Saturday, 12 May 2018

"Stax Singles Volume 4: Rarities & The Best Of The Rest" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (February 2017 Stax/Craft Recordings 6CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



 




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"...Deep Down Inside..."

Having bought, loved and reviewed in-depth the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Brick Block Reissue Versions of Volumes 1 to 3 in this extraordinary Stax Records Singles Series (originally issued in 12” x 12” Boxes in 1991, 1993 and 1994) - it's taken some time for my rotund tum-tum to get its wriggle-lines around this latest additional tome - "Stax Singles Volume 4" - issued February 2017.

Offering die-hard punters 145 Tracks beautifully Remastered by JOE TARANTINO and ROGER ARMSTRONG onto 6CDs (also in a Brick Block Box Set) – it comes accompanied by an 80-page booklet with 4 new essays from compilation producers and Soul aficionados BILL BELMONT, ROB BOWMAN and ALEC PALAO. The music hits many genres outside of the straight-up Stax Soul contained in the first three volumes. Now we get Country, Blues, Rock, Pop, Easy Listening, Gospel and of course liberal doses of 60ts and 70ts R&B, Funk, Rare Groove and Deep Soul. The awful Disc 4 which concentrates on the 'Enterprise' label offshoot lets the side down terribly - coming over like some poor man's Burt Bacharach rejects listen - track after track of saccharine pap with only three or four uplifters.

Info: although the 80-page mini booklet is chock-full of info, photos of those gorgeous American 7" single labels and period memorabilia - the track-lists from Page 5 onwards take the lazy way out and don't actually tell you what the singles are B-sides to? So for collectors I've provided that info in this review for the first time. There's a ton of sexiness (and some clunkers) to wade through, so let's have at those 45 details...

US released 7 February 2017 - "Stax Singles Volume 4: Rarities & The Best Of The Rest" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Stax/Craft Recordings CR00043 (Barcode 888072029712) is a 6CD Brick Block Box Set with 145-Tracks. All catalogue numbers and release dates listed below are for US 7" singles on Stax Records and its label offshoots – Ardent, Chalice, Enterprise, The Gospel Truth, H.I.P., Satellite, Truth, Volt and We Produce and it plays out as follows:

