Various Artists - Rare Gems From Fame Studios (1962-1973)

Compilation

FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) first came into being in the late 50s as a music publishing company founded by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford, its first location being a tiny studio above a drug store owned by Stafford's family in Florence, Alabama. In this obscure corner of Alabama, local musicians and songwriters were used to put together demos for songs which ended up being recorded by established artists in Nashville. In the early 60s a split occured, and Rick Hall was left with the name, with which he founded a new studio in the nearby city of Muscle Shoals.
In 1962 a recording was made which laid the foundation (both stylistically and financially) for the Fame recording empire. Hall recorded R&B artist Arthur Alexander singing his own composition "You Better Move On", and when released on Dot Records it became a national pop hit. The financial rewards allowed Hall to build a new, better studio, where he gathered together the musicians from the Florence days and began recorded local acts. It wasn't long before artists were being brought in from further afield to record at Fame, as its reputation grew. Fame's real breakthrough was in 1964 with Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away", a Southern soul classic which charted as a #17 national pop hit. Fame became known for its high quality R&B output, and produced hits for Joe Simon, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, James & Bobby Purify, Arthur Conley, Clarence Carter, Laura Lee, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. Most recordings from this period featured the house rhythm section of keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist Junior Lowe and drummer Roger Hawkins. A vast proportion of the songs recorded there were written by in-house songwriters, the most prolific of them being Dan Penn.
Penn and then Spooner Oldham both left Fame for Memphis in '66 and '67 respectively to work at Chips Moman's American Sound studio. In 1969 the whole rhythm section (then featuring keyboardist Barry Beckett and bassist David Hood) left to form a rival studio which they named Muscle Shoals Sound. As the 70s dawned Rick Hall began branching out into more pop and country directions, and though he saw much success in subsequent decades, the studio will always be most closely associated with the R&B and soul music of the 60s.

Many of the hits that came out of Muscle Shoals remain today well-known soul classics, such as Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" and Wilson Pickett's "Land Of 1,000 Dances". However between these massive hits there were many now-forgotten minor hits, and a myriad of recordings that never made it. Many of these were released as singles and sunk without a trace, but the back catalogue of demos and recordings that never saw release is staggering considering their quality. In recent years more and more of these songs have been resurfacing on CD compilations, most notably on the Kent and Ace re-issue labels.
What I have for you here is a compilation of rare gems from the Fame studios. All of these tracks come from the Kent and Ace CDs. I have hand picked twenty-six tracks which you will struggle to find elsewhere. Some of these artists apparently only ever released or even recorded a few songs, and so will only ever be found on various artists compilations, and in some cases information about them is scarce to non-exsistant. Some are better known, but the songs included are ones that have not been put out on any of their own albums or compilations.
I have included more detailed notes on the songs as part of the album.

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Maria Muldaur - Waitress In A Donut Shop (1974)

Maria Muldaur is an American singer.

Maria Muldaur's debut album hade given her a hit single with "Midnight At The Oasis" in 1973. Her second album was released the next year, and saw her present another delightful collection of rootsy American music, full of lots of bluesy and jazzy flavours. The songs she chose to cover included numbers by Henry Glover, Skip James, Clarence Ashley, Fats Waller and Allen Toussaint. Musicians appearing on the album included  guitarists Amos Garrett, Elvin Bishop, David Lindley and Lowell George, drummer Jim Gordon, bassist John Kahn, keyboardists Dr John, James Booker, Paul Harris and Spooner Oldham, harmonica man Paul Butterfield and mandolin virtuoso David Grisman (plus many others).
The album gave her another hit, as her cover of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "I'm A Woman" (originally a hit for Peggy Lee in 1962) got to #12 on the singles chart. This was actually the second time she had recorded this song, as she sang it whilst with Jim Kweskin's Jug Band back in the 60s.

Maria Muldaur (1973) <|> Sweet Harmony (1976)
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John Mayall - The Turning Point (1969)

John Mayall is a British blues singer and multi-instrumentalist who was a major figure in the 60s British blues scene.

At the 60s drew to a close, John Mayall's contract with Decca Records was up. He signed with Polydor, put together a new band and moved to California. With his new band he took a different direction, planning to play low volume music with no drums. The lineup was very interesting - John Almond on flute and saxes, Jon Mark on acoustic fingerstyle guitar and Stephen Thompson on electric bass guitar. Mayall himself sang and played harmonica and electric guitar. There was no drummer or percussionist. The new group debuted their new sound at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival, and released their first album shortly afterwards.
The Turning Point was recorded live at the Fillmore East, and was indeed quite a change for Mayall. It was still blues of course, but a new low-key, rootsy style of blues, with lots of room for jazzy improvisation. This was no doubt very welcome, as the template of loud electric guitar-driven blues was perhaps getting a bit stale after nearly ten years. The album was a definite success artistically, and helped make Mayall very popular in the US as he began to call California home.

Looking Back (1969) <|> Empty Rooms (1970)
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Sam & Dave - Hold On, I'm Comin' (1966)

Sam & Dave were an American soul duo, best known for their string of hits in the 1960s.

