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Al King & Arthur K Adams - Together - The Complete Kent And Modern Recordings
It’s true that we don’t release as many CDs of R&B and blues as we used to, for a variety of reasons, but Ace’s commitment to those genres remains strong. We’ll be stepping up our schedule in 2011 with several releases already planned for the early months of the year, including a further volume in the well-received “Mellow Cats & Kittens” series and a package of rare and unreleased 60s and 70s Ted Taylor material from Ronn. The next volume of material from John Dolphin’s tapes will also appear this side of next summer. Meanwhile, as a real end of year treat, we bring you, for the first time in once place, the complete Kent and Modern recordings of two west coast bluesmen whose work for the Bihari brothers has long been ripe for reappraisal – Al King and Arthur K Adams.

“Together” contains at least one version of every track that the two recorded for Kent-Modern between 1966 and 1969. Although Arthur’s tracks lean more towards soul than those of his CD mate, there is synergy between the two groups of recordings, in that Adams is also the lead guitarist on most if not all of the Al King sides. Neither man cut enough solo material to fill their own CD but the sum of their work for Kent-Modern does that in a most satisfying manner.

Al’s sides include the classic ‘My Name Is Misery’, its even better sequel ‘Get Lost’ and a slew of fine tracks that showcase his Percy Mayfield-influenced lyrics and delivery – many appearing in stereo for the first time ever. Arthur’s reputation among blues collectors was initially forged by his spellbinding ‘She Drives Me Out Of My Mind’, which first gained UK release on Blue Horizon. Here it’s also in stereo, taken from the mastertape that runs almost a minute longer than the original 45. Between the two of them they cook up a fine mess of blues and proto-bluesoul, aided by the fabulous arrangements of Maxwell Davis (who co-produced the sessions), musicians that number another west coast legend, Big Jay McNeely, among their ranks and – in Arthur’s case - duet partners of the calibre of Modern’s own Mary Love and Darlene Love’s sister Edna Wright (future lead singer of the Honey Cone).

It’s a shame that Al’s and Arthur’s singles for Kent and Modern didn’t meet with the sales that they deserved at the time. That they didn’t is not due to the quality of repertoire or performance, which is first rate in every instance, as you’ll hear yourself, when you invest your money – wisely – in “Together”.

By Tony Rounce (ACE Records)
Ace Records 2010 CD 18.00 €
Andre Williams - Holland Shuffle
11 biisiä live Hollannista 2001
Norton Records 2003 CD 17.00 €
Andre Williams - Red Beans And Biscuits
16 biisiä vuosilta 1966-70, joista 8 ennenjulkaisemattomia
Soul-Tay-Shus Records 2004 CD 15.00 €
Aretha Franklin - All Time Best
Sony Music 2012 CD 12.00 €
Aretha Franklin - Just A Matter Of Time - Classic Columbia Recordings 1961-65
If Aretha Franklin and Jerry Wexler had never met, and instead of signing with Atlantic Records in 1966 Aretha had retired, on the strength of the sides she cut in the first half of the 1960s alone, she would still be one of my favourite female soul singers. That’s how much I love her Columbia work.

Admittedly, Jerry Wexler was among the greatest record producers that ever lived, but so were the men who supervised Aretha’s Columbia sessions – John Hammond, Robert Mersey, Bob Johnston and Clyde Otis. And granted, it is the magnificent body of work Aretha recorded for Atlantic that earned her the soubriquet the Queen Of Soul, but her dues-paying Columbia tenure produced its fair share of classics and provided her with nine entries on Billboard’s Hot 100 and a further eight that bubbled under.

Aretha recorded in a variety of styles in her early years and some fans of her Atlantic sides don’t care for the jazz and show tunes that litter her Columbia catalogue. They can relax. “Just A Matter Of Time” – compiled for us by pioneering black music maven and author David Nathan – focuses entirely on the soul and R&B tracks she cut for the company, of which he has been a champion since before she contracted with Atlantic.

