The Second Disc

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Funk Soul Brothers: Ace Collects “Royal Grooves” From King, “Southern Soul” From Stax

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If you prefer your soul with a twist of funk, the Ace family of labels has two offerings that should get your fingers clicking and your feet dancing.  Both Royal Grooves: Funk and Groovy Soul from the King Records Vaults (BGP CD BGPD250) and Nobody Wins: Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975 (Kent CDKEND 370) cover roughly the same turbulent period of music history, with the former compilation drawing on tracks recorded between 1967 and 1973, and the latter taking in the “Second Golden Age” of Stax Records between 1968 and 1975.  This is the period when King, the Cincinnati-based label that was home to James Brown, was following in the Godfather’s funky footsteps, and Stax was reinventing itself with a new roster of artists that could follow the legendary likes of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Booker T and the MGs.

Though King Records was founded in 1943 by consummate record man Syd Nathan and made its name emphasizing country-and-western, it was successful in the decision to move into the R&B field.  But Nathan was unprepared for the revolution that one of those R&B artists, James Brown, would create.  Nathan and Brown’s relationship had become strained when Brown, his star in the ascendant, signed with Mercury’s Smash label while still under contract to King.  But he returned to King in 1965 with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and by 1967, when this anthology picks up the story, the label’s roster was largely dedicated to Brown, his associates or sound-alike records, some of which were released under the “James Brown Productions” banner.  Nathan died in 1968, but the company continued to thrive until Brown’s departure in 1971, at which time he took his back catalogue to Polydor with him.  New owners (including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) attempted to revive King’s fortunes, but the label eventually reconciled itself with its fate as a strictly back-catalogue operation.

Royal Grooves covers this tumultuous period for the label in detail.  James Brown’s presence is heavily felt, and he’s represented with productions from Wendy Lynn (“I Can Remember”), Kay Robinson (“The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow”), Leon Austin (“Steal Away”) and Carlton “King” Coleman (“The Boo Boo Song”).  He’s also a co-writer of The Brownettes’ “Baby, Don’t You Know” and Clay Tyson’s “Clay Tyson (Man on the Moon).”  The Brownettes, formerly the Jewels, performed with the James Brown Revue and frequently sang background vocals on his recordings.  Tyson was another performer in the Revue, a comedian who rapped over the backing track to Brown’s “I Got the Feeling” for “Man on the Moon,” one of this set’s truest curiosities.  Hank Ballard, the writer of “The Twist” who was signed to King in 1953, joined Brown’s revue in 1967.  “Unwind Yourself” from that year’s You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down LP is heard here.

From the post-Brown period, Royal Grooves includes a Leiber/Stoller-produced revival of “Cool Jerk” by The Coasters, and Gloria Edwards’ “(Need Nobody to Help Me) Keep Up with My Man” produced by Huey Meaux’s Crazy Cajun Productions.  Collectors might thrill most to a track from Barbara Burton and the Messengers.  As The Messengers Unlimited with Sonny Morrison as lead singer, they released the rare Soulful Proclamation album. For their lone single on DeLuxe, Barbara took the lead for “Love’s Sweet Water.”  This lost funk workout is so rare, it’s possibly that the single was never actually released, but Ace has liberated the 1972 cut for inclusion here.

Hit the jump for a trip to Memphis!

The stark, black-and-white cover image of Nobody Wins: Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975 offers the image of Memphis’ McLemore Avenue and the Soulsville USA studio that produced some of the most iconic soul music of all time.  More so than most other labels, Stax brought the smoldering southern soul sound to the masses, but the events of 1967 left the label at a crossroads.  Its distribution deal with Atlantic Records was coming to an end, and the New York label (soon to be part of the Warner Bros. conglomerate) was taking the entire Stax back catalogue with it.  Then in December 1967, Otis Redding perished along with all but two of the Bar-Kays in a plane crash.  How would Stax recover?

In the wake of the Atlantic divorce, Stax diversified its sound, bringing in productions and producers from outside the Memphis area.  And even that Memphis sound itself was changing; Stax stalwart Isaac Hayes may have recorded in Memphis, but his Hot Buttered Soul was something else entirely, while Hi Records was defining its own Southern style.  Though Nobody Wins reflects a period of transition, many of the names most associated with vintage Stax do appear here.  Isaac Hayes and David Porter produced one of the three previously-unissued tracks making a debut here, The Charmells’ “I’ve Done It Again,” and wrote The Soul Children’s “Move Over” and Jimmy Hughes’ “Let ‘Em Down Baby.”  Renowned Stax guitarist Steve Cropper played on the latter, and many of the other tracks here, and also wrote and produced a number of featured tracks.  Eddie (“Knock on Wood”) Floyd appears via 1974’s “Stealing Love” from his Soul Street LP, and also as writer of his “I’ve Never Found a Girl to Love Me Like You Do,” covered by Calvin Scott and produced by Clarence Paul, a Motown alumnus.  Another Hitsville USA personage to appear here is Mable John, the older sister of Little Willie John, with the Steve Cropper-produced “Shouldn’t I Love Him” from her final Stax single.

