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Ace Heads Back to the “Hall of Fame” and The “Cellar of Soul”

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Hall of Fame Volume 3Ace Records’ Kent label will travel just about anywhere to bring you the greatest soul you’ve never heard – hence, Kent has recently revisited both the Hall of Fame and the Cellar of Soul in new installments of each series.

Back in March of last year, we reported on Hall of Fame Volume 2, which presented 24 cuts recorded at Rick Hall’s storied FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – 20 of which were previously unissued.  The new, third volume of Hall of Fame boasts another 24 slabs of prime southern soul, only two of which have ever previously seen the light of day!  This release is especially timely considering that the well-regarded 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, detailing the FAME story on screen, has just arrived on DVD and Blu-ray.  Whereas the first two volumes of Hall of Fame include tracks from both male and female artists (not to mention groups!), Volume 3 focuses purely on the great male singers who recorded on Hall’s hallowed grounds.

Many of the names here will be familiar to Ace devotees as subjects of their own anthologies on the label.  Clarence Carter (whose complete FAME singles output has been released on Ace) appears on three songs including “I Feel a Burning,” an embryonic version of what would become “Tell Daddy,” best known in Etta James’ gender-switched recording as “Tell Mama.” (Carter’s “Tell Daddy” appeared on Hall of Fame Volume One back in 2012.)  George Jackson, subject of three FAME volumes from Ace, is represented with the ultra-rare “I Don’t Want to Know” – even the identity of its authors has been lost to time – and Prince Phillip Mitchell delivers the lively proclamation that “Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here!”

Two more of the exciting finds here are “You’re Too Much” and “Why Don’t You Care” from Otis Redding protégé Billy Young.  Redding wrote the former and had a hand in its production, as well.  As “Too Much,” it was issued on Mercury Records in 1967.  The latter track was recorded at the same session as Young’s Chess single of the southern soul staple “You Left the Water Running.”  Redding frequently recommended acts to FAME’s Rick Hall, among them Herman Moore and the duo billed here as Billy and Clyde.  The tape to “World of My Own” was found by the Ace archaeologists in a box marked “Otis acts,” with the song likely recorded at FAME by Redding and Hall.  The identities of Billy and Clyde remain unknown, as do a couple more acts on Hall of Fame Volume 3 billed less colorfully as Unknown Male No. 1 and Unknown Male No. 2.  What isn’t unknown, however, is that these voices had grit, authenticity and vocal power in abundance.   Just hit the jump to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 14, 2014 at 09:03

Holiday Tunes Watch: Sony CMG Celebrates The Season with Bing, Buck, B.J., JB, Elvis and More

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Christmas With Bing CoverOccasionally the aisles of your local grocery or big-box store turn up releases you won’t find even in your local indie music store.  Such is the case with a recent batch of holiday-themed titles from Sony Commercial Music Group.  Just in time for Christmas ’13, CMG has unveiled a number of holiday compilations – and a handful of straight album reissues – for fans of classic pop (Bing Crosby, Patti Page), country (B.J. Thomas, Buck Owens, Roy Clark), rock-and-roll (Elvis Presley) and R&B (James Brown, and latter-day incarnations of The Drifters, The Platters, The Miracles and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes).  As you’ll see, there are some buried treasures to be discovered here.

Bing Crosby Enterprises has released a number of projects in recent years featuring ultra-rare Crosby tracks from the late legend’s archives, and the new Christmas with Bing! is no exception.  This release follows other recent, unique seasonal collections like 2011’s Bing Crosby Christmas from Sonoma Entertainment and South Bay Music and Christmas Favorites from Somerset Entertainment. Produced by Robert S. Bader, the compilation offers 14 tracks including a few reprised from the indispensable Crosby Christmas Sessions (Collectors’ Choice Music, 2010).  Three duets are sprinkled in among vintage singles and rare radio performances, including Ella Fitzgerald on “A Marshmallow World,” Bing’s widow Kathryn Crosby on “Away in a Manger,” and David Bowie on, of course, “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.”   Real Gone Music has recently reissued the late Patti Page’s 1955 Mercury release Christmas with Patti Page; now CMG has delivered the singer’s 1965 Columbia set of the same name which featured re-recordings of some of the earlier album’s music plus new holiday songs.  The Columbia Christmas with Patti Page includes such favorites as “Silver Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Christmas Bells” and “Pretty Snowflakes.”

Buck Owens ChristmasThe late Bakersfield, California country hero Buck Owens has been in the spotlight for much of 2013 thanks to Omnivore Recordings’ stellar release program and the release of his autobiography Buck ‘Em!.  CMG’s Christmas with Buck Owens, produced by Rob Santos and licensed directly from Owens’ estate, includes twelve originals from Owens and his Buckaroos, including “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” “Santa’s Gonna Come in a Stagecoach” and a still-relevant lament about “Christmas Shopping.”  Its eleven tracks sample Owens’ Capitol long-players Christmas with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos (1965) and Christmas Shopping (1968).  Buck’s Hee-Haw co-host and compatriot Roy Clark also gets a holiday overview with A Christmas Collection, produced by Doug Wygal.  Its fifteen tracks including such classics as “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “Home for the Holidays” and “White Christmas” have all been licensed from Grand Ole Opry member Clark.

B.J. Thomas - Christmas LiveSony collects twelve Christmas tunes from Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.”) on Christmas, licensed from Cleopatra Records.  As well as “Tennessee Christmas” and “Lone Star Christmas,” Greenwood sings traditional classics from “The Little Drummer Boy” to “White Christmas.”  For years, B.J. Thomas has successfully walked the line between country and pop, and he showcases his still-strong voice on his enjoyable Christmas Live set.  This collection, licensed from Cleopatra and of mid-2000s vintage, features twelve live Christmas songs from the “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” man, including “The Christmas Song,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Tennessee Christmas.”  A longer version of the concert, with some non-holiday material, can be obtained on CD-R from Goldenlane Records as Hooked on Christmas or on DVD from Video Music as B.J. Thomas’ Christmas.

B.J. shared some of his repertoire, such as “Suspicious Minds” and “I Just Can’t Help Believin’,” with Elvis Presley.  Twelve of the King’s Christmas staples are represented on Merry Christmas…Love Elvis, produced by Jeff James and Lisa Grauso and remastered by Tom Ruff.  The compilation is drawn from Elvis’ 1957 and 1971 Christmas albums plus the 1966 single “If Every Day Was Like Christmas.  On the classic rock front, CMG also offers up a reissue of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s A Lovemongers’ Christmas.  Originally released in 1998 as The Lovemongers’ Here is Christmas, credited to the Wilsons’ Heart side project, it’s since been reissued under the official Heart name.  This edition contains the two bonus tracks that did not appear in 1998 but have been added to subsequent reissues, Patty Griffin’s “Mary” and Ann Wilson and Sue Ennis’ “Let’s Stay In.”

After the jump: we have the scoop on the soulful titles in this series, plus full track listings and pre-order links for all releases, plus discographical information where available! Read the rest of this entry »