Irma Thomas - Take A Look (1966)

Irma Thomas is an American soul singer. 

1964's "Wish Someone Would Care" had given Irma Thomas her one and only national pop hit. Between '64 and '66 she released several more fantastic singles on Imperial Records, but none of them came close to repeating its success, the highest charting being "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)", which only got to #52. Her second Imperial album came out in 1966, and was mostly made up of the recent singles. It made for an excellent soul album, featuring songs written by Allen Toussaint, Jerry Ragavoy, Randy Newman and Van McCoy. Compared to her earlier Imperial recordings, most of the songs had a bigger, fuller sound that at times hinted at a Motown influence. 
Indeed it had plenty of potential for a big crossover commercial success (the title track in particular), so it remains a bit of a mystery as to why none of the singles sold well. There was one last single on Imperial, produced by James Brown of all people, before the label let her go. Not much was heard from Irma Thomas for a few years afterwards. 

Wish Someone Would Care (1964) <|> In Between Tears (1973)
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The Lovin' Spoonful - Everything Playing (1967)

The Lovin' Spoonful are an American rock band originally active in the 1960s.

In 1966 The Lovin' Spoonful recorded soundtracks for two films, the first being Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?, and the second being Francis Ford Coppola's You're A Big Boy Now. The soundtrack album of the latter was released in 1967, and featured a hit with "Darling Be Home Soon", which charted at #15. 
Following this lead guitarist Zal Yanovsky left the band, and was replaced by Jerry Yester, who had previously been a member of both The New Christy Minstrels and the Modern Folk Quartet. They also had a change of producer, with Joe Wissert taking over from Erik Jacobsen. Their fourth album came out later that year, with an eclectic pop-rock sound notable for some orchestral embellishments on some songs. Three songs were released as singles and became minor hits - "Six O'Clock" at #18, "She Is Still A Mystery" at #27 and "Money" at #48. It marked the beginning of a commercial decline for the group, who also suffered from the fallout of a drug bust (Yanovsky had named his supplier, which hurt the band's credentials with their hippie audience).  It turned out to be their last album with frontman and main songwriter John Sebastian, as he left soon afterwards to start a solo career (retrospectively it can be seen that Sebastian was The Lovin' Spoonful, and stepping out of the restrictions of a group format could only have been a good thing).

Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful (1966) <|> Revelation: Revolution '69 (1969)
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O.V. Wright - Nucleus Of Soul (1969)

O.V. Wright was an American soul singer.

O.V. Wright's second album of all new material on Back Beat Records came out in 1969. Nucelus Of Soul offered another fine selection of southern soul gems performed with gospel-styled passion, with the emphasis mostly on the ballads, which was arguably where Wright was strongest. It generated no real hits, the highest charting single being "I'll Take Care Of You", which only made it to #43 on the R&B chart. The album featured a few covers, including one predictable R&B standard (Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love"), and one rather surprising choice in  Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind"- Dylan songs weren't often recorded by R&B singers, but Wright's version worked very well.

If It's Only For Tonight (1965) <|> A Nickle And A Nail And Ace Of Spades (1971)
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The Staple Singers - We'll Get Over (1969)

The Staple Singers were an American gospel and soul vocal group.

1969's We'll Get Over was The Staple Singers' second album for Stax Records, produced by Steve Cropper and featuring members of The MGs as well as keyboard player Marvell Thomas (daughter of Rufus and sister of Carla). It further explored the new secular, inspirational 'message song' format they had switched gears to the previous year, resulting in some fantastic upbeat soul music, with funky arrangements sweetened in places with strings. Most of the songs were covers, including Joe South's "Games People Play", Sly & The Family Stone's "Everyday People" and The Guess Who's "A Wednesday In Your Garden". One of the most unusual choices was "Solon Bushi", an arrangement of a traditional Japanese folk song.
The album didn't generate any hit singles, but it was another step in the right direction (commercially speaking). They were making the most of their Stax record deal, as the same year saw the release of Mavis Staples' solo debut, and Pops Staples recorded an album with Cropper and fellow Stax artist Albert King. They also recorded a song by Al Kooper for the film sountrack he was working on (for Hal Ashby's 1970 film The Landlord) - "Brand New Day" is included here as a bonus track.
It was also their last album to feature Pervis Staples, before he left and his place was taken by younger sister Yvonne.

Soul Folk In Action (1968) <|> The Staple Swingers (1971)
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Paul Siebel - Woodsmoke And Oranges (1970)

Paul Siebel is an American singer-songwriter. 

Paul Siebel was born in Buffalo, New York in 1937. He served in the military before moving to Greenwich Village to play the folk clubs in the 60s. He was signed to Elektra Records at the end of the decade, and his debut album was quickly recorded on a small budget, featuring backing from David Bromberg (guitar & dobro), Weldon Myrick (pedal steel), Richard Greene (violin), Jeff Gutcheon (keyboards), Don Brooks (harmonica), Gary White (bass) and James Madison (drums). Released in 1970, Woodsmoke And Oranges was an excellent album of rootsy country-folk, featuring all original songs. It sold little, but proved popular with critics and other songwriters. Indeed it included his best-known song, "Louise", which by the time of the album's release had already been recorded by both Linda Ronstadt and Eric Andersen, and would later be covered by many others.

|> Jack-Knife Gypsy (1971)

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The Fame Gang - Solid Gold From Muscle Shoals (1969)

The Fame Gang was a group of studio musicians working at Rick Hall's Fame Studios.

Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was responsible for some of the best R&B and soul music of the 1960s, and one important factor in this was the team of talented musicians that called the studio their home and provided musical backing for all the singers who recorded there. Musicians who worked at Fame in the early days included Spooner Oldham, David Briggs, Norbert Putman and Jerry Carrigan. Over the decade most of them left for other things (for the most part in Memphis or Nashville), and in 1969 the rhythm section of Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Barry Beckett famously left to open their own studio across town (Muscle Shoals Sound Studio). This left owner Rick Hall needing to put together another group of studio musicians, which he did. The 'third Fame rhythm section' featured Junior Lower (guitar), Clayton Ivy (keyboards), Jesse Boyce (bass) and Freeman Brown (drums). Lowe had already been with Fame for most of the decade, and previously mostly played bass. Hall also managed to get himself a permanent horn section, consisting of Harrison Calloway (trumpet & trombone), Aaron Varnell (tenor & alto sax), Ronnie Eades (baritone sax) and Harvey Thompson (tenor sax and flute). This group went on to play on songs by Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Candi Staton, Bobbie Gentry, and many others.
They also recorded an album by themselves as The Fame Gang. 1969's Solid Gold From Muscle Shoals featured instrumental readings of hits from the same year (plus a few from '68), produced and arranged by Mickey Buckins. The songs included numbers by The Impressions, Joe Simon, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Blood, Sweat & Tears and others.

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The Gregg Allman Band - Playin' Up A Storm (1978)

Gregg Allman is an American singer-songwriter and musician, best known for his role as lead singer and organist with The Allman Brothers Band.

The Allman Brothers Band broke up in 1976, with Gregg parting from his bandmates on bad terms. He was then free to explore a solo career, one which had seen such a promising start in 1973 with Laid Back. For his next release he put together a new band, and so 1978's Playin' Up A Storm was credited to The Gregg Allman Band. The band itself (which featured bassist Willie Weeks) was also helped out by a large cast of guests, including Dr John, Little Feat's Bill Payne and jazz bassist Red Callender. It was a good album, a collection of R&B and soul based tunes that included Ray Charles' "The Brightest Smile In Town", Candi Staton's "Sweet Feelin'" and Allman's own "Come And Go Blues" (originally from the Allman Brothers' Brothers And Sisters album), plus some good new songs.

The Gregg Allman Tour (1974) <|> I'm No Angel (1986)
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Allen Toussaint - Motion (1978)

Allen Toussaint is an American musician, songwriter and record producer, an influential figure in New Orleans R&B since the 1960s.

1978's Motion was Allen Toussaint's first solo album in three years. He had only released five albums under his own name in over twenty years in the music busines, but his own recording career had always been secondary to his work as a producer and songwriter, which continued with no sign of slowing throughout the 70s (his song "Southern Nights" was a #1 pop hit for Glen Campbell in 1977). The new album was recorded in L.A. with local studio pros including guitarist Larry Carlton, bassist Chuck Rainey and drummer Jeff Porcaro, helping craft a sound quite different to his earlier self-produced New Orleans albums. The result was smoother and glossier, and not quite as distinctive, but nevertheless made for a great record. It turned out to be his last proper solo album for almost twenty years.

Southern Nights (1975) <|> Connected (1996)
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Eric Andersen - A Country Dream (1969)

Eric Andersen is an American singer-songwriter.

1969 saw Eric Andersen travel to Nashville to record a country-rock album, or at least one featuring full band arrangements that relied heavily on pedal steel guitar. It was a good idea, as his light, poetic singer-songwriter fare suited the countrified arrangements well, and let him fit in with the country-rock trends which were prevalent among the singer-songwriters of the day. An experienced team of seasoned Nashville musicians backed him on A Country Dream - Andy Johnson (guitar), Weldon Myrick (pedal steel), David Briggs (piano), Norbert Putman (bass), Kenny Buttrey (drums) and Charlie McCoy (various instruments including harmonica and banjo). Alongside some good new original material were covers of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" and the old classic "Lovesick Blues".

More Hits From Tin Can Alley (1968) <|> Avalanche (1969)
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The Sweet Inspirations - The Sweet Inspirations (1967)

The Sweet Inspirations were an American R&B vocal group.

The roots of The Sweet Inspirations can be traced back to a family gospel group called The Drinkard Singers, formed in Savannah, Georgia in 1938, which featured Emily Drinkard and her siblings. Emily later married and became known as Cissy Houston, and was the mother of Whitney Houston. Her sister Lee was also the mother of Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick. The early 60s saw them develop from a gospel group to a group of much in demand female backing vocalists. Singers who were associated with the group during this transitional period included both Warwick sisters, Doris Troy and Judy Clay, all who went on to successful solo careers in the 60s. They recorded backing vocals for R&B artists including Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Garnet Mimms, Maxine Brown, Esther Phillips, Chuck Jackson and most famously Aretha Franklin.
Eventually the group settled on the lineup of Cissy Houston, Myrna Smith, Sylvia Shemwell (Judy Clay's sister) and Estelle Brown. They first recorded by themselves as The Sweet Inspirations when signed to Atlantic Records in 1967. They were sent to Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, where they recorded enough material for an album. Two singles, covers of The Staple Singers' "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)" and the classic "Let It Be Me", reached #36 and #13 on the R&B chart respectively.  One song written especially for them by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham gave them a big hit - "Sweet Inspiration" reached both #5 on the R&B chart and #18 on the pop chart.
Their debut album contained these three songs alongside a selection of cover material, including Wilson Pickett's "Don't Fight It", Eddie Floyd's "Knock On Wood", Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman" and "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream", Dionne Warwick's "Reach Out For Me" and the country standard "Blues Stay Away From Me".

|> Songs Of Faith And Inspiration (1968)

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Larry Jon Wilson - New Beginnings (1975)

Larry Jon Wilson was an American singer-songwriter.

