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Archive for the ‘The Sweet Inspirations’ Category

Review: The Sweet Inspirations, “The Complete Atlantic Singles Plus”

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Sweet Inspirations - Atlantic Singles PlusReal Gone Music and SoulMusic Records have dug deep into the Atlantic Records vaults for a trio of rarities-packed complete releases from The Sweet Inspirations, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles and Irma Thomas! Right now, let’s take a look at the music made by Cissy Houston and co. as The Sweet Inspirations!

Today, The Sweet Inspirations might be best-remembered as Elvis Presley’s preferred onstage backup group, but The King was just one of a staggering number of artists supported by the group, among them Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, even Jimi Hendrix. But Atlantic Records rightfully believed in the group as headliners, too – hence, the Real Gone/SoulMusic co-production of The Sweet Inspirations’ Complete Atlantic Singles – Plus (RGM-0263/OPCD-8853).

The classic, pre-“Elvis years” Sweet Inspirations recording line-up of Cissy Houston, Sylvia Shemwell, Myrna Smith and Estelle Brown evolved from the Drinkard Singers/Gospelaires families that also famously included Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick (Houston’s nieces) and Judy Clay (Shemwell’s sister). After backing Atlantic’s soul royalty, Jerry Wexler ushered the girls into Atlantic’s New York studios in 1967 for their very own session. The group recorded five albums and numerous singles for the label between 1967 and 1971; all of those 45s and a smattering of previously unreleased tracks are collected here for the first time. Only one cut made the Top 40 of the Hot 100, though – unsurprisingly – many more of the group’s vividly impassioned, often gritty songs scored on the R&B chart. Though The Complete Atlantic Singles features songs from Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, The Brothers Gibb, Carole King, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David, The Sweet Inspirations turned pop into pure deep soul.

What’s most immediately evident on these 37 tracks (three of which are previously unissued, hence the title’s “Plus”) on 2 CDs is the unusually supple sound for a foursome. Estelle recalls in David Nathan’s superb notes that the group was “famous for…moving harmonies up and interchanging parts so that the background vocals sounded so full, almost like a choir.” Indeed, the members’ gospel roots informed every performance. Jerry Wexler, and later Tom Dowd and the team of Brad Shapiro and Dave Crawford, knew this and supplied the Sweet Inspirations with songs they could plumb for raw emotion.   Bert Berns, a master of desperation in song, co-wrote “I Don’t Want to Go on Without You” with Wexler, first recorded by The Drifters and also by Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. It became the group’s first B-side, supporting a wrenching version of The Staple Singers’ “Why (Am I Treated So Bad).”

Wexler had a knack for importing southern soul sounds to New York (frequently by bringing bands north to Atlantic’s studios) but he sent the Sweet Inspirations directly to the source in Muscle Shoals, Alabama as well as Memphis, Tennessee. Producers Tom Dowd and Tommy Cogbill oversaw their spine-tingling version of Dan Penn and Chips Moman’s “Do Right Woman-Do Right Man” at the same 1967 Memphis session that yielded a dramatic take on Bacharach and David’s “Reach Out for Me.” Penn also scored the group its first and only Top 20 Pop hit with the Spooner Oldham co-write “Sweet Inspiration.” Naturally, the duo wrote it specifically for them.

The Sweet Inspirations’ sound wouldn’t have proven incompatible at Stax, and in fact, the post-Cissy Houston trio line-up recorded an album for the venerable Memphis label. At Atlantic, the girls recorded 45 RPM slices of Stax soul by Otis Redding (an intense “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”), Isaac Hayes and David Porter (“When Something is Wrong with My Baby”), Booker T. Jones and William Bell (“Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday”) and Steve Cropper and the “Wicked” Wilson Pickett (the brassy, up-tempo groover “Don’t Fight It”).

Don’t miss anything – hit the jump to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 9, 2014 at 10:02

Release Round-Up: Week of June 3

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LZ BoxLed Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin I / Led Zeppelin II / Led Zeppelin III: Deluxe Editions (Swan Song/Atlantic)

Anyone ever heard these albums? Interesting stuff. I don’t know about you, but I’d predict big things for these guys.

Led Zeppelin
1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
1LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD/3LP Super Deluxe: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Led Zeppelin II
1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
1LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD/2LP Super Deluxe: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Led Zeppelin III
1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
1LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD/2LP Super Deluxe: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Superunknown 20 boxSoundgarden, Superunknown: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (A&M/UMe)

This grunge-pop classic comes back with a vengeance as a bonus-filled box set featuring demos, outtakes, rare tracks and a surround mix on Blu-ray.

