Friday, May 31, 2013

Syl Johnson - The Complete Mythology

By far the best collection and best remastering of all the Syl Johnson pre-Hi output, courtesy of Unkie Cliff.

“I wanna be somebody so bad, but you keep on putting your foot on me.”

"To hear him tell it, Syl Johnson could have been as big as James Brown or Al Green. #1 on the charts, top billing on the marquee, Hall of Fame inductions, tearful tributes... all within his reach, and yet never in his hands. Something, someone, and sometimes—if you believe his lyrics—the sole of a shoe was holding him back. Was it because he’s black? Not likely, though his inability to crossover to the pop charts never did him any favors. “I made my opportunities, but I never got the breaks I should have gotten. I was a jack-of-all-trades. More soul than Marvin, more funk than James. If I’d gone pop, you’d be talkin’ about me, not them. I rate right at the top, though I’ve been underrated all my life.”

Laced with that unique brand of bravado, the Syl Johnson interview tends to veer toward harrowing voyages through interruption, correction, and deliberate obfuscation. “Back up, hold on, slow down… Wu Tang, Kid Rock, Michael Jackson… Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Johnson, Jimmy Jones….” Johnson has a habit of insisting that everything printed before—every verbatim transcript read directly back to him—is a blatant misquote or misunderstanding…and sometimes both. His date of birth and place of birth, his surname change from Thompson to Johnson, the murky beginnings of the Twinight record label—Syl Johnson weaves them all into one convoluted narrative, a daunting challenge for historians and fans alike to follow. Resolving his life story for this collection became an exercise in patience and diligence, as we chased the rabbit through even more big-hole 45s than bear his name.

The blues was always a genre riddled with myth and legend—its half-truths muttered on sun-baked Mississippi porches have long-since morphed into biographical foundations. From Robert Johnson’s midnight bargain with the devil at the crossroads near Dockery Plantation to Bo Diddley’s divergent claims about the origin of his name, fabrication is fully ingrained in blues tradition.

Syl Johnson’s apple never fell far from that tree. When this bluesman-at-heart felt his career tapering off early in the 1980s, his tendency toward self-mythologizing gained momentum. If he couldn’t enjoy the successes of an Al Green or a James Brown, he could surely concoct for himself a more mysterious history. Forget hot grits and armed robbery, Syl Johnson’s illegitimate father would be Robert Johnson. Or so he began to claim….

For decades, Johnson has been toeing the edge of a wide chasm that separates soul’s upper and middle classes, overshadowed across his career by the bill-paying stars of the Federal and Hi labels. He’s joined by the likes of Otis Clay and Candi Staton in a pantheon of great soul singers who maintained viable careers over several decades but never achieved that national #1 smash. Consequently, he’s been eschewed by oldies stations and Final Jeopardy questions, never having scattered the cultural detritus that keep even one-hit wonders in the periphery of the national consciousness. The litany of his largely regional hits—“Come On Sock It To Me,” “Different Strokes,” “Is It Because I’m Black,” “We Did It,” “Back For A Taste Of Your Love,” and “Take Me To The River”—is undeniable, a list that dwarfs the tally of winning output in his caste. Even so, Johnson’s reevaluation as a serious artist has yet to arrive.

Beginning in 1986, with Charly’s bootleg Is It Because I’m Black CD, the Syl Johnson story, as told by his work’s compilers, has been boiled down to a few paragraphs gleaned mostly from the pages of Robert Pruter’s Chicago Soul. The predictably atrocious mastering of his material reaching its nadir with Collectables’ 1996 Twilight & Twinight Masters Collection, which presented source 45s transferred at the wrong speed. In 1997, Ace upped the ante with their Dresses Too Short/Is It Because I’m Black CD twofer, but—having never interviewed Johnson—the label settled on including only a woefully slim booklet. Given Syl’s track record with interviewers, it’s hard to blame the reputable UK firm for their decision to go another way. “I love the music business, but it sucks,” Syl has said. “The only thing I can liken it to is the drug business. Everybody’s out to get you, no one’s legit, and the only people getting paid are at the top.”

