presley who was looking to make his music as relevant as it had been 15 years earlier.
Although this collection doesn’t contain every major hit that came out of the funky little studio on Thomas Street, Memphis (we’re saving some for a possible second volume), as a listening experience it’s hard to beat – particularly when enjoyed in conjunction with Roben’s brilliant book.
By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2012||CD||17.00 €
|VA: - More Miles Than Money 2CD
More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music is a book I researched and wrote between 2006-2008. In many ways I’d been waiting my entire life to write More Miles. Growing up in Mt Roskill – a working class suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, where there were no music venues, cinemas, pubs, nothing but churches and rugby fields – I took refuge in Mark Twain and Jack Kerouac’s adventures while AM radio (modelled on US radio) spun hits by Freddy Fender, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Little Feat et al. I dreamed of escaping Auckland’s suburbs to ride Route 66 and Highway 61, ears and eyes open. Eventually I got to live my dream and More Miles is the story of those travels.
I didn’t know it back then but Kiwi radio was often playing music akin to that which Charlie Gillett played on his Honky Tonk radio show in London. Discovering Charlie’s book The Sound Of The City sent me scouring through secondhand bookstores in search of old copies of Cream, Creem and Let It Rock, where the writings of Charlie and other likeminded journalists appeared. I’d go so far as to say that a feature Charlie wrote on the great New Orleans producer-arranger Harold Battiste (Cream #5, Sept 1971) was what initially inspired me to want to search out the largely unsung heroes of American music.
At the same time as reading Charlie Gillett I was buying US imports on a variety of labels, with Arhoolie being my favourite. Mexican culture fascinated me, especially that which arose from the borderlands, the Tex-Mex/Tejano music. (Blame this on my dad taking me to see Sam Peckinpah’s westerns.) Discovering a bin full of Arhoolie Records in a downtown record shop introduced me to a treasure trove of magical Mexican American music and reading about Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz’s efforts to record the finest American vernacular music provided even more inspiration. Later on, Canyon Records would open my ears to how Native American culture celebrated its survival. Around the same time an uncle who loved jazz gave me Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” album – he found it too funky for his tastes. Talk about life-changing records: to this day Curtis remains my favourite US soul singer.
I dedicated More Miles Than Money to Charlie, Chris and the indomitable spirit of Curtis Mayfield. Tragically, Charlie died earlier this year. He, like Curtis, lives on as an indomitable spirit and continues to inspire me. This compilation is, again, dedicated to Charlie, Chris and Curtis: the three Cs who helped me hear America.
More Miles Than Money reflects on an America that made the mightiest music of the 20th Century. This compilation aims then to salute those who inspired me to ride US highways and document those I encountered as I wandered through honky-tonks, juke joints and barrios. Enjoy!
By Garth Cartwright (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2010||CD||20.00 €
|VA: - Next Stop Is Vietnam - The War On Record 1961-2008
(13-CD set, LP-sized slipcase with 304page hardcover book. 334 tracks, playing time: more than 16h:49min). The most comprehensive anthology of music inspired by the Vietnam War ever released. Over 330 titles covering all facets of the war and its aftermath featuring The Doors, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Country Joe McDonald and dozens of other artists. Rarely heard documentary material including patriotic Public Service Announcements, field news reports and intercepted North Vietnamese radio transmissions of Jane Fonda and Hanoi Hannah. A heavily illustrated, full-colour 304-page book containing extensive artist/song notes, Vietnam War history and recollections by vets on their favourite songs. Two discs of music exclusively by Vietnam veterans. Never-before-released tracks recorded during the war by in-country soldiers. Mister, Where Is Vietnam ...NEXT STOP IS VIETNAM: The War On Record, 1961-2008 is a stunning, years-in-the-making anthology of the Vietnam War's musical legacy. Presented on 13 CDs with a 304-page book illustrated with numerous archival photographs, this collection examines the war in a powerful and unprecedented way. Over 330 music and spoken word tracks take the listener through a guided tour of this epochal period of modern history. From America's first, na‹ve impressions of a country called Vietnam through the spirited musical debate over the morality of the war to the healing meditations on the conflict's lengthy aftermath, this set captures it all and more. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez,Merle Haggard, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, Johnny Cash, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, The Doors, Country Joe McDonald and dozens of other artists including many Vietnam veterans are the tour guides through this enlightening and entertaining journey. - The full-color book that accompanies the music is packed with information on the songs and the artists who recorded them by music scholar Hugo A. Keesing; a history of the war by Vietnam historian Lois T. Vietri; and an oral history of the tunes that 'incountry' vets loved best by authors Doug Bradley and Craig Werner. The introduction to this remarkable tome is written by the legendary Country Joe McDonald. Strap in for a long and fascinating ride ...NEXT STOP IS VIETNAM.
