The Staple Singers - The Staple Swingers (1971)

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

In the late 60s The Staple Singers released two very good albums on Stax Records, both produced by Steve Cropper. Before their next Stax album, Pervis Staples left the group and was replaced by little sister Yvonne (so The Staple Singers now consisted of Roebuck 'Pops' Staples and his three daughters Mavis, Cleotha and Yvonne). Cropper also parted ways with Stax, so when it came to record the next album Al Bell took the production seat. He did things slightly differently, recording out of house at the Muscle Shoals Sound studio. When the album saw release in 1971 as The Staple Swingers, it had a somewhat more streamlined and admittedly more commercial sound compared to its predecessors. It paid off though, as this was the album that saw The Staple Singers break into the pop charts. Three singles charted, "Love Is Plentiful" got to #31 R&B, "You've Got To Earn It", written by Smokey Robinson and originally recorded by The Tempations, got to #11 R&B, and "Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom Boom)", written by Jeff Barry and Bobby Bloom, got to both #6 R&B and #29 on the pop singles chart. The album itself got to #9 on the Soul Albums chart.

We'll Get Over (1969) <|> Be Altitude: Respect Yourself (1972)
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Billy Joe Royal - Down In The Boondocks (1965)

Billy Joe Royal is an American singer. 

Billy Joe Royal was born in Georgia in 1942 and raised as part of a musical family. He first began performing as a teenager, was featured on local Georgia radio, and recorded his first single in 1962. In 1965 songwriter/producer Joe South  (whom he had known for several years) called him up to record a demo for a song originally intended for Gene Pitney. The demo led to Royal himself being signed to Columbia Records, and his demo version of the song being released. "Down In The Boondocks" gave him his breakthrough hit in 1965, charting at #9. His debut album followed, produced by Joe South and featuring many more of South's compositions. With Royal's quivering vocals to the forefront, it featured a distinctive style of pop music with hints of country and R&B, genres which were represented by covers of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" and Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away". Two more of the South-penned songs saw release as singles and charted well - "I Knew You When" got to #14 and "I''ve Got To Be Somebody" reached #38.

|> Billy Joe Royal Featuring 'Hush' (1967)

Irma Thomas - Till My Tears Run Dry (1960-1966)

Irma Thomas is an American soul singer.

Between 1960 and 1966 Irma Thomas recorded for the Ron, Minit and Imperial labels, scoring two notable hits with "Don't Mess With My Man" on Ron in 1960 (#22 R&B) and "Wish Someone Would Care" on Imperial in 1964 (#17 pop). There were were only ever two albums released under her name during this period (and indeed the whole decade), the Imperial LPs Wish Someone Would Care and Take A Look. Her Minit recordings can be found on this compilation. Those three collections still leave a number of loose ends, which I have gathered together into this thirteen-song compilation.
The first four songs are her Ron recordings from 1960, both singles "Don't Mess With My Man" and "A Good Man" (the latter didn't chart), including their b-sides. The next two songs are the A and B sides of a single on the Bandy label. I can't find much information about this small New Orleans label, but it seems it released a lot of stuff originally on Minit, and could in fact just have been a Minit subsidiary. Indeed both these songs were written Allen Toussaint, and it certainly sounds like his piano playing on "Look Up". Whether this single was released before or after her other Minit singles, I am not sure. The last seven tracks are all from her Imperial years, mostly  b-sides but with a couple of a-sides which weren't featured on the albums. One of these, "I'm Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry", is surely one of her very best recordings, and "It's A Man's Woman's World", produced by James Brown, was her very last Imperial release.

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Linda Ronstadt - Linda Ronstadt (1972)

Linda Ronstadt is a highly successful American singer.

Linda Ronstadt's third solo album was a self-titled release, produced by John Boylan, presenting a finely-honed country-rock sound with plenty of commercial appeal, a natural development from her first two albums. Three of the songs were recorded live at The Troubadour in L.A. in 1971. Six of the songs, including the live ones, featured backing from her touring band of the time, which included guitarist Glen Frey and drummer Don Henley. Other musicians featured on the album included  J.D. Souther, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Gib Guilbeau, Dean Webb and Herb Pederson of The Dillards, three pedal steel guitarists in Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Weldon Myrick and Buddy Emmons, and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section of Barry Beckett, David Hood and Roger Hawkins. The diverse selection of songs included numbers originally by Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Woody Guthrie and Fontella Bass.
Like her first two albums, it proved to be not much of a commercial success, which prompted her departure from Capitol Records. However it was surely an artistic triumph, and set the groundwork for her later successes. Another result of the album was that Frey and Henley from her backing band teamed up with Leadon and Meisner in the studio, and with Ronstadt's blessing they subsequently went off on their own as The Eagles.