Sam Moore and Dave Prater both had backgrounds in gospel music, and this proved to be a vital ingredient of their vocal delivery when they began singing secular R&B. By the 60s they were both working the R&B circuit individually, and their paths crossed in Miami in 1961. They quickly formed a duo, and were signed to Marlin Records. Between 1962 and 1964 they released a number of singles on not just Marlin but the Roulette and Alston labels as well, and though they managed to get some regional airplay they achieved no national success.
All this changed in 1964 when they were signed by Jerry Wexler to Atlantic Records. Wexler recognised the gospel roots which drove their energetic live shows, and hoping to capture this on record he sent them to Memphis to record at the Stax studios. With the Stax staff they succeeded in capturing this energy, backed by Booker T. & The MGs and recording the songs of the songwriting team of Isaaz Hayes & David Porter. Their first two singles with Stax didn't chart, but they finally scored a hit with "You Don't Know Like I Know", which got to #7 on the R&B chart in 1965. An even bigger hit followed when "Hold On, I'm Comin'" topped the R&B chart and also broke through to the pop chart at #21. This proved to be the huge breakthrough everyone had been waiting for, not only Sam & Dave but Hayes and Porter and everyone else at Stax. With equally successful hits from Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, 1965 and 1966 were the years that saw Stax first take the down-home sound of Memphis Soul into the pop charts.
An album was quickly put together to capitalize on the single's success, a great collection of raw, gritty southern soul numbers, mostly written by Hayes and Porter (with a few from other members of the Stax staff such as Eddie Floyd). The album is also notable for having what is surely one of the worst covers of all time!

|> Double Dynamite (1966)

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John Fahey - Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes (1963)

John Fahey was an influential American acoustic guitarist.

John Fahey had recorded and self-released his debut album Blind Joe Death in 1959. It had been put out under his own Takoma Records label, and in the early 60s Takoma became an actual formal business when Fahey tracked down blues singer Bukka White, and with friend Ed Denson produced White's first new recordings in over 23 years. The Bukka White album became the first non-Fahey release on the Takoma label.
Fahey released his own second album in 1963, and unlike with his debut he managed to get it distributed nationally. As a result he sold many more copies and it reached a much wider audience. It actually outsold the Bukka White album. It continued what his first album had started, further refining his unique style of acoustic guitar playing with a collection of twelve mostly solo compositions (one track featured flute played by Nancy McLean).
Like with his first album, Fahey ended up re-recording much of Death Chants in 1967 (all but two of the songs on the 1967 edition were re-recordings). I have got both versions here for you.

Blind Joe Death (1959) <|> The Dance Of Death & Other Plantation Favorites (1964)
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Brian Auger & The Trinity - Definitely What! (1968)

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

In 1968 Brian Auger & The Trinity scored a #5 hit in the UK with their psychedelic cover of Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's On Fire", featuring Julie Driscoll on vocals. Subsequently their debut album sold much better. The group's next album actually did not feature Driscoll, so was far removed from the sound of their one and only hit. Definitely What!, released the same year, was an almost entirely instrumental album, the band now featuring the trio lineup of Brian Auger (keyboards/vocals), Dave Ambrose (bass) and Clive Thacker (drums). Its sound was that of a jazz/R&B fusion, with occasional psychedelic overtones and Auger's jazzy organ playing as the main focus. The trio were augmented on much of the album by a large horn section.
Much of the album consisted of Auger originals, though there was also an ambitious arrangement of The Beatles' "A Day In The Life", and covers of songs by both Mose Allison and Booker T. & The MGs.

Open (1967) <|> Streetnoise (1969)
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Jim Dickinson - Dixie Fried (1972)

Jim Dickinson is an American record producer, pianist and singer.

Jim Dickinson was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1941, but grew up in Memphis, where he learned piano as a teenager. During the 60s he was part of the Memphis and Muscle Shoals music scenes, mostly working as a session pianist. One of his best-known sessions came in 1969, when he suggested to The Rolling Stones that they record at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio whilst they were on tour - he subsequently got to play the memorable piano part on "Wild Horses". In the late 60s he formed a studio group with guitarist Charlie Freeman, keyboardist Mike Utley, bassist Tommy McClure and drummer Sammy Creason. As The Dixie Flyers, they became the house band for Atlantic Records in 1970, recording at their Miami-based studio and backing a myriad of different R&B artists on the Atlantic label.
However in 1971 Dickinson tired of Miami, and returned home to Memphis as the Dixie Flyers began to fall apart. He started to focus on production work, producing and appearing on Ry Cooder's acclaimed Into The Purple Valley and Boomer's Story albums. Atlantic offered him a chance to record a solo album, and his debut Dixie Fried came out in 1972. It gave him the chance to present his own unique and off-beat take on southern roots music, resulting in a delightfully rough-hewn mix of R&B and country. Included covers of the title track by Carl Perkins, Paul Siebel's "Louise", and an obscure early Bob Dylan number "John Brown".

|> A Thousand Footprints In The Sand (1994)

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Al Kooper - Act Like Nothing's Wrong (1976)

Al Kooper is an American singer-songwriter, producer and musician.

In 1972 Al Kooper had set up his own record label based in Atlanta, Georgia - Sounds Of The South. For the next few years his solo recording career was set aside as he focused on his big discovery, southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He produced their first three studio albums, and with the Top 10 hit "Sweet Home Alabama" they were propelled to stardom. He parted ways with them in 1976 after their third album. 
Kooper then released another solo album on United Artists Records. Act Like Nothing's Wrong was recorded in Nashville, Florida and Atlanta, and co-produced by John Simon. Despite the awful choice of cover art, it turned out to be one of his finest albums, with his usual mix of rock, pop and R&B. Three definite standout tracks were the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham composition "Out Of Left Field" (originally a hit for Percy Sledge), a reworking of his own "This Diamond Ring" (which had been his first songwriting success back in 1965 when it was recorded by Gary Lewis & The Playboys), and the epic closing track "Hollywood Vampire", which featured Joe Walsh on slide guitar.

