Wednesday, 3 February 2016

"The Other Side Of The Trax: Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2016 Ace/Kent Soul CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Under My Nose..."

Having reviewed all three of the mammoth Stax Singles box sets (9CDs for Volume 1, 9CDs for Volume 2 and 10CDs for Volume 3) and all 9 of the "Stax Remasters" individual album reissues – you could say I’m a fan. And when I read this CD would contain 24 non-album B-sides (all making their digital debut) - my chapped lips were getting moist at the mere sight of "The Other Side Of The Trax..." on the release schedules for January 2016. So before this review gets any more lewd or lippy – let's get to those B-sides that haven't seen the digital light of day for nearly fifty years...

UK released Friday, 29 January 2016 (February 2016 in the USA) – "The Other Side Of The Trax: Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Ace/Kent Soul CDTOP 442 (Barcode 029667244220) is a 24-track CD compilation of American 45 B-sides on Stax and Volt Records and plays out as follows (61:32 minutes):

1. Changes – JOHNNIE TAYLOR (February 1966, B-side of "I Had A Dream" on Stax 186)
2. Separation – CARLA THOMAS (December 1967, B-side of "Pick Up The Pieces" on Stax 239)
3. This Kind Of Woman – IVORY JOE HUNTER (August 1964, B-side of "Can't Explain How It Happened" on Stax 155)
4. Sho' Gonna Mess Him Up – RUFUS THOMAS (June 1965, B-side of "Willy Nilly" on Stax 173)
5. You Belong To Her – BARBARA and THE BROWNS (March 1964, B-side to "Big Party" on Stax 150)
6. Don't Stop Now – WILLIAM BELL (July 1965, B-side of "Crying All By Myself" on Stax 174)
7. Beach Bash – THE MAR-KEYS (August 1964, B-side of "Bush Bash" on Stax 156)
8. My Pride Won't Let Me Be – EDDIE PURRELL (April 1967, B-side of "The Spoiler" on Volt 145)
9. I Need Somebody – JOHNNY DAYE (November 1967, B-side of "What'll I Do For Satisfaction?" on Stax 238)
10. Uh-Oh (I'm In Love Again) – EDDIE JEFFERSON (February 1964, B-side of "I Don't Want You Anymore" on Stax 147)
11. Watchdog – DOROTHY WILLIAMS (June 1964, B-side of "Closer To My Baby" on Volt 118)
12. You'll Never Know How Much I Love You – OSCAR MACK (May 1964, B-side of "Dream Girl" on Stax 152)
13. Please Be Honest With Me – BARBARA and THE BROWNS (September 1964, B-side of "Spunky" on Stax 158)
14. Ain't Got No Girl – WILLIAM BELL (November 1967, B-side of "Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday" on Stax 237)
15. A Boy Named Tom – CARLA THOMAS (July 1964, B-side to "I've Got No Time To Lose" on Atlantic 2238)
16. Sweet Thing – GORGEOUS GEORGE (February 1965, B-side to "Biggest Fool In Town" on Stax 165)
17. Hey Now – EDDIE FLOYD (June 1967, B-side to "Love Is A Doggone Good Thing" on Stax 223)
18. The Big Dipper – SIR ISAAC & THE DO-DADS (November 1965, B-side to "Blue Groove" on Volt 129)
19. We're Tight – RUFUS and CARLA THOMAS (August 1965, B-side to "When You Move You Lose" on Stax 176)
20. I Gotta Have My Baby's Love – SIR MACK RICE (June 1967, B-side of "Love Sickness" on Stax 220)
21. Under My Nose – EDDIE FLOYD (September 1967, B-side to "On A Saturday Night" on Stax 233)
22. Bashful Guitar – JOHNNY JENKINS (October 1964, B-side to "Spunky" on Volt 122)
23. Here I Am – LINDA LYNDELL (March 1968, B-side to "Bring Your Love Back To Me" on Volt 161)
24. Strange Things (Happenin' In My Heart) – JOHNNIE TAYLOR (November 1967, B-side to "Someone's Sleeping In My Bed" on Stax 235)
NOTES: all tracks in MONO except track 1 - which is STEREO

The 16-page booklet has new liner notes from Soul Expert and genre compiler TONY ROUNCE with the text peppered by black and white Stax publicity stills of Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, Eddie Purrell, Rufus Thomas and Eddie Floyd (and others) as well as repos of rare labels like "You Belong To Her" by Barbara and The Browns on Stax S-150 – a B-side you rarely ever clap eyes on. Rounce talks of the Soul label's policy of making the flip just as sexy as the A in a time when 7" singles dominated the jukeboxes and airwaves and albums were still something of an afterthought. It's a typically informative and affectionate rear. DUNCAN COWELL – a long-time Audio Engineer for Ace Records and Sony’s Blue Horizon has handled the transfers and produced stunning sound. 23 are in Mono with the opener in STEREO – yet all feel alive and kicking...another great job done...