Disc 1 - 29 Tracks from 1960 to 1968 (72:09 minutes):
1. Deep Down Inside - CARLA & RUFUS (August 1960 on Satellite 102, B-side to "Cause I Love You")
2. Yeah, Yea-ah - RUFUS and FRIEND (June 1961 on Atco 45-6199, B-side to "I Didn't Believe")
3. All The Way - PRINCE CONLEY (July 1961 on Satellite S-108, B-side to "I'm Going Home")
4. I'll Never Give Her Up (My Friend) - THE CANES (April 1962 on Stax S-123, B-side to "Why Should I Suffer With The Blues")
5. Just Enough To Hurt Me - THE ASTORS (July 1963 on Stax S-139, B-side to "What Can It Be")
6. I Found A Brand New Love - EDDIE KIRK (September 1963 on Volt 111, B-side to "Them Bones")
7. Fine And Mellow - RUFUS THOMAS (September 1963 on Stax S-140, B-side to "Walking The Dog")
8. Fannie Mae - BOOKER T. & THE MG'S (December 1963 on Stax S-142, B-side to "Mo' Onions")
9. Sassy - FLOYD NEWMAN (December 1963 on Stax S-143, B-side to "Frog Stomp")
10. I Want To Get Married - RUFUS THOMAS (January 1964 on Stax S-144, B-side to "Can Your Monkey Do The Dog")
11. That's The Way That It Goes - BOBBY MARCHAN (January 1964 on Volt 45-113, B-side to "You Won't Do Right")
12. Shake Up - THE COBRAS (March 1964 on Stax S-148, B-side to "Restless")
13. You Belong To Her - BARBARA AND THE BROWNS (March 1964 on Stax S-150, B-side to "Big Party")
14. Watchdog - DOROTHY WILLIAMS (June 1964 on Volt 45-118, B-side to "Closer To My Baby")
15. Free For All - BARACUDAS (December 1964 on Volt 123, B-side to "Yank Me (Doodle)") - Both sides are instrumentals
16. I Don't Want Trouble - BARBARA AND THE BROWNS (January 1965 on Stax S-164, B-side to "My Lover")
17. Sweet Thing - GORGEOUS GEORGE (February 1965 on Stax S-165, B-side to "Biggest Fool In Town")
18. I Found Out - THE ASTORS (May 1965 on Stax S-170, B-side to "Candy")
19. We're Tight - RUFUS & CARLA THOMAS (August 1965 on Stax S-176, B-side to "When You Move You Lose")
20. Chicken Scratch - RUFUS THOMAS (September 1965 on Stax S-178, B-side to "The World Is Round")
21. Weak Spot - RUBY JOHNSON (March 1966 on Volt V-133, B-side to "I'll Run Your Hurt Away")
22. Talkin' Bout True Love - RUFUS THOMAS (September 1966 on Stax 45-200, B-side to "Sister's Got A Boyfriend")
23. If You Give Up What You Got (You'll See What You Lost) - MABLE JOHN (November 1966 on Stax S-205, B-side to "You're Taking Up Another Man's Place")
24. A Small Portion Of Your Love - SAM and DAVE (January 1967 on Stax S-210, B-side to "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby")
25. Keep On Keeping On - RUBY JOHNSON (April 1967 on Volt 45-147, B-side to "If I Ever Needed Love (I Sure Do Need It Now)")
26. Greasy Spoon - RUFUS THOMAS (June 1967 on Stax S-221, B-side to "Sophisticated Sissy")
27. Left Over Love - MABLE JOHN (September 1967 on Stax S-234, B-side to "Don't Hit Me No More")
28. Girl, You Have My Heart Singing - OLLIE & THE NIGHTINGALES (February 1968 on Stax S-245, B-side to "I Got A Sure Thing")
29. Don't Get Caught - MABLE JOHN (March 1968 on Stax 45-249, B-side to "Able Mable")