1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4CD/1BD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Vauxhall and IMorrissey, Vauxhall and I: 20th Anniversary Definitive Master (Parlophone/Rhino)

It would appear that Moz and I share the same opinion of this record: so good, the track list doesn’t need to be played with. Add an unreleased live show from 1995 on a bonus CD, and this is a heck of a set for the discerning fan.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Vinyl: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Earthbound OriginalThe 5th Dimension, Earthbound/ Vikki Carr,  Love Again – The Lost Columbia Masters / Vikki Carr, The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face) (Expanded Edition) / Robert Bearns & Ron Dexter, The Best of the Golden Voyage / The Sweet Inspirations, The Complete Atlantic Singles Plus / Faith Hope & Charity, Faith Hope & Charity (Expanded Edition) /Fanny, Charity Ball (Expanded Edition) / Linda Martell, Color Me Country / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 18 – Dane County Coliseum, Madison, WI 2/3/78 Uni-Dome, University of N. Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 2/5/78 (Real Gone Music)

Another great Real Gone slate features two titles with liner notes from our own Joe Marchese – The 5th Dimension’s Earthbound and Vikki Carr’s The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)!

The 5th Dimension: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Vikki Carr/Love AgainAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Vikki Carr/The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Robert Bearns & Ron Dexter: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Sweet Inspirations: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Faith Hope & Charity: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Fanny: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Linda Martell: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Grateful Dead: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Extraordinary Nat King ColeNat “King” Cole, The Extraordinary Nat “King” Cole (Capitol)

This new compilation – available as a two-disc deluxe edition with a host of rare and newly-discovered tracks – does a pretty darn good job of living up to its name.

Standard 1CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Deluxe 2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Blu-ray Audio: Analogue Productions

Bossa Nova BabyElvis Presley, Bossa Nova Baby: The Ultimate Elvis Party Album (RCA/Legacy)

A new Elvis compilation for your summer party features some of the usual hits plus a few tracks from the Cirque du Soleil Viva Elvis show to rediscover. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Lectric LadyCarol Williams & The Salsoul Orchestra, ‘Lectric Lady: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

An expanded version of the debut album by Carol Williams, the first female solo act signed to the Salsoul label! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Real Gone Has Sweet Inspiration(s) For June With Vikki Carr, Fanny, Grateful Dead, More

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Vikki Carr - The First Time I Ever Saw Your FaceThe details are out on Real Gone Music’s June 3 release slate, and it’s so eclectic and so packed with rarities that you might find yourself exclaiming of the Real Gone team, “It must be them!” Of course, “It Must Be Him” was Vikki Carr’s signature hit, and Vikki is featured on not one, but two, releases from her Columbia Records tenure – including one with a full seventeen previously unissued recordings! If you like your female artists a bit more rocking, Real Gone has an expanded edition of Charity Ball, the 1971 sophomore album from Fanny, the first all-female rock band to find a major label home. And if it’s R&B ladies you’re after, you’ll find some of the best on The Complete Atlantic Singles Plus of the legendary Sweet Inspirations featuring Cissy Houston. And that’s not all. The disco trio Faith, Hope and Charity’s 1975 RCA long-player, produced by “Hustle” man Van McCoy, makes its worldwide CD debut, as does Color Me Country from groundbreaking African-American country vocalist Linda Martell. Real Gone continues its series reissuing Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks. And if the Dead isn’t enough to take you to a higher level of consciousness, you might want to check out the first-ever compilation of the New Age recordings of Robert Bearns and Ron Dexter’s Golden Voyage.

After the jump, you’ll find full details on this eclectic, expansive group of titles courtesy of Real Gone’s press release – plus pre-order links for all titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 21, 2014 at 12:16

Wu-Tang’s RZA Compiles Classic Stax for “Shaolin Soul”

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RZA Shaolin SoulA new compilation of music from Stax Records is coming courtesy of a most interesting source: rapper/producer/actor/director RZA of The Wu-Tang Clan.

The man born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs has rarely slowed down in the 20 years since Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was released in the winter of 1993. Besides producing most of his group’s early records and solo projects (including ODB’s Return to the 36 Chambers, GZA’s Liquid Swords, Method Man’s Tical and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…), RZA has also made a name for himself in prose (writing and co-writing Wu-Tang guidebooks The Wu-Tang Manual and The Tao of Wu) and film, turning in solid performances in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarrettes, Ridley Scott’s American Gangster, and most recently The Man with the Iron Fists, a martial-arts flick he also co-wrote and directed.

Now, he’s taking a small detour by overseeing this new compilation of Stax tracks through his own label, Soul Temple. The RZA Presents Shaolin Soul Selection Volume 1 (not to be confused with a similarly-titled 2001 compilation on the Koch label consisting of soul songs sampled by the Clan) will span two CDs or three vinyl LPs and feature 24 tracks by Isaac Hayes, The Meters, Albert King, The Emotions, William Bell, Booker T & The M.G.’s and many more.

A mix of selections from the compilation, due out March 19, has been commissioned by DJ 7L, and can be heard on the above video or on Soul Temple’s Bandcamp page, where special album and t-shirt bundles are currently up for sale. The full track list and Amazon links for the regular CD set are after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

February 20, 2013 at 15:49