Naked Songs (1973) <|> Championship Wrestling (1982)
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George Soulé - Let Me Be A Man (1969-1972)

Compilation 
George Soulé is an American singer, songwriter and musician.

George Soulé was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1945. In the early 60s he worked as a radio DJ whilst performing in R&B bands and developing as a songwriter, and by 1966 had signed a publishing contract with Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville. He released a few singles as a solo artist on the La Louisanne and Tamm labels, and even made a TV appearence performing on Shindig, but his recording career never took off. By the late 60s he had settled into a behind-the-scenes career, finding work as a songwriter, producer, backing singer, demo singer and drummer, working at both Rick Hall's Fame Studios and the neighboring Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
He had another shot at a solo career in the early 70s, first with his own brilliant "So Glad You Happened To Me", which came out in 1972 on Bell Records but went nowhere. He then had a surprise Top 40 R&B hit with his version of George Jackson's "Get Involved" in 1973 - the recording was originally just a demo intended for another artist, but Rick Hall liked it so much he saw that it was released with Soulé's vocals. With its lyrical message and Soulé's delivery, no doubt most listeners assumed the singer was black, so it caused something of a sensation when he was asked to appear on the Soul Train TV show and turned out to be white.
Despite this his solo career still didn't take off, and by the late 70s he had left music as a full time occupation behind. This compilation was released in 2011 on Soulscape Records (after he had finally released a solo album in 2006). It consists of twenty-six recordings from his time at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, so presumeably all from the early 70s. Most of them are demos, though it does also feature his own single "So Glad You Happened To Me". They are all great songs, and his voice is truly fantastic, making this an excellent album of laid-back blue-eyed soul. Many of these demos were recorded by other singers in the 70s, including Delaney Bramlett, Mavis Staples, Dee Dee Warwick, Brook Benton and Esther Phillips. The most-covered song here is "You Can't Stop A Man In Love", which was done by Bobby Womack, Carl Carlton, Reuben Howell, Jimmy Elledge, The Supremes, The Temptations and Dobie Gray. Note - this compilation does not include "Get Involved" (go find it on youtube if you haven't heard it!).

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Neil Young - Re-ac-tor (1981)

Neil Young is a prolific Canadian singer-songwriter who has been releasing records since the 60s.

At the dawn of the 1980s Neil Young could look back on a successful solo career and a brilliant series of albums released throughout the past decade. What would the new decade have in store for him? After the low-key Hawks & Doves, his next album reunited him with backing band Crazy Horse. Re-ac-tor was a rough, loose affair, with plenty of electric guitar crunch but nothing in the way of truly great tunes. It was perhaps not the most inspiring collection of songs, but the truth was that Young had other domestic priorities in his life to see to, having two sons diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He did not tour at all during these years, actually only performing one show between the end of his 1978 tour and 1982. Seen in context, it's lucky he actually found time to record an album at all, and Re-ac-tor would be far from the strangest album he would put out in the 80s...

Hawks & Doves (1980) <|> Trans (1982)
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Solomon Burke - If You Need Me (1963)

Solomon Burke was a highly influential and successful American soul singer.

Solomon Burke's first recorded work had been on the Apollo label in the late 50s, but he had seen little success at first and subsequently left the music business to start a family. However he was enticed back in 1960 and signed to Atlantic Records, who had an impressive track record as an R&B label, and were looking for a new star after parting ways with Ray Charles.
It was with Atlantic that Solomon Burke scored his first hits - "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)" was a #7 R&B hit in 1961, and also crossed over onto the pop chart at #24. The composition dated back to 1953, when it had orginally been a country hit for Faron Young (adapting country songs into soul songs became something of a habit for Burke). 1962 saw an even bigger success with "Cry To Me" (#5 R&B). "I'm Hanging Up My Heart For You" got to #15, and it's b-side "Down In The Valley" also charted at #20. These early hits saw him developing into one of the finest soul singers of the era under Atlantic's supervision.
In 1963 he had his biggest hit to date, the ballad "If You Need Me" charting as a #2 R&B hit. The song was written by one Wilson Pickett, and eclipsed the author's own version (though Pickett soon signed with Atlantic himself and came to see the same level of success as Burke). His first album for Atlantic came out the same year, focused around "If You Need Me". Most of the rest of the album consisted of singles which hadn't charted, and it didn't actually feature any of the '61-'62 hits. The album showed him to be an excellent soul singer with a wide range of R&B styles under his command, from raw gospel shouters to tender country-soul ballads.

Solomon Burke (1962) <|> Rock 'n' Soul (1964)
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Poco - Deliverin' (1971)

Poco is an American country-rock band originally formed in 1968.

Poco's third album was a live one, recorded in the September of 1970. It featured a good number of new songs alongside some originally  from their first two studio albums (including their best-known numbers "Pickin' Up The Pieces" and "You Better Think Twice"), resulting in an album full of upbeat energy. It also featured two older Richie Furay songs that he had orginally recorded whilst with Buffalo Springfield - "A Child's Claim To Fame" and "Kind Woman" had been released on Buffalo Springfield albums but had in truth been proto-Poco solo numbers. Indeed the original recording of the latter had featured both Jim Messina and Rusty Young. Their inclusion here upgraded them to part of the official Poco repertoire.
However the lineup of Furay, Messina, Young, Schmidt and Grantham wasn't to last long. Jim Messina left the band in late 1970, and so by the time Deliverin' was released in 1971 he had been replaced by Paul Cotton.
The album actually produced a minor hit, as Furay's "C'mon" got to #69 on the pop singles chart. The album itself got to #26, their first to reach the Top 40.