Disc 2 - 25 Tracks from 1968 to 1971 (75:22 minutes):
1. I'm So Glad You're Back - SHIRLEY WALTON (January 1968 on Enterprise 45-001, B-side to "I Was Born To Love You")
2. We've Just Been Feeling Bad - DELANEY & BONNIE [Bramlett] (May 1969 on Stax STA 0003, B-side to "It's Been A Long Time Coming")
3. I Don't Know - LINDA LYNDELL (June 1968 on Volt VOA-4001, B-side to "What A Man")
4. Love-Eye-Tis - JUDY CLAY & WILLIAM BELL (July 1968 on Stax STA-0005, B-side to "Private Number")
5. Remove These Clouds - JUDY CLAY (September 1968 on Stax STA-0006, B-side to "Bed Of Roses")
6. Stay With Us - THE STAPLE SINGERS (August 1968 on Stax STA-0007, B-side to "Long Walk To D.C.")
7. So Hard To Get Along With - RUFUS THOMAS (August 1968 on Stax STA-0010, B-side to "Funky Mississippi")
8. I Like What You're Doing To Me - JEANNE AND THE DARLINGS (September 1968 on Volt VOA-4005, B-side to "It's Unbelievable (How You Control My Soul)")
9. Over Easy - BOOKER T. & THE MG'S (October 1968 on Stax STA-0013, B-side to "Hang 'Em High")
10. Shouldn't I Love Him - MABLE JOHN (November 1968 on Stax STA-0016, B-side to "Running Out")
11. Left Over Love - WILLIAM BELL & JUDY CLAY (November 1968 on Stax STA-0017, B-side to "My Baby Specializes")
12. Sweet Things You Do - JIMMY HUGHES (January 1969 on Volt VOA-4008, B-side to "Let 'Em Down Baby")
13. Grab A Handful - ART JERRY MILLER (March 1969 on Enterprise ENA-9002, B-side to "Finger Lickin' Good")
14. Consider Me - EDDIE FLOYD (May 1969 on Stax STA-0036, B-side to "Don't Tell Your Mama (Where You've Been)")
15. Soul Clap '69 - BOOKER T. & THE MG'S (May 1969 on Stax STA-0037, B-side to "Mrs. Robinson")
16. Standing In The Need Of Your Love - JEANNIE AND THE DARLINGS (June 1969 on Volt VOA-4015, B-side to "It's Time To Pay For The Fun (We've Had)")
17. I Thank You - THE BAR-KAYS (February 1970 on Volt VOA-4033, B-side to "Song And Dance")
18. Make It Good - THE SOUL CHILDREN (February 1970 on Stax STA-0062, B-side to "Hold On, I'm Coming")
19. I'll Be Your Anything - OLLIE AND THE NIGHTINGALES (March 1970 on Stax STA-0065, B-side to "Bracing Myself For The Fall")
20. Let Me Ride - WILLIAM BELL (July 1970 on Stax STA-0070, B-side to "Lonely Soldier")
21. Sunday Sermon - BOOKER T. & THE MG'S (May 1070 on Stax STA-0073, B-side to "Something")
22. Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll) - CARLA THOMAS (September 1970 on Stax STA-0080, B-side to "I Loved You Like I Love My Very Life")
23. A Love Affair That Bears No Pain - SHACK [William] (November 1970 on Volt VOA-4051, B-side to "Too Many Lovers")
24. Just A Little Overcome - THE NIGHTINGALES (May 1971 on Stax STA-0091, B-side to "I Don't Want To Be Like My Daddy")
25. Mannish Boy - THE NEWCOMERS (July 1971 on Stax STA-0099, B-side to "Pin The Tail On The Donkey")

Disc 3 - 21 Tracks from 1971 to 1975 (74:59 minutes):
1. Let Love Fill Your Heart - ILANA (August 1971 on Volt VOA-4064, B-side to "Where Would You Be Today")
2. Ridin' On Love's Merry-Go-Round - THE SOUL CHILDREN (August 1971 on Stax STA-0102, B-side to "Got To Get Away From It All")
3. I Can't Win For Losing - HOT SAUCE [Lead Vocals Rhonda Washington] (September 1971 on Volt VOA-4067, B-side to "I'll Kick A Brick (About My Man)")
4. Ain't Nobody Like My Baby - LEE SAIN (March 1972 on We Produce XPA-1806, B-side to "She's My Old Lady Too") - miscredited in booklet as
 1086
5. Echoes From The Past - HOT SAUCE (March 1972 on Volt VOA-4076, B-side to "Bring It Home (And Give It To Me)")
6. Did My Baby Call - THE MAD LADS (March 1972 on Volt VOA-4080, B-side to "Let Me Repair Your Heart")
7. Baby I'm-A Want You - ISAAC HAYES and DAVID PORTER (April 1972 on Enterprise ENA-9049, B-side to "Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One)")
8. Pick Up The Pieces - JEAN KNIGHT (July 1972 on Stax STA-0136, B-side to "Helping Man")
9. Stop Teasing Me - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (August 1972 on Stax STA-0142, B-side to "Stop Doggin' Me")
10. Type Thang - ISAAC HAYES (September 1972 on Enterprise ENA-9058, B-side to "Theme From The Men (instrumental)")
11. In Love With You - JOHN GARY WILLIAMS (September 1972 on Stax STA-0146, B-side of "My Sweet Love")
12. Since I Lost My Baby's Love - MAJOR LANCE (December 1972 on Volt VOA-4085, B-side to "Ain't No Sweat")
13. Mama's Baby (Daddy's Maybe) - HOT SAUCE (February 1973 on Volt VOA-4089, B-side to "What Do You See In Her?")
14. Poem On The School House Wall - THE SOUL CHILDREN (June 1973 on Stax STA-0170, B-side to "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing")
15. That Makes Christmas Day - RUFUS THOMAS (December 1973 on Stax STA-0187, B-side to "I'll Be Your Santa Baby")
16. What's Your Thing - THE STAPLE SINGERS (April 1974 on Stax STA-0213, B-side to "Whicha Way Did It Go" by Pops Staples)
17. Yes Sir Brother - SHIRLEY BROWN (August 1974 on Truth TRA-3206, B-side to "Woman To Woman")
18. Funny - HOT SAUCE (January 1975 on Volt VON-4114, B-side to "I Can't Let You Go")
19. Let's Make A Deal - FREDERICK KNIGHT (January 1975 on Truth TRA-3216, B-side to "I Betcha Didn't Know That")
20. Can't Give You Up (I Love You Too Much) - THE GREEN BROTHERS (January 1975 on Truth TRA-3219, B-side to "Dy-No-Mite (Did You Say My Name)")
21. Just Ain't No Love (Without You Here) - JOHN GARY WILLIAMS (May 1975 on Truth TRA-3227, B-side to "Come What May")

