Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dan Greer - Beale Street Soul Man

It just seems Kent has found some endless supply of unknown, behind the scenes guys who were making great records that were not ever released. Not every song here is a jaw dropping winner or anything like that, but some are pretty terrific and his voice carries a lot of passion.

"Dan was a talented writer and producer, and these activities ultimately got in the way of his ability to concentrate on being a performer. Born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, he moved to Memphis with his mother in the early 50s and lived close to the thriving musical scene on Beale Street. The talent he mixed with – William Bell, Maurice White, Louis Williams of the Ovations, Percy and Spencer Wiggins and many others – were part of the generation that underpinned the golden era of Memphis soul.

Dan returned to Holly Springs to attend art college, where he learned the techniques that have sustained him for the past five decades as a talented designer. When he came back to Memphis he got into the music business. After hanging out at Stax and Fernwood, he ended up working at Goldwax, alongside new songwriting partner George Jackson. The pair had their songs recorded by all the label’s biggest stars – James Carr, the Ovations and Spencer Wiggins – as well as releasing their own 45 under the name George & Greer. Their partnership fell apart when George was poached by Rick Hall to work exclusively at Fame.

This may have been good for Dan, as it forced him to push forward on his own. He produced a single on the singer Barbara Ingram, which led to him releasing his own disc on Ode, ‘Curiosity Killed The Cat’. This brought him to the attention of Gene Lucchesi at the Sounds Of Memphis Studio, who was just starting up his own label. Recognising Dan’s all-round talent, Gene signed Dan as head of A&R, songwriter, producer and artist. Dan was behind the desk on records by Barbara Brown, the Minits, Lou Roberts, Vision and Spencer Wiggins. He signed the Ovations and scored a couple of big R&B hits with them, confirming his theory that the label needed an established act.

Dan also found time to release three singles of his own, but with his busy schedule it seems likely he didn’t have time to promote them properly. Yet during his three years at the label he continued to record. Some of these recordings were used as templates for versions by other artists – check Dan’s brilliant version of ‘She’s Not Mama’s Little Girl Anymore’, which was released by Lou Roberts – but many of his excellent songs have never been heard before." By Dean Rudland, Ace Records site

By Dean Rudland
By Dean Rudland

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Percy Sledge - The Atlantic Recordings (Rhino Box)

A relode for those who missed it - RIP Percy.

Percy got no love first time around; this time I'm coming back with the mother-lode Rhino box! They dug deep for this 4 disc set, but they seem to have used a better strategy than on some previous sets; even the 4th disc is worthwhile! Two things are clear: Sledge's Atlantic output was pretty consistently top shelf, and no other southern soul singer spent more time straddling the country/r&b line than Percy.

"Percy Sledge worked in a series of blue-collar jobs in the fields in Leighton, Alabama before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. Through the mid 1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient and mutual friend of Sledge and record producer Quin Ivy introduced the two. An audition followed, and Sledge was signed to a recording contract.

Sledge's soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called "emotional classics for romantics of all ages."

"When a Man Loves a Woman" was Sledge's first song recorded under the contract, and was released in March 1966. The song's inspiration came when Sledge's girlfriend left him for a modeling career after he was laid off from construction job in late 1965. Because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them. It reached #1 in the U.S. and went on to become an international hit. "When A Man Loves A Woman" was a hit twice in the UK, reaching #6 in 1966 and, on reissue, peaked at #2 in 1987. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records. The soul anthem became the cornerstone of Sledge's career, and was followed by "Warm and Tender Love" (Covered by UK songstress Elkie Brooks in 1981), "It Tears Me Up", "Take Time to Know Her" (his second biggest U.S. hit, reaching #11 and written by Steve Davis), "Love Me Tender", and "Cover Me".

Sledge charted with "I'll Be Your Everything" and "Sunshine" during the 1970s, and has become an international concert favorite throughout the world, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, and on the African continent, and South Africa in particular.

Sledge's career enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s once "When a Man Loves a Woman" re-entered the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at #2, behind the reissued Ben E King classic "Stand By Me", after being used in a Levi's commercial.

In 1994, Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg produced his new album, Blue Night, for Philippe Le Bras' Sky Ranch label and Virgin Records. It featured Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper, and Mick Taylor among others. Blue Night received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Vocal or Instrumental, and in 1996 it won the W.C. Handy Award for best soul or blues album.

In 2004, Davis and Goldberg also produced the Shining Through the Rain album which led to his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Songs on the CD were written by Mikael Rickfors, Steve Earle, the Bee Gees, Carla Olson, Denny Freeman, Allan Clarke and Jackie Lomax.

In December, 2010, Rhino Handmade issued a 4 CD retrospective "The Atlantic Recordings" which covers all of the issued Atlantic masters, as well as many of the tracks unissued in the US. What makes this limited edition release frustrating is that many of the mono tracks on discs 2, 3 and 4 have previously been issued in stereo (disc 1 comprises Sledge's first two LPs which were not recorded on stereo equipment).

In October 2011 Sledge featured on the Cliff Richard album Soulicious, also appearing live on stage in the tour of the same name, reprising his top hit "When A Man Loves A Woman" as well as dueting with Sir Cliff.

Sledge was an inaugural Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award honoree in 1989. He won the W.C. Handy Blues Awards in 1996 for best Soul/Blues album of the year with his record Blue Night. In 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In May 2007, Percy Sledge was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to the state's music. Sledge is also an inductee of the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, Louisiana.

In November 2004, Percy Sledge was inducted into the Carolina Beach Music Hall Of Fame.

Among the many notable performances of Sledge's career was a cabaret appearance in 2005 alongside Liverpool's infamous "Steam Packet" at The Pumphouse, Albert Dock."

Monday, April 20, 2015

James Govan - I'm In Need

  When Kent records recently gathered 16 tracks recorded by James Govan in Fame Studios in the 60s for a CD release, "Wanted: The Fame Recordings," it turned some R&B/Soul lovers heads around.  When King Cake posted that CD here a while back, it also turned some heads around on this blog.  Here is a great soul singer in the grand tradition who somehow never got the breaks or recognition that he deserved.

Well, I have a little secret for y'all.  Those Fame recordings, as good as they are, are not James Govan's best recordings.  Here they are.  In 1982, David Johnson brought James Govan to Broadway Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama, also bringing in top musicians from Muscle Shoals and carefully choosing a fine group of songs that completely showcase Govan's talents.  Unfortunately, classic Southern Soul was no longer a commercially viable commodity by 1982.  The DJs wouldn't even spin the 45s.  David Johnson gave it up quickly.  He never even released a Govan album.  This disc of Broadway Sound material, "I'm in Need," was only gathered together by Charly Records (as a bootleg) in the UK in the 1990s.  These tracks were again released on a great CD a while back, "The Broadway Sound Sessions," together with a good album by Sandra Wright.  This CD went out of print very fast, however.

What can I say about the music here?   Those who know and love the Fame Studios disc will still be astonished.   James Govan's vocal artistry improved by the 1980s, in fact substantially improved.   In my view, this is soul singing of the highest order, good enough to put Mr. Govan in the Pantheon along with the greats.   His vocal timbers deepened markedly between the 60s and 80s, and James Govan DELIVERS these songs in a deeper way than he did before.

Enjoy - and let's keep this place alive.