Larry Jon Wilson was born in 1940 in Swainsboro, Georgia. He majored in chemistry at the University of Georgia, and worked for ten years for a fibreglass manufacturer in South Carolina. He didn't actually take up guitar until he was thirty years old, but in 1974 he quit his job to pursue music full time. He was signed to Monument Records, and his debut album came out in 1975. New Beginnings introduced his own distinctive form of country music, together with some top notch songwriting, and he was quickly embraced as part of the Outlaw Country movement of the time. His sound was raw and gritty, combining evocative story-songs with some seriously funky Southern grooves, all tied together with his deep, characterful voice. Instrumental backing on the album came from guitarists Reggie Young and Johnny Christopher, bassist Tommy Cogbill, keyboard player Bobby Woods and drummer Hayward Bishop (the five of them being Memphis musicians relocated to Nashville, having originally been the house band at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio). It yielded no hits and did not sell in large quantities, but it did earn him many fans, several other better-known songwriters among them.

|> Let Me Sing My Song To You (1976)

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Ian & Sylvia - Nashville (1968)

Ian & Sylvia were a Canadian husband-and-wife folk duo.

In 1968 Ian & Sylvia released Nashville, their final album on the Vanguard label. Technically they had already begun recording for MGM (the label on which the previous year's Lovin' Sound had been released), but some confusing technicalities meant they still owed one more for Vanguard to fulfil their contract. 
Like the name suggested, the new album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with help from a number of seasoned session musicians including Pete Drake, Fred Carter, Jr., Buddy Spicher, Norbert Putman and Kenny Buttrey. Over their last few albums Ian & Sylvia had expanded their acoustic folk sound to incorporate elements of both electric folk-rock and country music - Nashville unsurprisingly had a notable increase in country elements, and retrospectively can be seen to fit in with the country-rock movement which was then starting to take off. Most of the songs were originals, though it did also feature two of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes compositions - "The Mighty Quinn" and "This Wheel's On Fire".

Lovin' Sound (1967) <|> Full Circle (1968)
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Rita Coolidge - The Lady's Not For Sale (1972)

Rita Coolidge is an American singer.

Rita Coolidge's third solo album came out in 1972, another great laid-back mix of blue-eyed soul and country. Backing came from core group of Charlie Freeman (guitar), Mike Utley (keyboards), Tommy McClure (bass) and Sammy Creason (drums), known as The Dixie Flyers. Other musical guests included Marc Benno, Al Kooper, John Sebastian, Carl Radle, Bernie Leadon and Al Perkins. The album featured a good selection of songs, mostly covers, including Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire", Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", Little Willie John's "Fever", the title track by Kris Kristofferson (who she was in a relationship with and would marry the next year), plus "A Woman Left Lonely" by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and "Everybody Loves A Winner" by William Bell and Booker T Jones (a gem of a song that had already been recorded by both Bell and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends). There were also two songs by guitarist Marc Benno.
Like the two that preceded it, the album did not light up the charts, despite its strengths. Though technically it did do somewhat better, creeping up to #46 on the national album chart, and the single release of "Fever" getting to #76.

Nice Feelin' (1972) <|> Fall Into Spring (1974)
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Percy Sledge - The Percy Sledge Way (1967)

Percy Sledge is an American soul singer. 

The massive success of Percy Sledge's #1 hit "When A Man Loves A Woman" in 1966 had thrown Quin Ivy's little Norala studio into the big league. Sledge's records were distributed by the Atlantic label, and after two successful follow-up hits later the same year, Atlantic was eager for more. Ivy took every chance he could to record Sledge at Norala when his busy touring schedule allowed. In early 1967 two singles recorded the previous December were released. The first, Bobby Womack's "Baby Help Me", only made it to #44 on the R&B chart. The second, the superb country-soul ballad "Out Of Left Field", by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, fared better and made it to #25. However neither songs would be featured on a Percy Sledge album until 1968. The fact that the ballad was more successful than the upbeat number was indicative of where Sledge's strengths lied.
His third album was recorded and released later in 1967, and focused on Sledge's talents with ballads. It was made up entirely of cover songs, including "The Dark End Of The Street", "I've Been Loving You Too Long", "Tell It Like It Is", "You Send Me" and "Drown In My Own Tears". All well-known R&B ballads, done The Percy Sledge Way. An album of cover songs was perhaps not the best idea commercially speaking (surely if it had featured "Out Of Left Field" it would have been more successful), but nevertheless it made for an excellent record.

Warm & Tender Soul (1966) <|> Take Time To Know Her (1968)
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Gordon Lightfoot - Don Quixote (1972)

Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian singer-songwriter.

Gordon Lightfoot's 1972 album Don Quixote, his third on Reprise Records, was yet another fine collection of original songs that showcased his poetic, folksy singer-songwriter sound (the one non-original composition was a Shel Silvestein cover). It featured a familiar cast of backing musicians - guitarists Red Shea and Terry Clements, and bassist Rick Haynes, plus a cameo from Ry Cooder on mandolin. It did not generate any hits in the US ("If You Could Read My Mind", from two years earlier, remained his only Top 10 hit in the US at the time), but the single "Beautiful" charted at #13 in his native Canada (it only got to #58 in the US). The album itself got to #1 in Canada (his first album to do so), and remains a firm fan favourite.

Summer Side Of Life (1971) <|> Old Dan's Records (1972)
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The Box Tops - Dimensions (1969)

The Box Tops were an American rock group active in the 1960s.