Disc 4 - 22 Tracks from 1969 to 1975 (70:10 minutes):
1. The Ballad Of Otis B. Watson - SID SELVIDGE (September 1969 on Enterprise ENA-9005, A-side, written by Don Nix)
2. Black Hands White Cotton - THE CABOOSE (May 1970 on Enterprise ENA-9015, A-side, No. 79 on Pop Charts)
3. Love's Not Hard To Find - DALLAS COUNTRY (July 1970 on Enterprise ENA-9016, B-side to "Small Vacation", written by Don Nix and Ramsey Horton)
4. April - CASPER PETERS (August 1970 on Enterprise ENA-9018, B-side to "Find My Way", written by Don Nix)
5. Reaching For A Rainbow - CLARK SULLIVAN (September 1970 on Enterprise ENA-9022, A-side)
6. I Wanna Be Your Baby - BILLY ECKSTINE (September 1970 on Enterprise ENA-9025, B-side to "Name Of Your Sorrow", written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter)
7. Why Did It Take So Long - CHUCK BORIS (August 1970 on Enterprise ENA-9023, A-side)
8. Why Did It Take So Long - BARBARA LEWIS (November 1970 on Enterprise ENA-9027, B-side to "Ask The Lonely")
9. Gypsy - FINLEY BROWN (August 1971 on Enterprise ENA-9035, A-side)
10. Slip Away - O.B. McCLINTON (February 1972 on Enterprise ENA-9044, A-side)
11. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby - BILLY ECKSTINE (March 1972 on Enterprise ENA-9046, A-side)
12. Good Times Are Coming - BEN ATKINS (April 1972 on Enterprise ENA-9048, B-side to "Day By Day")
13. Some Other Man - RIVER CITY STREET BAND (June 1972 on Enterprise ENA-9052, A-side)
14. Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You - O.B. McCLINTON (September 1972 on Enterprise ENA-9059, A-side - No. 37 on the Country charts)
15. Would I Be Better Gone? - BIG BEN (February 1973 on Enterprise ENA-9061, A-side)
16. Black Cat Moan - DON NIX (April 1973 on Enterprise ENA-9067, A-side - a Don Nix song)
17. She's A Friend Of Mine - DON NIX (October 1973 on Enterprise ENA-9083, A-side- a Don Nix song)
18. Rock N' Roll Warning - LARRY RASPBERRY And THE HIGHSTEPPERS (April 1974 on Enterprise ENA-9099, A-side)
19. Conquistadores '74 - CHICO HAMILTON (June 1974 on Enterprise ENA-9102, A-side - a Chico Hamilton song)
20. The Way I'm Needing You - CLIFF COCHRAN (June 1974 on Enterprise ENA-9103, A-side)
21. Let's Get Together - CONNIE EATON (July 1974 on Enterprise ENA-9105, A-side)
22. The Way I'm Needing You - KAREN CASEY (April 1975 on Enterprise ENA-9111, A-side - Produced by Donald 'Duck' Dunn of Booker T. & The MG's)

