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Review: Sam & Dave and Philip Bailey, Expanded Editions from Edsel

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Mention “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and chances are you can hear that confident, swaggering horn riff that insistently opens the Sam and Dave classic.  Indeed, all you really need to know is in that riff!  All four albums recorded by Sam and Dave for Stax/Atlantic have been collected by Edsel on two new releases, and these expanded editions (including various single sides) add up to true cornerstones for any R&B or soul music library.  But the label hasn’t stopped there.  A very different kind of R&B is on display on a two-on-one CD bringing back to print two of the three secular albums recorded for Columbia Records by Earth Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey.  Liner notes for both the Sam and Dave and Bailey titles have been provided by Tony Rounce, and the annotator is able to draw a line between these early soul men and a latter-day great.

Sam Moore & Dave Prater were actually signed by Jerry Wexler to the Atlantic label proper, but almost immediately loaned out to the Stax label, then distributed by Atlantic.  Wexler must have intuitively sensed that the company’s New York uptown soul stylings wouldn’t be quite right for the duo, but that the Stax team could work their magic on the vocal duo.  Eight of the songs on that first album released in April 1966 and entitled Hold On, I’m Comin’ after the hit single were co-written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, arguably as important a duo as the titular one.  They made equally important contributions on all four of the albums collected by Edsel, including five of the songwriting credits on the follow-up Double Dynamite, with which Hold On is paired as Edsel EDSS 1035.

Still one of the Stax label’s calling cards, the Hayes/Porter single was an R&B chart topper, the first such for the label since 1962’s “Green Onions.”  (Odd footnote:  the reissue adds a “g” to “comin’” on the spine and album cover, while Atlantic actually pressed a second printing with “I’m A-Comin’” to avoid any risqué suggestion in the title phrase!)  The album itself doesn’t live up to the high standards of its title track, containing five previously-issued tracks.  It’s a fine listening experience but not a true “album” in the classic sense, as Stax was very much a singles-oriented company at that time.  One does wonder, however, why the duo was riding a turtle on the cover, for they were definitely in the fast lane, from the greasy “Ease Me” (“with your lovin’”) to the churchy ballad “Just Me.”  Steve Cropper and Eddie (“Knock on Wood”) Floyd’s “I Got Everything I Need” is a Memphis soul stew with a sound instantly recognizable to any fan of deep southern soul – impassioned vocals, languid piano contrasting with sly, smoking horns, rock-steady drums, crisp guitars.  Floyd also teamed with Willa Parker to write “Don’t Make It So Hard on Me,” and the album’s twelve tracks make for a pleasing bag of tunes in various tempi but all suited to the same mood and themes of love lost and found.

The driving “You Don’t Know Like I Know” is heard here in mono, while all of the other album tracks are in stereo; the stereo version was missing an overdub so Edsel opted to include the more “complete” mono version.  Three singles have been appended to Hold On, I’m Comin’.

Much had changed in just a few months by winter 1966 when Double Dynamite was released in January 1967.  The Summer of Love was just around the corner.  The groovy, psychedelic cover art may have been a concession to the times, but the music within was still timeless.  It’s not a markedly different album in tone than its predecessor; “You Got Me Hummin’” is the highlight, but this unusual funk workout failed to make a big noise at the time for Sam and Dave.  “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody” offers a more muscular (modern?) sound but the Hayes/Porter song lacked the hook and memorable riff of “Hold On,” the yardstick by which every subsequent Sam and Dave song would be measured.

For the first time, cover versions were introduced into the mix including Sam Cooke’s “Soothe Me” and Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “I’m Your Puppet” (a hit for another soul duo, James and Bobby Purify).  Though the chorus harmonies of Sam and Dave were uniquely their own, the production lacks the distinctive glockenspiel echoes of the Purifys’ version but otherwise stays true to the blueprint.  But, boy, did the Porter/Hayes team deliver with “When Something’s Wrong with My Baby,” a stone-cold ballad classic.  It barely missed the Top 40 but this song (actually recorded first by Charlie Rich) gave Moore and Prater their best placing in many singles.

Hit the jump for Edsel’s second Sam and Dave release, plus Philip Bailey’s Chinese Wall/Inside Out! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 23, 2012 at 14:55

Sam & Dave & Edsel: U.K. Label Reissues Stax Duo’s Early Albums

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Next to Aretha Franklin, they were the most successful R&B act of the ’60s. They were two of the most prominent architects of the iconic Stax sound. And their success can be traced back to the most fortuitous bathroom break in history. Next week, U.K. reissue label Edsel will honor the discography of Sam Moore and Dave Prater – known simply as Sam & Dave – with a pair of reissues that collates just about their entire Stax/Atlantic tenure.

Moore and Prater were gospel-raised singers who met on the club circuit in the early ’60s. From the beginning, their R&B works – a mixture of church-inspired call-and-response with the grooves of Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson – were something special. In the summer of 1964, after regional success on Roulette Records and other labels, Jerry Wexler signed the duo to Atlantic Records. However, the mogul promptly loaned them to Memphis-based Stax Records, which Atlantic distributed, believing their fiery style would be best suited for the rousing session players on the label (including house band Booker T. & The MG’s, horn section The Mar-Keys and producers Jim Stewart, Isaac Hayes and David Porter).

Sam & Dave’s third Stax single, “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” was their first of 10 consecutive Top 20 R&B singles. But their fourth single, “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” would bring them near-unprecedented pop crossover success. Legend has it Hayes and Porter wrote the song after Hayes called for Prater to come out of the bathroom to continue recording. Prater’s response became the iconic, controversial title. (Stax quickly re-pressed the single, changing the title to “Hold On, I’m A-Comin'” to dilute any sexual innuendo.)

The duo followed up with an impressive array of singles, including the sublime “When Something is Wrong with My Baby,” the No. 2 pop hit “Soul Man” (later spun into a major hit by The Blues Brothers, the Stax-influenced alter egos of Saturday Night Live stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) and “I Thank You.” Three of the group’s four Stax/Atlantic albums were Top 10 on the R&B charts. (There would be more singles for Atlantic through 1972 and one more proper studio album for Sam & Dave on United Artists in 1975; they would split up in 1981.)

Edsel’s two new titles, available on March 26 in the U.K., combine two albums apiece with plenty of bonus material. The first set, Hold On, I’m Comin’ & Double Dynamite…Plus, combines those first two LPs for Stax with three non-LP sides. While almost all of the albums are presented in stereo, “You Don’t Know Like I Know” will be presented in its original mono mix with more unique overdubs.

Then there’s the two-disc Soul Men & I Thank You…Plus, a two-disc set featuring the duo’s last Stax and Atlantic LPs, four non-LP singles (including “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down,” later a hit for Elvis Costello & The Attractions in 1980) and one B-side. Both sets feature new liner notes by writer Tony Rounce and, together, make for an essential cornerstone of your soul music collection.

Hit the jump to check everything out!

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Written by Mike Duquette

March 19, 2012 at 10:15

Posted in News, Reissues, Sam & Dave