Silk Purse (1970) <|> Don't Cry Now (1973)
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Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas (1974)

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were an American country rock band.

1974 saw Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen release their fourth album in as many years, and it was a live one, recorded at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas. It captured them at their very best, sounding just as good as they did on their studio albums but with the added excitement of the concert experience. It also featured almost entirely new material, with only two of the songs having already appeared on their first three studio albums. Among the new songs were covers of Buck Owens' "Cryin' Time", Roy Brown's "Good Rockin' Tonight" and The Robins' "Riot In Cell Block #9". It turned out to be their last album on the Paramount label, and the next year found them on Warner Bros. It was also their last release with pedal steel guitarist Bobby Black.

Country Casanova (1973) <|> Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (1975)
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Aaron Neville - Tell It Like It Is (1966)

Aaron Neville is an American soul singer.

In the early 60s Aaron Neville had recorded for the Minit label, and had a hit with "Over You" in 1960. However there were no follow-up successes, and he didn't see much in the way of financial rewards, and so for the next few years had to work manual labour jobs to make a living. In 1966 a new New Orleans label called Par-Lo was started by George Davis, who invited Neville to record for him. The new material, mostly written by Davis with arranger Lee Diamond, was recorded at Cosimo Matassa's studio and featured local musicians including keyboard player Willie Tee and sax man Red Tyler. A full album of material was recorded, and there was one song that was destined to be a huge hit. The haunting ballad "Tell It Like It Is" quickly became a massive seller, and Neville went to tour across the country behind it alongside established R&B stars such as Otis Redding, Billy Stewart and The Drifters (his older brother Art went with him as his keyboard player, and his band also featured New Orleans guitarist Alvin Robinson). By early '67 the song had topped the national R&B chart, and also got to #2 on the pop chart.
Despite having such a huge hit on his hands, success was not coming easy for Aaron Neville. The Par-Lo label fell apart just as the song became a smash, and he didn't see much at all in the way of royalties. His touring was interrupted when he returned to New Orleans following the death of his father. And there were no follow-up hits to capitalise on the song's success. Back in New Orleans he formed a group with his brothers Art and Cyril - Art Neville & The Neville Sounds were for a short period of time the hottest live act in the city. It was from this group that The Meters developed, leaving Aaron and Cyril to form a new act they called The Soul Machine. It would still be many years before all four brothers finally performed together as The Neville Brothers.

|> Orchid In The Storm (1986)
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Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity - Streetnoise (1969)

The Trinity was a band active in the 60s, led by keyboardist Brian Auger and usually featuring singer Julie Driscoll.

1969's Streetnoise was The Trinity's second album to feature singer Julie Driscoll. It was a double LP set, and surely their most ambitious project to date. The music it contained didn't really fit neatly into any genre, being very experimental in nature, but perhaps could be said to lie somewhere between jazz fusion and progressive rock. Driscoll didn't sing on all the songs, as it also featured various instrumentals showcasing Brian Auger's dazzling hammond organ, and numbers sung by either Auger or bassist Dave Ambrose. As well as good original songs it featured an eclectic selection of covers - The Doors' "Light My Fire", Nina Simone's "Take Me To The Water", Richie Havens' "Indian Rope Man", Miles Davis' "All Blues", Laura Nyro's "Save The Country" and songs from the musical Hair.
It turned out to be the last album from the partnership of Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger. Driscoll's next release was as a solo artist, and after one more Trinity album Auger would form Oblivion Express the next year.

Definitely What! {1968) <|> Befour (1970)
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Booker T & The MGs - Soul Dressing (1965)

Booker T & The MGs were an American R&B instrumental group, best known for their work as the Stax Records house band during the 1960s.

