Aaron Neville - The Minit Recordings (1960-1963)

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.

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. Also, here is a bonus EP of leftover songs just for the readers of this blog, including a couple of covers (Bobby Charles' "Done A Lot Of Wrong Things" and Robert Hunter's "It Must Have Been The Roses").

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)
More from Doug Sahm


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)
More from Carla Thomas


Dan Penn - Is A Blue Bird Blue? (1959-1973)

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!

More from Dan Penn


Dion - Wonder Where I'm Bound (1969)

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

After his run of early 60s hits had dried up, Dion had spent several years in the wilderness before making his comeback with a mature folk-rock sound in 1968, with the hit single "Abraham, Martin & John" and a splendid self-titled album on Laurie Records Following this Columbia Records (who he had been with for these 'wilderness years') quickly cobbled together enough recordings to make an album, to cash in on his sudden return to popularity.
The appropriately-titled Wonder Where I'm Bound was a very interesting mix of different genres, a collection of various stylistic experiments Dion had been making after his original doo-wop / pop sound had fallen out of fashion. He had made some solid folk-rock after The Byrds popularized the genre (complete with jangling guitars and tamborine), and also some startlingly gritty blues after discovering the music of Robert Johnson. The album thus was not exactly cohesive, but the individual songs were all very strong, ranging from raw folk-rock, to lushly orchestrated numbers, to acoustic folk and blues, and one step back into doo-wop with a cover of "A Sunday Kind Of Love". Other covers included the title track by Tom Paxton, Woody Guthrie's "900 Miles", Willie Dixon's "Seventh Son", the blues standard "Baby Please Don't Go", and Bob Dylan's "Farewell" and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue". Overall a very good album showing what Dion had been up to between 1963 and 1968.
Dion (1968) <|> Sit Down Old Friend (1970)
More from Dion


Percy Sledge - Warm & Tender Soul (1966)

Percy Sledge is an American soul singer.

1966 had seen Percy Sledge's career launched by his debut single "When A Man Loves A Woman", a #1 cross-over hit which also helped break the Southern Soul sound to a much wider national audience, and alerted the music business to the sounds coming out of Muscle Shoals. Still recording at Quin Ivy's Norala studio, Sledge's next single was "Warm And Tender Love" (originally recorded and released by Joe Haywood in 1964), which charted at #5 R&B and #17 Pop. 
A second album was quickly put together to capitalize on its success, mostly consisting of cover songs. These included Don Covay's "I'm Hanging Up My Heart for You" (originally a hit for Solomon Burke), Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got A Hold On Me", Roosevelt Jamison's "That's How Strong My Love Is", Jerry Butler's "I Stand Accused", Jerry Goffin and Carole King's "So Much Love", and even Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender". It also featured an arrangement of "Try A Little Tenderness", quite different to the famous Otis Redding version (they were both recorded at about the same time, so Redding's version was probably not yet known at Norala).
Despite its reliance on covers, the album was strong, some excellent country-soul done the Percy Sledge way. The one standout original song was "It Tears Me Up", written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, a moody country-soul classic. It became Sledge's third hit when released as a single, charting at #7 R&B and #20 Pop. "Love Me Tender" was also released as a single later on in 1967 and managed to creep into the Top 40.

When A Man Loves A Woman (1966) <|> The Percy Sledge Way (1967)
More from Percy Sledge

I'd just like to say thank you for everyone who uses this blog, the stats (assuming they are accurate) say every month it is getting more and more visits, and the download count is going up, up, up! Every new album I post seems to be getting plenty of downloads from day one, and the figures for some of the older ones, which have been up here for years, is actually quite staggering! I enjoy doing this, but it's only really worth doing if I know people are making use of it, which apparently they are, and the comments I get really mean a lot.

I know for the past few months my posting has slowed down to just a couple of albums a week... That's because my life is getting busier, not because I am running out of albums to share. There is plenty more music on the way!

So thanks to everyone that uses this blog, let me know about it, it encourages me to keep going.

Also, I have been busy recently recording an album of my own music, which I will be offering to you all on this blog the usual way within the next week hopefully. Here's a little preview for you.

Townes Van Zandt - Delta Momma Blues (1971)

Townes Van Zandt was an American singer-songwriter.

Townes Van Zandt's fourth album came out in 1971, by which time he had got divorced was living in New York City, where it was recorded. Like its predecssor from 1969, it presented his songs in dry, sparse, stripped down arrangements that suited them well, with the instrumental ornamentation that was present being subtle and well-placed, allowing his talented guitar picking to stay at the forefront. It featured ten new original songs, some of which rate as among his very best. Like all of his albums up to this point, it wasn't a commercial success (his music was undoubtedly just too bleak and raw for this), but it was more solid proof of him being one of the most talented and poetic songwriters in the country-folk field.