|Bear Family 2010||CD-Box||200.00 €
|VA: - Rural Blues Vol. 3 Down Home Stomp
|BGO Records 1999||CD||15.00 €
|VA: - Saint Etienne Present Songs for The Dog & Duck
Ace have never previously put out any CDs featuring UK glam rock next to rockabilly and sweet soul: I’m sure not many people thought we ever would. But this is the soundtrack to an evening in a Soho boozer - an eclectic selection of great music across the pop oeuvre on an imaginary jukebox stationed in a (real) pub called the Dog And Duck. Bob Stanley and his Saint Etienne team-mates, Dog And Duck habitués, have picked their dream musical moments to accompany a night of serious drinking and pop philosophising.
The mood is set with a catchy early 60s pop instrumental by KPM regular John Scott, whose ‘Hi Flutin’ Boogie’ sounds like it came from a TV series that I know really well, but can’t for the life of me think which. It was produced by someone called George Martin apparently. This is followed by one of those great, quirky, UK pop numbers, though admittedly written by US citizen Randy Newman. It’s performed by London music biz veteran Duffy Power and comes complete with flugelhorns; quite a departure for an erstwhile rocker.
Now I knew that the Heavenly crowd had a soft spot for girl groups and the inclusion of the Darlettes’ ‘Lost’ is an expected treat, cunningly followed by Bettye’s ‘Make Me Yours’; clever, these guys could be DJs if the day job slows down. Next up is home territory for me, Herbert Hunter’s Nashville-created, Northern England-acclaimed dance number, ‘I Was Born To Love You’. Who said northerners ain’t got soul?
Then it’s back to the girls, though Claudine Clark’s husky tones don’t have the sweet allure of her backing vocalists. She was singing about a burial ground, so perhaps she had a fright. Texas rockers Elroy Dietzel & the Rhythm Bandits hit us with some good ole rock’n’roll swiftly followed up by Hal Harris’ hiccoughing rockabilly portrait of his ‘Jitterbop Baby’. That sounds like perfect pub music for a Saturday night tear-up to me. Rocker Little Richard gives us a later-career, soul-party stomper from his Vee-Jay era, neatly illustrated by a rare demo that was flown in all the way from our basement warehouse for scanning: thanks Simon. The song wasn’t officially released until 1970; these popsters sure know their onions.
I could have guessed they would have gone for some Zombies. ‘She Does Everything For Me’ is a great choice. Colin Blunstone’s unique vocals get me every time. It’s so clean. A Northern Soul ender is more of a shock, but the well-crafted song and superb production on Dan Folger’s ‘The Way Of The Crowd’ deserves to be appreciated across the genres.
Then there was Bill Oddie. Stranger things have happened, but not many. Who would have thought the ex-Goodie and bird-peeper would be appearing on Ace, especially as a serious artist? And he’s actually good at both the writing and performing end of this very different discipline; the song could have come straight out of the Brill. A shock of that magnitude needs to be followed by some solid ground and our Mary (Ms Love) and her evergreen soul staple ‘Lay This Burden Down’ is just that. Fellow Kent stable-mate Little Ann then provides the enigmatic ‘Sweep It Out In The Shed’, courtesy of Dave Hamilton’s Detroit master tapes and she is followed in turn by the prettily-voiced Barbara Lewis on ‘How Can I Tell You’. I must have missed out on that one first and second time around; it’s wonderful, but I’m not sure I should be getting soul lessons from indie rockers.
