Saturday, 9 August 2014

“Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977” by VARIOUS ARTISTS – A Review Of The Genre-Defining 2008 Ace/Kent Soul 3CD Book Set…

This review is part of my "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters Soul, Funk & Jazz Fusion" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


“…That’s The Way I Feel About You…” - Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977 by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2008 Ace/Kent Soul 3CD Book Set)

Even now in 2014 (6 years after the event) - this fabulous compilation casts a shadow and exerts a pull. I'm always dragging it off the shelf and playing it - and as a lifelong Soul and Funk fan - an indepth review of this iconic reissue jewel is long overdue.

"Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977" by VARIOUS ARTISTS is a 3CD Mini Box Set released in the UK October 2008 on Ace Records/Kent Soul KENTBOX 10 (Barcode 029667000901). Except where noted most of the 95-tracks are Mono and Stereo US 7" single mixes with a Previously Unissued Otis Redding nugget and many other vinyl rarities (see full track list below for a breakdown of what's what).

Housed in a glossy outer card wrap is a gorgeous hardback book of 72-pages featuring knowledgeable and informative liner notes by Soul Experts and Compilers DEAN RUDLAND and TONY ROUNCE (they've done huge numbers of inlays for Ace and Edsel over the years). The text is peppered with beautiful colour photos - American 45's on Stax, Dial, Fame, Dot, Volt, Goldwax, Cadet etc - British 7" Demos on London, Pye, Chess and Stateside - record company publicity photos - American trade magazine adverts - recording studio shots... It's properly gorgeous stuff and surely some kind of award-winner (hats off to Neil Dell at 9th Planet). It should however be noted that the card wrap is extremely tight and needs to be removed carefully lest you tear it - and although the book is a truly wondrous thing to behold - it can be awkward to read without snapping the spine (so be careful).

Each disc is theme-titled (see below) and as you can imagine the sound quality varies enormously from era to era. DUNCAN COWELL and ROB SHREAD at Sound Mastering have carried out the remasters and Audio Restoration - and overall the whole thing sounds fantastic and feels like real effort has been applied to every rendition (Cowell handled most of the superlative Blue Horizon CD reissues). Sure Discs 1 and 2 do have their rough edges and hissy fits on the Independent label stuff - but given the sheer passion of what's playing - it hardly ever seems to matter. Frankly - it's all a joyful listen and you can `feel' the engineers digging the transfers...

As you can see from the detailed track-lists provided below - the quality simple hammers you right from the get go (and there's a lot of it). All the huge hits are here - These Arms Of Mine by Otis Redding, When A Man Loves A Woman by Percy Sledge, Tired Of Being Alone by Al Green and I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down by Ann Peebles. In between you get stuff like O.V. Wright's superb "You're Gonna Make Me Cry" which The Staples Singers did a powerfully moving cover version of (it's the B-side to "Respect Yourself" in the USA on Stax). But it's the artists you don't know that thrill. Bill Brandon's lovely "Rainbow Road" and Tony Border's wicked funk "Polly Wolly". Another grooving winner is Johnnie Taylor's cool "Jody's Got Your Girl And Gone" - slinky like Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa". And I can never get enough of Luther Ingram's gorgeous " (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right".

The lone Previously Unreleased track is a genuine Otis Redding sensation - Take 1 of "Try A Little Tenderness" which sees him and his band getting a feel for the song. But even at this early stage - the slow-burn magic is there in the arrangement and vocal phrasing and it's like eavesdropping on the making of a bona-fide classic. B-side genius turns up twice - King Floyd's funky "Groove Me" and Joe Simon's stunner "My Adorable One" from 1964. Simon's flipside features plinking intro guitar, languid pace, hurting lyrics and vocals alternating from pleading to outright passion - Tony Rounce quite rightly surmising that it practically set up a template for Southern Soul ballads for years to come (Ace even gives us the "Take 15" spoken count-in at the beginning of the song). Paul Kelly's fabulous social-conscience piece "Stealing In The Name Of The Lord" is properly brilliant as well - masterfully covered by lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears on his self-titled 1972 debut album (see separate review). "If I Can't Run To You I'll Crawl" by Barbara & The Browns features an impassioned vocal by Barbara Brown that will ensure her immortality amongst aficionados. James Carr, ZZ Hill, Gwen McCrae, Joe Tex, Bobby Womack and Spencer Wiggins - the list of quality goes on and on...