Townes Van Zandt (1969) <|> High, Low And In Between (1972)
More from Townes Van Zandt


Otis Redding - The Dock Of The Bay (1968)

Otis Redding was a highly influential American singer and songwriter, considered one of the most important artists of the soul genre.

Tragedy struck the music world in December 1967 when Otis Redding died in a plane crash whilst travelling to a gig in Madison, Wisconsin. Also killed in the accident were the pilot Richard Fraser, roadie Matthew Kelly, and members of Redding's backing group The Mar-Kays, Jimmy King, Phalon Jones, Ronnie Caldwell and Carl Cunningham. Only trumpeter Ben Cauly survived. Redding was 26 years old at the time. His funeral was held on December 18th in Macon, Georgia, and was attended by over 4,500 people.
What made his death even more tragic was the fact that his music was still developing, and even greater successes were still on the horizon. Shortly before his death he had written and recorded a song with Steve Cropper which he was very excited about. "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" was finished and released less than a month after his death, and it went straight to #1 on both the R&B and pop charts, becoming the first ever posthumous #1 in US chart history. It was also a huge hit in the UK, reaching #3. It was his most successful single and his greatest cross-over success, introducing his music to a much wider audience just a little too late.
There was still a great deal of Otis Redding music which had not been released, and his first posthumous album saw release in February 1968, with "The Dock Of The Bay" as the title track. Three songs were repeated from earlier albums ("Nobody Knows You (When You're Down And Out)", "Ole Man Trouble", and "Tramp", his 1967 duet with Carla Thomas), but the rest of the album was made up of new unheard material. It became his best-selling album, getting to #1 in the UK and #4 in the US. Three more posthumous albums would be released over the next two years, and his fame quickly grew even after his death.

Live In Europe (1967) <|> The Immortal Otis Redding (1968)
More from Otis Redding


Travis Wammack - Not For Sale (1975)

Travis Wammack is an American guitarist and singer. 

In 1975 Travis Wammack released a second solo album, this time on Capricorn Records, but again recorded at Fame Studios and produced by Rick Hall. It was another blend of rock and R&B styles, with a slicker and perhaps more commercial sound compared to his debut, but still with a distinctively Southern flavour. Again the focus was more on his great vocals rather than any flashy guitar playing. It featured some good covers, including Clyde McPhatter's "A Lover's Question" and Clarence Carter's "Looking For A Fox". It also featured his own composition "Greenwood Mississippi", a song which Little Richard had recorded at Fame five years previously. Two singles from the album made it onto the charts - "Easy Evil" got to #72 and "(Shu-Do-Pa-Poo-Poop) Love Being Your Foo" got to #38.

Travis Wammack (1972) <|> A Man... And A Guitar (1982)
More from Travis Wammack


Clarence Carter - The Dynamic Clarence Carter (1969)

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

Clarence Carter's second album came out in 1969, another excellent collection of tough, gritty Southern soul numbers recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals (and featuring guitarist Duane Allman, who was working as a session musician in Muscle Shoals at the time). It featured some interesting covers, with  splendid versions of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind" and Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away". He also gave R&B makeovers to Tom T. Hall's "Harper Valley PTA" and The Doors' "Light My Fire" (based on José Feliciano's 1968 version). It also had some great originals, one of which gave Carter his second big hit - "Too Weak To Fight" charted at #3 R&B and #13 pop.

This Is Clarence Carter (1967) <|> Testifyin' (1969)
More from Clarence Carter


The Band - The Last Waltz (1978)

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

In 1976 The Band retired from touring, but not before giving a magnificent farewell concert on Thanksgiving Day at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Joining them on stage was an all-star cast of musical guests - Ronnie Hawkins, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Dr John, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Bobby Charles, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood and Ringo Starr. They were also augmented by a large horn section arranged by Allen Toussaint. The concert was filmed by Martin Scorsese, with plans to turn it into a feature-length film. Meanwhile, they had to fulfil their contract with Capitol Records, quickly putting together their last original studio album Islands in 1977.
Scorsese's film was released in 1978 as The Last Waltz, and has been hailed as the greatest rock concert film of all time. It combined the concert footage with interviews, plus two new soundstage performances - one with guest Emmylou Harris, and the other a great new version of "The Weight" featuring The Staple Singers. The soundtrack to the film was released as a triple LP set, which also featured a few new studio recordings which were combined with the soundstage recordings on the last side of the album as 'The Last Waltz Suite'. 
The result was a fantastic live album, vast and sprawling, with the high profile guests getting their own moments to shine (and many of them benefiting greatly from The Band's support), but none of them ever stealing the limelight from the true stars - The Band themselves. It was the perfect way to go out on a high, for The Band were indeed saying goodbye. Though a new incarnation of the group (minus Robbie Robertson) would reunite and resume touring in the 80s, The Last Waltz marked the end of the road for the original and best-loved incarnation of the The Band, ten years after their remarkable debut album and subsequent success.