The majority of the tracks here stem from three albums. ‘Rough Lover’, ‘It’s So Heartbreakin’’, ‘Just For You’ and ‘I Told You So’ are from 1962’s “The Electrifying Aretha Franklin”. All four songs were written by a legendary eccentric said to have stalked naked the corridors of the Brill Building, John Leslie McFarland. Aretha’s tremendous “Runnin’ Out Of Fools” set of 1964 was the original home of ‘The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)’, ‘One Room Paradise’, ‘Two Sides Of Love’, ‘I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face’, ‘(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am’ and ‘It’s Just A Matter Of Time’. ‘Remember Me’, ‘Deeper’, ‘Only The One You Love’, ‘Her Little Heart Went To Loveland’ and ‘Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Make It For The Door)’ are from her 1966 LP “Take It Like You Give It”.

Other highlights include the very collectable (and much sampled) ‘One Step Ahead’, a wild Bo Diddley-styled update of the Jay McShann-Priscilla Bowman hit ‘Hands Off’ and ‘Follow Your Heart’, a beautiful song written by Van McCoy. Whenever Aretha sang McCoy it was a joy to behold.

It’s not every day the chance arises to hear something new by Aretha. On this CD the opportunity knocks twice. ‘When They Ask About You’ was taped in 1961 when she was just 19 and is the earliest track featured. ‘I Still Can’t Forget’, one of three inclusions penned by the lady herself, dates from 1965. Both are released here for the first time ever. What a rare treat.

by MICK PATRICK (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2009 CD 17.00 €
Arthur Alexander - Monument Years
28 long-lost treasures by the stylish country-soul artist whose songs were recorded by the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. These tracks come from the vaults of Nashville's Monument and Sound Stage 7 labels, and were recorded between 1965-1972.
Ace Records 2001 CD 17.00 €
Arthur Conley - I'm Living Good - The Soul Of Arthur Conley 1964-1974
Like several of his 60s peers, Arthur Conley’s career was damned by the success of one record – in his case, ‘Sweet Soul Music’. For many on the periphery of soul music, that song was the beginning and the end of Arthur’s career and overexposure may have coloured their judgement of quality of the other records he made before and after it. Happily, the soul hardcore has always been able to see beyond a hit and Arthur has long been a hero to collectors for the kind of music that makes up this great new Kent compilation

“I’m Living Good” showcases a side of Arthur’s catalogue those familiar with his funky dancefloor favourites don’t always know – that of a Premier League deep soul man. Not every track is down-tempo, but each one is a representation of Southern Soul at its most forthright and creative. If you only know, say, ‘Sweet Soul Music’ or ‘Funky Street’, it will be a revelatory experience.

We have left no stone unturned in our attempts to bring you 100% top quality Conley. Almost every phase of the man’s solo career is represented, over a span of almost 10 years across the Ru-Jac, Jotis, Fame, Atco and Capricorn labels. These tracks were produced by Otis Redding, Booker T Jones and Stax boss Jim Stewart, Rick Hall, Tom Dowd, Johnny Sandlin, Clarence Carter and Swamp Dogg – which itself is all the qualification anyone should need as to their superiority. Many are being reissued here for the first time.

Highlights abound, from both sides of the ultra-rare Ru-Jac 45 (of which there are less than five documented copies) to the intense ‘If He Walked Today’, previously only available on a South African LP and 45. Those who turn their 45s over will not need to be sold on the virtues of ‘Let’s Go Steady’, ‘Love Comes And Goes’, ‘Put Our Love Together’ or ‘Is That You Love’, which were all first released as flips to massive club hits. My favourites include ‘Otis Sleep On’, an emotional salute to Arthur’s then-recently demised mentor and chief career booster Mr Redding, and the wonderful ‘Walking On Eggs’, one of the best examples of a Swamp Dogg song (and title!) ever to find its way out of the ever-active brain of Jerry Williams Jr. Really, though, this is a CD you can pluck anything from and come up with a winner.

