Friday, 29 January 2016

"This Is Clarence Carter/The Dynamic Clarence Carter...And More" by CLARENCE CARTER (2016 Ace/Kent Soul CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...That Old Time Feeling..." 

Alabama's CLARENCE CARTER has had his Atlantic Records catalogue reissued a number of times before in both the UK and the USA by good labels like Rhino, Sequel and Collectables. I've even got Japanese Atlantic versions from two years back with great sound and a reasonable price. So why buy yet again?

Because this January 2016 CD reissue is by 'Ace Records of the UK' (using their Kent Soul label imprint) and 'best ever audio' hardly even scrapes the surface. This CD reissue sounds truly amazing – presented in crystal clear glorious STEREO. As if that's not enough enticement this new version also offers up something quite rare – five Previously Unreleased album outakes tagged on at the end that are actually worth shelling out for. 
Ho! Ho! Ho! as the visually-impaired Montgomery Soul Singer would say-chuckle. 
Let's get to the 'looking for a fox' details...

UK released Friday, 29 January 2016 (5 February 2016 in the USA) – "This Is Clarence Carter/The Dynamic Clarence Carter...And More" by CLARENCE CARTER on Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 444 (Barcode 029667244428) offers 2LPs onto 1CD plus Five Previously Unreleased Outtakes and plays out as follows (76:41 minutes):

1. Do What You Gotta Do
2. Looking For A Fox
3. Slippin' Around
4. I'm Qualified
5. I Can't See Myself
6. Wind It Up
7. Part Time Love [Side 2]
8. Thread The Needle
9. Slip Away
10. Funky Fever
11. She's Ain’t Gonna Do Right
12. Set Me Free
Tracks 1 to 12 are his debut album "This Is Clarence Carter" in Stereo – released December 1968 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8192 and in the UK on Atlantic 588 152

13. I'd Rather Go Blind
14. Think About It
15. The Road Of Love
16. You've Been A Long Time Coming
17. Light My Fire
18. That Old Time Feeling
19. Steal Away [Side 2]
20. Let Me Comfort You
21. Look What I Got
22. Too Weak To Fight
23. Harper Valley PTA
24. Weekend Love
Tracks 13 to 24 are his 2nd album "The Dynamic Clarence Carter" in Stereo – released March 1969 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8199 and in the UK on Atlantic 588 172

BONUS TRACKS Recorded 1966-1967:
25. I'm Happy-Go-Lucky (Mono)
26. She Ain't Gonna Do Right (Mono)
27. Take Me, Use Me (Stereo)
28. There Won't Be Another Sunset (Mono)
29. I'll Be Over After A While (Mono)

The 16-page booklet features full plates of the American artwork front and rear for both LPs – but cleverly Ace have reproduced the 'Original Notes' on the rear of each LP in clear print so fans can actually read the text. There's new liner notes from Soul Expert DEAN RUDLAND that goes into wonderful track-by-track knowledge. The two other Ace CDs they've done for Clarence Carter have been for his Fame Records 7" singles – the vast majority of which were in MONO – so these album in glorious true STEREO are something to behold. The reissue label's long-standing Audio Engineer DUNCAN COWELL handled the transfers and Remasters – and wow is all I can say. I've adored "Looking For A Fox" as one of those sneakily great 60ts Soul groovers that slaughter all in its path when you're out on the dancefloor. The album STEREO cut of "Looking For A Fox" presents subtle differences in that it loses the background singers that were on the Mono single cut – but the upside is that the Audio punch is unbelievable and the thrill factor just as good. This is a fantastic sounding CD and Carter fans will absolutely have to ditch all previous versions...

The debut album had been two years in the making for the blind singer – gathering songs and finally getting into Rick Hall's Fame Studios. His debut opens with the rather schlocky Johnny Rivers and Jimmy Webb vehicle "Do What You Gotta Do" – but by the time you get to his fabulous ballad "I Can't See Myself (Crying About You)" and the funky keyboard groove of "Wind It Up" – you're being hit with a lethal combo – great tunes transferred with rolicking audio. Side 2 opens with the chugging Soul of Clay Hammond's "Part Time Love" – the Fame Gang Session Players laying down a blinder on Guitar, Piano and Horns (wow city). Rudland rightly points out that there's a cymbal on "Thread The Needle" that seems to have been overdubbed onto the Stereo mix – the thing is that this sucker sounds so clear - it threatens to punch a hole in your speaker stack. Clarence's utterly gorgeous "Slip Away" is full and clean - and many people's fave raver "Funky Fever" is surely going to make you shimmy your shammy and not give a monkeys what the neighbours think...

His 2nd album only cemented the building reputation of the debut – it opens with a truly stunning transfer of "I'd Rather Go Blind" – a cover of an Etta James classic on Chess. Don Covay & Otis Redding's "Think About It" sounds fantastic too – but Duane Allman fans will freak out for "The Road To Love" – their hero plays a wild guitar solo half way through (flanged left to right and away) and its never sounded this clear to me (and I've had this track at least five times before on varying compilations). Two great sounding tracks follow – Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "You've Been A Long Time Coming" and The Doors classic "Light My Fire" – but despite the quality transfer neither ignite and in fact feel slightly uncomfortable against the rest of the real Soul Music on the album. Things return to kick ass with the wonderful slink-funk of "That Old Time Feeling" – a co-write between Carter and Rick Hall. His lovely cover of the Jimmy Hughes chart winner "Steal Away" comes at you with such clarity as to make you double take. But my itchy fingers immediately flick to my double Side 2 craves – "Too Weak To Fight" and the fabulous guitar-funk of "Weekend Love" - both dancing like Abbot Costello with ants in his pants. Even his cover of Jeannie C Riley's "Harper Valley PTA" rocks – a cautionary tale where we're reliably informed by the nice principals of said educational establishment that "...Mrs. Johnson...you're wearing your dresses too high..." (oh dear).

I had though the Previously Unreleased would be throw away (four in Mono and one in Stereo) – but thankfully they're not. After all that Stereo bliss – the Mono "I'm Happy-Go-Lucky" comes as an audio shock but a minute in and I'm hooked – a great groove that shows his undeniable knack for picking a 'feeling' and nailing it. Both it and "There Won't Be Another Sunset" are from the same 1967 session and Rudland is right to describe them as 'rather wonderful'. Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn's "She Ain't Gonna Do Right" is a demo and despite its 'frail' audio still sounds great - while the Stereo "Take Me, Use Me" features some lady vocalists to great effect (uncredited unfortunately). His own "I'll Be Over After A While" ends the music fest on an upbeat note...

I've loved Ace's commitment to Soul and R&B across the four long decades they been in the Reissue game. But for me - a long time reviewer and passionate lover of both genres – this CD is something of an Audio milestone. Fantastic music accompanied by truly awesome transfers of it. 

I know its only the end of January but for little old fart me - this is already a shoe in for 2016 'Soul CD Reissue Of The Year'...

PS: I also highly recommend "The Fame Singles Volume 1: 1966-70" by Clarence Carter that Ace put out in 2012 – it has 24 Mono Tracks in blistering sound quality and features many non-album cuts too. See my review...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is SOUL, FUNK & JAZZ FUSION - an E-Book with over 240 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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