Islands (1977) <|> Jericho (1993)
More from The Band


Tommy McLain - Sweet Dreams (1965-1969)

Tommy McLain is an American swamp pop singer and musician.

Tommy McLain was born in Jonesville, Louisiana in 1940. During the 50s and into the 60s he played in various country and swamp pop groups, with whom he won local talent shows and performed on local TV. He proved to be both an excellent singer and a talented multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, guitar, bass, drums and fiddle. He worked with Clint West whilst with first The Vel-Tones and then The Boogie Kings, and later in 1965 they recorded an excellent duet together - "Try To Find Another Man". He also worked as a DJ on local Louisiana radio.
In 1966 he recorded a swamp pop cover of Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams", a song which at the time had already provided country hits for Faron Young, Patsy Cline and Gibson himself. McLain's version charted surprisingly high, getting to #15 on the national pop chart (actually the highest-charting version of the song on the pop chart). It also reached #49 in the UK. It briefly made McLain a star, and he went on to appear on Dick Clark's Where The Action Is. He never had any other hits, and so it is this one song he is best known for. He continues to perform throughout the South today.
This compilation, originally released in 1990 by Ace Records, features twenty recordings from the late 60s, including both "Sweet Dreams" and "Try To Find Another Man". It's a great blend of swamp pop, country and R&B, with stripped-down arrangements and excellent vocals from McLain. It features many interesting covers, among them Bobby Charles' "Before I Grow Too Old" (a song originally recorded by Fats Domino in 1960), Robert Parker's "Barefooting", Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman", Buck Owens' "Together Again", Ray Charles' "Sticks And Stones", a Fats Domino medley, and another great Don Gibson song, "(I'd Be) A Legend In My Time". 


Irma Thomas - The Minit Singles (1961-1963)

Irma Thomas is an American soul singer.

Irma Thomas was born Irma Lee in Ponchatoula, Louisiana in 1941. Her family made the move to New Orleans when she was a child, and growing up she sang in choirs at church whilst listening to R&B on local radio stations and jukeboxes. By the age of 19 she already had three children and had been married twice - she kept her second husband's name. She got a job singing with Tommy Ridgley's Untouchables part time as she worked other jobs to support her family, not travelling far outisde of New Orleans. In 1960 she had a single released on the local Ron label - "(You Can Have My Husband But) Don't Mess With My Man" was a national hit on the R&B singles chart, rising to #22. This led to her going on the road for out-of-town gigs throughout the South as she became a popular R&B singer.
In 1961 she recorded for Joe Banashak's Minit Records. Like all the other local New Orleans acts signed to Minit (including Jessie Hill, Ernie K-Doe, Aaron Neville, Chris Kenner and Benny Spellman), she recorded under the guidance of Allen Toussaint, who was responsible for writing and producing some of her best work. Between '61 and '63 she released six brilliant singles on Minit which gave her local hits (they were even played on the white radio stations), the most memorable being the Toussaint composition "It's Raining". Another notable song was "Ruler Of My Heart", which was taken by Otis Redding and rewritten as "Pain In My Heart", giving him one of his earliest hits.
This 12-song compilation features all of her Minit releases, both A and B sides of the six singles. Some charming New Orleans R&B, ranging from bouncy, uptempo horn-driven numbers to string-backed ballads.


Tony Joe White - Continued (1969)

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

Tony Joe White's second album on Monument Records quickly followed his first, again produced by Billy Swan. It was another collection of songs in the same distinctive swampy roots-rock style, all originals this time, with backing from Tommy McClure (bass), Mike Utley (organ) and Sammy Creason (drums). One single from the album, "Roosevelt And Ira Lee", charted modestly at #44. Another song on the album has since become White's best-known composition - "Rainy Night In Georgia" was covered by Brook Benton in 1970, who took it into the Top 10. It has since become something of a standard, being covered by a myriad of different artists.