The Box Tops had scored five Top 40 hits in 1967 and 1968, with songwriter Dan Penn working as their producer at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis. However by late '68 Penn had stopped working with them, and their production duties were taken over by Moman and Tommy Cogbill. Lead singer Alex Chilton was also starting to get disillusioned with both The Box Tops and the music business as a whole. Only Chilton and guitarist Gary Talley remained of the original group, and regardless of who was in the group at the time Chilton was usually the only one to appear on the recordings, alongside the American Sound house musicians.
They had another hit in late 1968 with "Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March", which got to #28. The next summer they had their final hit, with Wayne Carson Thompson's "Soul Deep", which got to #18 (a fantastic catchy pop song, it's still one of their best known numbers). Their fourth and final album was released the same year. For Dimensions the band wanted more creative control, and so it featured a few Alex Chilton originals. Alongide the last two hits it also featured a cover of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and a long blues jam of BB King's "Rock Me Baby" (actually the second time their had recorded it, as it also featured in a shorter arrangement on Non-Stop). It was another fine album, a great mix of rock, pop and R&B sounds.
However following its release the band broke up, as both Chilton and Talley moved on to new things. Recordings continued to be released under the band name, and a new group was actually put together to keep the name alive (it was not retired until 1974, but no more albums were released).

Non-Stop (1968) <|> Tear Off! (1998)
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Joe Simon - Simon Sings (1969)

Joe Simon is an American soul singer. 

Joe Simon's series of charting singles continued into late 1968 with two modest R&B hits - "Message From Maria" got to #31, and "Looking Back" reached #42. His third album, Simon Sings, was released in early 1969 on the Sound Stage 7 label. It featured both singles plus many other strong songs, including a splendid country-soul cover of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" (he wasn't the first and wouldn't be the last soul singer to record this song). It was a solid and consistent album, mostly made up of somber string-backed ballads, which were fast becoming Simon's speciality. It was also the first of three new albums he would release that year.

No Sad Songs (1968) <|> The Chokin' Kind (1969)
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Donnie Fritts - Prone To Lean (1974)

Donnie Fritts is an American keyboard player and songwriter. 

Donnie Fritts was born in Florence, Alabama in 1942. He played in local bands and was there when the Muscle Shoals music scene took off in the early 60s, finding work as both a session keyboard player and songwriter. Songs he wrote were recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals and American Sound Studios in Memphis by various R&B artists. His best known songs from this era were "Breakfast In Bed", co-written with Eddie Hinton and recorded by Dusty Springfield, "Choo Choo Train", also written with Eddie Hinton and a Top 40 hit for The Box Tops, and the splendid "Rainbow Road", written with Dan Penn and recorded by Percy Sledge, Joe Simon, Arthur Alexander and Bill Brandon.
In the early 70s he worked with Kris Kristofferson, playing keyboards both in the studio and on stage, and co-writing several songs with him. In 1974 he released a solo album on Atlantic Records, which was produced by Kristofferson and Jerry Wexler and recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound. It featured lots of songs co-written with Hinton, Penn, Spooner Oldham and Tony Joe White, including a moving rendition of "Rainbow Road", and as well as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section featured many of his musician friends including Hinton, White and Oldham. Though he proved to be a somewhat limited vocalist, it still turned out to be a great album full of funky southern vibes, a mix of R&B and country styles.

|> Everybody's Got A Song (1997)

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The Meters - The Meters (1969)

The Meters are an influential American funk band from New Orleans.

Art Neville was the eldest of four brothers (the others being Aaron, Charles and Cyril) who grew up surrounded by music in New Orleans. He learned piano, and during the 50s led a group called The Hawketts, who had a regional hit in 1954 with "Mardi Gras Mambo". He also recorded some singles as a solo artist, the best being the Allen Toussaint ballad "All These Things", which was a hit in 1962. In 1966 he formed a new band, Art Neville & The Neville Sounds, which featured his brothers Aaron and Cyril on vocals, and a new lineup of musicians. They never recorded but for a short period of time were one of the hottest live act in New Orleans.
The Neville Sounds did not last, as Art found he had a particular musical connection with the rhythm section, and they went out on their own. This lineup of Art (organ), Leo Nocentelli (guitar), George Porter Jr. (bass) and Zigaboo Modeliste (drums) developed a distinctive sparse and funky sound, and were hired by Allen Toussaint as the backing group for artists he was producing, including Lee Dorsey and Betty Harris. They soon began recording instrumentals by themselves, and settled on the name The Meters.
In 1969 they had two Top 10 R&B hits on Josie Records with the instrumentals "Sophisticated Cissy", which got to #7, and "Cissy Strut", which reached #5. A full album featuring these and other instrumentals came out the same year, showcasing their unique and brilliant brand of New Orleans funk.

|> Look-Ka Py Py (1970)

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Albert King - Years Gone By (1969)

Albert King was a highly influential American blues guitarist and singer.

1968 saw Albert King release a couple of successful singles on Stax Records - "Cold Feet" got to #20 on the R&B chart, and "(I Love) Lucy", a tribute to his guitar, got to #46. They weren't featured on the any studio albums except the 1969 compilation King Of The Blues Guitar (which was essentially the Born Under A Bad Sign album with a few songs removed to make way for the singles and some b-sides).
His second full studio album on Stax was Years Gone By, also released in 1969, and again recorded with backing from Booker T & The MGs, and produced by drummer Al Jackson Jr. Another collection of excellent electric blues with the clean production and tight, funky arrangements typical of the Stax studios.

Live Wire / Blues Power (1968) <|> Blues For Elvis (1970)
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Sandy Denny - Like An Old Fashioned Waltz (1974)

Sandy Denny was an English singer-songwriter, best known for her role as lead singer for folk-rock band Fairport Convention.

In 1973 Sandy Denny recorded her third solo album, which represented something of a stylistic shift for her. It moved away from her English folk roots, instead focusing on a piano-based songs with rich string arrangements (apparently in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience). It also featured a little jazz, with with the inclusion of two old standards. All the other songs were Denny originals.
It was a fine album, and Denny put a band together to tour in support of it. However its release was delayed and the tour never took off. By the time the album finally saw release in 1974, she had actually rejoined Fairport Convention and gone on tour with them, and would stay with her old band for another studio album.