Barbara’s track does have a pop sensibility link, with Brian Hyland and Del Shannon having written it; the next musical leap to ex-Box Top Alex Chilton’s tender ‘The EMI Song’ is seamless. I still haven’t figured out what it’s about but I’m very glad to have been turned on to it. What’s not to like about Sniff’n’The Tears’ ‘Driver’s Seat’? Nothing: but now it’s on a hip compilation you’re allowed to hum it in public. From out of the left field comes an RAK B-side ‘Flight 2’ by Angelo & Eighteen which takes me back to the fascinating rhythms of John Kongos’ hit ‘Tokoloshe Man’. Glam-inspired Mustard used the approved super solid beat of the day by presumably using a couple of drummers and getting anyone passing the studio to come on in and clap and stomp; it’s infectious enough to kickstart a revival. Or perhaps it already was a revival, Gino with Johnny Greek’s ‘Hand Clappin’ Time’ was recorded a decade before, but sounds right in the same bag. Jump back another six years and Huey Smith was already ‘Having A Good Time’.
That’s three rave-ups in a row, so it’s time for a smoocher and it comes from the unlikely Ohio Players. Those cats were associated with spaced-out funk, but their paean to a lay-dee named Varee is in the classic soul lover ballad, complete with rap intro and some sweet shoop-shooping setting the mood behind a killer lead. That sort of quality didn’t happen overnight and we are shown the roots of slow dance in Robert & Johnny’s intense drama ‘We Belong Together’. There’s more lingering melody from the redoubtable Les Paul & Mary Ford with the now socially taboo ‘Smoke Rings’ which leads us neatly to the moody 70s smash ‘Pinball’ by Brian Protheroe. It’s OK, you can admit you like it too, it’s just passed its silver jubilee.
Eclectic, esoteric, inspired? I’m not sure which, but like Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, a lot of people are about to discover some very fine new music.
By Ady Croasdell (ACE RECORDS)
|Ace Records 2009||CD||17.00 €
|VA: - Shadow Morton Story - Sophisticated Boom Boom
“Producers are quirky, conceptual people,” David Johansen of the New York Dolls once said. Few fit that description better than George “Shadow” Morton, whose career we celebrate in this latest addition to our long-running Producers series.
When news reached Shadow this collection of his productions was in development, he let it be known he would like to be involved in the project. I was provided with his email address, along with a password for use in the subject line of all communications, to guarantee a response. I fired off a quick (quite gushing) email asking for an official interview, to which he readily consented, requesting that I address him as Shadow. Over the ensuing months, I sent some leading questions, which he duly answered, although his replies were invariably a long time coming. He deserved that nickname of his, I thought. With a trip to the USA on my horizon, in hope of moving things along, I plucked up the courage to phone and ask if it would be possible to meet in person, to which he again agreed. Then nothing. My trip came and went and further emails remained unanswered. My initial disappointment turned to sadness a few months later when I heard Shadow had died.
The fruits of our unfortunately curtailed correspondence are contained in the CD’s accompanying booklet, together with excerpts from earlier interviews conducted by Richard Arfin, Bob Goodman, Lenny Kaye, Ralph M Newman and Genya Ravan, all of whom deserve commending for jobs well done. Our combined efforts enable the enigmatic producer/songwriter’s story to be told in full for the first time.
The collection covers Shadow’s career from his debut as lead vocalist with the Markeys and the Lonely Ones through to the New York Dolls’ “Too Much Too Soon” album. Also included are tracks by the Beattle-ettes, Shangri-Las, Goodies, Ellie Greenwich, Shaggy Boys, Nu-Luvs, Janis Ian, Blues Project, Vanilla Fudge, Vagrants, Iron Butterfly and Mott The Hoople – everything from 1950s doo wop to 1970s glam-punk via girl group melodramas and Long Island psychedelia. In other words, a very varied listening experience.
Along with a 12,000-word essay, the sumptuously illustrated 36-page booklet features many rare photographs, including some supplied by the Morton family.
By Mick Patrick (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2013||CD||20.00 €
|VA: - Shattered Dreams - Funky Blues 1967-1978
As soul became the music of black America in the late 60s, blues performers had to adapt to survive. Playing to the white rock crowd was an attractive option, but in hundreds of sweaty, run-down clubs across the US an older urban black audience was still there to be entertained. Blues musicians made a few concessions to the age, added funk licks and a few soul screams and created some seriously good music, which has often been ignored by blues scholars. “Shattered Dreams” is BGP’s celebration of that period.