As always, we’ve gone to town on the booklet, which contains label shots and picture sleeves from all over the world and previously unpublished photos taken inside FAME studios in the 60s and London in the early 70s. Even those who already have some of these tracks on the CD issues of Arthur’s albums will find plenty to get excited about here. The overdue public reappraisal of this important soul brother begins here. Do you like good music? Yeah, yeah!

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2011 CD 17.00 €
Arthur Conley - Soul Directions
Collector's Choice Music 2008 CD 13.00 €
Ballads - Sweet Soul Sensation - The Ballads Are Coming
24 biisiä
Famous Groove Records 1997 CD 17.00 €
Barbara Lynn - Here Is Barbara Lynn
originally released 1968.
Warner Music Japan 2012 CD 17.00 €
Barbara Lynn - The Jamie Singles Collection 1962-1965 2CD
2CD = 32 tracks
Jamie Records 2008 CD 30.00 €
Ben E. King - Beginning Of It All
album from 1972
Castle 2002 CD 15.00 €
Ben E. King - The Very Best Of
16 tracks
Warner Music 1998 CD 10.00 €
Bettye Lavette - Do Your Duty
Sundazed Music 2009 CD 17.00 €
Bettye Swann - The Complete Atlantic Recordings
Real Gone Music 2014 CD 18.00 €
Big Dee Irwin - Another Night with..
his complete Dimension Recordings and more.
25 tracks
Westside CD 15.00 €
Bill Curtis & Friends with The Fatback Band - Bill Curtis & Friends with The Fatback Band
Ace are proud to announce another addition to the occasional series of releases curated by Fatback’s Bill Curtis. “Bill Curtis & Friends with The Fatback Band” reworks tapes from the Fatback vaults with the assistance of some choice friends including Robert Damper, Warren Daniels, Willie Bridges, David “Bubba” Brooks and Gerry Thomas.
Ace Records 2010 CD 17.00 €
Bill Doggett - Honky Tonk Popcorn
James Brown has never really been portrayed as a sympathetic man, but for a short period in the late 60s he was suddenly taken by a sense of duty to artists who had been fixtures at King Records when he was first signed there over a decade earlier. First up was his tribute album “Thinking About Little Willie John And A Few Nice Things”, which mixed originals with versions of songs John had first sung. Next he began working with Hank Ballard, who had been signed to King since 1953; the collaboration produced the LP “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down”. He then produced a couple of sides with organist Bill Doggett, who’d reached #1 R&B/#2 Pop with his 1956 instrumental ‘Honky Tonk’.

A hit of that size meant that Doggett was never short of gigs, and in its aftermath he reached the R&B Top 20 five more times. In 1960 he left King, signing to Warner Brothers, then with Columbia in 1962 and Sue Records in 1964. In the meantime, King kept up a steady release schedule of Doggett records and he re-signed with them in 1965, staying for two years. 1969 saw him back again at King for another couple of years.

Doggett’s recordings from this period took two distinct paths: some were almost cheesy easy listening sides, while others suggested he was keeping up with modern trends. The most obvious manifestation of this was his collaboration with James Brown and his JBs, who were incredibly tight on the top-side of the super-rhythmic ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’. The popcorn was Brown’s dance rhythm of the year: he had made #1 R&B with ‘Mother Popcorn’, #2 with ‘Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn’. The B-side of the single was Doggett’s funk update of ‘Honky Tonk’, which worked even better than Brown’s own 1972 remake.

King then gathered up a bunch of recent Doggett recordings to make the “Honky Tonk Popcorn” album. It was marketed as a James Brown production but, other than the two single sides, it contained no cuts produced by Brown. Instead it featured a fascinating mix of grooves that evoke smoky clubs and juke joints. ‘Mad’ and a scorching version of Edwin Starr’s ‘Twenty Five Miles’ were released as singles.