Black And White (1969) <|> Tony Joe (1970)
More from Tony Joe White


Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces - Searching For My Love (1966)

Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces is an American R&B band originally formed in the 1960s.

Bobby Moore was born in New Orleans in 1930, and joined the US Army in his teens. He formed his first band during the 50s whilst stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was demobbed in 1961, and moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he put together a new group. The Rhythm Aces were a seven-piece R&B band, consisting of Moore himself (tenor sax), his brother Larry (alto sax), singer Chico Jenkins, guitarist Marion Sledge, keyboardist Clifford Laws, bassist Joe Frank and drummer John Baldwin. They performed locally, and got the chance to support several big name acts including Sam Cooke and Ray Charles.
In 1965 they went to record at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, producing the brilliant single "Searching For My Love". It was heard by Leonard Chess, who release it on his Checker label, and it charted nationally at #27 pop and #7 R&B. A full album was recorded, but their subsequent singles were not as successful, and by the end of the decade they had been dropped from Checker.
Though they only ever had one hit, the Rhythm Aces are apparently still around today, performing as a wedding band throughout the South (though Bobby Moore himself died in 2006). Their one original album still sounds fresh today, full of great catchy R&B tunes, and the title song is a real classic.


The Staple Singers - Soul Folk In Action (1968)

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

In 1968 yet another change of record labels found The Staple Singers signed to Stax, which would signal the first real big change in their sound. Since the 50s they had pretty much stuck to the same formula of family group vocals backed by Pops Staples' electric guitar, singing gospel music. However on Stax they started to record with big, full band arrangements, complete with horns and strings. Their first Stax album, Soul Folk In Action, saw them backed by Booker T & The MGs. They were also no longer singing just gospel, though the 'secular' songs chosen for them all had suitable socio-political messages and their music still retained its spiritual core (they had actually been recording similar 'message songs' for the past few years). The songs on the album included some effective covers of Otis Redding's "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay" and The Band's "The Weight", plus "Get Ourselves Together" and "The Ghetto", two songs by Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett (Delaney & Bonnie had also been on Stax for one album, but their versions of these two songs interestingly didn't surface until their next album on Elektra records the following year).
Stax also signed Mavis Staples as a solo artist at the same time, and the focus throughout Soul Folk In Action was very much on her as lead singer. There was also less room for Pops' guitar in the bigger arrangements.

Freedom Highway: The Epic Years (1965-1968) <|> We'll Get Over (1969)
More from The Staple Singers


Bob Dyla - Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)

Film soundtrack 
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter who emerged out of the early 60s folk revival to become an informal chronicler and reluctant figurehead of social unrest. He famously made the move from folk music to electric rock in the mid-60s, and has remained a major figure in music for five decades. 

As the 1970s began Bob Dylan had got off to a dubious start, with two albums (Self Portrait and New Morning) that recieved generally negative reviews. They were followed by his 'wilderness years', as he released no albums of new material throughout 1971 and 1972. Two singles were released, and a greatest hits double LP found room for one of these ("Watching The River Flow"), another good new song ("When I Paint My Masterpiece"), and some re-recordings of older songs, but as good as these two songs were no doubt his fans were left wondering if he had simply run out of inspiration (interestingly the lyrics of these two songs actually tackle this situation head-on).
His next career move was a surprising one, as he was invited to write music for Sam Peckinpah's western film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid. He wrote an excellent ballad about the titular character ("Billy"), and also got to appear in the film himself as the character Alias. A soundtrack album was released, based around different segments of the "Billy" ballad interspersed with instrumental music (mosly based around low-key acoustic strumming with suitable embellishments).
However a surprise was in store. The soundtrack also featured a new song which for Dylan was notable for its short-and-sweet format, with just two brief verses and a memorable chorus... "Knocking On Heaven's Door" turned out to be an absolutely beautiful recording, and was released as a single. It actually became one of his biggest hits, charting at #12 in the US and #14 in the UK.
He still very much lost in the wilderness, but somehow one of his best-known songs had emerged from this strange chapter in his career. It would go on to become something of a cliché as it was covered by a myriad of artists over the yeras.

New Morning (1970) <|> Dylan (1973)
More from Bob Dylan


Arthur Alexander - Arthur Alexander (1972)

Arthur Alexander was an American soul singer and songwriter. 