After their surprise instrumental hit "Green Onions" in 1962, Booker T & The MGs found themselves kept busy as Stax Records began to take off. As the label's studio band, they backed R&B artists including Otis Redding, William Bell and both Carla and Rufus Thomas. They released several more instrumental singles of their own through 1963 and 1964, but none of them repeated the success of "Green Onions" - the highest charting was "Tic-Tac-Toe", which only got to #46 R&B. In 1965 a second album was put together, essentially a compilation of the singles released over the last two years with a few extra songs. All songs were band originals with one exception, a cover of Don Covay's "Mercy Mercy".
By the time of the album's release original bassist Lewis Steinberg had left, and he was replaced by Donald 'Duck' Dunn. Like the other members of the group, Dunn had performed and recorded a few years back as a member of The Mar-Keys, the original Stax house band from which the MGs had evolved. This gave them their best-known lineup of Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and Al Jackson, Jr., which would stick together for the next six years and witness the remarkable rise and fall of the Stax empire.

Green Onions (1962) <|> And Now! (1966)
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Joe Simon - The Chokin' Kind (1969)

Joe Simon is an American soul singer. 

In 1969 Joe Simon finally had his long overdue breakthrough hit. "The Chokin' Kind" (written by country songwriter Harlan Howard and first recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1967) gave him his first R&B #1. It also reached #13 on the pop chart. An album of the same name (his second that year) quickly followed, a great collection of songs showcasing his smooth country-soul sound. It featured covers of some recent hit songs, namely Glenn Campbell's "Wichita Lineman", O.C. Smith's "Little Green Apples" and Otis Redding's "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay", plus a look back to the doo-wop era with "In The Still Of The Night", originally by The Five Satins. The album generated two more hits, both of them again written by Harlan Howard - "Baby, Don't Be Looking In My Mind" followed "The Chokin' Kind" and charted at #16 R&B, and "Yours Love" would belatedly chart at #10 R&B in 1970.

Simon Sings (1969) <|> Better Than Ever (1969)
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Bonnie Raitt - Takin' My Time (1973)

Bonnie Raitt is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Takin' My Time was Bonnie Raitt's third album is as many years. It offered up a good serving of mellow singer-songwriter fare spiced up with rootsy blues, pop, dixieland and even calypso. It was notable for being her first album which featured no original songs. Instead it was made up entirely of well-chosen covers and songs by other songwriters, the eclectic selection of songs coming from Martha & The Vandellas, Mose Allison, Eric Kaz, Jackson Browne, The Sensations, Randy Newman, Calypso Rose, Chris Smither, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Joel Zoss. Musicians appearing on the album included Jim Keltner, Taj Mahal, Van Dyke Parks, and several members of Little Feat (Lowell George was the producer initially, but apparently his close relationship with Raitt led her to switch to John Hall as producer).
It was a great album, and like its predecessors it was critically praised but wasn't a huge seller (though unlike the others it did manage to get into album chart, charting at #87).

Give It Up (1972) <|>Streetlights (1974)
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Rick Danko - Rick Danko (1977)

Rick Danko is a Canadian singer, songwriter and musician, best known for being a member of The Band.

Rick Danko was born in Ontario in 1943. Part of a musical family, he grew up listening to country and blues music. At 17 he joined The Hawks, the backing group for Americna rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, who was popular in Canada. He was recruited as a rhythm guitarist, but soon switched to bass, which became his primary instrument throughout his career. In 1964 The Hawks (then consisting of Danko, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson) parted ways with Hawkins and went off on their own, performing R&B music in bars across Canada and the USA.
A milestone in their career was when they were hired to back Bob Dylan for his 1966 world tour. After the tour they were kept on retainer by Dylan, and Danko moved to Woodstock with the rest of the group (minus Helm), where Dylan was also living. There in the basement of the house where Danko, Manuel and Hudson lived, they made with Dylan a vast quantity of informal recordings, what would later see release as The Basement Tapes. These sessions with Dylan drastically influenced the way their music would go, and in 1968 they released their acclaimed debut album Music From Big Pink, then known simply as The Band.
With The Band Danko primarily played bass, and shared vocal duties with Helm and Manuel, all of them being very talented singers. The Band became hugely influential with their unique take on rock and American roots music, and were in no small way responsible for the move towards more roots-based styles that happened in rock music in the late 60s. Their career took them well into the 70s, until they finally parted ways in 1977 after a splendid all-star farewell concert that became the film The Last Waltz. Following the breakup, Danko took the opportunity to have a go at a solo career when he was offered a contract by Arista Records.
Rick Danko came out in 1977, being the first solo album release by any member of The Band. It featured all original songs, co-written with others including Bobby Charles, on whose 1972 solo album Danko had performed. Among the many musicians appearing on Danko's album, all four other members of The Band made appearances, and there were also cameos from Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Doug Sahm and Blondie Chaplin, plus Rick's brother Terry on drums. Danko himself sang and played guitars and bass. It made for a nice roots-rock album, but it did not sell well, and his solo career never really happened. By 1983 he  had joined a reformed version of The Band with Manuel, Helm and Hudson.

|> Rick Danko In Concert (1997)


O.V. Wright - A Nickel And A Nail And Ace Of Spades (1971)

O.V. Wright was an American soul singer.

