The Second Disc

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Stax Remasters Continue with Thomas, Brown and The Dramatics (UPDATED 8/5 WITH TRACK LISTINGS)

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While Berry Gordy was defining “The Sound of Young America” in Detroit, Jim Stewart, Estelle Axton and Al Bell were pioneering deep, gritty Southern soul in Memphis.  To many, Motown and Stax were two sides of the same coin, both offering powerhouse R&B sounds that spoke directly to the country’s youth.  Since acquiring Stax from Fantasy Records in 2004, Concord Music Group has relaunched Stax as an active concern with new artists and has introduced a number of healthy catalogue initiatives to celebrate the classic sounds of Stax, circa 1968-1975.  (The majority of the pre-1968 Stax recordings are currently controlled by Warner Music Group due to the label’s distribution deal with Atlantic Records.)

On September 13, Concord will continue its Stax Remasters series with Rufus Thomas’s Do the Funky Chicken, the Dramatics’ Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get and Shirley Brown’s Woman to Woman.  Each of these three titles features a bona fide classic title song, 24-bit remastered sound, bonus tracks, and detailed new liner notes.

Rufus Thomas could fairly stake claim to having laid the foundation for the entire Stax empire.  With his daughter Carla, Rufus recorded “Cause I Love You” in 1960, the success of which led to the distribution deal with Atlantic and the further hits to come.  Though Thomas’ career was languishing as the 1960s drew to a close, he continued to record for Stax.  One year after recording an unreleased LP with Booker T and the MG’s entitled May I Have Your Ticket Please?, Thomas re-entered the studio again with members of the Bar-Kays and son Marvell Thomas to record a song with the unlikeliest of titles, “Do the Funky Chicken.”  Well, in the tradition of Thomas’ dancefloor stompers like “Walkin’ the Dog” and “Can Your Monkey Do the Dog?,” listeners took a shine to the song.  It returned Thomas to the upper reaches of the charts, reaching No. 5 R&B and No. 28 Pop. Rufus was back on top, and the album Do the Funky Chicken followed. The new reissue is expanded by tracks including “Funky Mississippi,” from the unreleased May I Have Your Ticket Please? as well as “Funky Way” and  “Itch and Scratch.”  That last single was recorded not at Stax, however, but at Jackson, Mississippi’s Malaco Studios.

With the 1970s dawning, Stax executive Al Bell keenly felt the need to diversify the label roster, and one of his new recruits, producer Don Davis, brought Detroit’s The Dramatics with him.  The group signed with Stax in 1968 but didn’t score their first hit at the company until writer/producer Tony Hestor gave them “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.”  The song even bested the placement of “Funky Chicken,” going No. 3 R&B and No. 9 Pop in the summer of 1971 on Stax’s Volt label. Its follow-up, “In the Rain,” even bettered its predecessor’s placement on the pop chart when it hit No. 5. The Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get reissue contains an entire album’s worth of bonus tracks.  Among the nine additional cuts are two more hit singles, “Fell for You” and “Hey You! Get Off My Mountain,” both of which were recorded in Detroit instead of Memphis. The closer “Hum a Song (From Your Heart)” has a connection to the halcyon days of the Stax/Atlantic partnership, as it was produced at Atlantic South Criterion Studios by the legendary production and arrangement team of Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin.

Hit the jump for the details on Woman to Woman, plus pre-order links and track listings for all three titles!

The third album in this wave of Stax Remasters contains the label’s final major single.  Released on the Truth imprint, Shirley Brown’s 1974 album Woman to Woman contained that title song, which reportedly sold a million copies in its first eight weeks.  Albert King discovered Brown when she was a mere 14, taking her on the road for nine years as part of his ensemble.  Her first recording were made in 1972 for the small Abet label, but the King association provided her entrée to the Stax family.  The East St. Louis native came to Stax by way of Albert King, who’d discovered her when she was all of 14.  James Banks, Eddie Marion, and Henderson Thigpen provided her with the song that would become her signature, “Woman to Woman.” It went straight to the top on the R&B chart and dented the pop charts at No. 22.  Songs by Fredrick Knight, Sir Mack Rice, and the recently-departed, much-missed Jerry Ragovoy round out the original album. The new edition contains five bonus tracks by a truly distinguished group of songwriters including Carolyn Franklin and her sister Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder. Unfortunately “Woman to Woman” couldn’t save Stax, although its huge success helped postpone the inevitable for at least a few months’ time.  Stax filed for involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1975.  After Stax’s closure, Brown signed to Arista.  With Stax’s co-founder Jim Stewart and Bettye Crutcher producing, she reached  No. 15 with “Blessed is the Woman (With a Man Like Mine)” and has recently recorded for the Malaco label.