While the big hits and belters of the era reside on Discs 1 and 2 - my heart actually lies with Disc 3 on this one - to me it's little short of perfection. It's primarily Seventies cuts so the production values go up but the quality of the songs is staggering. And there's those discoveries too like Bobby Newsome's fabulous groover "Jody, Come Back And Get Your Shoes" or the beautiful Sax Soul of "How Can I Get Next To You" by veteran singer George Jackson. There's heartache pouring out of every note on "You've Got My Mind Messed Up" by Quiet Elegance - a revival of a James Carr hit (written by Willie Mitchell) - it features gorgeous lead vocals by Frances "Frankie" Gearing. The two album cuts are clever choices too - Denise LaSalle's funkified cover of "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" (from her 1971 Westbound LP "On The Loose") and Al Green's stunning Little Junior Parker tribute "Take Me To The River" which bizarrely was never a 45 in the USA (Talking Heads covered it in 1978 to great effect). Wonderful stuff...

To sum up - this compilation clobbers you on three fronts - a beautifully annotated and fantastically informative read (despite its awkward card wrap and clumsy hardback) - the immaculate song choices and top sound quality. "Take Me To The River" fills your living room with confessional urban tales - dodgy doings in the bedroom with someone else's wife or husband (whichever suits). The only downside is the preponderance for smoochers across all three discs (a few more steppers would have broken up the moaning with a welcome shuffle)- but it's a minor whine in the face of such copious amounts of Soulful class and emotional excellence.

"One of the best compilations ever, in any genre..." and "absolutely defines the genre's sound and variety..." - both the Record Collector and Mojo magazines raved. And having waded through literally thousands of contenders for the reissue-crown-jewels over the decades  - they should know the real deal when they see it. Wash me in these waters any day of the week - superlative and then some...

PS: For those interested in further punishment - I've also reviewed the companion 3CD volume from 2011 - "The Fame Studios Story: 1961-1973"


TRACK LIST for "Take Me To The River..."

Disc 1 "You Don't Miss Your Water" (76:18 minutes):
Tracks 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 20 and 26 are in STEREO - all others are MONO

1. You Don't Miss Your Water - WILLIAM BELL (1961, Stax 116)
2. Go Home Girl - ARTHUR ALEXANDER (1962, Dot 16425)
3. These Arms Of Mine - OTIS REDDING (1962, Volt 103)
4. Steal Away - JIMMY HUGHES (1964, Fame 6401)
5. My Adorable One - JOE SIMON (1964, Gee Bee 077, B-side to "Say (Your Love Is True)"
6. You're Gonna Make Me Cry - O.V. WRIGHT (1965, Backbeat 548)
7. When A Man Loves A Woman - PERCY SLEDGE (1966, Atlantic 2326)
8. Losin' Boy - EDDY GILES (1967, Murco 1031)
9. Try A Little Tenderness - OTIS REDDING (this is Take 1 of the single version on Volt 141 recorded in 1966 and is Previously Unissued)
10. Something I Never Had - JARVIS JACKSON (1966, Sims 291)
11. Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won't Do) - WILSON PICKETT (1966, Atlantic 2334)
12. Got To Make A Comeback - EDDIE FLOYD (1966, Stax 194)
13. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby - CHARLIE RICH (Originally Recorded in 1967 - it remained Previously Unreleased until it was put on a vinyl compilation called "I'll Shed No Tears - The Best Of Hi Recordings" in 1984)
14. The Dark End Of The Street - JAMES CARR (1967, Goldwax 317)
15. Do Right Woman - Do Right Man - ARETHA FRANKLIN (1967, Atlantic 2386)
16. Let's Do It Over - TOUSSAINT McCALL (A previously unreleased 1967 recording first issued in Japan on a 1982 LP on P-Vine Records)
17. I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down - SAM & DAVE (1967, Stax 218)
18. You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man) - JUNE EDWARDS (1967, South Camp 7008)
19. Let's Face Facts - THE MASQUERADES (1967, Wand 1168)
20. She Ain't Gonna Do Right - JAMES and BOBBY PURIFY (A 1967 recording first issued in 2000 on the Sundazed CD compilation "Shake A Tail Feather - The Best Of")
21. Bless You Little Sweet Soul - AL JOHNSON (1967, South Camp 7002)
22. Dirty Man - LAURA LEE (1967, Chess 2013)
23. Cover Me - EDDIE HINTON (a 1967 demo recording first issued the Zane Records "Dear Y'All" CD Compilation in 2000. It was recorded by Percy Sledge in 1968 and Jackie Moore in 1971 - both on Atlantic)
24. You're Gonna Miss Me - REUBEN BELL with the BELTONES (1968, Murco 1046)
25. I'd Rather Go Blind - ETTA JAMES (1967, Cadet 5578)
26. Without Love (There Is Nothing) - OSCAR TONEY JR (1967, Bell 699)

Disc 2 "Rainbow Road" (79:54 minutes):
Tracks 3, 6, 21 and 22 are in STEREO - all others are MONO