Poco (1970) <|> From The Inside (1971)
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Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman (1966)

Percy Sledge is an American soul singer.

Percy Sledge was born in 1941 in Leighton, Alabama. During the 60s he sang in an R&B group called the Esquires at the weekends, whilst working as a hosptial orderly through the week. After many years of struggling to get himself a recording deal, he was finally discovered by DJ-turned-producer Quin Ivy. Ivy had recently set up Norala, a small recording studio and record label modelled after the success of Rick Hall's Fame Studios (and apparently all done with the blessing and encouragement of Hall himself, who was happy to send the work overflow at the busy Fame Studios in Ivy's direction).
At Norala, Ivy began working with Sledge on the song that has first captured his attention, and over several weeks they developed it into a finished product. The band featured on the record consisted of organist Spooner Oldham, bassist Junior Lowe and drummer Roger Hawkins, all on loan from Fame, plus guitarist Marlin Greene (who had originally been at Fame but had moved to Norala to act as Ivy's right hand man, and was a co-owner of the label). With the overdubbing of some backing vocals and horns, the song was finished, and with Rick Hall's help was leased to Atlantic Records for national distribution in 1966.
"When A Man Loves A Woman" became a huge surprise hit, even more impressive considering it was Percy Sledge's first release. It got to #1 not only on the R&B singles chart but also on the Billboard Hot 100, making it a true cross-over success. It also charted at #4 in the UK. Percy Sledge's career was launched, and he was quickly signed to Atlantic. A follow-up album was quickly put together to capitalize on the single's success, featuring a fine selection of southern soul numbers with which Sledge was able to introduce himself.

|> Warm & Tender Soul (1966)

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Crosby, Stills & Nash - CSN (1977)

Crosby, Stills & Nash are a folk-rock 'supergroup', made up of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. They are sometimes joined by occasional fourth member Neil Young.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had been massively successful in the late 60s as one of rock's first supergroups, being musical figureheads of sort for the hippie movement. However they had only ever actually released two studio albums, and had broken up in 1971. All four of them had gone on to various levels of solo success in the 1970s. Neil Young had been the most successful, managing to follow his own path with no need for the others. Stephen Stills had released some good solo albums, and also for a while led the excellent band Manassas. David Crosby and Graham Nash had both released solo albums, but had seen more success working together as a duo. There was always hope that the four of them would reunite to record another album, and it was attempted in 1973 but the sessions got nowhere as personality conflicts got in the way. They did mange to get back together in 1974 for a reunion tour, but again there was no recorded output. As the 1970s progressed a new CSNY album seemed more and more unlikely.
Eventually the original three of them did get back together. Neil Young was busy with his own exciting solo career, but in 1976 Crosby, Stills & Nash reformed and started recording new material. The long awaited album came out in 1977. However by this time the musical climate around them had drastically changed, and the 60s hippie dream had become a distant memory. How would they fit in with the sounds of 1977? CSN was indeed very different to their original records, with a modern sheen to the production which let it fit in with the soft-rock aesthetics of the day. Though it was different, the songs were still excellent, and the vocal harmonies were as glorious as they had ever been.
It did turn out to be very commercial successful. It reached #2 on the album chart, and Nash's "Just A Song Before I Go" got to #7 when released as a single, actually being their highest charting single ever. It proved that they could still produce worthwhile music beyond the 60s when they did actually succeed in getting together and recording.

Deja Vu (1970) <|> Daylight Again (1982) 
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Joan Baez - Blessed Are (1971)

Joan Baez is an American folk singer who was an important part of the early 60s folk music revival.

In 1971 Joan Baez parted ways with Vanguard Records, the label she had been signed with since the beginning of her career. Her last release with them was a sprawling double album, Blessed Are. It was produced in Nashville by Norbert Putman, and like her last couple had very strong country leanings. It was notable for featuring a high number of original songs, as she was beginning to develop as a songwriter and no longer rely on the work of others. Nevertheless it still had a large number of cover songs, numbers by Mickey Newbury, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller, Jesse Winchester, The Band and both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
It turned out to be a very successful album, as it generated a surprise hit single - her cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" went all the way to #3 on the singles chart. Subsequently the album went Gold.

One Day At A Time (1970) <|> Come From The Shadows (1972)
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Clarence Carter - This Is Clarence Carter (1968)

Clarence Carter is an American soul singer, songwrtier and guitarist.

Clarence Carter was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1936. He was blind from birth, and grew up listening to blues records, teaching himself guitar along the way. In 1960 he graduated from Alabama State University, majoring in music. He formed a duo with another blind classmate, Calvin Scott, and as Clarence & Calvin they recorded a number of R&B singles in the early 60s, released on a variety labels, but none of them charted. By 1966 they were performing live in Birmingham, but after Scott was injured in an auto accident they went their seperate ways.
Carter's solo career began with him recording at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. His own song "Tell Daddy" was released on the Fame label, and became a #35 R&B hit. It was covered the same year by Etta James, who took it even higher up the charts as "Tell Mama". Carter's next single, "Thread The Needle", got to #38. He then signed with Atlantic Records, and "Looking For A Fox" got to #20. His real breakthrough hit came in 1968 - the brilliant "Slip Away" got to #2 on the R&B chart but crossed over to #6 on the pop chart. His debut album came out the same year, an excellent collection of gritty southern soul numbers, highlighted by Carter's distinctive baritone and the great instrumentation from the Muscle Shoals musicians backing him. It featured all his recent hits with the exception of "Tell Daddy", plus some more good originals, a couple from the partnership of Dann Penn and Spooner Oldham, and a fine country-soul fusion with Curly Putman's "Set Me Free".

|> The Dynamic Clarence Carter (1969)

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Dion - Dion (1968)

Dion is an American singer-songwriter, best known for his string of hits in the early 60s.