In recent years funky blues has become a sought-after genre, especially with younger collectors. Numbers such as Finis Tasby’s ‘It Took A Long Time’, Slim Green’s ‘Shake It Up’ and Buddy Guy’s ‘I’m Not The Best’ can all fill a dancefloor with their wild energy. The blues guys could certainly hit a groove, but if this CD captures anything it is a sense of despair you can hear as Smokey Wilson sings ‘You Shattered My Dreams’ – despair for an age that was fading away.
Drawn from the vaults of such influential players as Stax, Modern and legendary producer Johnny Otis, this is exciting music from major names such as Little Milton, Lowell Fulson and Albert King, all using the nous gathered through years on the chitlin’ circuit to keep themselves relevant to record-buying audiences of the day. Elsewhere we have some terminally obscure names and cult heroes. Finis Tasby and Smokey Wilson create music of great worth that was rarely heard at the time, never mind 40 years later. This is music that has been hidden away, sometimes ignored for being neither one thing nor the other.
Put “Shattered Dreams” in the player and you will very quickly be brought into a world of older guys still making it in the world. There is a lot of tough talk, but despite being cool, they are still stuck in a world of trouble full of women that make it hard for them, or who are trying to use them. Listen to Albert King on ‘Playin’ On Me’ and you are listening to a man expounding themes that wouldn’t sound out of place on rap records recorded decades later. The same could be said of Smokey Wilson’s previously unreleased ‘High Time’ or Arthur K Adams’ ‘Gimme Some Of Your Lovin’’.
These 21 tracks define an era when bluesmen were not the big stars they had been a decade or so earlier, struggling to keep it together in a world where their music was fast becoming a thing of the past.
By Dean Rudland (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2011||CD||17.00 €
|VA: - Smoke That Cigarette
1-CD digipack with 52-page booklet, 32 tracks, playingtime :87:34) 30 vintage cigarette-related recordings from 1940s & '50s Unprecedented combination of hillbilly and pop music, including ultra-rare tracks Includes original cigarette ads from Golden Age of radio Fully illustrated notes on society's changing views towards cigarette smoking -- As long as people have smoked cigarettes, they have written and sung songs about them. And few things have changed as dramatically as our attitudes towards smoking and smokers. Those changing attitudes are reflected in the unique collection of Smoking Songs we present here. It's a pretty amazing cross section at that, drawn mostly from the 1940s and '50s with an emphasis on hillbilly and pop music. No matter how you slice it, this is the first time that Frank Sinatra, Rev. J. M. Gates and Little Jimmy Dickens have appeared on the same compilation. And you can throw in Patsy Cline and Homer & Jethro for good measure. And what could bring them together as easily as cigarettes' -- Sit back and listen as smoking and cigarettes changed from telling the world how sexy and sophisticated you are to' well, let's just say to something less than socially desirable. Back a half a century ago that cigarette turned you into a cool, hard-boiled chick magnet. The woman' Smoking made her an alluring creature of mystery, as smoke swirled all around her. The cigarettes' They started out as sleek and romantic phallic symbols, and ended up being toxic and deadly ' colloquially referred to as 'cancer sticks.' -- All this happened almost overnight, and there is no shortage of music to document it. In addition to 30 wonderful tracks, we include some vintage cigarette ads from the Golden Age of radio. Remember, nine out of 10 doctors agree that smoking is good for you. Whether you want to be John Wayne, Marlon Brando or Frank Sinatra, the quickest path to ultra-cool is that pack of smokes in your hand. And here are the songs to prove it. Many of these tracks are quite rare, including Peggy Lee's original version of her classic tune, Don't Smoke In Bed, or the extraordinary 1939 recording of Rev. J. M. Gates' sermon about the evils of a SmokingWoman In The Street. This memorable collection also includes humorous and informative notes on society's changing views towards cigarette smoking by music historian Hank Davis, accompanied by an assortment of smoky vintage images.