For this reissue we’ve turned up five bonus tracks. Of these, ‘Before Lunch’, ‘Short Stack’ and ‘Some Kind Of Head’ were lined up for inclusion on an album to be called “Take Your Shot”, but we’re pretty sure this did not make it past the planning stage and was replaced by “Honky Tonk Popcorn”, with these three dropped to make room for the two James Brown-produced cuts and ‘Twenty Five Miles’. ‘Before Lunch’ sounds like the finest record Booker T & the MGs forgot to make, while ‘Short Stack’ ups the pace to frantic. Best of all is the brilliant ‘Some Kind Of Head’, which takes the feel of a Stax instrumental.

The other bonus tracks, ‘Sassy B’ and ‘Wet And Satisfied’, offer a fascinating insight into the history of Funkadelic. In the time between recording Funkadelic’s first two albums guitarist Eddie Hazel and bass-player Billy Nelson left the group. Nelson joined Doggett’s band for a short time. Until now Eddie Hazel’s participation on a Doggett session was unknown. However, the songwriting credits and the guitar style suggest that he too was working alongside Nelson and Doggett.

The ‘Honky Tonk Popcorn’ single and album did not return Doggett to the charts, but he remained active. He kept recording and toured until the year he died. He tended to revert to the style which made him famous: the 50s boogie shuffle that had been the basis of his defining hit. When he died on 13 November 1996 his short sojourn into funk was largely forgotten except by a few clubbers around the world who coveted this in-demand LP.

By Dean Rudland (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
Billy Bland - Let The Little Girl Dance
Ace Records 1992 CD 18.00 €
Billy Butler - The Right Tracks - The Complete Okeh Recordings
29 tracks 1963-1966
Ace Records 2007 CD 18.00 €
Billy Storm - This Is The Nite
From wild rockers to pop, and from early soul dancers to classic group harmony songs, Billy Storm was able to perform all those styles and more. Always with a top notch tenor voice that could scream Little Richard and send cold chills like Clyde McPhatter. This anthology of most of his best recordings will show you all this and even more. It was time to have a career spanning album of Storm starting way back on the beginning of his career arriving to the early days of soul music. You are going to love it!
El Toro Records 2013 CD 15.00 €
Bobby Bland - Voice - Duke Recordings 1959-1969
26 tracks
Ace Records 1991 CD 18.00 €
Bobby Freeman - C'mon And S-W-I-M
25 tracks froom 1964
Ace Records 2000 CD 18.00 €
Bobby Freeman - Give My Heart A Break
It’s true to say that most of the major rock’n’roll and R&B names from the 1950s have had the majority of their work digitised by now – many of them several times over. It’s always nice, therefore, to be able to bring you something relatively unknown by someone who’s anything but. And this month it’s a real pleasure to premiere the complete King recordings of the Bay Area’s best loved R&B rocker, Mr “Do You Wanna Dance” himself, the one and only Bobby Freeman.

Bobby joined King in 1960 and stayed until 1961, recording a total of 18 sides under Syd Nathan’s personal supervision. For reasons best known to Syd, he issued only one 45 during that time – the Top 40 hit ‘(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy’ – and left the other tracks in the can for some years. In fact, no further King material was issued until Bobby had signed to Autumn Records and had hits with ‘S-W-I-M’ and ‘C’mon And Swim’, at which point King issued two more 45s and a stupendously rare album called “The Lovable Style Of Bobby Freeman”. Neither the singles nor the album sold, leaving several more tracks unissued.

For some reason, the golden age of vinyl reissues left this material completely undisturbed. “Give My Heart A Break” marks the first occasion of its reissue (and, in several cases, its issue) in a package with appeal for all fans of Bobby’s early work, and of his Josie recordings in particular.

Recorded in King’s studios, with the accompaniment of the label’s exceptional house band, the tracks demonstrate every facet of Bobby’s talent. Many of the songs had been previously recorded by other King artists, but in the likes of ‘What Can I Do’, ‘Somebody, Somewhere (Hear My Plea)’, ‘Good, Good Lovin’’, ‘Please, Please, Please’ and ‘Fever’ our man proves himself to be more than a match for Donnie Elbert, James Brown and Little Willie John.