Since his one and only real big success, 1962's "You Better Move On", Arthur Alexander's career had languished throughout the 60s. He remained much liked and respected by all who came into contact with him or his music, but never had any more commerical success to show for it. In 1971 he briefly resurfaced on Warner Brothers Records for one album, for which his friend Donnie Fritts took him to Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis. American Sound's veteran bassist Tommy Cogbill produced, and helped craft a charming album of understated country-soul that played to Alexander's strengths. It featured many good new originals (some of them co-written with Fritts), plus a remake of an older Alexander tune, "Go Home Girl". It also featured four songs by songwriter Dennis Linde, one of which ("Burning Love") would soon become well-known through Elvis Presley's hit cover. The highlight of the album without a doubt was "Rainbow Road", a song written by Fritts and Dan Penn back in their Muscle Shoals days, and one which many soul singers tried their hand at around this time. Alexander's is surely the most powerful (and apparently the song was originally written with him in mind as the singer).
A couple of singles also came out of the Memphis sessions, they are included here along with their b-sides as bonus tracks.

The Monument Years (1965-1972) <|> Lonely Just Like Me (1993)
More from Arthur Alexander


Eric Burdon & War - Eric Burdon Declares 'War' (1970)

War is an American funk band, formed in 1969 and originally fronted by British singer Eric Burdon.

Eric Burdon had been the lead singer of British R&B enthusiasts The Animals, and in the late 60s, following the breakup of the original group, had relocated to California and put together a new group (credited as Eric Burdon & The Animals, or The New Animals) which went in a more psychedelic direction. However by the end of the decade this group had also broken up, and Burdon was weighing up his options, one of them being returning to England and retiring from the music scene.
He didn't retire though, as in L.A. he met a Danish harmonica player called Lee Oskar. They got on well, and started performing together whilst looking for musicians to put a new group together with. They came to the attention of producer Jerry Goldstein, who helped them in their search by directing them towards a black R&B group known as The Nightshift. They were an eclectic group of musicians, with a great deal of jazz and latin influences which made them stand out from the average R&B band. They joined with Burdon and Oskar, and adopted the unusual and memorable name War. The full lineup consisted of Burdon (lead vocals), Oskar (harmonica), Lonnie Jordon (keyboards), Howard Scott (guitar), B.B. Dickerson (bass), Charles Miller (sax & flute), Harold Brown (drums) and Papa Dee Allen (percussion). An eight-piece, multi-racial, multi-cultural group, with a shared background in rock, pop, blues, R&B, jazz and latin music, they were destined to be something different from the start.
They began their career playing clubs in Southern California, and went on to tour for almost a year before releasing their debut album on MGM Records. Eric Burdon Declares 'War' was a very interesting, explorative mix of rock, blues, funk, jazz and latin sounds, most of the album taken up two lengthy (over ten minute) jams (one based around John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road", the other a slow blues loosely based on Memphis Slim's "Mother Earth"). In many ways it was similar to what Burdon was doing with his last few Animals albums, but with a tighter, funkier backing. Another unusual aspect of the group was their use of the harmonica and saxophone together to fill the role of a horn section.
Burdon's vocals were as powerful and bluesy as ever, and his new band was fantastic, but it was by no means an instant recipe for commercial success. Somehow they managed to it though, as the latin-tinged single "Spill The Wine" became a #3 US pop hit, effectively launching the band's career.

|> The Black Man's Burdon (1970)


Solomon Burke - Rock 'n' Soul (1964)

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

The years 1961 to 1963 had been Solomon Burke's breakthrough years, as he signed with Atlantic Records and scored hits with "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)", "Cry To Me", "I'm Hanging Up My Heart For You" and "If You Need Me", followed by the If You Need Me album.
The hits kept on coming. Next was "You're Good For Me", written by Don Covay, which charted at #8 R&B. Through 1964 the R&B chart was temporarily discontinued, but his singles were getting onto the national pop chart anyway, the highest charting release of the year being "Goodbye Baby", which reached #33. Other singles which reached the pop chart in 1964 were "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" (#58), "The Price" (#57) and "He'll Have To Go" (#51). The latter was another country cover, originally having been a big hit for Jim Reeves back in 1960. By the end of the year he was without a doubt Atlantic's biggest R&B star, and at the height of his success was crowned 'King Of Rock & Soul' with an on-stage ceremony, after which he took to wearing a crown and cape when performing.
His second Atlantic LP came out the same year. It was pretty much a compilation album, bringing together most of (but not all of) his recent hits. Alongside "You're Good For Me", "Goodbye Baby" and "He'll Have To Go", it also included some of his hits the previous few years ("Just Out Of Reach", "Cry To Me", and "If You Need Me"). It just stopped short of being a complete collection of all of his Atlantic hits. Between the well-known songs were some equally strong album tracks, including a surprising cover of Woody Guthrie's "Hard, Ain't It Hard". It made for an excellent and diverse album, mixing different strains of R&B, gospel, pop and country to make up the distinctive soul sound of Solomon Burke.