|Bear Family 2010||CD||18.00 €
|VA: - So Much Love - A Darlene Love Anthology 1958-1998
24 gems from the remarable recording career of queen bee session singer turned Broadway star Darlene Love, featurin solo sides, tracks fronting the Blossoms in their various guises, movie soundtrack songs and tree great previously unissued performances
|Ace Records 2008||CD||17.00 €
|VA: - South Texas Rhythm 'n' Soul Revue
Huey Meaux recorded more soul music in the 60s and 70s than any other producer in Texas, leasing some of it to nationally distributed labels such as Jamie and Scepter and issuing even more of it on the dozens of labels he ran in conjunction with various business partners. He wasn’t the only producer in South Texas but the number of singles that bear the legend Produced by Huey P Meaux could fool anyone into thinking he was.
Many of soul’s greatest names got their break with the Crazy Cajun. Some worked with him for only a short time, others such as Barbara Lynn stayed with him for virtually all of their active careers. If Don Robey’s Duke and Peacock labels shaped the template for 50s R&B in Houston, then hundreds of 45s that Huey put out between 1960 and 1980 provided the same service for those decades.
For the last couple of years, my colleague Alec Palao and I have been working our way through the beautifully-filed tape vault in Houston’s Sugar Hill studios, transferring the many masters that comprise Huey’s recorded legacy. It’s been a rewarding experience and a learning curve for both of us. This volume of “South Texas Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue” is a welcome by-product of our trips.
Some names here will be familiar to serious soul fans: Johnny Copeland, Johnny Adams, Jean Knight, Jackie Paine and Joe Medwick, for example. Others will surely become much better-known as a result of this compilation. To represent all facets of 60s Texas soul we’ve also included great sides by swamp pop greats such as Warren Storm, whose take on ‘Tennessee Waltz’ is a highlight of the set, and Chicano octet Sunny and the Sunliners who do Earl King’s ‘Trick Bag’ a similarly splendid service. We’ve even got young Johnny and Edgar Winter tearing through ‘Out Of Sight’ in a manner that would make James Brown himself proud.
The highlights for many will be the recently unearthed original demos of soul classics ‘Neighbor Neighbor’ and ‘You’ll Lose A Good Thing’ by their authors, Alton Valier and Barbara Lynn respectively, which offer a priceless opportunity to hear how these songs sounded before they became hits. All in all, a window on what the music scene in and around Houston was like almost 50 years ago.
By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2013||CD||18.00 €
|VA: - The Best Of The Johnny Cash TV Show
The Very Best Of Johnny's 1969-1971 variety tv-shows.
|Sony Bmg 2007||CD||13.00 €
|VA: - The Big Beat - The Dave Bartholomew Songbook
Great songs really do take on a life of their own and very often, unbeknownst to their creators, they’re discovered and interpreted by a wide range of different artists. One of the unexpected pleasures that Ace’s Songwriters series affords is underlining just how many styles and directions key compositions of yesteryear have taken. This collection of songs by New Orleans’ very own Dave Bartholomew is no exception as it weaves its way through 25 tracks of varied origins and labels.
Two of Dave’s own recordings provide essential listening, led off by his original of the double-entendre-filled ‘My Ding-A-Ling’, which he later re-cut several times with different lyrics and which provided the template for Chuck Berry’s revival two decades later. Then you’ll find the much-revered parable ‘The Monkey’, which Elvis Costello memorably reworked some years back. Dave’s rich-toned narrative reigns supreme and is a cornerstone of his Imperial Records output.
The set opens with ‘The Fat Man’ by Fats Domino and, although the technical limitations of that 1949 session are still obvious, the vibrancy of the performance is undeniable. Fats once told me that after Imperial-owner, Lew Chudd, received the master, he called and asked him to re-cut it, but a couple of days later he rang again to say he’d changed his mind and it was OK! Was that an understatement or what?!
Other milestone Bartholomew productions featured here include Roy Brown’s hard-hitting version of ‘Let The Four Winds Blow’ (which Dave had first cut himself) and the gloriously prophetic ‘I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday’ as styled by Bobby Mitchell and co-authored by hillbilly singer Roy Hayes.