Freeman’s talents as a balladeer are also beautifully demonstrated by the previously unissued ‘Please Stay By Me’ and Bobby’s personal favourite ‘You Don’t Understand’ – and even though he doesn’t actually remember recording the doo wop standard ‘Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight’, the performance itself is highly memorable. An added bonus for anyone who has any of this material on vinyl is that the majority of the issued tracks were faded or edited for single and album release. Here we’ve let them run for as long as Bobby’s singing on the tape, in some cases up to 45 seconds longer than any previously issued version.

Beautifully illustrated with a full set of label shots and a selection of previously unpublished full colour publicity shots from King Records’ own archives, this excellent compilation comes to you with the full approval and co-operation of Bobby himself. He’s as proud of these recordings as he is of any he’s made through a long and, happily, still ongoing career and is delighted that they are at last seeing issue on CD. So are we!

By Tony Rounce (ACE RECORDS)
Ace Records 2009 CD 18.00 €
Bobby Lewis - Tossin' & Turnin'
18 tracks
Collectables 2005 CD 18.00 €
Bobby Marchan - Get Down With It - The Soul Sides 1963-67
Many of the biggest names in 1950s R&B and rock’n’roll enjoyed careers that sustained well into the soul era. Little Richard and Larry Williams both did, of course, as did Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke and Joe Tex, who, let’s face it, didn’t really hit their stride until soul came along to reveal their full capabilities.

You can also include Bobby Marchan in that number. The former front man of Huey “Piano” Smith’s Clowns was quick to embrace the coming changes in black American music, via a series of classic singles for Bobby Robinson’s Fire label that included, if not the first then certainly the finest version of, ‘There’s Something on Your Mind’ in 1960.

As the decade progressed, Bobby got even more soulful. After leaving Fury he hooked up with Stax and then Dial Records, for whose boss and producer-in-chief, Buddy Killen, he recorded frequently, and always with splendid results. Many Killen-produced sessions ended up on Cameo, giving the Philadelphia label a welcome if unlikely foot in the door of the house that Southern Soul was building below the Mason-Dixon line.

The recordings Bobby made between 1963 and 1967 found him recording at three of the premier locations for soul music: Stax and American in Memphis and FAME in Muscle Shoals. Almost all of his recordings of the period bear the stamp of those studios, and almost all are truly great. “Get Down With It” finally brings them all together in the same CD, and not before time.

The floor-friendly 1964 title track, which Bobby’s friend Little Richard later revamped into a template for UK group Slade’s breakthrough chart-topper, is probably Marchan’s best-known track here (albeit not the biggest hit, surprisingly). Other strong uptempo highlights include the FAME-recorded groover ‘Funny Style’ and, from a later period, Bobby’s remake of ‘Rockin’ Pneumonia’ (now with added Boogaloo Flu!).

We’re also delighted to finally premiere the remaining two unissued sides from Bobby’s second Volt session (after a mere 48-year delay) and feel that Marchan aficionados will get a huge belt out of his version of Paul Perryman/Clyde McPhatter’s ‘Just To Hold My Hand’, just as I did when I heard the tape for the first time not so long ago.

Wonderful as these are, it’s the ballads that really bring the set home and underscore Marchan’s relevance and importance to 60s soul. He was simply born to sing songs such as Joe Tex’s ‘Meet Me In Church’ and Paul Kelly’s ‘There’s Something About My Baby’ over those sublime rhythms laid down in Muscle Shoals and Memphis. This music is simply timeless and it’s a pleasure to be able to have it all in one place for the first time ever.

Some still believe that all there was to Bobby were his novelty hits with the Clowns. “Get Down With It” disproves any such notions immediately and confirms his standing as a true great of Southern Soul.