Dion DiMucci had seen success with a number of hits in the early 60s. However the mid 60s were a period of commercial decline for him, as changing public tastes rendered his brand of pop music obsolete. His last Top 10 hit was in 1963, and for the next four years he did not trouble the charts. The singles he did release during this time saw him experimenting with both blues and folk-rock, as he tried to find a new direction. In 1967 he re-united for one album with his original group The Belmonts, but that too failed to produce any hits.
1968 was the year of his comeback. Citing a religious experience as inspiration, he kicked his heroin addiction and resigned with Laurie Records, with whom he had released most of his original hits. He recorded a recent song by Dick Hollier which was a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans - Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy (the last two having both been killed just earlier that year). "Abraham, Martin & John" was a beautiful record, a completely new sound for Dion, set to a folk-rock backing with lush, swirling orchestration (including some notable harp flourishes). It suited his supple, soulful voice perfectly, and became a huge hit, getting to #4 on the pop chart and effectively relaunching his career.
A self-titled album followed in its wake, with a fine selection of songs performed in the same orchestrated folk-rock style (the harp making some notable re-appearences). The songs themselves were mostly covers of those by the leading singer-songwriters of the day (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Fred Neil, Joni Mitchell), plus a great version of The Four Tops' "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" and a very surprising (and very effective) re-imagining of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze".

There is one bonus track featured here -  "Daddy Rollin' (In Your Arms)" was the b-side to "Abraham, Martin & John". It's a driving bluesy number, showing another sort of style Dion was experimenting with around this time.

Love Come To Me (1963) <|> Wonder Where I'm Bound (1969)

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Kaleidoscope - Bernice (1970)

Kaleidoscope were an American psychedelic band originally active from 1966 to 1970.

Kaleidoscope had released three brilliant and unique albums between 1967 and 1969, but by the end of the decade their enthusiasm and imagination had apparently begun to run out. Solomon Feldhouse and Stuart Brotman both departed, to be replaced by singer-guitarist Jeff Kaplan and bassist Ron Johnston, joining drummer Paul Lagos and multi-instrumentalists David Lindley and Chester Crill (the last two being the only founding members left).
Bernice was no doubt something of a disappointment to many fans, as it lacked the eclectic fusion of genres that made their first three albums so special. Instead it was more of a predictable guitar-driven psychedelic rock record. The instrumentation was still superb throughout, but it didn't really have much to make them stand out from any other rock band of the era.
Following its release the band broke up.

Incredible! (1969) <|> When Scopes Collide (1976)
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Barbara Lynn - You Left The Water Running: The Tribe Singles (1966-1967)

Compilaton 
Barbara Lynn is an American R&B singer, songwriter and guitarist.
 
1962 had seen Barbara Lynn score her breakthrough hit, and only #1 record, "You'll Lose A Good Thing", produced by Huey P. Meaux and released on Jamie Records. Several more singles on Jamie followed, but none were as big a success. In 1966 Meaux moved her to his own Tribe Records label, and here she released four singles. One of these was the first recording of an early Dan Penn classic, "You Left The Water Running", which would soon be recorded by a number of different R&B and soul artists. It charted modestly, getting to #42 on the national R&B chart. In 1967 she signed a new deal with Atlantic Records.
As there were only four singles on Tribe, this compilation is just a short one of eight tracks, but they are all good, "You Left The Water Running" being particularly noteworthy.

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Jeanie Greene - Mary Called Jeanie Greene (1971)

Jeanie Grene is an American soul and gospel singer.

Mary Elizabeth Johnson was born in Corinth, Mississippi in 1943. She released a few obscure singles as Jeanie Johnson whilst still a teenager in the late 50s, which were produced by Chet Atkins. In the mid 60s she recorded at Quin Ivy's Norala studio in northern Alabama (best known for Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves A Woman") under the name Jeanie Fortune, but again with no success. It was here that she met and married musician Marlin Greene, and began to find steady work as a backing singer, first at Norala and then at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis. She also released a one-off single with her fellow backing singers under the name Southern Comfort in 1970.
In the early 70s she was signed to Elektra Records, along with a number of other southern musicians (including Lonnie Mack, Don Nix and Mickey Newbury). She worked closely with Don Nix, appearing on his solo albums and albums he produced for other artists, and going on tour as members of The Alabama State Troupers. They also both appeared at George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh, as members of the backing choir. Nix produced her one and only solo album in 1971, which was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. It had a rootsy southern soul / gospel sound, with Greene's strong voice and piano front and centre. The gospel elements were to the fore, with religious themes to most of the songs. It had a very similar sound to Nix's own solo records from the same year.
Little has been heard of Jeanie Greene since. She continued to work as a backing singer, but never released another solo album.

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The Grateful Dead - From The Mars Hotel (1974)

The Grateful Dead were an American rock band renowned for their lengthy musical improvisations in concert..

1974's From The Mars Hotel was The Grateful Dead's second album to be released on their own recently formed record label. By this time they were definitely much better known for their live performances (and resultant live albums) than studio recordings, though nevertheless the album came together well. One song in particular, "Scarlet Begonias", became an instant live favourite and remained as a staple of their set list for the rest of their career. Elsewhere the album featured two songs written and sung by bassist Phil Lesh (which was something of a rare occurance).
Following the album's release the band took a brief hiatus from touring.