By sheer quantity of singles issued, Syl Johnson should be an oldies radio staple. He’s issued more than 60 unique 45s, at last count—and that excludes international pressings and what he refers to as “booties.” Of those, 28 are collected here, in addition to extant cuts from his two Twinight LPs and a swath of period outtakes. Johnson’s Hi singles and albums have been compiled comprehensively, and recently, so we’ve chosen to focus on his work prior to joining the Memphis powerhouse in 1971. In cases where no dates could be found, we’ve taken pains to place them within the chronology Syl himself provided over the last four years. But with Syl Johnson, those dates seem to shift every time they’re about to be confirmed. We’ve broken our own Syl Johnson biography into discrete sections, headed by topical quotations even the man himself can’t rightly deny. When grilled, Johnson just shrugs and says, “Gotta keep some mysteries unsolved….”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Spiders - The Imperial Sessions

Our friend Guitar Gus has come through with a big followup to my Chuck Carbo post; the rare Bear Family set of The Spiders' Imperial Recordings. I am excited to finally hear these historic recordings.

"New Orleans R&B was best known for its solo artists, but the Spiders rank among the Crescent City's pre-eminent vocal groups, and were certainly the best the city produced during the '50s. The Spiders actually began life circa 1947 as a gospel group called the Zion City Harmonizers; they later changed their name to the Delta Southernaires, and made a few recordings and radio appearances from 1952-1953.

With encouragement from legendary New Orleans studio head Cosimo Matassa, the group switched to secular R&B and signed with Imperial in late 1953. The newly christened Spiders were centered around brothers Hayward "Chuck" Carbo and Leonard "Chick" Carbo, the latter a bass singer who sometimes split lead vocals with his brother; the other members of the quintet were Joe Maxon, Matthew West, and Oliver Howard. Their first single, "I Didn't Want to Do It," went to number three on the R&B charts in early 1954, and other sides like "You're the One," "Tears Begin to Flow," and "I'm Slippin' In" were top sellers as well, making the Spiders a hot concert draw. Maxon and West both left the group in 1955 and were replaced by Bill Moore and Issacher Gordon. the Spiders' string of R&B Top Tens continued that year with "21" and the Dave Bartholomew-penned "Witchcraft," their second Top Five hit and biggest overall seller (it was later covered by Elvis Presley).

Imperial began grooming Chuck Carbo for a solo career in 1956, which caused dissent within the group; by the end of the year, Chick Carbo had signed to Atlantic as a solo artist himself, and the Spiders effectively dissolved. A final single in 1957, "That's My Desire," failed to catch on, as did a posthumous from-the-vaults release in 1960, "Tennessee Slim." ... Chick passed away in 1998, Chuck in 2008."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Nobody Wins - Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975

Another one of those compilations like the Sound Stage Seven disc that manages to be a very entertaining listen.

"The Ace Records family has reissued numerous collector-oriented compilations from the Stax vaults over the years, and this 2012 anthology was intended as the first of a planned series on its Kent subsidiary focusing on Stax tracks from the late '60s and early '70s. The 21 tracks all focus on Stax recordings that fall into the Southern deep soul category -- not a problem as such soul abounded on the label, though these might be more deep soul-oriented than the typical Stax reissue. It's also oriented toward songs that aren't too familiar -- none of them were hits, and three of them were previously unreleased, though most of them did come out as singles between 1968 and 1975. And while some of the artists (Johnnie Taylor, Jimmy Hughes, William Bell, Inez Foxx, Eddie Floyd, Mable John, Little Milton) at various points had substantial hits (though not always for Stax), they're outweighed by acts that will largely be recognized only by those that study the fine print of Stax discographies.

None of these songs were hooky or innovative enough to be as memorable as the many hits the label had during these half-dozen or so years. Hits aren't everything, though, unless you're as rabid a capitalist as you are a collector. If some of these songs are on the average or generic side, more often they're pretty fair efforts that usually boast excellent singing and fine (if occasionally slick) production, as well as subtly testifying to the versatility of tracks released under the Stax umbrella. Particularly pleasing are some cuts that use more group harmonies than the norm for Stax productions from this era, as well as some that exhibit a bluesier bent than soul as a whole did during this period, like Little Milton's fine "Woman Across the River," Jimmy Hughes' "Let 'Em Down Baby," and Mable John's "Shouldn't I Love Him." The menu's varied enough that favorites will vary according to individual tastes, but other tracks worthy of citation include Johnny Daye's opening pleader "Stay Baby Stay" and Bettye Crutcher's previously unissued sweet soul outing "Make a Joyful Noise" (which unlike many outtakes really should have been released at the time). Sometimes it's apparent that Stax was keeping an ear open to the sounds of Hi elsewhere in Memphis -- Freddie Waters' "Groovin' on My Baby's Love" has an Al Green feel, for instance -- though no doubt some of that influence was traveling in the other direction as well. Stax obsessives will already have much of this, particularly on volumes two and three of the box sets of Stax singles. But this is a good pickup for those who don't want to make such a huge investment, yet are still interested in seeking out some of the label's deep catalog." by Richie Unterberger, AMG

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jean Knight - Mr. Big Stuff

I've read somewhere that the 'Mr. Big Stuff' session was recorded on the same day as King Floyd's hit 'Groove Me'. Both were Wardell Quezergue produced artists from New Orleans so it makes sense that he would maximize the trip to Malaco Studios in Jackson by bringing two artists. Likely the same band would have played both sessions. As you will see below, Knight ends up at Stax almost by accident.