If You Need Me (1963) <|> King Solomon (1967)
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Ian Matthews - Some Days You Eat The Bear (1974)

Ian Matthews is an English singer-songwriter.

Some Days You Eat The Bear (or to give its full title, Some Days You Eat The Bear And Some Days The Bear Eats You) was Ian Matthews second solo album on Elektra Records since moving to California. It was another excellent, solid country-rock offering. As usual he including some interesting cover songs, here featuring his own versions of Tom Waits' "Ol' 55", Danny Whitten's "I Don't Want To Talk About It", Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard" and Steely Dan's "Dirty Work", plus songs by Pete Dello and Jesse Winchester. It also featured some good originals - one of these, "Keep On Sailing", was actually a re-recording, as another version had already featured on his last album.
The album got a good critical reception, but saw no real commercial success, and so unfortunately he was subsequently dropped by Elektra.

Valley Hi (1973) <|> Go For Broke (1975)
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William Bell - Bound To Happen (1969)

William Bell is an American soul singer and songwriter. 

William Bell had been with Stax Records pretty much since the beginning, but for whatever reason he didn't actually start having hits until the late 60s. He was teamed up with other singers on the label for a number of singles, including Carla Thomas, Mavis Staples and Judy Clay. The most successful was with the otherwise little-known Judy Clay - "Private Number" charted at #17 R&B in 1968, and also managed to get into the Top 10 in the UK.
The same year he had a high-charting solo single - "I Forgot To Be Your Lover", co-written with Booker T Jones, got to #10 R&B. The next year a full album was released on the back of its success, produced and arranged by Jones and with backing from The MGs. It was actually only his second ever solo album, despite having recorded for Stax all the way through the 60s. It was a great record full of great songs and great arrangements. Being recorded at the end of the decade, it had a different, more smooth sound in comparison to recordings from the earlier, more recogniseable 'classic' Stax era. It featured "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" and a couple of other lesser singles, plus his own versions of songs that he had written for other artists - "Born Under A Bad Sign" (originally done by Albert King) and "I Got A Sure Thing" (originally by Ollie & The Nightingales). It also featured some surprise covers of Sly & The Family Stone's "Everyday People", Jerry Butler's "Hey, Western Union Man" and Jimmy Webb's "By The Time I Get To Phoenix".

The Soul Of A Bell (1967) <|> Wow... (1971)
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The Ovations - Hooked On A Feeling (1972)

The Ovations were an American R&B vocal group.

The Ovations had recorded for the Memphis-based Goldwax label in the 60s, and had reached the R&B singles chart with "It's Wonderful To Be In Love" and "Me And My Imagination". However the label had collapsed in 1969, leaving the group by themselves. In 1971 they were signed to the Sounds Of Memphis label with the help of producer Dan Greer. The next year they scored themselves a hit, their highest charting to date at the time - "Touching Me" got to #19 R&B. An album followed, produced by Greer and featuring the Hi Rhythm Section.
Compared to their earlier work with Goldwax, their new material was smoother and more polished, but that was to expected and just went to show how the sound of soul music was beginning to change as the 70s progressed. The defining characteristic of the group was still the Sam Cooke soundalike vocals of leader Louis Williams. Alongside the new hit, the album featured a cover of the B.J. Thomas hit "Hooked On A Feeling" as the title track, and a gospel medley featuring Sam Cooke's own "Touch The Hem Of His Garment" (originally recorded with The Soul Stirrers).

|> Having A Party (1973)
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Ry Cooder - Border Music (1981-1985)

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

During the 1980s Ry Cooder was kept busy with a lot of film soundtrack work alongside his solo career, beginning with his brilliant music for Walter Hill's western The Long Riders in 1980. Many more followed, the most renowned being for Wim Wenders' 1984 film Paris, Texas. The beautifully recorded score was based on Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground", and made for some truly splendid music perfectly suited to the vast, bleak desert landscapes featured in the film. The soundtrack has proved popular, but to be perfectly honest doesn't flow like a good album should as so much of it consists of variations of the same theme. Therefore I have put together this compilation which takes the highlights of the Paris, Texas soundtrack together with some other great, and lesser-known Cooder filmscore work from the same era, from the films The Border (1982) and Alamo Bay (1985).
The Border features one of Cooder's greatest songs, a rare original he co-wrote with Jim Dickinson and John Hiatt. "Across The Borderline" was sung by Freddy Fender, and the score also featured smaller pieces quoting the memorable melody. The soundtrack also featured a wonderful little-known Dan Penn song, "Building Fires", sung by Brenda Patterson (it had also been reorded by The Flying Burrito Brothers on their 1975 album Flying Again). The final two songs on the compilation are from Alamo Bay. There is a central theme here - all the films are set in southern Texas, and the music of all three soundtracks work well together, making for a great album of (mostly instrumental) music evocative of wide open spaces, the hot desert sun, and Mexican flavours from across the border. Powerful stuff!