As much as the multi-talented Bartholomew was writing, recording and producing in the Crescent City throughout the 1950s and beyond, his influence was being felt all over the musical world. This was clearly evident on the Johnny Burnette Trio’s rockabilly workout of Fats Domino’s 1955 charter ‘All By Myself’. Similarly, listen how effortlessly Jerry Lee Lewis slides into ‘Hello Josephine’ and how ‘I’m In Love Again’ fits Tom Rush like a well-worn rhythmic glove. Bartholomew was not aware at the time how influential and popular his music was in Jamaica. Neville Grant’s take on Chris Kenner’s ‘Sick And Tired’ provides ultimate proof that Dave’s big beat was perfectly adaptable to the reggae style.
Another standout delight is the previously unissued cover by Annie Laurie of ‘3 x 7 = 21’, which Dave originally wrote and produced for Jewel King. The song became a benchmark in the Bartholomew catalogue and was successfully reworked as ‘21’ in 1954 by the Spiders, the group that cut the first version of ‘Witchcraft’, which Elvis Presley turned into a 1963 chart success, also included here.
I must mention two other standouts: ‘Every Night About This Time’ by the World Famous Upsetters, which offers undeniable proof of Little Richard’s ability as a first-class blues wailer, and Dave Edmunds’ 1971 hit remake of “I Hear You Knocking’, which perfectly contemporised the song without diluting the memory of Smiley Lewis’ unbeatable original.
By Alan Warner (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2011||CD||17.00 €
|VA: - The Fame Studios Story 3CD
The acronym is F-A-M-E, but it may as well be S-O-U-L.
It was a full half-century ago that the recording studio, record label and publishing operation originally known as Florence Alabama Music Enterprises established itself and its trademark sound with the hit recording of ‘You Better Move On’ by Arthur Alexander. In the fifty years since, FAME Studios and its idiosyncratic founder Rick Hall have been at the forefront of the Muscle Shoals Sound. FAME begat the process whereby a little known Alabama backwater would evolve into the very crucible of southern soul, a holy place to where musicians, singers and fans still make a very specific pilgrimage in the hope of experiencing a little bit of the magic behind so many hit records: ‘I’m Your Puppet’, ‘Land Of 1,000 Dances’, ‘Tell Mama’ and countless others.
Rick Hall is now a grand old man of the music business, but back in the 60s he was more akin to an enfant terrible, with an unbending will that helped him make it against almost insurmountable odds, matched by an attention to detail that bordered on obsession. There have only ever been a handful of truly self-sufficient producer/engineers in the history of popular music, and Hall is pre-eminent amongst them. Atlantic, Chess and so many other legendary labels flocked to FAME to avail themselves of the sound, the players, the material, and most importantly the vibe that Rick Hall had created.
The FAME Studios Story 1961-1973 is an exhaustive three CD set derived from two years’ worth of excavations by the intrepid Ace team at the hallowed FAME vault. The result is a full programme of FAME-related releases slated for issue on Ace, Kent, and BGP over the next couple of years, but the lynchpin is this definitive anthology that focuses upon the halcyon days of the studio and the label. It’s an open-minded, celebratory overview that, across 75 tracks, spotlights both artists and records that are either acknowledged greats, or lesser known – yet no less worthy – entries in the lexicon of soul.
The line-up is a virtual Who’s Who of 60s soul, and includes Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Arthur Conley, Irma Thomas, Joe Tex, Joe Simon, Lou Rawls, Spencer Wiggins and Otis Clay. Deep soul fans will recognise names such as The Blues Busters, Billy Young, Maurice & Mac, Willie Hightower, Bettye Swann, James Govan and many, many others. Special attention is paid to those acts closely associated with the Fame label - Candi Staton, Jimmy Hughes and Clarence Carter - as well as its inestimable stable of writers, producers and players, including Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, George Jackson and the Fame Gang. And the programme also includes several of the notable pop hits recorded at the studio by the Osmonds, Tommy Roe and Bobbie Gentry, as well as more obscure recordings by the Del Rays, Mark V and Terry & The Chain Reaction.