"Jean Knight (born Jean Caliste, January 26, 1943, New Orleans, Louisiana) is an African-American soul/R&B/funk singer, best known for her 1971 Stax Records hit single, "Mr. Big Stuff".

After graduating from high school, Caliste began singing at her cousin's bar 'Laura's Place' and caught the attention of many different bands who were willing to accompany her. In 1965, she recorded a demo of a cover version of Jackie Wilson's song "Stop Doggin' Me Around." Her demo attracted record producer Huey Meaux, who signed her to a recording contract at the Jet Star/Tribe record labels. Shortly thereafter, Caliste adopted the professional name of "Jean Knight," because she felt that her surname was too hard to pronounce. She recorded four singles, making a name for herself locally, but was not able to attract any national attention. By the late 1960s, it was obvious that her career was not living up to her high expectations, so she went to work as a baker in the cafeteria of Loyola University in New Orleans.

In early 1970, she was discovered by songwriter Ralph Williams, who wanted her to record some songs. With Williams' connections, she came in contact with record producer Wardell Quezergue. In May of that year, she went to Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, for a recording session during which she recorded "Mr. Big Stuff." After the session was finished, the song was shopped to producers at several national labels, all of whom rejected it. But when King Floyd's hit "Groove Me" (also recorded at Malaco Studios) became a #1 R&B hit in early 1971, a producer at Stax Records remembered Knight's recording of "Mr. Big Stuff," and released it. The song proved to be an instant smash in 1971, reaching #2 on the pop chart and becoming a #1 R&B hit. It went double-platinum and received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female; it lost to Aretha Franklin's version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The next year, Knight was named the 'Most Promising Female Vocalist'. An album of the same name proved to be fairly successful. A couple more minor hits followed, but disagreements with her producer and her label terminated Knight's involvement with Stax.

After leaving Stax, Knight recorded songs for various small labels, but was not able to gain any more recognition. She ended up performing and touring the local oldie circuit. Things changed in 1981, when she met local producer Isaac Bolden, who signed her to his Soulin' label. Together, they came up with a song entitled "You Got the Papers but I Got the Man," an answer song to Betty Wright's hit, "I've Got the Papers on the Man"; that song was leased to Atlantic Records for national release. Soon, Knight found herself touring consistently. In 1985, she gained more recognition when she covered Rockin' Sidney's zydeco novelty hit, "My Toot Toot." Her version proved to be most successful, reaching #50 on the pop chart. Knight was then given a chance to perform it on the TV variety show Solid Gold.

Although she waited twelve years to come out with another recording, she continued touring and performing engagements all over the world, particularly in the Southern states. In 2003, she performed her biggest hit, "Mr. Big Stuff", on the PBS special Soul Comes Home. Knight has talent running in the family; her great nephews are Gerard Caliste (a visual artist) and Swedish hip hop artist Mattias Lindström Caliste who is part of the Scandinavian rap group Fjärde Världen. Knight continues to tour and make live performances, often with such artists as Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor.

In October 2007, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame honored Knight for her contributions to Louisiana music by inducting her."

The two blatant remakes of "Mr. Big Stuff" with different lyrics are a bit tiresome, and one or two others suffer from Al Jackson over-production, but on the whole I enjoy her voice.

The Blind Boys Of Alabama - Down In New Orleans

The Blind Boys of Alabama recorded in New Orleans for the first time in their almost 75 year history. Amongst the musicians supporting include legendary pianist/producer and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Allen Toussaint and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. After performing together for over six decades, The Blind Boys of Alabama have enjoyed one of the more striking comebacks in recent memory.