Disc 5 - 26 Tracks from 1966 to 1974 (72:01 minutes):
1. Stop, Quit It - THE POOR LITTLE RICH KIDS (December 1966 on H.I.P H-102, B-side to "She's The Best Girl In Town")
2. Cigarettes - LONNIE DUVALL (April 1967 on H.I.P. Records H-104, A-side)
3. It's Mighty Clear - THE POOR LITTLE RICH KIDS (Cancelled December 1966 US 45 on H.I.P. H-105, intended B-side to "I Who Have Nothing")
4. Warm City Baby - THE HONEY JUG (June 1967 on H.I.P. H-106, A-side)
5. For A Little While - THE GOODIES (August 1967 on H.I.P. H-109, A-side)
6. For Your Love - THE HONEY JUG (August 1967 on H.I.P. H-110, A-side)
7. Groovy Day - KANGAROO'S (1968 on H.I.P. H-113, A-side)
8. And I Love You - BOBBY WHITLOCK (June 1968 on H.I.P. HIA-8001, B-side to "Raspberry Jug")
9. Smell Of Incense - SOUTHWEST F.O.B. (September 1968 on H.I.P. HIA-8002, A-side, No. 56 on the Pop Charts)
10. Condition Red - THE GOODIES (November 1968 on H.I.P. HIA-8005, A-side, No. 46 on the Pop Charts)
11. Family Portrait - BILLY LEE RILEY (October 1968 on H.I.P. HIA-8006, A-side)
12. The Children Have Your Tongue - THIS GENERATION (December 1968 on H.I.P. HIA-8007, A-side)
13. Show Me Your Soul - BILLY LEE RILEY (February 1969 on H.I.P. HIA-8011, A-side)
14. Day In And Out - THE WATERS (March 1969 on H.I.P. HIA-8012, A-side)
15. Hey Jack (Don't Hijack My Plane) - THE VILLAGE SOUND (March 1969 on H.I.P. HIA-8013, A-side)
16. Cool My Desire - THE CHEQUES (April 1969 on H.I.P. HIA-8014, A-side)
17. Goodies - THE GOODIES (June 1969 on H.I.P. HIA-8016, A-side)
18. Miss Rita Famous - PARIS PILOT (October 1969 on H.I.P. HIA-8017, A-side)
19. Someone Something - THE KNOWBODY ELSE (October 1969 on H.I.P. HIA-8020, B-side to "Let Us Pray")
20. Feel Alright - CARGOE (July 1972 on Ardent ADA-2901, A-side)
21. In The Street - BIG STAR (August 1972 on Ardent ADA-2902, B-side to "When My Baby's Beside Me")
22. I Love You Anyway - CARGOE (January 1973 on Ardent ADA-2903, A-side)
23. Say What you Mean - THE HOT DOGS (October 1973 on Ardent ADA-2906, A-side)
24. O My Soul - BIG STAR (April 1974 on Ardent ADA-2909, A-side)
25. I Walk The Line - THE HOT DOGS (May 1974 on Ardent ADA-2910, A-side, a Johnny Cash cover)
26. September Gurls - BIG STAR (May 1974 on Ardent ADA-2912, A-side)