Most of O.V. Wright's fantastic 60s recordings on the Back Beat label had been produced by Willie Mitchell. Mitchell worked for Hi Records at their Royal Studios in Memphis, and by the 70s, thanks to his success with Al Green, he had become vice president of the label and was running the studio by himself, with his own tightly-knit group of session musicians. Back Beat was still using him to produce Wright, and so in 1970 O.V. Wright went to Royal Studios to record a fantastic new album, backed by the Hi Rhythm Section (the Hodges brothers Charles, Leroy and Teenie on organ, bass and guitar respectively, and drummer Howard Grimes) and The Memphis Horns. The first single from the sessions, "Ace Of Spades", reached #11 on the R&B chart in 1970. The next year saw "When You Took Your Love From Me" and "A Nickel And A Nail" get to #21 and #19, and the full album was released. It turned out to be something of a masterpiece, up there among the very best Southern soul albums, being testimony to both Wright's passionate vocals and Mitchell's production talents. It also featured a new recording of Wright's old hit from 1967, "Eight Men, Four Women" (which was still his highest charting single).

Nucleus Of Soul (1969) <|> Memphis Unlimited (1973)
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Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (1967)

Aretha Franklin is a highly successful American soul singer and musician.

Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis in 1942, her father being the preacher C.L. Franklin, and her mother Barbara Franklin a talented pianist and singer, though they separated when she was young. When she was a child her family moved first to New York and then Detroit, where her father founded the New Bethel Baptist Church. Aretha began performing in church as a child, and went on tour with her father, subsequently recording a gospel album called Songs Of Faith in 1956, aged just fourteen. In 1960 she moved to New York City and signed to Columbia Records, where she started recording secular music. "Today I Sing The Blues" gave her a #10 R&B hit that same year. She stayed with Columbia for 6 years, and recorded a total of nine albums, featuring R&B, gospel, jazz and pop standards. Though she had a few more modest R&B hits she achieved no mainstream success, and it is generally accepted that when with Columbia she never reached her true potential.
Things changed when in 1966, with her Columbia contract up, she was signed to Atlantic Records by Jerry Wexler. He knew exactly what to do with her, and in January 1967 took her to record at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where Wexler has recently had success with Wilson Pickett. Wexler also invited guitarist Chips Moman and bassist Tommy Cogbill from Memphis, joining the Fame musicians Spooner Oldham (keyboards), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and Roger Hawkins (drums). Dan Penn also came along for the ride (he had recently left Fame and was then working with Chips Moman in Memphis). Franklin brought one song with her, "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)", by Ronnie Shannon, and Penn and Moman wrote another for her, finishing it off whilst they were there in the studio. The first song came together perfectly, though the second song went unfinished. The session was interrupted by some sort of argument (accounts vary as to what actually happened), and when the musicians returned to the studio the next day they found Aretha had returned to New York with her husband, and that was the end of her time at Fame.
However she finished the Penn-Moman song back in New York, adding her own piano and getting her sisters to sing backup. Wexler released "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" backed with "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man", and the result was an instant smash, as Aretha found the sound she had been searching for. As the single got airplay, Wexler invited the Muscle Shoals and Memphis musicians up to New York to continue the sessions, and a full album was recorded. "I Never Loved A Man" became a #1 R&B hit and also reached #9 on the pop charts, and this was soon followed by her brilliant cover of Otis Redding's "Respect", which got to #1 on both charts. The album itself was a classic, and also featured exciting covers of Sam Cooke's "Good Times" and "A Change Is Gonna Come", plus Ray Charles' "Drown In My Own Tears" and some excellent originals. The album charted at #1 R&B / #2 pop itself, and with this one LP Aretha Franklin exploded onto the soul scene, at last asserting herself as the genre's top female artist. 