    Free At Last
    Let’s Make a Better World
    How I Got Over (feat. Marva Wright)
    You Got To Move
    Across the Bridge
    You Better Mind
    Down By the Riverside
    If I Could Help Somebody
    Uncloudy Day
    A Prayer
    I’ve Got a Home
    I’ll Fly Away

Friday, May 24, 2013

Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign

Don't think I'm done with Stax yet, oh no, not nearly!
Albert King (April 25, 1923 – December 21, 1992) One of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar" (along with B.B. King and Freddie King), Albert King stood 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) (some reports say 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)) and weighed 250 pounds (110 kg) and was known as "The Velvet Bulldozer". He was born Albert King Nelson, on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi. During his childhood he would sing at a family gospel group at a church where his father played the guitar. One of 13 children, King grew up picking cotton on plantations near Forrest City, Arkansas, where the family moved when he was eightHe began his professional work as a musician with a group called In The Groove Boys in Osceola, Arkansas. Moving north to Gary, Indiana and later St. Louis, Missouri, he briefly played drums for Jimmy Reed's band and on several early Reed recordings. Influenced by blues musicians Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson, the electric guitar became his signature instrument, his preference being the Gibson Flying V which he named "Lucy". King earned his nickname "The Velvet Bulldozer" during this period as he drove one of them and also worked as a mechanic to make a living.

King moved to Gary, Indiana in the early 1950s, then to Chicago in 1953 where he cut his first single for Parrot Records, but it was only a minor regional success. He then went back to St. Louis in 1956 and formed a new band. During this period, he settled on using the Flying V as his primary guitar. He resumed recording in 1959 with his first minor hit, "I'm a Lonely Man," written by Little Milton, who was Bobbin Records A&R man, a fellow guitar hero, and responsible for King's signing with the label.

It was not until his 1961 release "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong" that King had a major hit, reaching number fourteen on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart. The song was included on his first album The Big Blues, released in 1962. He next signed with jazz artist Leo Gooden's Coun-Tree label. King's reputation continued to grow in the Midwest, but a jealous Gooden dropped him from the label. By modern standards, The Big Blues feels completely generic with little of note except King's guitar, but in 1962 it was fresh and marked a new type of clean, sharp blues over the "dirty" sound that characterized the genre during the 50s.

In 1966, King moved to Memphis, where he signed with the Stax record label. Produced by Al Jackson, Jr., King with Booker T. & the MGs recorded dozens of influential sides, such as "Crosscut Saw" and "As The Years Go Passing By". In 1967 Stax released the album, Born Under a Bad Sign, which was not technically a studio album, but a collection of all the singles King recorded at Stax. The title track of that album (written by Booker T. Jones and William Bell) became King's best-known song and has been covered by many artists (from British rock group Cream, Paul Rodgers, Canadian guitarist Pat Travers, American rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix to cartoon character Homer Simpson). The production of the songs was sparse, clean, and maintained a traditional blues sound while also sounding fresh and thoroughly contemporary. Almost as important as King himself was the "menacing" bass of Donald Dunn, which at some points approached an early metal feel. Born Under A Bad Sign propelled Albert King to mainstream popularity at the comparatively late age of 44 and was one of the last albums recorded by an artist whose career began before the rock-and-roll era to be truly innovative, predictive of future music trends, and influential on young musicians of the era.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Little Johnny Taylor - Galaxy Hits & 2 Ronn's

This guy didn't make much of a ripple the first time I offered "Open House", but maybe pairing it with the earlier Galaxy disc this time will help. I would love it if someone could scare up some of his earlier gospel material.

 "Born in Gregory, Arkansas, United States, he is frequently confused with his contemporary and near namesake Johnnie Taylor, especially since the latter made a cover version of the song that Little Johnny Taylor was most famous for, "Part Time Love" (1963), and the fact that both men began their careers as gospel singers.

Little Johnny Taylor moved to Los Angeles in 1950, and sang with the Mighty Clouds of Joy before moving into secular music. Influenced primarily by Little Willie John, (and Ted Taylor), he first recorded as an R&B artist for the Swingin' record label.

However, he did not achieve major success until signing for San Francisco-based Fantasy Records' subsidiary label, Galaxy. His first hit was the mid-tempo blues "You'll Need Another Favor," sung in the style of Bobby Bland, with arrangement by Ray Shanklin and produced by Cliff Goldsmith. The follow-up, "Part Time Love", became his biggest hit, reaching #1 in the U.S. Billboard R&B chart, and # 19 on the pop chart, in October 1963. However, follow-ups on the Galaxy label were much less successful. (I can't figure out why, they seem of uniformly high quality to me.)

By 1971, Taylor had moved to the Ronn label subsidiary of Jewel Records in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he had his second R&B Top 10 hit with "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing". The following year, he had another hit with "Open House at My House". While at Ronn, Taylor also recorded some duets with Ted Taylor (also unrelated). (I have that if anyone is interested)

Though he recorded only sparingly during the 1980s and 1990s, he remained an active performer until his death in May 2002 in Conway, Arkansas."