Disc 6 - 22 Tracks from 1965 to 1974 (74:09 minutes):
1. Assassination - DIXIE NIGHTINGALES (November 1965 on Chalice 102, A-side)
2. Hush Hush - DIXIE NIGHTINGALES (November 1965 on Chalice 102, B-side to "Assassination")
3. I Don't Know - DIXIE NIGHTINGALES (1966 on Chalice 103, A-side)
4. Wade In The Water - THE STARS OF VIRGINIA (1966 on Chalice 104, A-side)
5. Forgive These Fools - DIXIE NIGHTINGALES (1966 on Chalice 105, A-side)
6. Our Freedom Song (Free At Last) - THE JUBILEE HUMMINGBIRDS (1966 on Chalice 106, A-side)
7. Press My Dying Pillow - THE JUBILEE HUMMINGBIRDS (1966 on Chalice 106, B-side to "Our Freedom Song (Free At Last)")
8. God's Promise - THE PATTERSONAIRES (1966 on Chalice 107, A-side)
9. Hello Sunshine - REV. MACEO WOODS and THE CHRISTIAN TABERNACLE BAPTIST CHURCH CHOIR (October 1969 on Volt VOA-4025, A-side, No. 28 on the R&B Charts)
10. Tryin' Times - ROEBUCK "POP" STAPLES (March 1970 on Stax STA-0064, B-side of "Black Boy")
11. His Love Will Always Be - TERRY LYNN COMMUNITY CHOIR (May 1972 on The Gospel Truth GTA-1020, A-side)
12. Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You (Don't Let The Devil Fool You) - REVEREND W. BERNARD AVANT JR., and THE ST. JAMES GOSPEL CHOIR (May 1972 on The Gospel Truth GTA-1203, A-side)
13. There's Gonna Be A Showdown - THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (June 1972 on The Gospel Truth GTA-1204, A-side)
14. That Will Be Good Enough For Me - THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (June 1972 on The Gospel Truth GTA-1204, B-side to "There's Gonna Be A Showdown")
15. The Magnificent Sanctuary Band (Marching For The Man) - REVEREND MACEO WOODS and THE CHRISTIAN TABERNACLE CONCERT CHOIR (March 1972 on The Gospel Truth GTA-1205, A-side)
16. Better Get A Move On - LOUISE McCORD (July 1972 on Gospel Truth GM-01030-PL, A-side, Promo-Only)
17. Satisfied - CHARLES MAY & ANNETTE MAY THOMAS (January 1973 on Gospel Truth GTA-1206, A-side)
18. I Got To Be Myself - THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (March 1973 on Gospel Truth GTA-1208, A-side, No. 31 on the R&B charts)
19. He Included Me - THE PEOPLE'S CHOIR OF OPERATION PUSH UNDER THE DIRECTION OF REVEREND MARVIN YANCY (September 1973 on Gospel Truth GTA-1210, A-side)
20. We're The Salt Of The Earth - THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (May 1974 on Gospel Truth GTA-1216, A-side)
21. Reflections - LOUISE McCORD (October 1974 on Gospel Truth GTA-1217, A-side)
22. Ain't No Need Of Crying - THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP (October 1974 on Truth TRA-3210, A-side, No. 61 on the R&B charts)

Content: the usual big Stax Soul names are all here - Booker T. & The MG's, Rufus Thomas, William Bell and Judy Clay, Mable John, Ollie And The Nightingales, The Staple Singers, Jimmy Hughes, Eddie Floyd, Isaac Hayes (and David Porter), Johnnie Taylor, The Bar-Kays, Barbara Lewis, Major Lance, Jean Knight, The Mad Lads, The Soul Children and many more. But it comes as a shock to see Rock acts like Big Star, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock and Don Nix nestling alongside white obscuro Pop acts like The Caboose, The Knowbody Else and The Cheques. There's Jazz with Art Jerry Miller and Chico Hamilton while crooner Billy Eckstine and Rock ‘n’ Roller Billy Lee Riley addle up to rarely seen Deep Soul types like William Shack, Shirley Walton, The Newcomers and the funky-funky Gospel grooves of The Rance Allen Group.