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2011 CD 18.00 €
Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces - Go Ahead And Burn
24 biisiä vuosilta 1966-1970
RPM 2004 CD 18.00 €
Bobby Sheen - Anthology 1958-1975
At last a Bobby Sheen anthology! Comprising recordings that stretch from Sheen’s debut lead vocal via his Phil Spector period to his final single, this sweeping collection covers a variety of styles that range from doo wop and the Wall of Sound to Northern and Southern soul.

The earliest tracks here were cut by Bobby as the lead vocalist of the Robins, the group he joined as a 16 year-old in 1958. The influence of Clyde McPhatter is very evident on these sides, especially ‘Live Wire Suzy’ (a Belgian popcorn favourite) and the group’s lively take on ‘The White Cliffs Of Dover’.

By 1962 Sheen was working with Spector, initially on a one-off 45 for Liberty Records. Sharing lead vocal duties with Darlene Love, he reached the Top 10 later that year with ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’, released as by Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans on the producer’s Philles logo. He also contributed a soaring version of ‘The Bells Of St Mary’ to Spector’s classic “A Christmas Gift For You” LP.

The McPhatter influence is still evident on ‘I Want You For My Sweetheart’ and ‘My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You’, released as a one-off single on the Dimension label in 1965. A contract with Capitol resulted in a handful of singles including the Northern Soul favourite ‘Dr Love’ (released in the UK in the now very collectable Capitol Discotheque ’66 series). This compilation also boasts two previously unissued Capitol sides: ‘Baby I’ll Come Right Away’ (the wonderful Ashford/Simpson song well-know to soul fans via Mary Love’s reading) and the slow blues ‘Don’t Pass Me By’.

As the 60s came to a close, Bobby switched from his high tenor to a more contemporary lower register, cutting great tracks for Warner Bros in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with producers Clayton Ivey and Terry Woodford. His superb recordings of Philip Mitchell’s ‘Something New To Do’ (another Northern anthem) and ‘I May Not Be What You Want’ are among his best work. He sounds totally different again on ‘Don’t Make Me Do Wrong’. The Ivey/Woodford team also produced Bobby swansong single, issued on the Chelsea label in 1975.

The performances collected here are proof that Bobby was a singer who deserved a much higher profile than he achieved. Despite his great looks, obvious talent and strong music business connections, he never registered a hit record in his own name. This CD redresses the balance and proves that all Bobby lacked was good luck.

Years spent as a member of the Coasters kept him in work until his untimely death from pneumonia in November 2000. His son Charles has become the custodian of his father’s legacy and contributed the wonderful photographs that illustrate the CD’s accompanying booklet, which features an essay by Dennis Garvey built around exclusive interviews with many of Bobby’s friends and colleagues.

By Simon White (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2010 CD 18.00 €
Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street 2CD
Charly Records 2012 CD 18.00 €
Booker T & The MG's - That's The Way It Should Be
Evangeline Records 2007 CD 10.00 €
Booker T & The MGs Meet The Mark-Keys - Memphis Soul Beat 2CD
Featured over these two CDs is the first flowering of the 'Stax' sound, a sound that would develop throughout the '60s to become one of the most predominant sounds of American R&B and soul around the world.

Included are three complete albums, two from The Mar-Keys and one from Booker T & The MGs plus bonus singles. These were the first acts to break on Stax Records with hits like, 'Last Night' and 'Green Onions'.

Here then are three of the earliest albums released out of Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton's legendary label and the genesis of one of the most important house bands in recording history.

Fully detailed liner notes with career achievements and history.
Jasmine Records 2013 CD 15.00 €
Booker T. & The M.G.'s - The Booker T. Set
The funkier side of the band is represented here with cool readings of Cliff Nobles' 'The Horse' and the Isley classic 'It's Your Thing'.

