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From Manhattan to Memphis: Ace, Kent Collect Classic Soulful Sides on Three New Releases

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Though they’re located across the pond, the team at Ace Records literally has the entire map of the U.S. covered when it comes to celebrating classic soul sounds.  Among the numerous titles recently issued by the Ace family are three geographically-attuned sets sure to pique your ears and interest.  Ace’s journey begins in the American northeast, and specifically in New York City, with a second volume of Manhattan Soul.  Like the first volume in the series, it’s drawn from the considerable archives of Scepter, Wand and Musicor Records, and it brings together songs from cherished vocalists like Tommy Hunt, Jimmy Radcliffe and Big Maybelle, along with a whole slew of artists who may not have achieved notoriety, but sure did wax some great music.  Next, the Ace team heads down to Alabama, where The Charmels and Jeanne and the Darlings might have shouted, “We’re the Soul Girls!”  This 29-track anthology collects the complete recordings of two of Stax Records’ criminally-underrated girl groups, with many tracks appearing on CD for the very first time.  Finally, Ace basks in the glow of the heartland with Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul, exploring the crossroads of those two distinct genres.

Both volumes of Manhattan Soul conjure up the urbane R&B sound that came out of the 1960s in that storied borough of New York City.  Florence Greenberg’s Scepter and Wand labels (home to Maxine Brown, Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles and B.J. Thomas) and Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor (home to Gene Pitney, George Jones and the Platters) boasted diverse rosters, but both had a keen interest in soul music, frequently swathing it in strings and lush orchestrations.  It’s no surprise that one maestro of sophisticated soul, Burt Bacharach, had his biggest successes on Scepter, and also provided hits for Musicor.  There were many other ties; Luther Dixon departed the Greenberg empire for Musicor, while Van McCoy, Bert Keyes, and Bert DeCoteaux all arranged platters for both labels.  Each of those names is represented on Manhattan Soul, Volume 2.

This is uptown soul, for sure, with further contributions from producers such as Teddy Randazzo (Porgy and the Monarchs’ “That Girl”), Chips Moman (The Masqueraders’ “I Don’t Want Nobody to Lead Me On,” recorded in Memphis but released in Manhattan on Wand), and songwriters like the young Kenny Gamble (Nella Dodds’ “I Just Gotta Have You”) and Curtis Mayfield (Something New’s “You Babe”).  Fetching big beat ballads proliferate on this 24-track CD, such as Ed Bruce’s “I’m Gonna Have a Party.”  The track was written by Bruce arranged by Florence Greenberg’s son Stan Green (nee Greenberg) on Wand, and is almost a sideways rewrite of Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s “Any Day Now,” a sizeable Wand hit by Chuck Jackson.  Though the second volume of Manhattan Soul doesn’t feature as many high-profile artists as the first (which had The Shirelles, Johnny Maestro, The Platters and Maxine Brown all represented), it’s just as rewarding, if not more so.  These songs meld sophisticated, sometimes Latin-flavored arrangements with deep soul, plenty of booming baritones and swelling strings.  There are even four interesting unreleased tracks, including Jimmy Radcliffe’s beguiling “Deep in the Heart of Harlem” and “No Jealous Lover,” by Lois Lane, a.k.a. Louise Williams, a U.S. Congresswoman since 1988!  Ady Croasdell annotates, and even teases us with a liner note about a song that wasn’t included: Sylvia Jenkins’ “It’s Gonna Be All Right,” written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin which was rejected for its “excruciating passages!”  Bring on Volume Three.

After the jump: to Alabama and beyond, plus track listings and pre-order links for all three titles!

The gritty, sublimely soulful sound of Stax is known the world over, but rarely is the label remembered for its girl groups.  Yes, girl groups.  As Tony Rounce points out in his fine liner notes to We’re the Soul Girls: The Complete Volt Recordings of Jeanne and the Darlings and The Charmels, the careers of those two acts “amount to little more than a footnote in the history of Memphis soul and R&B…[and] it wasn’t until The Emotions hit in 1968 that Stax finally got one of its girl groups charting with any degree of consistency.”  It wasn’t for lack of trying, however.  The Ace CD collects the complete, and frequently scintillating, recordings of those two girl groups, as recorded between 1967 and 1969.  Seven tracks make their debuts anywhere, along with two tracks not issued at the time of their recording but later anthologized on CD.  Both groups benefitted from the Stax stable of musicians and the production acumen of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, who hoped to rekindle some of the magic they brought to Carla Thomas with “B-A-B-Y” and Sam & Dave, with any number of famous hits.

The compilation’s first fourteen tracks are the work of Jeanne and the Darlings, a.k.a. Jeanne and Dee Dolphus and Phefe Harris.  They graduated to headlining artists after providing backing vocals around Memphis for artists including Otis Redding, and brought sass, grit and power to the girl group sound.  1967’s “How Can You Mistreat the One You Love” was a catchy if forceful rejoinder to a lover, while follow-up A-side “Soul Girl” was an answer disc to “Soul Man” crafted by Hayes and Porter.  Each disc had a distinct character, funky and feisty, but none hit, even when many sound today like classic Stax records – in no small part thanks to elements like Donald “Duck” Dunn’s bass and those saucy, bleating horns.  Homer Banks and Allen Jones’ “What Will Later On Be Like?” is the second half of the lyrical question asking if this is the way you’re gonna treat me right now…  Jeanne and the Darlings survived the transition from Atlantic Records’ distribution to Paramount’s, and even incorporated Jeanne’s daughter Paula into the line-up.  But “Singing About Love” b/w “Let Them See in Me,” from 1970, marked the group’s final released single.

The Charmels emerged from the Tonettes, a group that had also taken to the road as the Dixie Belles.  These belles – Mary Hunt, Mildred Pratcher and Shirley Thomas – had begun recording for Stax all the way back in the company’s infancy in 1961 under the Tonettes’ name.  Rechristened The Charmels, their first single, from winter 1966/1967, offered a song from Hayes and Porter at their most topical.  The affecting “Please Uncle Sam (Send Back My Man)” was both relevant and stirring, but failed to gain radio airplay.  Hayes and Porter wrote all six sides of the Charmels’ first three singles, and Hayes even teamed with Joe Shamwell for “Sea Shell” on Volt 4004, but none struck chart gold.  That final single also included a passionate treatment of Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” but Stax soon lost faith in the Charmels, despite their having survived (like Jeanne and the Darlings) into the Paramount era.  The remainder of their sessions for Stax has remained unreleased until now, but that’s no indication of these outtakes’ quality.  “I’ve Done It Again” is a lush, slow-burning ballad with tasty harmonies; “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” is an unusual southern soul reworking of the standard associated with Ella Fitzgerald.  We’re the Soul Girls! is a limited edition release that warrants a space on the shelf of any girl group collector.

The place Where Country Meets Soul isn’t as far-off as one might expect.  Though he’s not featured on Kent Records’ new compilation, Ray Charles broke down barriers with his 1962 Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.  The Genius wasn’t the first R&B artist to record country material; as Tony Rounce’s fine liner notes point out, the practice had been happening for years whether for artistic or pragmatic reasons.  King Records’ Syd Nathan typically had his R&B acts record songs from his country catalogue from the late 1940s onward.  The new anthology Behind Closed Doors covers the period between 1964 and 1977, with one detour to 1993; the set is roughly equal in performances from the sixties and seventies.

A number of tracks come from the immortal Atlantic soul roster and its Cotillion subsidiary, including recordings by Solomon Burke (“He’ll Have to Go”), Percy Sledge (“Take Time to Know Her”), Clarence Carter (“Set Me Free”), Esther Phillips (“I Saw Me”), Tami Lynn (“Wings Upon Your Horns”) and Brook Benton (the quintessential “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye”).  The rich catalogues of Hi (Al Green’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” Ann Peebles’ “Hangin’ On”), Goldwax (James Carr’s “Life Turned Her That Way”), Fame (Candi Staton’s “He Called Me Baby”) and Stax (Little Milton’s “Behind Closed Doors,” which gives this compilation its title).  Only the pop-country-soul of Motown has been overlooked.  The results make for a varied selection of countrified soul performances – or are they soulful country performances?  Among the most fascinating tracks: Bobby Sheen, a.k.a. Bob B. Soxx of the Blue Jeans fame, doing Bob Wills’ “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You” for Dimension in 1965; Tony Borders’ southern-fried take on John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind,” and New Orleans’ Tami Lynn on “Wings Upon Your Horns,” written by another Lynn – Loretta.

All three Ace titles are available now and can be ordered below!

Various Artists, Manhattan Soul Volume 2 (Kent CDKEND 379, 2012)

  1. That Girl – Porgy & The Monarchs (Musicor 1179, 1966)
  2. New Neighborhood – Tommy Hunt (Wand recording first issued on Kent LP 061, 1986)
  3. I Gotta Keep My Bluff In – Freddie Hughes (Wand 1192, 1968)
  4. Who Am I Without You Baby – Will Hatcher (Wand 11286, 1975)
  5. I’m Gonna Have a Party – Ed Bruce (Wand 156, 1964)
  6. Kiss and Make Up – The Inspirations (Wand 182, 1965)
  7. Lost Love – Irma & The Fascinators (Scepter 12100, 1965)
  8. No Jealous Lover – Lois Lane (previously unreleased Scepter recording)
  9. Knick Knack Patty Wack – Lou Lawton (Wand 1160, 1967)
  10. Call On Billy – Billy T. Soul (Musicor 1248, 1967)
  11. Horsin’ Around – Benny Gordon & The Soul Brothers (previously unreleased Wand recording)
  12. I Don’t Want Nobody to Lead Me On – The Masqueraders (Wand 1168, 1967)
  13. Runaway Slave – Joe Perkins (Musicor 1064, 1965)
  14. The Parade of Broken Hearts – The Soul Brothers (Wand 125, 1962)
  15. You Found My Lonely Heart a Home – Shep Grant (Musicor 1074, 1965)
  16. Deep in the Heart of Harlem – Jimmy Radcliffe (previously unreleased Musicor recording)
  17. Lonesome Guy – Roscoe Robinson (Wand recording first issued on Kent LP 084, 1988)
  18. How Do You Feel Now – Big Maybelle (Scepter recording first issued on Kent LP 087, 1988)
  19. I Just Gotta Have You – Nella Dodds (Wand 1136, 1966)
  20. You Babe – Something New (Wand 11225, 1970)
  21. Who Knows Better – The Catalinas (previously unreleased Scepter recording)
  22. Hey Whatcha Doin’ – Jerry Tiffe (Scepter 12271, 1969)
  23. A Man, A Woman – Chris Bartley (Musicor 1437, 1971)
  24. Lonely Weatherman – The Premiers (Scepter 12298, 1970)

Jeanne and the Darlings/The Charmels, We’re the Soul Girls!  The Complete Volt Recordings (Ace CDLUX 009, 2012)

  1. How Can You Mistreat the One You Love (Volt 151, 1967)
  2. That Man of Mine (Volt 151, 1967)
  3. Soul Girl (Volt 156, 1967)
  4. What’s Gonna Happen to Me (Volt 156, 1967)
  5. Hang Me Now (Volt 159, 1968)
  6. What Will Later On Be Like (Volt 159, 1968)
  7. It’s Unbelievable (How You Control My Soul) (Volt 4005, 1968)
  8. I Like What You’re Doing to Me (Volt 4005, 1968)
  9. It’s Time to Pay for the Fun (We’ve Had) (Volt 4015, 1969)
  10. Standing in the Need of Your Love (Volt 4015, 1969)
  11. Singing About Love (Volt 4035, 1970)
  12. Let Them See in Me (Volt 4035, 1970)
  13. I’m in Love with You
  14. Changes (first issued Stax CDSXD 116, 1998)
  15. Something Sweet About My Baby (Volt 142, 1967)
  16. Please Uncle Sam (Send Back My Man) (Volt 142, 1967)
  17. Loving Material (Volt 153, 1967)
  18. I’ll Gladly Take You Back (Volt 153, 1967)
  19. As Long as I’ve Got You (Volt 155, 1967)
  20. Baby, Come and Get It (Volt 155, 1967)
  21. Sea Shell (Volt 4004, 1968)
  22. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (Volt 4004, 1968)
  23. Baby Hurry
  24. Someone Made You for Me
  25. Peace Maker
  26. Oo-oh A-a-a-h
  27. I’ve Done It Again (first issued on Kent CDKEND 174, 1999)
  28. Let’s Exchange Hearts
  29. A-Tisket, A-Tasket

Tracks 1-14 by Jeanne and the Darlings
Tracks 15-29 by The Charmels
Tracks 13, 23-26 & 28-29 previously unreleased

Various Artists, Behind Closed Doors: Where Country Meets Soul (Kent CDKEND 375, 2012)

  1. The Grand Tour – Aaron Neville (A&M CD 540 100-2, 1993)
  2. He’ll Have to Go – Solomon Burke (Atlantic 2218, 1964)
  3. Take Time to Know Her – Percy Sledge (Atlantic 2490, 1968)
  4. I Saw Me – Esther Phillips (Atlantic 2304, 1965)
  5. My Elusive Dreams – Moses and Joshua Dillard (Mala 575, 1967)
  6. Hangin’ On – Ann Peebles (Hi 2265, 1974)
  7. My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You – Bobby Sheen (Dimension 1043, 1965)
  8. Wings Upon Your Horns – Tami Lynn (Cotillion LP SD 9052, 1972)
  9. Before the Next Teardrop Falls – The Limelites (Creative Funk 12008, 1975)
  10. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Al Green (Hi LP XSHL 32077, 1973)
  11. Life Turned Her That Way – James Carr (Goldwax 335, 1968)
  12. He Called Me Baby – Candi Staton (Fame 1476, 1971)
  13. The Chokin’ Kind – Z.Z. Hill (Mankind 12007, 1971)
  14. Yours, Love – Joe Simon (Sound Stage 7 2264, 1970)
  15. Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad – Cookie Jackson (OKeh 7279, 1967)
  16. Detroit City – Arthur Alexander (Dot 16737, 1965)
  17. Gentle on My Mind – Tony Borders (Revue 11054, 1969)
  18. Don’t Touch Me – Bettye Swann (Capitol 2382, 1969)
  19. Set Me Free – Clarence Carter (Atlantic LP SD 8192, 1967)
  20. Behind Closed Doors – Little Milton (Stax 0210, 1974)
  21. If You’re Not Back in Love by Monday – Millie Jackson (Alternate of Spring LP 6715, rec. 1977, rel. 2007)
  22. Skip a Rope – Joe Tex (Dial LP SD 8187, 1969)
  23. She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye – Brook Benton (Cotillion 44130, 1971)

Written by Joe Marchese

October 17, 2012 at 10:04

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