It opens on a dancefloor stormer – Johnnie Taylor assuring his woman that his 'changes' shouldn't worry her – what a decent chap. Carla Thomas gives Northern Soul boys something to savour in her excellent "Separation" from 1967 – a great brassy groover. New Orleans R&B creeps into the rhythms of Ivory Joe Hunter's unusual "This Kind Of Woman" where he wants a woman who loves for him to be around home (good luck with the search Ivory). "...Find me a pistol and a nickel baseball bat..." - Rufus Thomas advises the man whose stolen his baby to cough up in the witty "Sho' Gonna Mess Him Up" or the graveyard (and not the saloon) will be his next port of call. The sweet voice of Barbara Brown sings of a man with a child who wants her – but she reminds him of where his rightful place should be in the mid-tempo "You Belong To Her". I've never heard The Mar-Keys instrumental B-side "Beach Bash" – the imaginatively-titled flip to "Bush Bash" on the A – and it's a winner. Piano rolling keys align with Sax jabs and a driving backbeat – some dancefloor somewhere is gonna dig it. The Eddie Purrell flipside is good but I find his vocals strangely off – better is the fabulous groove of "I Need Somebody" by Johnny Daye – now here's a flipside dancers will indeed flip for – and first time on CD too.

Although his croaky vocals don't fit the belting Otis Redding style of the time – Eddie Jefferson has sweetness to his phrasing and along with that seaside organ running through "Uh-Oh (I'm In Love Again)" gives the song a wonderful feel – like your discovering something magic. Genius choice goes to "Watchdog" by Dorothy Williams where her Big Mama Thornton meets Etta James growl anchors a fantastic dancer (what a find). Oscar Mack's 1964 offering "You'll Never Know How Much I Love You" will please Northern Soul lovers with its frantic pace and slightly off-kilter home-made vocals. Probably the best track on here is another Barbara Brown entry – "Please Be Honest With Me" – a wicked 'darling please' pleader with a funky guitar refrain supporting her fantastic 'soul on fire' vocal delivery throughout.

William Bell once again gets Brass-driving Funky with his groover "Ain't Got No Girl" which even sports strange flute flourishes towards the end that work (could have been an 'A' this). Not sure if I like Carla Thomas' 'sugar plum' lyrics in the sappy "A Boy Named Tom" – better is the testifying "Sweet Thing" by Gorgeous George – a properly good dancer anchored by his moaning gargles-gravel-for-breakfast voice. Another absolute genius choice by Tony Rounce goes to the wickedly infectious "Hey Now" by Eddie Floyd – a guitar-and-piano bopper that trundles along like Big Joe Turner finding his Atlantic mojo again and suddenly deciding to give Soul a go. When I reviewed Volume 1 of the 3 mammoth Stax/Volt Singles Box Sets ("The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968 was reissued in January 2016 at mid-price and contains the A's of every track on here) – I raved about discoveries like "Blue Groove" by Sir Isaac & The Do-Dads. Well it turns out that the flipside "The Big Dipper" is equally up to the task – a great instrumental groover. But then I stumble on my fave-rave here – another Eddie Floyd B-side I've been after for years – "Under My Nose" – the flipside to "On A Saturday Night" from 1967. What a winner...

I've always loved the idea of non-album B-sides – flipping a 45 rpm - a concept that in 2016 must seen odd to younger listeners used to a digital world and download delivery system. But this CD compilation only confirms for me the magic of 45s – how there always seems to be something great to discover on them (dippin' in - like double-albums).

I must admit though that it took a second and third listen to fully appreciate the musical wallop of what's on here – but now I'm chewing it up. And as Tony Rounce quite rightly says – Stax had a policy of making sure that 'the backing song was as good as the top side' – and this fabulous CD Reissue of Stax Rarities sure nails that idea to the or otherwise...

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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