I once saw LJT and Percy Sledge at the same mini-fest in Golden Gate Park...I felt like I was the only one there who even knew who they were.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ted Taylor - Ever Wonderful; Okeh Uptown Soul 1962-1966 & Complete Ronn/Jewel Singles

"Austin Taylor, better known as Ted Taylor (February 16, 1934 – October 2, 1987) was an American soul musician.

Born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, United States, Taylor sang with The Cadets/The Jacks in the 1950s. He sang lead vocals on The Cadets' "Do You Wanna Dance (Hey Little Girl)" and "I Cry" and also on The Jacks' "Away" and "My Darling." He did not appear on The Cadets' biggest hit "Stranded In The Jungle" in 1955. For that session, he was replaced by singer Prentice Moreland. Taylor left The Cadets/The Jacks to begin a solo career which began with two singles on Melatone Records in 1957. He would later release singles on Ebb Records and Duke Records from 1957 to 1959; in the 1960s he recorded for Ronn Records and Okeh Records in blues and soul styles. In the 1970s he recorded disco for TK Records."

"Once heard, the exciting tenor voice of Ted Taylor can never be forgotten or mistaken for any other. With his elaborate pompadour hairstyle and pencil-line moustache, he looked a lot like Little Richard, his label-mate at Okeh Records for a spell (although Ted was far from little). Onstage he wore flamboyant pink suits, his manicured fingers heavy with ornate rings. This and his androgynous singing voice led many to conclude that Ted was gay, but appearances can be misleading: when out of the spotlight, he was a quietly-spoken family man.

He started out as a member of the Glory Bound Travelers gospel group. By 1955 he was singing with the Santa Monica Soul Seekers, soon to morph into dual identity secular combo the Cadets/Jacks. Turning solo in 1957, he notched up releases on the Ebb, Dena, Duke, Top Rank, Laurie, Top Rank, Warwick, Apt, Gold Eagle, United Artists and Soncraft labels. He then landed contract with Okeh, where he remained from 1962 to 1965, before joining Atlantic Record’s Atco subsidiary for a few singles. That brings us to the fantastic music on this CD, which stems from Ted’s lengthy tenure at Stan Lewis’ Ronn imprint out of Shreveport, Louisiana."

King Floyd of New Orleans

Our old friend Le Porc Rouge left links to the other two Atlantic King Floyd albums so I figured I owed it to you to post my FLAC rip of Cliff's perfect mint copy of the first album with the big hit Groove Me.

" King Floyd (February 13, 1945 – March 6, 2006)
King Floyd III was born in New Orleans in 1945. His musical career started as a singer at the Sho-Bar on Bourbon Street. Following a stint in the army, Floyd went to California, where he joined up with record producer Harold Battiste. His debut album, A Man In Love, featuring songs co-written with Dr. John, failed to make an impact on the charts. Floyd returned to New Orleans in 1969 and worked for the Post Office.

In 1970, Wardell Quezergue, an arranger of R&B scores, persuaded Floyd to record "Groove Me" with Malaco Records in Jackson, Mississippi. Jean Knight recorded her hit, "Mr. Big Stuff," in the same sessions.

At first, "Groove Me" was a B-side to another Floyd song, "What Our Love Needs." New Orleans radio DJ's started playing "Groove Me" and the song became a local hit. Atlantic Records picked up national distribution of "Groove Me," which topped the United States R&B chart and reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 & went to #41 in Britain. This disc sold over one million copies, and received a gold disc awarded by the R.I.A.A. in December 1970. Floyd quit his job at the post office to perform a U.S. tour. His follow-up single, "Baby Let Me Kiss You" climbed up to number 29 on the Billboard Top 40 charts in 1971.

However, differences with Quezergue soon emerged and his 1973 follow-up album, Think About It, although a fine album, failed to make much impact. However, Atlantic released a song from the album, "Woman Don't Go Astray" as a single. His 1975 album, Well Done, was released through TK Records with Atlantic distributing. "I Feel Like Dynamite" from the album, written by Larry Hamilton, became a minor hit."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Staple Singers - The Best Of The Vee-Jay Years

Sorry to be so late to church today, had some internet issues. It is difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that Mavis is a little girl here; she sounds like a 200 pound adult.