On this 1969 outing, we have a mixed bag of pop hits reworked in Booker T's own inimitable style and some real soul classics by the group that gave Stax Records and Memphis its sound. The soul selections concentrate on the funky side with a cool reading of Cliff Nobles "The Horse" and The Isleys "It's Your Thing" opening and closing the proceedings. Motown gets a look in with covers of The Supremes"Love Child" and "You're All I Need To Get By", the Marvin Gaye, Tammy Terrell classic and closer to home, stable mate Eddie Floyd's sublime "I've Never Found A Girl". First European release on CD.
Ace Records 1986 CD 13.00 €
Booker T. & The MGs - Stax Instrumentals
+ The Mar-Keys
Universal 2003 CD 12.00 €
Booker T. And The M.G.s - Green Onions
12 tracks
Atlanctic CD 9.00 €
Booker T. And The MGs - Soul Limbo
1968 album
Universal Music 1991 CD 12.00 €
Booker T. And The MGs - Stax Profiles
15 tracks
Universal Music 2006 CD 13.00 €
Bookert T & The MGs - Play The Hip Hits
"I'm shocked that some of these things didn't get released...Man I could have used these things...we could have just put this out...That would have been the perfect album!" Steve Cropper in an interview with Rob Bowman, 1994, when he heard these tracks again

We were one of the few bands that were popular covering other people's songs says Booker T. He's right. With the exception of their second LP Soul Dressing, Booker T & The MGs albums were (indeed, are) predominantly composed of cover material. During their years at Stax, the group acted as session house band for innumerable stars, including everyone from southern soul giant Otis Redding to blues legend Albert King. They played almost continuously, often tacking short sessions of their own on to star sessions that had either finished early or started late. Some of the material found its way on to their own many albums, but much of it was put on the shelf and forgotten about in their hectic recording schedules. When MGs guitarist Steve Cropper heard a tape of this collection of 25 previously unissued tracks he said: I'm shocked that some of these didn't get released. I think we just forgot them. I think they were just back on the shelf and nobody took the time (to ever listen to them again). Man I could have used these things, I guarantee you. There was a time when we needed a record and Booker wouldn't record, we could have put this out. We had the rights to the stuff. That would have been a perfect album!Cropper's assessment is spot on and Stax, instrumental, and just plain Booker T & The MGs fans are in for a real treat. Thanks to the Stax Sessions series and the diligent tape research by Ace's Roger Armstrong, a beautiful slice of 1960s soul history is finally brought back to life.
Ace Records 1995 CD 17.00 €
Brenda Holloway - The Early Years - Rare Recordings 1962-1963
We’ve always known that Brenda Holloway was not your run-of-the-mill Motown diva. One of the imprint’s first signings from outside Detroit and its environs, Brenda grew up far from the frigid temperatures and blizzards that forged the harder-edged personalities and steely determination of Hitsville’s homegrown artists. This California girl exuded a sunny, laid-back persona light years from the fiery Ross or Reeves.

Something else set Brenda apart. Her first Tamla release, ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’, and its subsequent LP spotlight a smooth, self-assured vocalist, oozing confidence and maturity that was clearly lacking in the early efforts of, say, the Supremes and the Marvelettes. Not quite 18, Brenda hit the spotlight with her artistry fully-developed, denying us the fun of hearing her fumble around in search of her style, an experience that makes the early waxings of Diana, Martha and Mary Wells so charming.

What we didn’t know then was that Brenda had already served a prolific, two-year apprenticeship in the studios of L.A. A few of these early sides have leaked out over the years but now, thanks to Mick Patrick and the archaeologists at Ace, “The Early Years: Rare Recordings 1962-1963” offers an opportunity to witness Brenda cutting her teeth in a variety of styles. Think of it as “Meet Brenda Holloway”.

Among the impossibly rare treasures: two doo-woppy demos believed to be the 15-year-old’s first crack at the mic, one (‘He’s Gone’) also the first recording evidence of the songwriting talent that eventually put ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ into the Great American Songbook. Brenda’s first release, ‘Hey Fool’, finds her rocking out with a radically tougher attitude than fans have heard before. Her obscure second single, ‘The Game Of Love’, a frothy girl-group confection, is here alongside more unheard demos, rare 45s and duets with three different male partners. On various songs, Brenda wails, belts, testifies and coos, trying on the styles of Tina Turner, Etta James, the Marvelettes, the Chantels and, of course, her idol Mary Wells.