Take It Like You Give It (1967) <|> Aretha Arrives (1967)


B.J. Thomas - Young And In Love (1969)

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

Young And In Love was B.J. Thomas' second album to be recorded at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, following the success he'd had with the hits "Eyes Of A New York Woman" and "Hooked On A Feeling", recorded there the previous year. It was another fantastic product of the studio, the production and arrangements arguably deserving just as much credit as Thomas himself, as well as the studio's experienced team of musicians (Reggie Young, Tommy Cogbill, Bobby Emmons, Spooner Oldham, Bobby Wood, Gene Chrisman, Johnny Christopher, Mike Leech and Glen Spreen). He was fast becoming their favorite singer to work with.
The album didn't have any massive hits like the last one, but it did generate a modest follow-up with "It's Only Love", like its predecessors written by Mark James. It got to #45 on the charts. Other songs on the album included a soaring cover of "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (originally recorded by Dee Dee Warwick in 1966), Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man", and the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham song "I Pray For Rain" (which the studio had already recorded with The Box Tops a couple of years before).

On My Way (1968) <|> Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head (1969)
More from B.J. Thomas


Carla Thomas - Carla (1966)

Carla Thomas in an American soul singer.

Following her debut hit "Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)" and its accompanying album in 1961, there was a four year period which saw no new Carla Thomas albums, only singles. 1966 remedied this by seeing the release of two new albums, first Comfort Me and then Carla later in the year. By now she was on the Stax label proper, rather than Atlantic.
Carla featured a great collection of tunes with the recognisable Stax R&B sound, with backing from Booker T & The MGs and The Memphis Horns. It included a number of country and pop songs given Stax makeovers, among them Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", Patsy Cline's "I Fall To Pieces" and Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me", and blues tunes such as Willie Dixon's "Red Rooster" and Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do". It also featured two great new songs from the songwriting partnership of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, both of which were released as singles and became hits. "Let Me Be Good To You" charted at #11 R&B, and then "B-A-B-Y" reached #3 R&B and #14 pop, becoming her new signature tune and her biggest hit as a solo artist.

Comfort Me (1966) <|> The Queen Alone (1967)
More from Carla Thomas


Jorma Kaukonen - Quah (1974)

Jorma Kaukonen is an American guitarist, best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

Jorma Kaukonen was born in 1940 in Washington, D.C.  He learnt fingerstyle guitar as a teenager, being a blues fan,  most notably inspired by Reverend Gary Davis. In 1962 he moved to San Francisco, where he played solo in the coffee houses and taught guitar. In the mid 60s he joined Marty Balin's band Jefferson Airplane, making the transition from acoustic to electric guitar in the process, and invited Jack Casady, a friend from D.C., to join as the group's bassist. Jefferson Airplane went on to be the most successful of the San Francisco psychedelic rock bands, and Kaukonen's distinctive lead guitar was a vital part of their sound. He also got to showcase his acoustic fingerstyle virtuosity on the solo composition "Embyronic Journey", featured on their breakthrough album Surrealistic Pillow in 1967. From their third album onwards he also began to sing his own songs with the band, though his vocals were always overshadows by those of Marty Balin and Grace Slick.
In 1969 Kaukonen and Casady began performing blues music together, calling the side project Hot Tuna. They began as an acoustic duo, with Kaukonen singing, and soon evolved into a full electric band, releasing two live albums. As Jefferson Airplane started to disintegrate in the early 70s, Hot Tuna began to take up more of their time, and they released their first studio album in 1972 on the Airplane's own Grunt record label. That was the year that the Airplane officially broke up, and  Kaukonen was now devoting all his time to Hot Tuna.
In 1974 he released a solo album on Grunt records.  It was originally conceived as a shared album with fellow guitarist Tom Hobson, but in the end turned out to be a mostly Kaukonen solo affair, featuring just two duets and one solo Dobson track. Whilst Hot Tuna were then leaning more towards an electric hard rock sound, Quah saw him showcasing the acoustic folk-blues side of his playing, with all the songs bar the duets being solo performances, though also with some surprising yet effective string arrangements in places. It was mostly made up of original songs, plus a few covers of Gary Davis and Blind Blake.

|> Jorma (1979)


Percy Sledge - Take Time To Know Her (1968)

Percy Sledge was an American soul singer.