Nobody Wins is the first in a planned series from Ace/Kent to concentrate on this late era of Stax’s history, and like this one, future volumes will include hits, rarities and unreleased material.  (Sylvia and the Blue Jays’ “The Fault is Not in Me” and Bettye Crutcher’s “Make a Joyful Noise” are the other two songs making their first-ever appearances here.)

Nobody Wins includes a 22-page booklet with detailed track-by-track notes by producer Dean Rudland, also responsible for Royal Grooves.  On that set, Rudland offers a 10-page narrative account of its tracks.  Both compilations are in stores now from Ace Records, and can be ordered below!

Various Artists, Royal Grooves: Funk and Groovy Soul from the King Records Vaults (BGP CDBGPD 250, 2012)

  1. Getting Down (With Hoss) – Kastle (King 6418, 1973)
  2. Love’s Sweet Water – Barbara Burton and the Messengers (DeLuxe 143, 1972)
  3. The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow – Kay Robinson (King 6316, 1970)
  4. Sad But True – Elaine Armstrong (King 6176, 1968)
  5. Baby, Don’t You Know – The Brownettes (King 6153, 1968)
  6. Somewhere Down the Line – Albert Washington (DeLuxe 135, 1971)
  7. Shoe Shine (Part II) – The Presidents (Hollywood 1137, 1968)
  8. Do What You Wanna Do (Part I) – Frank Howard and the Continentals (DeLuxe 124, 1970)
  9. Clay Tyson (Man on the Moon) – Clay Tyson (King 6209, 1968)
  10. Steal Away – Leon Austin (King 6291, 1970)
  11. I Can Remember – Wendy Lynn (King 6306, 1970)
  12. You Keep Me Hanging On – Bonnie & Sheila (King 6352, 1971)
  13. Ball of Fire – Connie Austin (King 6154, 1968)
  14. Just Be Glad – Willy Wiley (King 6409, 1973)
  15. (Need Nobody to Help Me) Keep Up with My Man – Gloria Edwards (King 6400, 1973)
  16. Cool Jerk – The Coasters (King 6389, 1972)
  17. Peter Rabbit – The Presidents (DeLuxe 127, 1970)
  18. Lookin’ for a Woman – Robert Moore (Hollywood 1127, 1968)
  19. The Boo Boo Song – King Coleman (King 6085, 1967)
  20. Unwind Yourself – Hank Ballard (King 6119, 1967)
  21. Shoe Shine (Part I) – The Presidents (Hollywood 1137, 1968)
  22. Wet and Satisfied – Bill Doggett (previously unreleased Take 5)
  23. Push and Shove – Willy Wiley (King 6409, 1973)

Various Artists, Nobody Wins: Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975 (Kent CDKEND 370, 2012)

  1. Stay Baby Stay – Johnny Daye (Stax 0004, 1968)
  2. I’ve Done It Again – The Charmells (Kent CDKEND 174, 1999)
  3. Love Changes – Charlene and the Soul Serenaders (Volt 4052, 1970)
  4. Move Over – The Soul Children (Stax 0008, 1968)
  5. Hold On This Time – Chuck Brooks (previously unreleased)
  6. Where Was He? – Jimmy Lewis (Volt 4091, 1973)
  7. Nobody Wins ‘Til the Game is Over – Sir Mack Rice (Truth 3212, 1974)
  8. Groovin’ on My Baby’s Love – Freddie Waters (Stax 0246, 1975)
  9. Stealing Love – Eddie Floyd (Stax LP 0232, 1974)
  10. Crossing Over the Bridge – Inez Foxx (Volt 4096, 1973)
  11. Make a Joyful Noise – Bettye Crutcher (previously unreleased)
  12. Lovin’ on Borrowed Time – William Bell (Stax 0157, 1973)
  13. Two Fools – Willie Singleton (Truth 3215, 1974)
  14. You’re Leaving Me – Ollie & The Nightingales (Stax 0014, 1969)
  15. The Fault is Not in Me – Sylvia & The Blue Jays (previously unreleased)
  16. Shouldn’t I Love Him – Mable John (Stax 0016, 1968)
  17. Will You Love Me Forever – Johnnie Taylor (Stax LP STS-2030, 1971)
  18. I’ve Never Found a Girl to Love Me Like You Do – Calvin Scott (Stax LP STS-2046, 1972)
  19. Let ‘Em Down Easy – Jimmy Hughes (Volt 4008, 1969)
  20. A Love Affair That Bears No Pain –Shack (Volt 4051, 1970)
  21. Woman Across the River – Little Milton (Stax 5515, 1974)

Written by Joe Marchese

April 30, 2012 at 10:05

One Response

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  1. I’ve had “Nobody Wins” for a couple of weeks now, and it’s really fabulous. However, it should be noted that original copies had a mistake in the booklet, with one page duplicated twice (accidentally eliminating the following page.) Should your copy come like this, there’s a link on the Ace website (acerecords.co.uk) which will tell you how to get a replacement booklet. I did this, and it arrived just one week later from the UK, packaged perfectly.

    John

    April 30, 2012 at 22:38


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