Sandy (1972) <|> Rendezvous (1977)
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Irma Thomas - Wish Someone Would Care (1964)

Irma Thomas is an American soul singer. 

In the early 60s Irma Thomas had recorded in New Orleans for Joe Banashak's Minit Records under the guidance of producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint, and had scored some local hits. In 1963 Minit was acquired by Imperial Records, which was subsequently itself sold to Liberty Records the same year. Luckily Thomas was kept on board, and in 1964 she recorded new material in L.A. The L.A. sessions produced what would turn out to be her breakthrough hit, the self-penned soul ballad "Wish Someone Would Care", which charted nationally at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Her debut album quickly followed, some excellent soul music, featuring covers of Percy Mayfield's "Please Someone To Love" and Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad". It also featured "Time Is On My Side", by Jerry Ragavoy, which The Rolling Stones would cover in an almost identical arrangement later the same year (it gave them their first Top 10 hit in the US). Though not technically the original (it had been recorded the previous year by jazz trombonist Kai Winding as an almost-instrumental), Irma Thomas's take is generally seen as the definitive version of this song.

|> Take A Look (1966)
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Kris Kristofferson - Jesus Was A Capricorn (1972)

Kris Kristofferson is an American country music singer-songwriter.

Jesus Was A Capricorn was Kris Kristofferson's second album release of 1972. It presented a collection of ten new songs in his distinctive story-telling style. By this time he was in a relationship with singer Rita Coolidge, and one of the songs he performed as a duet with her. Another guest vocalist was singer-songwriter Larry Gatlin, who sang his own "Help Me" with Kristofferson (the one non-original song on the album). With a similar spiritual theme was "Why Me", which was released as single and became a big hit, reaching #1 on the country chart and #16 on the Billboard Hot 100. It turned out to be the one and only #1 hit of Kristofferson's career, and the album marked the high point for him in terms of commercial success - his subsequent albums would all sell in increasingly smaller quantities.

Border Lord (1972) <|> Spooky Lady's Sideshow (1974)
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JJ Cale - To Tulsa And Back (2004)

JJ Cale was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

1996's Guitar Man was followed by the biggest gap between album releases in JJ Cale's career - 8 years. He was now into his 60s, so perhaps a slowing of pace was in order. Nevertheless he was still touring. Into the new millenium, he put out To Tulsa And Back aged sixty-six, proving he still had it and age was in no way affecting his style. Indeed the opening track, "My Gal", turned out to be one of the tightest, funkiest songs in his extensive repertoire. The rest of the album presented his usual mix of cool, bluesy sounds, some of them with quite a modern sheen to the production, but all unmistakeably JJ Cale.
Following his 2004 tour in support of the album, a tour documentary DVD was released in 2005, also under then name To Tulsa And Back. Also in 2004 he appeared as a guest at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, exposing his music to a legion of new guitar fans who had previously only known his songs through Clapton's (and other artists') covers. 

Guitar Man (1996) <|> Roll On (2009)
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Spooner Oldham - Pot Luck (1972)

Spooner Oldham is an American songwriter and keyboard player.

Born in Alabama in 1941, Dewey 'Spooner' Oldham began his music career playing piano in various high school bands. By the early 60s he was finding work as a session musician at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, and quit college to pursue music full-time. He became the house keyboard player at Fame, playing on countless R&B records recorded there. His distinctive playing can be heard on hits such as Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" (recorded at Fame) and Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" (recorded at the neighbouring Norala studio). When Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler brought Aretha Franklin to record at Fame in 1967, Oldham contributred the distinctive electric piano part on what turned out to be her breakthrough hit, "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)". He was invited back to New York for future Aretha sessions, and appeared on many of her subsequent hits.
As well as being kept busy with session work, Spooner Oldham developed into a talented songwriter whilst at Fame, mostly writing in partnership with Dan Penn. Songs they wrote together included hits such as James & Bobby Purify's "I'm Your Puppet", Percy Sledge's "It Tears Me Up" and Joe Simon's "Let's Do It Over", plus a myriad of lesser-known gems recorded by all sorts of R&B artists at Fame (demos of many of these songs, sung by Penn, can be heard here).
In 1967 Oldham left Muscle Shoals, following Dan Penn to work at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, where he continued to play keyboards and write. Penn/Oldham hits from this era include "Cry Like A Baby" by The Box Tops and "Sweet Inspiration" by The Sweet Inspirations. 1969 saw him leave Memphis and move to California., where he had no trouble finding work in the L.A. studio scene. He went on to play on records by artists including Gene Clark, Rita Coolidge, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Roger McGuinn, The Everly Brothers, and others...
A modest little Spooner Oldham solo album came out in 1972. His singing had never really been heard before, but he turned out to have quite a warm, likeable voice. Pot Luck featured a number of new songs, plus a cover of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken", and a medley featuring a number of songs he had originally played on.
|> Spare Change (1982)

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Bonnie Bramlett - It's Time (1974)

Bonnie Bramlett is an American singer, best known for the husband-and-wife duo Delaney & Bonnie and Friends which was active from 1967 to 1972.

Bonnie Bramlett's second solo album came out in 1974 on Capricorn Records, home of The Allman Brothers Band and many other southern rock acts. Among the cast of backing musicians could be found members of the Allman Brothers (Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks and Chuck Leavell), members of the band Cowboy (another Capricorn act), and guitarist Eddie Hinton. Songs included the title track by Scott Boyer of Cowboy, a couple from Hinton, "Cowboys And Indians" by Bobby Charles, Gregg Allman's "Oncoming Traffic", Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby" and Jackie Wilson's "Higher And Higher". The result was a fantastic album of Southern rock / R&B, with Bramlett's soulful vocals front and center throughout.