We also hear Brenda chiming in on background as a member of the Watesians, the Four J’s and the Carrolls (probably all the same group), and, most significantly, backing up her sister, the late, legendary Patrice, on ‘Do The Del Viking’, which the sisters wrote.

The CD closes with the demo of ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’, presumably sung by Barbara Wilson to the same backing track as the eventual hit. When Brenda added her vocal to the song, she was more than ready for her shot at the big time. How great it is that we can now eavesdrop as she perfects that trademark emotional magic.

Needless to say, the CD is accompanied by the traditional well-worth-the-price booklet with an essay on the tracks by Mr Patrick and photos that more than explain why a certain teenage boy was driven to a hormonal frenzy when I saw Brenda Holloway perform at the Apollo.

Her Motown Anthology has long been a pleasure. This one feels like a privilege.

by DENNIS GARVEY (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2009 CD 18.00 €
Brook Benton - A Rockin' Good Way Vol. 1 - The Singer
El Toro Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
Brook Benton - A Rockin' Good Way Vol. 2 -The Songwriter
El Toro Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
Brook Benton - Silky Soul Balladeer
10 tracks
Allegro Corporation 2006 CD 10.00 €
Brooks O'Dell - I'm Your Man - The Anthology 1963-1972
26 tracks
Ace Records 2008 CD 18.00 €
Carla Thomas - Sweet Sweetheart
When my Ace colleagues Roger Armstrong and Peter Gibbon began combing the Stax vaults for unreleased recordings in the 1990s, they were both pleased and surprised by how much material was available and how good it was. In the case of Carla Thomas, they found themselves surrounded by a stockpile of more than 75 unissued masters, plus a considerable number of fine alternate takes of familiar classics. As soon as they returned to the UK and began compiling CDs from these vault goodies, they wasted little time in assembling two dozen tracks for a CD titled “Hidden Gems”, while further titles appeared on the various artists CD “You Thrill My Soul” and across the “Volts Of Stax” series.

“Sweet Sweetheart” is a somewhat belated, but very welcome, sequel to “Hidden Gems”. Like its predecessor, it contains more than 20 previously unissued tracks from the 1960s, including a complete lost album Carla cut under the supervision of Chips Moman at Memphis’ American Studios. Only two of the tracks from the album, both included here, were issued as a single in September 1970. It flopped, and the tapes for the rest of the album were consigned to the shelf.

Listening to the complete album now, it’s hard to see why this should have been so. Chips’ production is first rate, as are Carla’s singing and the sympathetic accompaniment of American’s crack line-up of musicians. The songs are chosen with care, and to reflect Carla’s desire to stretch her musical boundaries a little as she moved into her second decade as a recording artist. Many of them were written by Chips’ wife Toni Wine and other noted New York tunesmiths such as Irwin Levine, L Russell Brown, Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Still more came from the catalogues of such diverse talents as the Bee Gees, Ray Stevens, James Taylor andUKrockers Free’s Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraser. It should have been the album to take Carla’s career to the next level, but the Stax A&R department had other ideas and binned it.

The American sessions are bolstered by 12 additional cuts, all recorded at Stax between late 1964 and early 1968. All the songs are new to Carla’s catalogue, with the exception of ‘B-A-B-Y’ (heard here in its initial take) and a slow and sultry version of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s ‘Good Good Loving’ (first heard in a more up-tempo style on “Hidden Gems”). These tracks are as good as anything Stax released on Carla in the mid 60s, and in several cases they are better. Lovers of deeper southern soul will particularly delight to ‘Stop By Here’, ‘Problems’ and Carla’s take on ‘Crying All By Myself’, most familiar to Stax fans via William Bell’s fantastic version.

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
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