Woman to Woman may have marked the last great album of the original Stax period, but its reissue is a reminder of the lasting strength of the company’s music even in the most trying of times.  All three titles are due in stores on September 13 from Stax/Concord. 

Rufus Thomas, Do the Funky Chicken (Stax LP STS-2028, 1970 – reissued Stax/Concord, 2011)

  1. Do the Funky Chicken
  2. Let the Good Times Roll
  3. Sixty Minute Man
  4. Lookin’ for a Love
  5. Bear Cat (Hound Dog)
  6. Old MacDonald Had a Farm (Part 1)
  7. Old MacDonald Had a Farm (Part 2)
  8. Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown
  9. Soul Food
  10. Turn Your Damper Down
  11. The Preacher and the Bear
  12. Funky Mississippi (Stax single STA-0010, 1968)
  13. So Hard to Get Along With (Stax single STA-0010, 1968)
  14. Funky Way (Stax single STA-0022, 1969)
  15. I Want to Hold You (Stax single STA-0022, 1969)
  16. Itch and Scratch (Part 1) (Stax single STA-0140, 1972)
  17. Itch and Scratch (Part 2) (Stax single STA-0140, 1972)
  18. Boogie Ain’t Nuttin’ (But Gettin’ Down) (Part 1) (Stax single STN-0219, 1974)
  19. Boogie Ain’t Nuttin’ (But Gettin’ Down) (Part 2) (Stax single STN-0219, 1974)

Tracks 1-11 from Stax LP STS-2028, 1970

The Dramatics, Whatcha See is Whatcha Get (Volt LP VOS-6018, 1971 – reissued Stax/Concord, 2011)

  1. Get Up and Down
  2. Thank You for Your Love
  3. Hot Pants in the Summertime
  4. Whatcha See is Whatcha Get
  5. In the Rain
  6. Gimme Some (Good Soul Music)
  7. Fall in Love, Lady Love
  8. Mary Don’t Cha Wanna
  9. The Devil is Dope
  10. You Could Become the Very Heart of Me
  11. Now You Got Me Loving You
  12. Fell For You
  13. Jim, What’s Wrong with Him
  14. Hey You! Get Off My Mountain
  15. Beautiful People
  16. Beware of the Man (With the Candy in His Hand)
  17. Stand Up Clap Your Hands
  18. Hum a Song (From Your Heart) (with the Dixie Flyers)

Tracks 1-8 from Volt LP VOS-6018, 1971
Tracks 9-17 from A Dramatic Experience, Stax STX-4131/Volt VOS-6019
Track 18 from Atco single 6749, 1970 *

*Atco single 6749 is Lulu’s recording of “Hum a Song (From Your Heart)” with the Dixie Flyers, produced by Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler.  Though the song title and discographical attribution comes directly from the label, we are attempting to ascertain the most accurate information as to its inclusion.

Shirley Brown, Woman to Woman (Truth LP TRS-4206, 1974 – reissued Stax/Concord, 2011)

  1. It Ain’t No Fun
  2. Long as You Love Me
  3. Stay with Me Baby
  4. I’ve Got to Go On Without You
  5. Woman to Woman
  6. So Glad to Have You
  7. Passion
  8. I Can’t Give You Up
  9. I Need You Tonight
  10. Between You and Me
  11. Yes Sir, Baby
  12. Ain’t No Way
  13. Respect
  14. Rock Steady
  15. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours

Tracks 1-10 from Truth LP TRS-4206, 1974
Track 11 from Truth single TRA-3206, 1974
Tracks 12-14 previously unreleased in the United States
Track 15 previously unreleased

Written by Joe Marchese

August 5, 2011 at 13:13

One Response

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  1. Two Dramatics albums on one cd with related non-album singles! This is the way reissues should be done, comprehensive and affordable. The U2/Pink Floyd/Who model is just hastening the decline of physical formats.


    August 7, 2011 at 16:47

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