Between their debut 45 in 1959 and final releases towards the end of 1975 – Stax Records and its subsidiary labels issued over 600 sevens – enough to full 30CDs full of flipsides. So compiler and Stax scholar Rob Bowman has chosen just 75 for Discs 1 to 3 – agony he tells us in the liner notes – but also justified choices because he maintains they're comparable to any other company's A's – and he'd be right. Every disc here is a revelation. Part of the joy too is of course the 'dip in and find out what's cooking' element. So much of this music is obscure and forgotten when it absolutely shouldn't be. That's the good news. The bad is that Disc 4 has some truly awful stuff on it and Disc 5 goes so off-kilter that some may find the listen a tad underwhelming and out of sorts. Disc 4's 22-Tracks of A's and B's are dedicated entirely to the 'Enterprise' label offshoot that began in 1968 and took its name from the popular Star Trek TV Series and its Starship Enterprise (to boldly go where no other label had gone before etc - most of its output didn't go anywhere). Disc 5 goes into the Rock, Rock 'n' Roll and Country oddities that turned up on more offshoots – the H.I.P. and Ardent labels - while Disc 6 gives us a 22-track exploration of the label's deep Gospel leanings – tracks that appeared on the Chalice, The Gospel Truth and Truth labels (as well as one or two on Stax and Volt). It's an amazing haul whatever way you look at it.

Specifics: to see B-sides like Judy Clay & William Bell's "Love-Eye-Tis", The Staple Singers' "Stay With Us" and the Love, Freedom and Peace of "What's Your Thing" (written by Mack Rice), Ilana's Northern Soul heartache-filled monster "Let Love Fill Your Heart" (as amazing as the grooving A-side "Where Would You Be Today"), the Pops Roebuck Staples cover of Donny Hathaway's "Tryin' Times" and even something as ordinary as Isaac Hayes' "Type Thang" (from 1972) finally get centre stage on CD is a thrill (I've been after these elusive buggers for digital decades).

But what also impresses more than the sheer scale of music on offer here (Discs 1 to 3) is the quality of it. It seems that when it came to Atlantic, Motown and Stax Records - the flip sides were just as nasty/cool as the plug-sides. Take Lee Sain's fabulous torch-ballad "Ain't Nobody Like My Baby" as he reliably informs us that ordinary words can't describe his woman or Jean Knight's funky "Pick Up The Pieces" sounding like a solid follow-up to "Mr. Big Stuff" or Major Lance's joyful buckets-of-tears dancer "Since I Lost My Baby's Love" – all fabarooney. Stunning songwriter Bettye Crutcher provides "Mama's Baby (Daddy's Maybe)" for Rhonda Washington as Lead Singer with Hot Sauce - a great keyboard/brass funky dancer (keep your woman sweet). She excels again on the gorgeous ballad of "Funny" - an “I'm over you baby” smoocher that will burrow its way into your heart. Genuine sensations come with not one but two barnstormers from The Soul Children featuring the staggering guttural vocals of John Colbert (known as J. Blackfoot) and Anita Louis on "Ridin' On Love's Merry-Go-Round" and the fantastic "Poem On The School House Door" - Rob Bowman describing their output as something that '...ranks with the greatest deep soul records ever released.'

After the sheer Soul high of Discs 1 to 3 - the fourth CD comes as a massive disappointment - an array of truly awful Pop cack. It opens with "The Ballad Of Otis B. Watson" from Sid Selvidge - a sort of Terry Jacks and Jimmy Webb schmaltz tune about someone's relative dying. The white-boy Rock-Funk band The Caboose and their right-on glory-glory hallelujah "Black Hands White Cotton" actually made No 79 on the US Pop charts - but its live audience overdub and fay earnestness sounds cringing and false now. Unfortunately the Don Nix connection to both the Dallas County and Casper Peters tracks does little to rescue them from their awful saccharine nature. Poor old Billy Eckstine has a set of backing singers inflicted on his "I Wanna Be Your Baby" as he tries to croon sincerely through a rare miss by the duo of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. A moment's respite comes in the Three Dog Night/Steppenwolf Rock of Finley's Brown's heavy-heavy "Gypsy" but again it feels like black people trying to do Led Zeppelin three years after the event and not really knowing how. But Country boy O.B. McClinton and his ludicrously bad cover of Clarence Carter's "Slip Away" comes dangerously close to ending up on a Kenny Everett LP for 'worst records ever made'.