1967 continued for Percy Sledge with "Cover Me", a fantastic new song written by Eddie Hinton and Marlin Greene. Despite its strength, it only charted at #39 R&B and #44 pop. However his next single proved to be one of his biggest hits - "Take Time To Know Her", a country-soul ballad from the pen of young Nashville songwriter Steve Davis, reached #6 R&B and #11 pop in 1968. His fourth album followed, featuring both songs and a great selection of others, including "Feed The Flame" by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, "Spooky" by The Classics IV, and "Sudden Stop by Bobby Russell (which also saw release as a single, getting to #41 R&B and #63 pop). It also found room for two hits from the year before, "Baby Help Me" and the superb "Out Of Left Field". 
The result was a very strong album (perhaps his best), but it turned out to be his last in quite a while. Though he continued releasing singles on Atlantic Records over the next few years, none of them would chart particularly well, and Atlantic released no new albums bar a greatest hits package.

The Percy Sledge Way (1967) <|> I'll Be Your Everything (1974)
More from Percy Sledge


Bobby 'Blue' Bland - Two Steps From The Blues (1961)

Bobby 'Blue' Bland was an American R&B singer.

Robert Calvin Brooks was born in Tennessee in 1930, and acquired the name 'Bland' from his stepfather. In 1947 he moved to Memphis with his mother, where he started singing in gospel groups. He also became part of the Beale Street blues scene, and was associated with artists including BB King, Junior Parker and Johnny Ace. Notably he did not play an instrument himself, relying on his voice. In the early 50s he recorded for the Modern and Chess record labels as he tried to find his musical identity, taking the stage name Bobby 'Blue' Bland - his career was interrupted by a 2 year stint in the army, and on returning he found that his fellow musicians had all become successful. He began recording for Duke Records, performed live with Junior Parker's Blues Consolidated Revue, and also worked as driver for both Parker and King.
He finally hit paydirt in 1957 with the single "Further Up The Road", which became a #1 R&B hit. In 1958 he shared a Blues Consolidated album with Junior Parker, and had a follow-up hit with "Little Boy Blue" (#10 R&B). More hits followed in 1959, with "I'm Not Ashamed" (#13), "Is It Real" (#28) and the superb minor blues "I'll Take Care Of You" (#2), which was written by Brook Benton.
1960 saw him find his own distinctive brand of blues, built around his anguished vocals and sophisticated horn arrangements from arranger Joe Scott. "Lead Me On" (which was tastefully orchestrated with strings) and the excellent "Cry Cry Cry" were both #9 R&B hits that year. "Cry Cry Cry" was recorded in Chicago, and six other recordings from the same sessions formed the bulk of what would be his debut album. Four of his earlier hits and one extra song recorded back in 1957 completed the album, and Two Steps From The Blues was released in early 1961. Two of the new recordings were also hits that year - "Don't Cry No More" got to #2, and "I Pity The Fool" gave him his second R&B #1.
It was a fantastic blues album, essentially a compilation of his many hits up to that point (with the exceptions of "Farther Up The Road" and "Is It Real"). More were soon to follow. 

|> Here's The Man!!! (1962)


The Band - Jericho (1993)

The Band were an influential and highly acclaimed rock band formed in the 1960s.

The Band broke up back in 1977, with Robbie Robertson's The Last Waltz film and triple-LP soundtrack being their magnificent swan song. Robertson went on to work on as a producer, film score composer and even actor (through his friendship with Martin Scorsese). Garth Hudson was much in demand as a studio musician, but the three members who had the best chance of starting solo careers due to their great voices (Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel) struggled to really make it by themselves. So it was that in 1983 the whole band minus Robertson got back together and resumed touring. They were helped by various other musicians to fill out the lineup, and in 1985 Jim Weider joined as their new full-time guitarist. However tragedy struck in 1986 when Richard Manuel committed suicide, aged 42.
They continued touring throughout the 80s, but they were now playing much smaller venues than they had in their heyday. In the early 90s they finally began recording again, with their old producer Joe Simon back on board. By this time the lineup had been extended to also feature pianist Richard Bell and drummer Randy Ciarlante, and many other musicians featured on the new recordings, though the core of the group was still the trio of Levon Helm (vocals & drums), Rick Danko (vocals & bass) and Garth Hudson (keyboards).
1993 saw the release of Jericho, their first studio album in 16 years. The absence of Robbie Roberson meant it relied heavily on cover material and songs from outside sources, though there were some good new originals as well. Two covers in particular were highlights of the album - Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell" and Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City". Though it was received coolly by many fans and critics (who were perhaps wary of the fact that they only had three original members and not much new original material), it's really a brilliant album, some very tasteful roots-rock. It also featured one very special song - "Country Boy", recorded back in 1985, was one of Richard Manuel's final recordings, and among his very best.