Sweet Bonnie Bramlett (1973) <|> Lady's Choice (1976)
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Dr John - City Lights (1978)

Dr John (real name Mac Rebennack) is an American singer-songwriter and musician, best known as a pianist.

After a couple of quiet years in terms of album releases (during which he performed with The Band at The Last Waltz), Dr John came out with City Lights on Horizon Records in 1978. It was a fine album, made up of all new original songs, some of them co-writes with renowned rock & roll lyricist Doc Pomus, plus one co-written with Bobby Charles and one with Alvin Robinson. With the notable exception of the opening track "Dance The Night Away With You", the album was quite different to his previous New Orleans-styled work, which made sense considering it was recorded in New York with some top session musicians of the late 70s. Much of it had a slick, polished sound, in line with the production aesthetics of the day, but thankfully rather than taking his music in the direction of disco it gave it a smooth, sophisticated sound which suited his character well.

Hollywood Be Thy Name (1975) <|> Tango Palace (1979)
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Ry Cooder - Get Rhythm (1987)

Ry Cooder is an American musician, best known for his skill as a slide guitarist and his interest in American roots music.

1987's Get Rhythm was Ry Cooder's first new studio album in five years, as he had spent most of the 1980s working on film soundtracks (a selection of which can be heard here). It featured his usual mix of American roots music forms, but was notable for focusing mostly on an electric blues-rock sound. The band backing him throughout featured some familiar names whom had already worked with him over the years - pianist Van Dyke Parks, accordion player Flaco Jiménez and drummer Jim Keltner. Backing vocals were provided by Bobby King, Terry Evans, Arnold McCuller and Willie Greene, Jr. Songs covered on the album included the title track by Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry's "Thirteen Question Method" and Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up". One standout song was "Across The Borderline", a beautiful original written by Cooder with John Hiatt and Jim Dickinson. This song had already been featured before on Cooder's soundtrack to the 1982 film The Border, there sung by Freddy Fender - on the new version, Cooder shared lead vocals with actor Harry Dean Stanton (who had also starred in another film Cooder had done the soundtrack for - 1984's Paris, Texas).
It turned out to be his last solo album for a long time, as through the next decade Cooder focused on collaborations with other artists and more film soundtracks.

The Slide Area (1982) <|> Chávez Ravine (2005)
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Eddie Hinton - Dear Y'all: The Songwriting Sessions (1969-1980)

Compilation 
Eddie Hinton was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter. 

Eddie Hinton was born in 1944 in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he was in a band called The Minutes. They were popular locally, but after several years on the road with them Hinton quit and moved to Muscle Shoals in 1967, to find work as a session guitarist. He worked mostly at Quin Ivy's Quinvy studio, not just as a guitarist but as a songwriter and producer, usually in partnership with Marlin Greene. One of their most successful songs from this period was the soul ballad "Cover Me", which was a modest hit for Percy Sledge. Another well known song of his, "Breakfast In Bed", was written with Donnie Fritts and was recorded by Dusty Springfield for her Dusty In Memphis album. By the 70s Hinton had become the regular lead guitarist at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
As well as his talents as a songwriter and guitarist, Hinton was a brilliant blue-eyed soul singer, much respected and admired by those who worked with him in the music business. Many thought he could have been a star, but unfortunately it never happened, and his debut solo album would have to wait until 1978 to see release. If he had released an album earlier in the decade it surely would have been fantastic, and recently Zane Records have released a series of CDs compiling all his demos and previously unreleased recordings from this era. This it the first of them, and features nineteen excellent songs which mostly showcase his talents as a singer. Some excellent southern Soul and R&B music. Includes his own version of "Cover Me". All the songs are originals, with the exception of a rootsy Chuck Berry cover and one song written (and produced) by Dan Penn - "Dreamer" was the b-side of a 1969 solo single (it was also recorded by Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles), and is perhaps the best example here of Eddie Hinton as one of the greatest white soul voices.

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B.J. Thomas - On My Way (1968)

B.J. Thomas is an American singer best known for his hits of the 60s and 70s. 

B.J. Thomas had scored his first hit in 1966 with a cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" which reached the Top 10. Three albums and several lesser hits followed. In 1968 he went to record at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, and working with the studio's house songwriters and session musicians, who took an instant liking to him, his then-flagging recording career got a serious boost.
Two hits came out of the partnership in 1968, both written by Mark James. The first was the brilliant "Eyes Of A New York Woman", featuring guitarist Reggie Young's electric sitar and Mike Leech's soaring string arrangement. It charted at #28. The second, again featuring the electric sitar, was "Hooked On A Feeling", which reached #5 and became one of Thomas' best-known songs. A full album followed, which showcased not only Thomas' superb vocals but the talents of the studio team as well (instrumental backing came from the core group of Reggie Young, keyboardists Spooner Oldham and Bobby Wood, bassist Tommy Cogbill and drummer Gene Chrisman, with Leech's strings adding some extra sheen throughout). As well as songs from the American Sound team (including Wayne Carson's "Sandman", which they had also recorded with The Box Tops earlier the same year), there were covers of The Doors' "Light My Fire" (following the José Feliciano hit arrangement from the same year), Ray Stevens' "Mr Businessman" and the country classic "Four Walls".

Sings For Lovers And Losers (1967) <|> Young And In Love (1969)
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Lonnie Mack - Lonnie Mack & Pismo (1977)

Lonnie Mack is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Signed to Capitol Records in the late 70s, Lonnie Mack made a brief return to recording with two albums both released in the same year. After the country-flavored Home At Last, Lonnie Mack & Pismo was something of a return to blues-rock. Indeed his flashy electric guitar playing featured prominently for the first time since the 60s. The band Pismo consisted of keyboard player Stan Szelest, bassist Tim Drummond and drummer Ian Wallace. Guitarist David Lindley also made a guest appearance.
The album was no doubt welcomed by those who missed Mack in his role as an electric guitar slinger, but it lacked any truly memorable songs. 1977 turned out not to be quite the comeback it could have been - that would have to wait until the 80s.

