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Only the Strong Survive: Ace Reissues, Remasters Vintage Southern Soul from Ace, Fame

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Darrell Banks - VoltThe mighty Stax Records catalogue got a lot of much-deserved respect in 2013, from a new book exploring the label’s history (Robert Gordon’s Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion) to a variety of catalogue projects, many from the venerable Ace Records label.  Ace has recently followed up its reissues of classic albums by The Staple Singers, David Porter and Bettye Crutcher with further Stax discoveries from Darrell Banks and The Newcomers.   And not to be outdone, Ace has also mined the legacy of another southern soul hotbed, Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios, with a new volume of singles from Clarence Carter.

The entire recording career of Darrell Banks can be summed up by seven singles and two LPs.  Yet, between the July 1966 release of “Open the Door to Your Heart” and his tragic death by gunfire in February 1970, Banks made a name in the world of soul and R&B.    The Ohio-born and Buffalo, New York-raised singer was reared, like so many other great artists, in the church, bringing intensity and passion to his vocals.  His debut single of Donnie Elbert’s “Open the Door to Your Heart,” on the small Revilot label, peaked at No. 2 R&B and No. 27 Pop on the Billboard Hot 100, setting the stage for expected future triumphs.  Proving that he was no fluke, his second single “Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You” went Top 40 R&B and No. 56 Pop.  He was soon signed to Atco Records where he released more singles as well as one full-length album.  But by the end of 1968, following a final single for Atco parent Atlantic’s new Cotillion label, Banks was left without a label.

The newly-independent Stax Records had recently severed its ties with Atlantic – and lost its back catalogue to the giant – when it signed Darrell Banks to its Volt imprint.  Just one album and two singles (four sides) were released by Banks on Volt, and all of those tracks are included on I’m the One Who Loves You: The Volt Recordings.  The Ace/Kent release sweetens the pot by adding four previously unissued demos recorded during Banks’ stay at the label.  Banks was still collecting material to record at the time of his death at the hands of an off-duty police officer involved in an affair with Banks’ girlfriend.  Banks recorded a handful of songs at Volt that are not included on this compilation; alas, most are missing.  This makes The Volt Recordings the most complete account of his tenure at the label we’re likely to see.  There’s plenty of treasure among these 19 cuts, including versions of songs by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Jerry Butler (“Only the Strong Survive”), Don Davis (“Forgive Me,” “Never Alone,” “No One Blinder (Than a Man Who Won’t See)”) and the team of Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson and Bettye Crutcher (“We’ll Get Over” and “Just Because Your Love is Gone,” the latter with Davis).  Banks even gives Percy Sledge a run for his money with “When a Man Loves a Woman.”  The liner notes by producer Tony Rounce include a full Volt sessionography for Banks.  Nick Robbins has remastered.

Banks’ Volt labelmates The Newcomers are the focus of another new Ace release.  Hit the jump for more on them – plus Clarence Carter! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 10, 2014 at 09:44