With unprecedented access granted to its tape and photo archive, well over a third of the contents of The FAME Studio Story 1961-1973 are new to CD, and of those, over a dozen tracks are fully unissued – including previously unheard rarities by Otis Redding and Arthur Alexander. The heavily-illustrated package with an 84 page book comes laden with two informative essays and extensive track notes, all of which are based upon fresh interviews with many of the principals involved.
If you know anything about soul music, you know FAME, which is why The FAME Studio Story 1961-1973 is an essential purchase.
By Alec Palao (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2011||2-CD||40.00 €
|VA: - The Music City Story 3CD
Ray Dobard’s Music City Records of Berkeley, California, across the Bay from San Francisco, is a catalogue of mythic proportions that has been cherished for decades by a small hardcore of R&B, vocal group and, latterly, soul fanatics. Based on the available evidence – 50-odd 45 and 78rpm releases – and a lot of hearsay and rumour, many have spent hours fantasising about the purported riches in the possession of its famously protective, zealous owner.
Ace Records is thus proud to unlock the Music City vault for the edification and entertainment of the world at large with the 3CD set “The Music City Story”, an unprecedented survey of the label’s 25-year operation, and an excellent primer for Ace’s forthcoming genre- and artist-based compilations of Music City material, telling the story with many rare gems from the catalogue and a surfeit of previously unissued goodies.
Although Ray Dobard experimented with recording a variety of genres, the legend of Music City is predicated on its role as a premier exponent of black rhythm and blues styles, with a strong regional flavour. Most significantly, the sound of Music City was street. Much of what appeared on the label and lies in its voluminous cache of unreleased recordings can be said to reflect the evolution of black popular music between the early 50s and the mid-1970s. It reflects reality: this is what was heard in clubs and juke joints, at high school auditoria and rec centres, rent parties or literally out on the sidewalk, with all the dissonance and unoriginality that might imply, but matched equally by huge, invigorating dollops of innocence and exuberance, and a surprising amount of inspiration.
Amongst the set’s 78 tracks are names familiar to doo wop and blues collectors – the Crescendos, Gaylarks, Rovers, 5 Lyrics, Alvin Smith etc – while behind several others lurk famous names (James Brown, Lou Rawls) or others soon to be famous (Sugar Pie DeSanto, members of Sly & the Family Stone). From the raucous jump blues of Del Graham’s ‘Your Money Ain’t Long Enough’ to the hip street soul of Darondo, the breadth of genres represented is extensive, but the overall emphasis in “The Music City Story” is upon the black vocal group, be it 50s, 60s or 70s vintage. It is the rich seam of Bay Area groups mined by Music City that collectors most closely associate with the label. Dobard had only a couple of minor hits – the 4 Deuces’ popular ‘W-P-L-J’, Johnny Heartsman’s raucous ‘Johnny’s House Party’ – but kept the tape machine running pretty much constantly for much of his quarter-century in the business.
It has been many years since as significant a stash as Music City’s has come to light, and accompanying the tantalising musical treats is an extensive, heavily-illustrated sleeve note detailing the label’s history. Given that the late Dobard was notorious evasive, an air of mystery has always surrounded his activities in music, but this is the first time a recounting of the Music City saga has been based upon hard data, rather than supposition. Documents, letters, tape box annotations, discographical notes, session chatter, even recorded phone conversations form a considerable body of evidence, that helps bring into focus what this fiercely independent and pioneering black entrepreneur achieved. Ray was no Dootsie Williams or Jake Porter, but nevertheless, a picture emerges of a fascinatingly complex figure, whose role in the black music scene in the mid-20th century cannot be discounted. As venerable East Bay bandleader Johnny Talbot puts it, “to me, Ray Dobard was the foundation of Bay Area music. There was hardly anyone who did anything later who didn’t bump into Ray, so he had to be a foundation.”
By Alec Palao (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2011||CD-Box||40.00 €
|VA: - We'll Play The Blues For You
18 biisiä Staxin soulia - mm ALbert King, Little Sonny, John Lee Hooker, Rufus Thomas, Mable John jne
|Stax Records 2004||CD||12.00 €
|VA: - Wild Thing - The Songs Of Chip Taylor
Chip Taylor is the subject of the latest addition to our songwriter-based series. He can boast two career songs – ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Angel Of The Morning’ – both of which have been recorded countless times and are considered to be among the greatest of their decade. Chip’s collaborations with Ted Daryll, Al Gorgoni, Jerry Ragovoy, Wes Farrell and Billy Vera are no less revered. When Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Peggy Lee record your songs, you know you’re doing something right.