More from Ry Cooder


Taj Mahal - Taj Mahal (1968)

Taj Mahal is an American blues singer-songwriter and musician.

Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr. was born in 1942 in New York, and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. He grew up in a musical family, his parenst having backgrounds in both gospel and jazz, and from an early age was also exposed to music from the Carribean and Africa. He learned many instruments, taking up the guitar aged thirteen, and later went to the University of Massachusetts - he almost pursued farming as a career instead of music. 
However in 1964 he made the move to California, having decided to be a full time musician, and took up the unlikely stage name Taj Mahal. He formed a group called The Rising Sons, a racially integrated blues / roots band, with Ry Cooder, Jesse Lee Kincaid, Gary Marker and Ed Cassidy. They had a record deal with Columbia Records but never released an album at the time, and broke up before long (an album of their recordings finally saw release in 1993). He did end up staying with Columbia though when they offered him a solo contract.
His debut album, Taj Mahal, was released in 1968. It was pure blues music, and mostly covers of well-known blues tunes at that, but it managed to come out fresh, lively and interesting, with a rootsy stripped-down style. Taj sang and played slide guitar and harmonica, and was helped out by Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar and piano, his old bandmate Ry Cooder on guitar and mandolin, bassist James Thomas and drummer Chuck Blackwell.

|> The Natch'l Blues (1968)


Booker T & The MGs - Green Onions (1962)

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.

The story of Booker T & The MGs can be traced back to the early, formative days of Stax Records, when the label and studio had yet to find its feet (it was then known as Satellite Records). Guitarist Steve Cropper was a member of The Mar-Keys, a Memphis high school band which came to record at Satellite in the early 60s (the group's sax player Packy Axton was the daughter of Estelle Axton and nephew of Jim Stewart, the brother-and-sister team who owned and ran the label), and gave them their first Top 10 hit with the instrumental single "Last Night" in 1961.
As the label and studio began to take off with the new Stax name and a distribution deal with the major Atlantic label, Steve Cropper became Jim Stewart's right hand man. A new, more professional studio group was put together from the ashes of The Mar-Keys, with drummer Al Jackson Jr., bassist Lewis Steinberg, and a young high school student by the name of Booker T. Jones. Jones was a talented multi-instrumentalist, but soon fell into the role of the group's keyboardist. Together they recorded the R&B instrumental "Green Onions", which became a surprise hit in 1962, charting at #1 R&B and #3 pop. A full album of instrumentals, featuring both originals and covers, was quickly recorded and put out under the Booker T & The MGs name. The album itself charted at #33.
Besides giving the fledgling Stax label a massive cross-over hit, the band and the song were important for other reasons. They were a racially integrated group, the importance of which in the R&B world of the early 60s cannot be underestimated. As they went on to become the Stax house band and play on almost all of the label's recordings for the rest of the decade, 1962 can be seen as the year that they laid the foundations for the unmistakable sound of Stax Records, which became synonymous with the 'Memphis Sound'.

|> Soul Dressing (1965)


James Govan - Wanted: The Fame Recordings (1969-1972)

James Govan was an American soul singer.