Wake Of The Flood (1973) <|> Blues For Allah (1975)
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Gordon Lightfoot - Summer Side Of Life (1971)

Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian singer-songwriter.

Summer Side Of Life was Gordon Lightfoot's follow-up to his breakthrough album Sit Down Young Stranger, which had given him international recognition in 1970 with the song "If You Could Read My Mind". The new album was very strong, following in the same stylistic vein as its predecessor, with a few more subtle country influences throughout (it was recorded in Nashville, and featured many of the city's top session musicians). It didn't include any big hits, though two songs (the title track and "Talking In Your Sleep") charted in his native Canada. Nevertheless it was a very good album, a worthy follow-up to establish his name as a singer-songwriter in the US, and it contained many of his best songs.

Sit Down Your Stranger (1970) <|> Don Quixote (1972)
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Bobby Womack - Facts Of Life (1973)

Bobby Womack is an American soul music singer-songwriter and musician.

1972 had been a highly successful year for Bobby Womack, as he scored his #1 R&B hit with "Woman's Gotta Have It". In 1973 he collaborated with J.J. Johnson for the soundtrack of the film Across 110th Street, and the title song was another R&B hit at #19. His next album came out the same year, another great smooth soul album recorded with The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section. As was usual for Womack, it had some interesting choices of cover songs, the ones here being Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower", Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "The Look Of Love", Jerry Goffin & Carole King's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (retitled "Natural Man"), Sam Cooke's "That's Heaven To Me" and Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out". The latter was something of an evergreen standard, but Womack gave it a brilliant funky new arrangement. Released as a single, it was a #2 R&B hit, and also got to #29 on the pop singles chart. Another song on the album that had hit all over it, but didn't see release as a single, was George Soulé's "You Can't Stop A Man In Love".

Understanding (1972) <|> Lookin' For A Love Again (1974)
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Santana - Santana III (1971)

Santana are a band who have been active since the late 1960s, based around guitarist and leader Carlos Santana, and known for their fusion of rock and latin music.

By the end of 1970 Santana had recruited a seventh member, teenage guitarist Neal Schon, who joined existing members Carlos Santana (lead guitar), Greg Rolie (keyboards), David Brown (bass), Michael Shrieve (drums), José Areas (percussion) and Mike Carabello (percussion).Their third album was another wonderful fusion of rock, jazz and latin music, arguably bettering its more widely known predecessor Abraxas. Schon's guitar was very much in evidence throughout, as he took many solos, sharing the lead roles with Santana himself. Santana also sung a rare lead vocal on "Everything's Coming Our Way". 
The album generated two hit singles - "Everybody's Everything" and "No One To Depend On" charted at #12 and #36 respectively. The album itself got to #1. It is generally seen as the third in a trilogy of great albums by the band's 'classic' early lineup. It actually marked the end of an era, as following its release the band drifted apart and Carlos Santana took control of the name himself, taking it towards much more experimental (and subsequently less commericial) sounds.

Abraxas (1970) <|> Caravenserai (1972)
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Tony Joe White - Black And White (1969)

Tony Joe White is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Tony Joe White was born in 1943 in Oak Grove, Louisiana, and grew up listening to blues, country and Cajun music. 1967 saw him signed to the Nashville-based Monument Records. After a few non-charting singles, his debut album came out in 1969. Produced by Billy Swan, it featured backing from keyboardist David Briggs, bassist Norbert Putman and drummer Jerry Carrigan. With White's earthy baritone and lyrics with down-home Southern themes, the result was a distinctive swampy roots-rock sound. Much of the material was surprisingly funky, with White playing some tasty wah-wah guitar. Most of the songs were Tony Joe White originals, though it also had some choice covers including Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman", Bobby Russell's "Little Green Apples" and Burt Bacharach's "The Look Of Love".
One single released from the album, "Polk Salad Annie", became a surprise hit and managed to eventually climb to #8 on the US pop chart. It also became well known as part of Elvis Presley's live act throughout the 70s.

|> Continued (1969) 

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Joe Simon - No Sad Songs (1968)

Joe Simon is an American soul singer.

Joe Simon had achieved scored two hits on the R&B chart in 1966 and 1967 with "Teenager's Prayer" and "My Special Prayer", both on the Nashville-based Sound Stage 7 label. Both had featured on his debut album.Through 1967 and into 1968 he released several more great singles. The three others which became hits were "Nine Pound Steel" (#19 R&B), written by Dan Penn and Wayne Carson Thompson, "No Sad Songs" (#22 R&B), originally recorded by Oscar Toney Jr., and "(You Keep Me) Hangin' On" (#11 R&B), which had originally been a country hit for The Gosdin Brothers in 1967.
His second album came out in 1968. It wasn't an entirely new set of songs, as most of them had already seen release as singles or b-sides, including his three most recent hits. Three of the other songs were also featured on his first album. Nevertheless it came together perfectly, showcasing Simon's distinctive brand of country-soul.

Pure Soul (1966) <|> Simon Sings (1969)
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John Mayall - Looking Back (1969)

John Mayall is a British blues singer and multi-instrumentalist, who was a major figure in the 60s British blues scene.

By 1969 John Mayall had retired the Bluesbreakers name, and his contract with Decca Records was almost up. His most loyal sideman for the past two years, young guitarist Mick Taylor, had taken up a job offer in the summer and joined The Rolling Stones. Mayall himself moved to L.A. the same year, where he began performing with a new group with a very different sound.
With Mayall's blessing, Decca records collected together a number of songs that had not been released on LPs before, mostly singles and b-sides. Looking Back came out in 1969, containing songs that covered the period from 1964 to 1968. It featured various different lineups of The Bluesbreakers, with appearances from Taylor, Eric Clapton and Peter Green, as well as the group's first (and least well known) guitarists, Bernie Watson and Roger Dean.

Blues From Laurel Canyon (1968) <|> The Turning Point (1969)
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The Staple Singers - Freedom Highway: The Epic Years (1965-1968)

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

In 1965 The Staple Singers again moved to a new record label, Epic Records. They continued to record in their distinctive bluesy gospel style, though they were now including more protest songs in their repertoire, becoming popular as part of the civil rights movement. In 1967 they had two singles scrape into the Top 100, the first being their own "Why (Am I Treated So Bad?)" and the second being a cover of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth". 
This extensive compilation contains thirty-three songs from their Epic years (though it doesn't contain every last recording). Disc 1 is actually the 1991 CD compilation Freedom Highway, and Disc 2 is compiled from a variety of more obscure sources. Includes a wonderful reading of Hank Williams' "Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw", an obscure early Bob Dylan number ("John Brown"), as well as many familiar traditional titles such as "Will The Circle Be Unbroken", "Wade In The Water", "Mary Don't You Weep" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine".
Like on The Riverside Years, these songs benefit from a clean, well-produced sound, but retain all the original grit and honesty of their earliest recordings. Many of the songs ("For What It's Worth" being the most notable example) suggest a move towards a more mainstream pop sound, with the instrumental backing a little more full-sounding, but Pops Staples' guitar is still the driving force throughout. 

Great Day: The Riverside Years (1962-1964) <|> Soul Folk In Action (1968)
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Ella Washington - Ella Washington (1969)

Ella Washington is an American soul and gospel singer.

Ella Washington was born in Miami, Florida. She first recorded in 1965 for the local Octavia label, but with no success. In 1967 she was signed to the Nashville-based Sound Stage 7 label, where she was produced by legendary R&B DJ John Richbourg. Here she recorded her only hit, and a modest one at that in terms of chart position. "He Called Me Baby" was an inspired arrangement of a country song by Harlan Howard (originally titled "She Called Me Baby"). Washington was the first to record it as a soul song, and her version was an absolute masterpiece. It did chart, but only at #38 on the R&B chart and #77 on the pop chart.
In 1969 a self-titled album was released, mostly recorded in Nashville with local session musicians (pianist Bob Wilson, guitarist Mac Gayden, bassist Tim Drummond and drummer Kenny Buttrey). It was an excellent collection of southern soul numbers, and should have been the start of a highly successful career for Washington.
Unfortunately she had no further hits, despite recording into the early 70s (including some sessions at Fame Studios). In 1973 she moved away from soul and into gospel music.

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Paul Butterfield's Better Days - Live At Winterland Ballroom 1973

Better Days was a short-lived band led by harmonica player Paul Butterfield.

Better Days were only around briefly, and only ever released two studio albums. Fortunately in 1999 an excellent live album was released, taken from recordings of a concert at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1973. It's a great quality recording, showing the talented band at their best, with lots of the songs featuring extended solos and jams. The majority of the set list is made up of numbers from the band's two albums, but it also features an otherwise unreleased song ("Countryside") and a fifteen-minute jam of Bobby Charles' "He's Got All The Whiskey" (the song originally appeared on Charles' 1972 self-titled album, which members of Better Days had played on).

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Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme (1966)

Simon & Garfunkel are an American singer-songwriter duo, consisting of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

"The Sound Of Silence" had given Simon & Garfunkel their breakthrough with a #1 hit on New Years Day 1966. It was followed by a very successful folk-rock album. Their next single was another brilliant Paul Simon original, "Homeward Bound", which got to #5 in the US and also broke them into the UK Top 10. "I Am A Rock" from the Sounds Of Silence album then got to #3, completing a trilogy of perfect hit singles. The next single, "The Dangling Conversation", was not as successful (but still managed to chart at #25!).
Their next album refined the folk-rock style of the Sounds Of Silence album, being arguably a more consistent record. Simon & Garfunkel had truly found their voice. Three of the songs had previously appeared as solo numbers of the obscure Paul Simon Songbook album. It also features both the "Homeward Bound" and "The Dangling Conversation" singles. The best-remembered song on the album was the opening track from which it took its title, an arrangement of the English folk ballad "Scarborough Fair" set in counterpoint with "Canticle", an early Paul Simon composition.
The album was a success, and charted at #4.

Sounds Of Silence (1965) <|> Bookends (1968)
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Kris Kristofferson - The Silver Tongued Devil And I (1971)

Kris Kristofferson is an American country music singer-songwriter.

In the late 60s and early 70s Kris Kristofferson had emerged as one of the most successful new songwriters in country music, penning songs that became huge hits for artists including Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Bobby Bare, Sammi Smith and Waylon Jennings. His own brilliant solo debut had not been much of a commercial success, but by the time he brought out the follow-up in 1971 his songwriting successes (capped by Janis Joplin's #1 pop cover of "Me & Bobby McGee") had pepared people to take notice of him as a recording artist in his own right.
The Silver Tongued Devil And I featured a similar collection of wonderful story-songs. There were some great new songs, alongside a couple of older ones ("Jody & The Kid" had been recorded by Roy Drusky in 1968, and "The Taker" had been a hit for Waylon Jennings in 1970) and a cover of Bobby Bare's "Good Christian Soldier" (Bare himself recorded a lot of Kristofferson songs in '70 and '71). It perhaps wasn't as consistent as his debut (where arguably every song was a masterpiece), but it turned out to be a bigger success. "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" gave Kristofferson his first hit single of his own, reaching #26 on the pop chart.