"Since the Staple Singers are best known for their hits as a secular soul act on Stax in the late '60s and the 1970s, general fans should be advised that The Best of the Vee-Jay Years includes only gospel material, released for Vee-Jay (in 1956-1961) long before they moved to Stax. If you're aware of this and are simply looking for a good single-disc overview of their early years on disc, however, this fills that bill well. Their two most well-known songs from this period, "Uncloudy Day" and "This May Be the Last Time" (speculated as a possible source for the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time"), open and close the 17-track CD, respectively. Between those cuts are both Pops Staples originals and covers of traditional tunes like "Swing Down Chariot" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." It's been said before, but it can be said here again: these are among the most accessible gospel recordings for rock-oriented listeners, owing to Pops Staples' distinctive tremolo-heavy electric guitar, the frequent use of light rhythmic drums, and the obvious connections to the soul music the Staples would make in their later incarnation. It's not necessarily going to be to the taste of every Staple Singers fan who loves them for their soul recordings, but it's first-rate, well-harmonized gospel with obvious links to the R&B and soul idioms."

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Best Of Sam And Dave

Sam & Dave were an American soul and rhythm and blues (R&B) duo who performed together from 1961 through to 1981. The tenor (higher) voice was Samuel David Moore (born Samuel David Hicks on October 12, 1935), and the baritone/tenor (lower) voice was Dave Prater (May 9, 1937 – April 9, 1988).

Sam & Dave are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and are Grammy Award and multiple gold record award winning artists. According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Sam & Dave were the most successful soul duo, and brought the sounds of the black gospel church to pop music with their call-and-response records. Recorded primarily at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1965 through 1968, these included "Soul Man", "Hold On, I'm Comin", "I Thank You", "When Something is Wrong with My Baby", "Wrap It Up", and many other Southern Soul classics. Other than Aretha Franklin, no soul act during Sam & Dave's Stax years (1965–1968) had more consistent R&B chart success, including 10 consecutive top 20 singles and 3 consecutive top 10 LPs.  Their crossover charts appeal (13 straight appearances and 2 top 10 singles) helped to pave the way for the acceptance of soul music by white pop audiences, and their song "Soul Man" was one of the first songs by a black group to top the pop charts using the word "soul", helping define the genre. "Soul Man" was a number one Pop Hit (Cashbox: November 11, 1967) and has been recognized as one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years by the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone magazine, and RIAA Songs of the Century. "Soul Man" was featured as the soundtrack and title for a 1986 film and also a 1997–1998 television series, and Soul Men was a 2008 feature film.

Nicknamed "Double Dynamite", "The Sultans of Sweat", and "The Dynamic Duo" for their gritty, gospel-infused performances, Sam & Dave were one of the greatest live acts of the 1960s. They were an influence on many future musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, Tom Petty, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello, The Jam, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Joel and Steve Winwood. The Blues Brothers, who helped create a resurgence of popularity for soul, R&B, and blues in the 1980s, were influenced by Sam & Dave - their biggest hit was a cover of "Soul Man", and their act and stage show had many similarities to the duo.

When Sam & Dave arrived at Stax, they worked with producer & engineer Jim Stewart and songwriters including the MGs' guitarist Steve Cropper, who wrote or co-wrote four of their first eight recordings. The duo then moved to relative newcomer writers and producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Hayes and Porter wrote and produced the duo's biggest hits (although they did not receive production credits until the Soul Men LP and singles). According to Moore and Prater, they also greatly influenced the duo's singing style, and had them shift their recording style from the style of their Roulette records to a more live, more energetic gospel, call-and-response feel and beat driven soul style the group is known for today.

Sam & Dave's Stax records also benefited from the musicians and engineering at Stax. The Stax house band, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, and the Stax horn section, the Mar-Keys, had world-class musicians who co-wrote (often without credit) and contributed to recordings—the same musicians who recorded with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas and other soul artists. Sam & Dave's Stax recordings through 1967 were engineered by Stax founder Jim Stewart, who created the Memphis Sound by recording live in a single take. Stewart is credited for instrumental mixes that allowed for instrumental separation and the distinct contribution of each instrument to the overall feel of the song. Hayes and Porter are in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, The Mar-Keys are in the Musicians Hall of Fame, and Booker T. & the MG's, Jim Stewart, Isaac Hayes and Sam & Dave are all in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

While the first two Stax singles failed to chart, the third, the Hayes/Porter composition (with similarities, including the title, to a gospel standard) "You Don't Know Like I Know" hit #7 R&B in 1966. This was the first of 10 consecutive Top Twenty R&B chart hits over three years, and 14 R&B chart appearances during their career. The year 1969 started well, with the Atlantic release of The Best of Sam & Dave LP in January. It contained all their Stax A sides except "A Place Nobody Can Find" and several B-sides, and peaked at #24 on the R&B LP charts and #89 on the Billboard LP charts. Their first single of the year, "Soul Sister, Brown Sugar", returned Sam and Dave to the R&B top 20, and was a #15 hit in the UK.  The follow-up "Born Again", reached the lower levels of the charts, and was the last single Sam and Dave recorded at Stax.

During the early '80s, Atlantic released newer compilations from some of the most popular R&B artists from the '60s, including Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. The Best of Sam & Dave perhaps works even better. Although the duo's 1969 greatest hits remains definitive from a pop culture and song choice perspective, this boasts superior sound and zero filler. Like all of their compilations of merit, The Best of Sam & Dave proves the precision of the backing from Booker T. and the MG's and the duo's most illustrious songwriting team, Isaac Hayes and David Porter. The writing team's masterwork, the amazing and kinetic "Soul Man" was in line with the burgeoning black pride of the time. While other well-known tracks like "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and "Hold on, I'm Comin'" are here, The Best of Sam & Dave also culls other songs that are just as potent. The humorous "Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody" and the hard-driving yet quirky "Wrap It Up" all display the singular one-two punch of Moore's narrow and irascible tone pitted against Prater's woebegone baritone. Arguably the best track, the phenomenal "I Thank You" closes the compilation on a high note. Although the duo did switch officially to Atlantic by the early '70s, this compilation stops at the prime Stax material. The Best of Sam & Dave had a brief shelf life and was supplanted by more extensive overviews. As a compilation spotlighting the hits, this does the job. - Jason Elias / AMG

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sweet Soul Music 1970

And so the series comes to it's end with one last blast. With these 2 series we've journeyed through 26 amazing years. I have seen that there is a new set out from a different company that pursues the same concept with 4 discs for each year! Perhaps there is such a thing as overkill.

This final volume is every bit as magical as it's predecessors, songs straight out of my high school years, the soundtrack of my youth.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Johnnie Taylor - The Philosopher of Soul

"Johnnie Harrison Taylor (May 5, 1934 – May 31, 2000 was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas. As a child, he grew up in West Memphis, Arkansas and performed in gospel groups as a youngster. As an adult, he had one release, "Somewhere to Lay My Head", on Chicago's Chance Records label in the 1950s, as part of the gospel group Highway QCs, which had been founded by a young Sam Cooke. His singing was strikingly close to that of Sam Cooke, and he was hired to take Cooke's place in the latter's gospel group, the Soul Stirrers, in 1957.

A few years later, after Cooke had established his independent SAR Records, Taylor signed on as one of the label's first acts and recorded "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day" in 1962. However, SAR Records quickly became defunct after Cooke's death in 1964.

In 1966, Taylor moved to Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was dubbed "The Philosopher of Soul". Whilst there he recorded with the label's house band, Booker T. & the MGs. His hits included "I Had a Dream", "I've Got to Love Somebody's Baby" (both written by the team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter) and most notably "Who's Making Love", which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1968. "Who's Making Love" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

During his tenure at Stax, he became an R&B star, with over a dozen chart successes, such as "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone", which reached No. 23 on the Hot 100 chart, "Cheaper to Keep Her" (Mack Rice) and record producer Don Davis's penned "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)", which reached No. 11 on the Hot 100 chart. "I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)" also sold in excess of one million units, and was awarded gold disc status by the R.I.A.A. in October 1973. Taylor, along with Isaac Hayes and The Staple Singers was one of the label's flagship artists. He appeared in the documentary film, Wattstax, which was released in 1973.
Columbia Records

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mavis Staples - The Volt Albums

These two albums were dropped in the Shares by our new friend patsoul, thanks to him! I thought they deserved a run up front as these are the only two Stax/Volt records of Mavis as a solo artist. I'm a little concerned as to how long his Mediafire links will last with their new recognition system so I have provided an embedupload link as well.

Here is the first part of her Wiki bio:
"Mavis Staples (born July 10, 1939 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American rhythm and blues and gospel singer, actress and civil rights activist who recorded with The Staple Singers, her family's band.

Mavis Staples began her career with her family group in 1950. Initially singing locally at churches and appearing on a weekly radio show, the Staples scored a hit in 1956 with "Uncloudy Day" for the Vee-Jay label. When Mavis graduated from what is now Paul Robeson High School in 1957, The Staple Singers took their music on the road. Led by family patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples on guitar and including the voices of Mavis and her siblings Cleotha, Yvonne, and Purvis, the Staples were called "God's Greatest Hitmakers."

With Mavis' voice and Pops' songs, singing, and guitar playing, the Staples evolved from enormously popular gospel singers (with recordings on United and Riverside as well as Vee-Jay) to become the most spectacular and influential spirituality-based group in America. By the mid-1960s The Staple Singers, inspired by Pops' close friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., became the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement. They covered contemporary pop hits with positive messages, including Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" and a version of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth."