1. You Left The Water Running - MAURICE and MAC (1968, Checker 1197)
2. I'll Go Crazy - DON BRYANT (1968, Hi 2143)
3. Rainbow Road - BILL BRANDON (1968, Tower 430)
4. The One You Can't Have All By Yourself - SHIRLEY WALTON (1968, Enterprise 004)
5. Tell Him Tonight - WILLIAM BOLLINGER (1967, Chess 1994)
6. A Smile Can't Hide (A Broken Heart) - OLLIE & THE NIGHTINGALES (A Previously Unreleased 1968 Stax Recording)
7. Uptight Good Woman - SPENCER WIGGINS (1967, Goldwax 321)
8. I Forgot To Be Your Lover - WILLIAM BELL (1968, Stax 0015)
9. I'll Make It Up To You - CLAY HAMMOND (1968, Kent 503)
10. Slip Away - CLARENCE CARTER (1968, Atlantic 2508)
11. That's The Way Love Turned Out For Me - JAMES CARR (1968, Goldwax 338)
12. Polly Wolly - TONY BORDERS (1969, Revue 11054)
13. Another Man's Woman, Another Woman's Man - CANDI STATON (on her 1970 US LP "I'm Just A Prisoner" on Fame Records ST 4201)
14. Buying A Book - JOE TEX (1969, Dial 4090)
15. To The Other Woman (I'm The Other Woman) - DORIS DUKE (1970, Canyon 28)
16. Stealing In The Name Of The Lord - PAUL KELLY (1970, Happy Tiger 541)
17. Faithful And True - Z.Z. HILL (1970 on Quinvey 7003 and 1971 on Mankind 12003)
18. Love's Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down (Pts. 1 & 2) - CHUCK BROOKS  (1970, Volt VOA-4034)
19. I Went Off And Cried - KIP ANDERSON (1969, Excello 2302)
20. If I Can't Run To I'll Crawl - BARBARA & THE BROWNS (1971, Xl Records NN and Sounds Of Memphis 705)
21. What I Don't Know Won't Hurt Me - PAUL THOMPSON (1970, Volt 4042)
22. Jody Got Your Girl And Gone - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (1970, Stax 0085)
23. Wish I Was Back - THOMAS BAILEY (1971, Federal 12567)
24. I Can't Give You My Heart - JIMMY BRASWELL (1971, King 6374)
25. Lead Me On - GWEN McCRAE (1970, Columbia 45214)

Disc 3 "The River" (75:01 minutes):
Tracks 1, 8, 15, 17, 21 and 24 are in STEREO - all others are MONO

1. Mumble In My Ear - MARCEL STRONG (1971, Fame 1475)
2. Breaking Up Somebody's Home - DENISE LaSALLE (1971 USA LP "On The Loose" on Westbound 2016)
3. Tired Of Being Alone - AL GREEN (1972, Hi 2194)
4. I Can't Be Satisfied - SPENCER WIIGGINS (1973, Sounds Of Memphis 716)
5. Groove Me - KING FLOYD (1970, B-side "What Our Love Needs" on Chimneyville 435)
6. She's All I Got - FREDDIE NORTH (1971, Mankind 12004)
7. Jody, Come Back And Get Your Shoes - BOBBY NEWSOME (1972, Spring 125)
8. Stating All Over Again - MEL & TIM (1972, Stax 0127)
9. We Always Come Back Strong - SAM DEES (A 1972 recording first issued on "Second To None" - a 1995 Ace/Kent Soul CD Compilation on CDKEND 125)
10. I've Been Lonely For So Long - FREDERICK KNIGHT (1972, Stax 0117)
11. (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right - LUTHER INGRAM (1972, Ko Ko 2111)
12. I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down - ANN PEEBLES (1972, Hi 2232)
13. I'm Through Trying To Prove My Love To You - BOBBY WOMACK (1973, United Artists 255)
14. Hurts So Good - MILLIE JACKSON (1973, Spring 139)
15. You've Got My Mind Messed Up - QUIET ELEGANCE (1973, Hi 2245)
16. I Get My Groove From you - BOBBY PATTERSON (1974, Paula 386)
17. Take Time To Get To Know Him - TOMMIE YOUNG (1972, Soul Power 110)
18. How Can I Get Next To You - GEORGE JACKSON (1974, MGM 14732)
19. I'll Be The Other Woman - THE SOUL CHILDREN (1973, Stax 0182)
20. Heartbreak Woman - CLARENCE CARTER (1974, Fame 415)
21. Take One Step (I'll Take Two) - CHET DAVENPORT (1974 recording that first appeared on the 2000 Various Artists CD compilation "Curiosities: The Ace 70's Singles & Sessions" on Westside WESD 208)
22. Take Me To The River - AL GREEN (on the 1975 LP "Al Green Explores Your Mind" on Hi Records 32087)
23. If You've Got To Love Somebody - TOMMY TATE (1977, Ko Ko 726)
24. I'll Play The Blues For You - VERNON "GEATER" DAVIS (1976, Odds And Ends 7600) (a cover of the Albert King 1972 hit on Stax)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc