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Archive for November 19th, 2014

Ace Super Soul Round-Up, Part Two: The “One in a Million” Songs of Sam Dees, The New Orleans Sound of Cosimo Matassa

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Sam Dees - One in a MillionWelcome to Part 2 of our two-part series exploring a recent crop of amazing soul and R&B from the Ace and Kent labels!

Birmingham, Alabama native Sam Dees has worn many hats in a long and illustrious career – producer, singer, songwriter, among them.  But it’s a songwriter that Dees has received his greatest acclaim.  He’s gifted music to George Benson and Aretha Franklin (“Love All the Hurt Away”), Atlantic Starr (“Am I Dreaming”), Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Save the Overtime (For Me)” and Loleatta Holloway (“The Show Must Go On”) – as well as Larry Graham, whose No. 1 R&B/No. 9 pop hit “One in a Million You” lends its title to One in a Million: The Songs of Sam Dees.

This 22-track compilation draws upon Dees’ vast catalogue of soulful compositions, originally issued between 1970 and 1983.  Dees himself kicks off the anthology with his own 1977 recording of “My World,” one of his strongest ballads.  It goes on to feature a “Who’s Who” of soul royalty including The Spinners’ John Edwards (“Stop This Merry-Go-Round,” 1973), The Chi-Lites (the exclusive U.K. remix of “Vanishing Love” from 1977 – a song first recorded by…John Edwards!), Loleatta Holloway (the aforementioned “The Show Must Go On” from 1975), Esther Phillips (“Cry to Me,” from 1981 – first recorded by Loleatta!), Jackie Wilson (“Just as Soon as the Feeling’s Over,” from 1975), and Johnnie Taylor (“Seconds of Your Love,” from 1983).  The latter was co-written by Dees and Philadelphia’s Ron Kersey, and also recorded by artists including Holloway, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Wilson Pickett and Jackie Moore.  The Kersey/Dees partnership is also represented with The Temptations’ 1983 “What a Way to Put It,” featuring Dennis Edwards on lead vocals.  Another Philly soul great, Bobby Martin, produced 1980’s “Where Did We Go Wrong” for LTD, co-written by Dees and LTD’s Jeffrey Osborne.  The set, with track-by-track annotations from compiler Tony Rounce and remastering from Duncan Cowell, ends with Larry Graham’s “One in a Million You,” appropriate for a one-in-a-million solid gold songwriter.

Cosimo CodeThe death earlier this year of Cosimo Matassa at the age of 88 truly marked the end of an era.   Born in New Orleans in 1926, Matassa opened his first recording studio in 1945.  He moved to a larger facility in 1955, and as studio owner and engineer, he became one of the most significant figures in New Orleans’ musical history – and therefore, the history of R&B.  Cracking The Cosimo Code: ‘60s New Orleans R&B and Soul draws on the rich music recorded by Matassa at Cosimo Recording Studios, 521-525 Governor Nicholls Street, New Orleans.  Matassa had been around to witness the changing of the guard in N’awlins R&B, from Fats Domino and producer Dave Bartholomew to younger production talents like Allen Toussaint, Wardell Querzegue and Harold Battiste and their stable of artists including Lee Dorsey, The Meters, Ernie K-Doe and The Neville Brothers.  Though much else of the sound of the city changed, Matassa was a constant, presence and a constant innovator.

After the jump: more on Cosimo, order links and track listings for both titles!

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Written by Joe Marchese

November 19, 2014 at 10:23