During a December 20, 2008 appearance on National Public Radio's news show "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me," when Staples was asked about her past personal relationship with Dylan, she admitted they "were good friends, yes indeed" and that he had asked her father for her hand in marriage.

The Staples sang "message" songs like "Long Walk to D.C." and "When Will We Be Paid?," bringing their moving and articulate music to a huge number of young people. The group signed to Stax Records in 1968, joining their gospel harmonies and deep faith with musical accompaniment from members of Booker T. and the MGs. The Staple Singers hit the Top 40 eight times between 1971 and 1975, including two No. 1 singles, "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do It Again," and a No. 2 single "Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?"

Staples made her first solo foray while at Epic Records with The Staple Singers releasing a lone single "Crying in the Chapel" to little fanfare in the late 1960s. The single was finally re-released on the 1994 Sony Music collection Lost Soul. Her first solo album would not come until a 1969 self-titled release for the Stax label...(and) another Stax release, Only for the Lonely, in 1970."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

O.V. Wright - Giant Of Southern Soul 1965-1975

This one is for Cubbs and another reader whose name I've lost. I don't have the CD's for the 3 disc Complete Backbeat set, only mp3's, but for this single disc compilation I have re-ripped to FLAC with full scans from my CD.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

William Bell - Soul Of A Bell / Bound To Happen

 Another Stax guy who was both behind the scenes and out front on stage was William Bell. Bell was born William Yarborough in Memphis, TN in 1939; he took the stage name Bell as a tribute to his grandmother. He began his career as a backup singer for Rufus Thomas in 1957, had some minor success with a group The Del Rio's, followed Rufus to Stax in 1961 as a staff writer and soon as an artist as well.

Most of what was said about Eddie Floyd's role at Stax applies equally well to William Bell. He wrote, sang, produced and help to craft the Stax Sound. Bell's own "You Don't Miss Your Water" was an early hit for Stax in 1961 but just as he was getting rolling a two year hitch in the military set back a promising solo career. He returned to Stax after getting out but not until 1966-67 did he finally regain some traction with "Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need)" and "Everybody Loves a Winner", resulting in the fine LP 'Soul Of A Bell'. 1967 also saw his song (co-written with Booker T Jones) "Born Under A Bad Sign" scoring a big hit for Albert King.
 In 1968 Bell scored again with his "Tribute To A King" for the late Otis Redding. An album of duets yielded "Private Number" with Judy Clay but not much else that was memorable. Before the year was out Bell recorded "I Forgot To Be Your Lover", a Top 10 R&B hit for him and, 20 years later, a Top 10 Pop hit for Billy Idol. The album "Bound To Happen" followed in 1969.

 Bell stayed with Stax to the end, recording 3 or 4 more "nice" but not particularly successful albums. In 1976, the year after Stax folded, he had his biggest hit "Trying to Love Two," which topped the R&B charts for Mercury.

William Bell relocated to Atlanta and continued in the business in various capacities (including founding two labels) and recorded a number of locally successful albums. He still performs on occasion in R&B Legends shows. He has received honors as an R&B Pioneer and a W.C. Handy award.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Eddie Floyd - Knock On Wood & I've Never Found A Girl

I'm going to dedicate this post to Everette and Tyrone.

Eddie Floyd was born June 25, 1937 in Montgomery, Alabama. He was raised in Detroit and was one of the founders of The Falcons, later the launching pad for Wilson Pickett. The Falcons disbanded when the wicked one left and Eddie went to Washington D.C. to work with his pal Al Bell in founding a production company called Safice.

When Bell came to Memphis and Stax, Floyd was one of the valuable assets he brought with him. Stax got a multi-tool talent; a writer, producer and performer. Eddie wrote hits like '634-5789' and 'Ninety Nine and A Half Won't Do' for Pickett and became the frequent writing partner of Steve Cropper and Booker T. Jones. Between 1965 and 1975 virtually every artist at Stax had a hit with Eddie Floyd written and/or produced material, he would be an important figure in the Stax history even if he had never recorded anything himself.....but....he did.

Eddie's voice is that perfectly comfortable shirt or pair of shoes, not as flashy as some, but just 'right'. Having been such an integral element in the Stax sound, it isn't surprising that he wears it well as a performer. 1966's 'Knock On Wood' was intended for Otis Redding but Jerry Wexler convinced Jim Stewart that Floyd's demo deserved to be released on it's own; in very short order Stax had a new star.

As good as the 'Knock On Wood' album is, 'I've Never Found A Girl' is at least it's equal (actually I prefer it).