Kristofferson (1970) <|> Border Lord (1972)
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Wilson Pickett - Hey Jude (1969)

Wilson Pickett was an American soul singer, a major figure in the development of soul music in the 60s.

In 1969 Wilson Pickett returned to Alabama to record at Fame Studios again. Together they produced a stunning cover of The Beatles' recent hit "Hey Jude", which when released went to #23 on the pop chart, #13 on the R&B chart, and also #16 over in the UK (his second biggest hit in the UK). The song was notable for featuring some blistering lead guitar from Duane Allman, who was at the time working as a session musician in Muscle Shoals.
Another Fame-produced album followed, perhaps one of his best, full of the sort of funky southern soul grooves typical of Wilson Pickett. As well as "Hey Jude", there was a surprising cover of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" - the inclusion of these two songs suggests the album could have been some sort of attempt to cross over and reach a rock audience. The album included another minor hit, Bobby Womack's "People Make The World (What It Is)" (#20 R&B).

The Midnight Mover (1968) <|> Right On (1970)
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Arthur Alexander - The Monument Years (1965-1972)

Compilation 
Arthur Alexander was an American soul singer and songwriter.

When his brief run of hits had run out, Arthur Alexander found his contract with Dot Records terminated. In 1965 he signed with Sound Stage 7, the soul subsidiary of Fred Foster's Nashville-based Monument Records. He released six singles for Sound Stage 7 over three years, but none of them even touched the charts. As a result he was curiously absent from the music scene for the latter half of the decade, making it a somewhat mysterious chapter in his career.
In 2001 Ace Records released this fantastic compilation, which brought together the Monument singles with a host of previously unreleased studio leftovers from the same era. The result is an extensive collection, perhaps not as strong as his classic early singles, but nevertheless some excellent country soul in his distinctive style, with certain standout tracks that can indeed stand up with his earlier work. It includes some interesting covers, among them The Box Tops' "Cry Like A Baby", The Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love", Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem" and Curly Putman's "Set Me Free".

The Dot Years (1962-1965) <|> Arthur Alexander (1972)
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Bobby Charles - Wish You Were Here Right Now (1994)

Bobby Charles was an American singer-songwriter.

1994 saw Bobby Charles release Wish You Were Here Right Now - in nearly forty years in the music business, this was only his third album! It featured a great collection of new songs along with some updated versions of some of his old classics ("The Jealous Kind", "See You Later Alligator" and "Walking To New Orleans"), with some excellent arrangements throughout (many of them highlighted by Sonny Landreth's electric slide guitar). One definite standout was "The Mardi Gras Song", an upbeat New Orleans party number (exactly what the title would suggest). The album also featured a few high profile musical guests, demonstrating the high regard Bobby Charles was held in the music world - Neil Young played some guitar, Willie Nelson co-wrote one of the songs and played guitar, and Fats Domino sang on "Walking To New Orleans" (the song Charles had originally written for Fats back in 1960, with which he had scored a Top 10 crossover hit). The result was a great album, a very welcome addition to Charles' scant discography.

Clean Water (1987) <|> Last Train To Memphis (2004)
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Pentangle - Sweet Child (1968)

Pentangle are a British folk group originally active in the late 60s and early 70s.

Pentangle released their second album shortly after their debut. It was a double album, the first disc recorded live at London's Royal Festival Hall, the second disc recorded in the studio. It further explored the brilliant folk-jazz fusion their debut had introduced, the live disc going in particularly jazzy directions with renditions of Charles Mingus' "Haitian Fight Song" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". Elsewhere there was a great mix of band originals and traditional songs, along with some covers of songs by Furry Lewis, Anne Briggs and Ewan MacColl, all set to brilliant arrangements which showcased the very high caliber of musicianship in the band. Also of note was that electric guitars were used on some of the songs on the live disc, so the band could no longer be called 100% acoustic. Their debut had been very good - Sweet Child was probably even better.
 
The Pentangle (1968) <|> Basket Of Light (1969)
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New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Oh, What A Mighty Time (1975)

The New Riders Of The Purple Sage are an American country-rock band, with roots in the San Francisco psychedelic scene of the 60s.

Oh, What A Mighty Time was the last album the New Riders released on Columbia Records. It was also their second with bassist Skip Battin, and was produced by Bob Johnston. At this stage in their career the band were not seeing much success commercially, and their albums were being received with increasing indifference. Its perhaps telling that most of the album was made up of covers or songs by outside writers, with only three band originals. The covers included Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina", Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" and Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother". The title track was written by Don Nix. Musical guests included Jerry Garcia and Sly Stone.

Brujo (1974) <|> New Riders (1976)
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Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

Richard Thompson is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist.

In October 1972 Richard Thompson married Linda Peters, who had appeared as a backing singer on his debut solo album Henry The Human Fly from the same year. They began performing as a duo, and in 1973 quickly recorded I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight on a shoestring budget. Thompson played all the guitars, plus mandolin, whistle and keyboards. Bass and drums were provided by Pat Donaldson and Timmy Donald respectively, and there were also appearances from accordion player John Kirkpatrick and Thompson's old bandmate Simon Nicol (on dulcimer). Featuring all original songs and a somewhat bleak mood throughout, it was something of a masterpiece of English folk-rock, but its release was actually held back until 1974. On its eventual release it was not much of a commercial success, but was quickly recognised by critics and fans for the brilliant record it was, and today is considered the highlight of Thompson's career.

Henry The Human Fly (1972) <|> Hokey Pokey (1975)
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