Home At Last (1977) <|> Strikes Like Lightning (1985)
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Barbara Lynn - Here Is Barbara Lynn (1968)

Barbara Lynn is an American R&B singer, songwriter and guitarist.

In 1967 Barbara Lynn was signed to Atlantic Records, the label no doubt hoping for a repeat of her big 1962 hit "You'll Lose A Good Thing". It didn't quite happen, though they did manage to get a couple of modest R&B chart entries out of her, the first being "This Is The Thanks I Get", which charted at #39. A full album followed, showcasing her distinctive soul / R&B sound at its very best, and including a new version of "You'll Lose A Good Thing". She kept recording for Atlantic into 1968 (including some sessions at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, produced by Spooner Oldham), and some more singles were released (which unfortunately did not chart), but then it appears she didn't record at all for the next few years.
Atlantic got one more hit out of her though, as "(Until Then) I'll Suffer", originally from the 1968 album, became a surprise R&B chart entry at #31 in 1971. A few more singles came out in '72 and '73, the last few of which were new recordings, and then her contract with Atlantic was up. Around this time she apparently got married and started a family, which might account for her lack of recording activity. After her Atlantic years she returned to touring the Southern States, and did release a few singles on a variety of small labels throughout the decade.
Featured here with the original album Here Is Barbara Lynn is a generous helping of bonus tracks, including all the Atlantic singles and most of the b-sides not on the album itself.

You'll Lose A Good Thing (1963) <|> You Don't Have To Go (1988)
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Bobby Charles - Last Train To Memphis (2004)

Bobby Charles was an American singer-songwriter.

Into the latter half of his career Bobby Charles actually began releasing albums (he only ever released one in the first thirty years of his music career!). After 1994's Wish You Were Here Right Now, he released Secrets Of The Heart in 1998, which contained half new material and half old material (the old songs were originally from 1987's Clean Water, and the six new songs I have put on this compilation here). His next collection of new songs had to wait until 2004, and as was now typical for a Bobby Charles its songs came from a variety of sources spanning several decades. Last Train To Memphis came out as a double CD, and on the surface can be taken as a sprawling double album packed full of brilliant songs. However on closer inspection, all the songs on the second disc can be found on the Clean Water, Wish You Were Here Right Now and Secrets Of The Heart albums. The first disc is also compiled from recordings from all over the place, both old and new, but as none of these songs had actually seen release on an album before, it can be considered 'all new'. To simplify matters, I am just offering you the first disc of 'new' material, as everything on the second disc can be found on previous albums.
The new songs cover the broad territory between R&B and country, and contain some real gems. The list of musicians who can be heard behind him is extensive, which makes sense considering the songs came from such a wide range of sessions. Among those who can be heard are pedal steel man Ben Keith, keyboard player David Briggs, both Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham, guitarists Fred Carter, Jr. and Sonny Landreth, New Orleans R&B man Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, fiddle player Rufus Thibodeux, both Geoff and Maria Muldaur (on seperate tracks over ten years apart), Neil Young and Willie Nelson.

Wish You Were Here Right Now (1994) <|> Homemade Songs (2008) 
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Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music (1967)

Arthur Conley was an American soul singer.

Arthur Conley was born in Georgia in 1946, and grew up in Atlanta. Between 1959 and 1964 he was lead singer of Arthur & The Corvets, with whom he released a few singles on local Atlanta labels. The big stepping stone in his career was in 1965 when Otis Redding heard his song "I'm A Lonely Stranger", and invited him to come and record in Memphis. He became Redding's protégé, and at the Stax studios they recorded two singles (a new version of "I'm A Lonely Stranger", and "Who's Fooling Who") which were released on Redding's newly-formed Jotis label. They then went to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals for two more singles ("I Can't Stop (No, No, No)" and "Take Me (Just As I Am)", both Dan Penn compositions) which were released on the Fame label.
The song which made Arthur Conley was "Sweet Soul Music", which he and Redding wrote together, basing it on Sam Cooke's "Yeah Man". A celebration of the soul genre which name-dropped The Miracles, Lou Rawls, James Brown, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding himself, it was recorded at Fame and released on the Atco label. It became a massive hit, charting at #2 on both the Pop and R&B charts. It was also very popular in Europe, getting to #7 in the UK.
Conley's debut album quickly followed, featuring his new hit, the previous four A-sides, and other material recorded at both Stax and Fame (including songs written by either Redding alone or Redding and Conley together). It made for a great southern soul album, interesting in the way the Stax and Fame material can be heard side by side (the Stax recordings sound lean and sparse, compared to the richer, more full-sounding Fame recordings).

|> Shake, Rattle & Roll (1967)

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Aaron Neville - The Minit Recordings (1960-1963)

Compilation 
Aaron Neville is an American soul singer.