Disc 5 first concentrates on the H.I.P. Records implant for its first 19-tracks - the Memphis Sound of Stax blatantly going after the British Invasion audience with Pop, Bubblegum, Girl Groups and even some Freakbeat. Tracks 20 to 26 wrap up Disc 5 with the Ardent Label featuring the mighty Big Star. Back to HIP - Lonnie Duvall's "Cigarettes" is excellent 60ts Pop but the unreleased "It's Mighty Clear" by The Poor Little Rich Kids is a sub-Byrds knock-off. Better is the great harmonies in "Warm City Baby" by The Honey Jug and the label's bestsellers - the girl group The Goodies and their very Motown shuffler "For A Little While". Psych and Freakbeat fans will dig the out-there take by The Honey Jug on Graham Gouldman's Yardbirds gift "For Your Love" - a guitar and organ swirl that is a million miles removed from everything Stax was about. Even cooler is a cover of The West Coast Pop Art Ensemble tune "Smell Of Incense" by Southwest F.O.B. that actually went to No. 56 on the US Pop charts in September 1968. Motorbike take-me-with-you Girl Group drama comes roaring in with "For Your Love" where some hipster crashes his chopper before our sweet-gal can jump on the rear. The flying saucer Rock ‘n’ Roller Billy Lee Riley finally gets a half decent tune with "Family Portrait" where he comes across as a snarling Leon Russell moaning about marital chicanery. Other winners include This Generation getting their teeth into a good groove and message with "The Children Have Your Tongue" - fuzz-guitars and Pop colliding on "Day In And Out" by The Waters while The Cheques need some aqua chucked over their warbling Hammonds on the groovy "Cool My Desire" (only you can put out the fire). The Knowbody Else cut an impressive dash with their busy "Someone Something" - a sort of combo between and Northern Soul and Freakbeat Fuzz - while Cargoe give it some cool Who-driven Power Pop with "Feel Alright" and gorgeous harmonies on "I Love You Anyway". The three Big Star cuts only add candy to a particularly tasty musical cake.

Disc 6 is exclusively Gospel, Freedom songs and Deep Soul often with a slow Bluesy feel (yum yum). It opens with "Assassination" - a deeply felt funereal recounting by The Dixie Nightingales of Bobby Kennedy's horrible murder. The boys then get all marching Staple Singers with the B-side "Hush Hush" too (great female/male split vocals). The Stars Of Virginia insert some superb R&B Swing into the traditional "Wade In The Water" imbibing their rendition with a very Blind Boys Of Alabama soulfulness. Simple and beautiful "Our Freedom Song (Free At Last)" by The Jubilee Hummingbirds is as heartfelt as anything you've ever heard about MLK and buses in Alabama - justice and equality for all. In fact most of the Chalice label stuff is so rare - I don't think I've heard any of this - and Tarantino has done a great mastering job on tapes that have to be showing their age. By the time I get to Pops Staples magnificent cover of Donny Hathaway's "Tryin' Times" - a criminally forgotten solo-single B-side to "Black Boy" from March 1970 - and the gorgeous "His Love Will Always Be" with Terry Lynn giving it some staggering Soul - I'm (forgive the pun) in Seventh Heaven. That Louise McCord winner "Better Get A Move On" is so good that it was reissued by Ace's BGP Records in 2003 on a split UK 7" single with Otis and Carla on the A (BGPS 019).

To sum up - for sure Disc 4 covering Enterprise Records lets the whole magnificent enterprise down terribly (docked a star for that). But the rest of it is the very stuff of 'Reissue Of The Year' par excellence. I got my copy for just under fifty quid and I'm only smarting that Discs 1 to 3 were not extended by three more!

Dig in Soul lovers everywhere and celebrate Stax Records and The Gospel Truth (yet again). Huge kudos to all involved...

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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