The Troggs open our show with ‘Wild Thing’. The song is indelibly associated with Reg Presley and his cohorts, but Chip was commissioned to write it for the Wild Ones. He doesn’t care for the original, “They took the power of the song and diminished it,” but loves the Troggs’ recording, “A right funky record. You couldn’t beat that. It was like my demo, except they played it with an electric guitar.” (Find the Wild Ones’ version on our recent collection “You Heard It Here First” CDCHD 1204.)
To many the most significant recipient of Chip’s compositions is Evie Sands. “She had this honey voice that was one of a kind. How could you ever not love that, every minute, working with her, rehearsing with her, producing her.” Given half a chance we’d have filled this CD with her tracks, but had to narrow the choice to just two – the feisty ‘Run Home To Your Mama’ and her stunning original of ‘I Can’t Let Go’. Three others represent her by proxy: ‘Picture Me Gone’ (in a splendiferous version by Madeline Bell), ‘Angel Of The Morning’ (Merrilee Rush’s hit rendition) and ‘Any Way That You Want Me’ (Evie’s breakthrough song, heard here in a recording by Tina Mason from three years earlier).
All but three of our selection were recorded between 1964 and 1968. Closing the proceedings are three of Chip’s most important 1970s compositions: ‘Son Of A Rotten Gambler’ by the Hollies, ‘Blackbird (Hold Your Head High)’ by black country singer Stoney Edwards and Chip’s own recording of the autobiographical ‘(I Want) The Real Thing’. Chip can also be heard as Kathy McCord’s uncredited singing partner. Other highlights include Lorraine Ellison’s ultra-soulful ‘Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)’, the delicious ‘Make Me Belong To You’ by Barbara Lewis, the original demo of ‘Storybook Children’, sung by its co-writer Billy Vera with Nona Hendryx, and Walter Jackson’s version of the oft-recorded ‘Welcome Home’, one of Chip’s favourites.
The booklet includes a 7,000-word essay, much of it in Chip’s own words. He comes across as not only one of the greatest songwriters in the business, but also one of the nicest guys. If this compilation sparks an interest in his more recent activities, his book Songs From A Dutch Tour, which comes with a disc of new songs, might be the place to begin. To hear some of the tracks he cut as teenage rocker Wes Voight in the late 50s, check out the Ace CD “King of Rock’n’Roll” CDCHD 975. As we go to press we hear that Chip has been ill. We hope that “Wild Thing” will serve as a get well soon card and help speed the recovery of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the past 50 years.
BY MICK PATRICK (Ace Records)
|Ace Records 2009||CD||17.00 €
|VA: - Zell's Girls
28 tracks collection of rare girlgroup, R&B, doowop and soul sides from Zell's, Baton and Dice recordings 1955-1970
|Ace Records 2007||CD||17.00 €
|Walter "Shakey" Horton - Live
recorded live at the Union Bar, Jan 20, 1979, Minneapolis, MN
|Pacific Blues 1999||CD||18.00 €
|Wayne Cochran - Get Down With It !
Georgia born Wayne Cochran - the blue-eyed soul sensation who influenced Otis, Redding, Elvis and The Blues Brothers. The white knight of soul music. Recordings from 1959-1972
|Raven Records||CD||20.00 €
|William Clarke - The Early Years Vol. 1
With: Hollywood Fats, Smokey Wilson, Junior Watson, Cardell Boyette and George "Harmonica" Smith. Tracks from 1978-1985. Some unissued before
|William Clarke - The Early Years Vol. 2
with Ronnie Earl, Johnny Dyer, Mitch Kashmar, Rasheed Abdullah and George "Harmonica" Smith.
|Wilson Pickett - The Best Of
|Atlantic Records||CD||10.00 €
GOOFIN' RECORDS 30th Anniversary Party
LEVYMESSUT / TAPAHTUMAT
GOOFIN' RECORDS TULEVIA JULKAISUJA