Aaron Neville was born in New Orleans in 1941, the third oldest of four brothers (the others being Art, Cyril and Charles). All four of them were destined to be important figures in the music of their native city, but it would be many years before they all performed together as The Neville Brothers. Aaron started singing in the 50s, with his older brother Art to look up to (Art Neville played piano and sang in a group called The Hawketts, who had a regional hit in 1954 with "Mardi Gras Mambo"). In 1958 Aaron served six months in prison for auto theft, but following his release he got married and started his solo singing career.
He was blessed with an almost angelic voice with a unmistakeable vibrato, and got to showcase it with his recordings for Joe Banashak's Minit label in the early 60s, with Allen Toussaint producing (as he did for other Minit artists including Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, Chris Kenner and Benny Spellman). Neville's first release was a hit, "Over You" getting to #21 on the national R&B chart in 1960. However the follow-up singles failed to chart, and his next success would have to wait until 1966.
No LPs were released during this period, but most of his recordings from this time can be found on various compilations. In fact in 1966 Minit released most of them as the Like It 'Tis album to cash in on the success he saw with the hit single "Tell It Like It Tis" on the Par-Lo label. A bit dubious no doubt, but it made for a brilliant album. This compilation is in actual fact that very same album under a more appropriate name. Some really good, distinctive New Orleans R&B. The real highlights are the slower songs, where Neville truly excells.

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Well here it is as promised, my own album! Twelve original songs, coming to just under 45 minutes. Here it is on my official website, where it can be streamed and purchased as a digital download (including lossles formats such as WAVs) or a physical CD. Or it can be downloaded for free the usual way, here.
Enjoy!

Doug Sahm - Texas Rock For Country Rollers (1976)

Doug Sahm was a Texan singer-songwriter and musician, best known as founder and leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet.

1976 saw Doug Sahm signed to ABC's Dot subsidiary for one album, produced by Huey P. Meaux (who had produced the Sir Douglas Quintet back in the day). The album was credited to 'Sir Doug & The Texas Tornados' (not the same Texas Tornados he formed in 1989), and his new band consisted of Harry Hess (steel guitar), Artwood Allen (rhythm guitar & harmony vocals), Jack Barber (bass) and George Rains (drums). Both Barber and Rains had previously played with him in the Quintet. The Quintet's organist Augie Meyers also made an appearance, and enginer Uncle Mickey Moody contributed some guitar. The album had a consistent country-rock sound, made up mostly of Sahm originals alongside a cover of Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain" and a medley of Gene Thomas songs. It was a very good album, but perhaps suffered from a bad mix. 

Groover's Paradise (1974) <|> Hell Of A Spell (1980)
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Carla Thomas - Comfort Me (1966)

Carla Thomas in an American soul singer. 

Carla Thomas had been Stax Record's first home-grown star, her 1960 single "Gee Whiz" helping get the Memphis-based record label off the ground. Over the next few years Stax developed its own unique sound and identity, recording more hits with The Mar-Keys, Otis Redding and Booker T & The MGs. Carla Thomas released many singles over this four year period, none of which were big hits like "Gee Whiz", but many of which charted well. 1962's "I'll Bring It Home To You" got to #9 R&B and 1963's "What A Fool I've Been" got to #28 R&B. Up until 1965 all her singles were released on the Atlantic label, which was responsible for Stax's distribution in the early days.
In early 1966 her second solo album was released. The sound of Comfort Me was very different to that of her debut over five years earlier, as she was now backed by The MGs and The Memphis Horns, giving her music the lean, sparse R&B sound Stax was by now known for. Three of the songs on the album had seen release as singles, the brilliant title track in 1965 (which didn't chart), and both "No Time To Lose" and "A Woman's Love" in 1964 (which was the year the R&B chart had been temporarily discontinued, so they only appeared on the national pop chart at #67 and #71 respectively). All three songs were written by the MGs guitarist Steve Cropper (he co-wrote "A Woman's Love" with Carla herself). The rest of the songs were freshly recorded for the album, and featured covers of a few well-known pop songs done the Stax way - "What The World Needs Now", "Let It Be Me" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow".

Gee Whiz (1961) <|> Carla (1966)
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Dan Penn - Is A Blue Bird Blue? (1959-1973)

Compilation 
Dan Penn is an American singer and songwriter.

Dan Penn's first solo album came out in 1973, but he had been making recordings all the way through the 60s, most of them destined to be used as demos for songs recorded by other artists. Recently Ace Records released The Fame Recordings, which featured twenty four of his demos recorded at Fame Studios in 1964 and 1965. However there are still other obscure Dan Penn recordings to be heard, and this compilation brings together another twenty two of them, dating from 1959 to 1973. 
Before he decided to focus on songwriting and producing, he tried releasing singles under his own name (or pseudonyms such as Danny Lee and Lonnie Ray), but none of them ever went anywhere. The earliest was "Crazy Over You" b/w "You Don't Treat Me Right" on the Earth label in 1959. Other singles between 1962 and 1965 were "How's The World Treating You" b/w "Stop Calling Me Baby" (United Artists), "Close To Me" b/w "Let Them Talk" (Fame), "Just As I Am" b/w "Diamonds" (Fame), "I'm Your Puppet" b/w "Is A Blue Bird Blue" (MGM) and "Willie And The Hand Jive" b/w "I Need Someone" (MGM). "I'm Your Puppet" and "Just As I Am" can be found on The Fame Recordings, and all the other sides are here. After James & Bobby Purify took "I'm Your Puppet" to the Top 10 in 1966, Penn decided to focus just on songwriting and stopped releasing his own singles. Also featured here are five more great demos from his time at Fame which cannot be found on The Fame Recordings.
In 1967 he left Muscle Shoals for Memphis to work as a producer for Chips Moman's American Sound Studio. He never released any solo work whilst at American, which is a great shame, as two songs here from 1968 suggest he could have made a wonderful first album at this time - "Nice Place To Visit" and "Love Is Strange" (the former by Donnie Fritts, and the latter a dramatic reworking of the old Mickey & Sylvia hit) have big arrangements complete with strings and backing singers. The compilation is finished off by some early 70s recordings from his own Beautiful Sounds studio in Memphis, where he recorded his debut album.
Note that this compilation is pieced together from a variety of dusty sources, and some of the recordings aren't very good quality, so be prepared for some scratchy vinyl hiss!

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