Sunday, 5 June 2016

"The Wham Of That Memphis Man!" by LONNIE MACK (2016 Ace CD Remaster/Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Come To Me...I Need You Here..."

First up - as of June 2016 - there are now three variants of this CD and all of them confusingly carry the same catalogue number and even barcode - Ace CDCHM 1134 (Barcode 029667023627). The first issue was in 1987, then November 2006 and now June 2016 (you can recognise the new issue with its 2016 copyright date on the rear and see-though CD tray. 

And who can blame Ace Records of the UK for wanting to hammer home this fantastic and hugely influential album - 53 years young this October. Here are the Tremolo Arms and Whammy Bars (and that's just the instrumentals)...

UK released June 2016 - "The Wham Of That Memphis Man!" by LONNIE MACK on Ace Records CDCHM 1134 (Barcode 029667023627) is a straightforward Remaster of the MONO LP from 1963 and plays out as follows (32:14 minutes):

1. Wham!
2. Where There's A Will
3. The Bounce
4. I'll Keep You Happy
5. Memphis
6. Baby. What's Wrong? [Side 2]
7. Down And Out
8. Satisfied
9. Susie-Q
10. Why
11. Down In The Dumps
Tracks 1 to 11 are his debut album "The Wham Of That Memphis Man!" - released October 1963 in the USA on Fraternity F-1040 (Mono) and Fraternity SF-1014 (Stereo) - the MONO Mix is used. Tracks 1, 7, 10 and 11 are Lonnie Mack originals - all others are cover versions. The album peaked at No. 103 on the US LP charts.

The Band:
LONNIE MACK - Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals (Tracks 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 - all others Instrumentals)
THE CHARMAINES (Sisters Gigi and Jerri Jackson and Dee Watkins - Tracks 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8) - Backing Vocals

DAVE BURKE and ALAN TAYLOR of 'Pipeline Magazine' have supplied the truly superb liner notes for the fact-filled 16-page booklet – a lovely thing to look at and read - crammed to the gills with repros of Fraternity 45s, US Trade Adverts and Reviews (Cash Box and Billboard) and cool photos of the rotund Lonnie Mack holding his trademark 'Flying V' guitar.

Sound-wise - quite why Ace has chosen to use only the MONO mix (Fraternity F-1014) when they could have fitted both the Stereo one on here too is anybody's guess? But there's no denying the fantastic and rocking Audio offered. DUNCAN COWELL – a long-standing Audio Engineer of repute (Blue Horizon, Ace, Edsel and many more) – has carried out the Remaster and this thing boogies like a goodun – all that amazing fret-skill churning out of your speakers with attitude along with the rest of his road-sessioned and tight backing band. The charming and Soulful vocals of The Charmaines add hugely to the vocal numbers – mostly ballads – where Lonnie’s rather brill voice let’s rip with the heartache and woe.

Re-listening to this album in 2016 and you're struck by its brilliance and the fact that it seemed to launch a few styles and not just hard-hitting instrumentals. White-boy Soul comes in the shape of the torch-ballad churner "Where There's A Will" (written by Lou Williams) and his truly sublime cover of Hank Ballard's "I'll Keep You Happy" (lyrics from it title this review) is amazing stuff. You then get a bopping R&B dancer opening Side 2 - a fabulous Boogaloo cover of Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What's Wrong?" ably abetted by The Charmaines. While "Down And Out" could easily be any Chuck Berry Guitar Instrumental - you can so hear England's Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and later Dr. Feelgood in his guitar-manic cover of Dale Hawkins' "Susie-Q".

There's even Southern Blues Rock in the twin Guitar/Saxophone whine of "Why" - a Lonnie Mack composition where he lets rip on his considerable set of pipes - guttural and gravel-like. And that opening salvo of "Wham!" is astonishing even now - a frantic set of guitar riffs where he races up and down the frets like Jerry Lee Lewis would on a piano - one leg on the chair - hair flying in wild abandon. You can hear his influence on The Graham Bond Organization and The Spencer Davis Group in his cover of The Olympics hit "The Bounce" - another R&B-influenced instrumental bolstered up by The Charmaines with their cha cha refrains and "just one more time" chants towards the end. There's even a Countrified Soul shuffle to his cover of Martha Carson's "Satisfied" – very cool stuff.

This is the kind of genre-busting brilliant album that's been overlooked for eons. Yet with reissues starting with President Records in 1967 in the UK - right through to Ace and Edsel in the later decades - Lonnie Mack's "The Wham Of That Memphis Man!" keeps getting rediscovered by new generations - and rightly so (sadly Lonnie Mack was lost to us in April 2016, aged 74). 

What an amazing listen. Bend that tremolo arm indeed...

PS: there's also a variant put out by Ace Records in late October 2006 of Lonnie Mack's "The Wham Of That Memphis Man!" - it's part of their 'Hip Pocket' CD Series where they repro the album's artwork in a 6" 'Hip Pocket' Card Sleeve. It's catalogue number is Ace CDCHM 1134 (Barcode 029667023627)...

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