The Last Waltz (1978) <|> High On The Hog (1996)

Mickey Newbury - I Came To Hear The Music (1974)

Mickey Newbury was a critically-acclaimed American singer-songwriter.

I Came To Hear The Music was Mickey Newbury's fifth studio album, his third on Elektra Records, and his first since his critically-acclaimed trilogy consisting of Looks Like RainFrisco Mabel Joy and Heaven Help The Child. Though recorded at a different studio (Youngun Sound rather than Cinderalla Studios), it followed in the same formula as its predecessors. Though it perhaps didn't include as many memorable songs, it wasn't much of a step down in quality, and made for another brilliant Mickey Newbury album (just not quite as essential as the trilogy). Notably one song, "Dizzy Lizzy", incorporated rock elements into the now familiar Newbury sound very successfully.

Live At Montezuma Hall (1973) <|> Lovers (1975)
More from Mickey Newbury


Dan Penn - Do Right Man (1994)

Dan Penn is an American singer and songwriter.

Dan Penn had worked behind the scenes in the Muscle Shoals and Memphis music industries all through the 60s, but his own self-produced solo album didn't come out until 1973. A follow-up album produced by Jim Dickinson never saw release, and for the rest of the 70s and 80s Dan Penn apparently lived the quiet life after having relocated to Nashville, no doubt enjoying a steady income from the myriad of songs he had written in the 60s which were still being record by all sorts of artists as the years went by.
It wasn't until 1994 that he released another album of his own work. Do Right Man was recorded back at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with a number of old musician friends from his days in Muscle Shoals and Memphis - as well as his old writing partner Spooner Oldham, it featured Bobby Emmons, David Briggs, Reggie Young, Jimmy Johnson, David Hood and Roger Hawkins. It turned out to be a fantastic album, with an earthy and authentic country-soul sound, with Penn's more mature voice still in fine form. It included many of his own versions of songs he had originally written for other artists years before, including "Dark End Of The Street" (originally a hit for James Carr in '67), "It Tears Me Up" (Percy Sledge in '66), "I'm Your Puppet" (James & Bobby Purify in '66), "Do Right Woman" (Aretha Franklin in '67), "Zero Willpower" (Irma Thomas in '79) and "You Left The Water Running" (all sorts of different artists through the 60s and beyond).

Nobody's Fool (1973) <|> Moments From This Theatre (1999)
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James Talley - Got No Bread, No Milk, No Money, But We Sure Got A Lot Of Love (1975)

James Talley is an American singer-songwriter.

James Talley was born in Oklahoma in 1944. He moved with his family first to Washington State and then Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he studied fine art at the University of New Mexico. He started writing songs, encouraged by a meeting with folk singer Pete Seeger and drawing on the culture of the Southwest for inspiration. In 1968 he made the move to Nashville to try and get his songs recorded. He had a supporter in John Hammond Sr., who tried but didn't succeed in getting him signed to Columbia Records. In 1972 he was briefly signed to a new Nashville branch of the Atlantic label, but it did not do well and the Nashville office was closed after he had just recorded one single.
He eventually got to record his debut album by taking things into his own hands, and paying for it out of his own pocket. With 1000 copies pressed to distribute to radio stations and record labels, it was soon taken up by Capitol Records and saw release in 1975. It was  a fantastic collection of original songs in a laid-back, country-flavoured style, and it proved his worth as a talented new songwriter. It did not sell well, but was very popular with the critics, and still sounds fresh today.

|> Tryin' Like The Devil (1976)


Rare Earth - Get Ready (1969)

Rare Earth are an American rock band.

In 1969 Rare Earth were signed to a new Motown subisdiary designed for white rock acts such as themselves - Motown had still to give the new label a surprise, and to the band's surprise they decided to name it Rare Earth. Their second album came out in 1969, consisting of some solid, hard-driving R&B-flavoured rock with the focus on lots of lengthy solos from all band members. It featured covers of John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road", Traffic's "Feelin' Alright", Savoy Brown's "Train To Nowhere" and The Temptations' "Get Ready", the last of which was drawn out into a 20 minute jam.
A radio edit of the "Get Ready" jam was released as a single a became a surprise hit, charting at #4 (better than The Tempations' original had done in 1964). The song effectively launched the band's career, and the album itself charted at #12.

Dreams / Answers (1968) <|> Ecology (1970)
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