James Govan was born in Mississippi in 1949, and grew up in Memphis, where as a teenager he sang in a group called The Vans. He was discovered by singer/songwriter/producer George Jackson in 1967, who took him to Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. He was signed to Fame Records, with hopes for him to fill the void recently left by the death of Otis Redding. Indeed the young James Govan certainly had a suitable voice. 
However for whatever reason his career at Fame never took off, and his first single didn't see release until 1969. "Wanted: Lover (No Experience Necessary)" was a brilliant slice of southern soul made the way the Fame crew knew best, but unfortunately it didn't even chart. A soul-style arrangement of George Harrison's "Something" also failed to chart, and it seems his career just never happened. Many years later he did record one solo album, but that didn't see release until 1996. From 1993 until his death earlier this year he could be found performing at the Rum Boogie Café on Beale Street in Memphis.
James Govan is an example of a southern soul singer who has never really been given his due, but the UK-based Ace Records label has gone a long way to correct that, releasing this excellent compilation in 2013. It features sixteen songs Govan recorded at Fame, almost all of them until now unreleased. It demonstrates what a great singer he was, and how he certainly deserved to have scored a few hits in the late 60s. Like almost every other soul singer recording at Fame during the period, he tried his hands at a few Dan Penn songs, and it features his fine versions of "You Left The Water Running" and "Take Me Just As I Am". It also includes some very surprising choices of cover material, from outside the usual soul canon - as well as "Something", there are versions of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya", Arthur Crudup's "That's Alright Mama" and Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman" and "I Shall Be Released".


Manfred Mann - The EP Tracks (And More) (1964-1966)

Manfred Mann were a popular British rock group active in the 1960s.

Between 1963 and 1969 Manfred Mann released twenty-two singles and four albums. However that was not all, as they were also prolific on the EP market, releasing eight EPs in a two year period, most of them featuring songs which were not repeated on the albums and singles. The EPs featured some very interesting music. 1965's The One In The Middle featured their first Bob Dylan cover, a great arrangement of "With God On Our Side". Two of the EPs from 1966, Instrumental Asylum and Instrumental Assassination, featured some very good jazz instrumental versions of recent pop songs of the era (among them "Wild Thing", "Satisfaction" and "I Got You Babe"). The band handled jazz very well, with drummer Mike Hugg doubling on vibraphone. Instrumental Asylum also featured bassist Jack Bruce during his brief stint with the band (he also appeared on the hit single "Pretty Flamingo"), plus horn players Henry Lowther and Lyn Dobson.
This thirty-five song collection compiles all of these EP tracks, plus a few other loose ends, including b-sides which didn't appear on any of the albums, and a few songs which were only featured on the UK compilation albums Mann Made and Soul Of Mann. Together with the albums The Five Faces Of Manfred Mann, Mann Made, As Is and Mighty Garvey!, plus The Singles, this should give you the entirity of the band's released work.

More from Manfred Mann


Kris Kristofferson - Border Lord (1972)

Kris Kristofferson is an American country music singer-songwriter.

In 1971 Kris Kristofferson made his acting debut in the film The Last Movie, and then starred in Cisco Pike in 1972. The same year he released his third album. Unlike his first two, which had both featured songs that had already been recorded by other artists (many of which had been hits), Border Lord featured entirely new songs. Also when compared to the first two (which featured strings and rather lush arrangements in places), the sound of the album was notably dry and gritty. Sales were slow overall, but the song "Josie" did break into the Top 100 when released as a single, charting #63. A modest position, but with his songwriting successes and new burgeoning acting career Kristofferson was doing fine.

The Silver Tongued Devil And I (1971) <|> Jesus Was A Capricorn (1972)
More from Kris Kristofferson


Dion & The Belmonts - Presenting Dion & The Belmonts (1959)

Dion & The Belmonts were an American doo-wop group.

Dion DiMucci, Fred Milano, Angelo D'Aleo and Carlo Mastrangelo all grew up in the Bronx, New York City, and sang together as teenagers in the 1950s. Milano, D'Aleo and Mastrangelo came together as a trio and named themselves The Belmonts, releasing a single on the newly formed Mohawk Records. DiMucci also recorded one single for the label as a solo act, so it wasn't long before they joined together, first as 'Dion with The Belmonts'. In 1958 they had moved to Laurie Records, and become Dion and The Belmonts.
Their first single with Laurie was an instant hit. "I Wonder Why" charted nationally at #22, and led to an appearance on American Bandstand. This was followed by "No One Knows", charting at #19, "Don't Pity Me" at #40, and their first national tour, as they were rocketed to stardom as one of the best white doo-wop groups.
1959 saw them release their most enduring song - "A Teenager In Love", written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, charted at #5 and is generally considered today one of the greatest pop songs of the original rock & roll era. It also charted at #28 in the UK. It wasn't actually their highest charting single though, that honour going to "Where Or When" (a remake of an old show tune), which reached #3 later in the year.
Their debut album was released in 1959, featuring all of their hits. A brilliant collection of infectious doo-wop tunes, some of the best American pop music of the era.

|> Wish Upon A Star (1960)


The Lovin' Spoonful - Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)

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

1965 and 1966 had been very successful years for The Lovin' Spoonful - with four hit singles and two albums released, they also got the chance to record the soundtrack for a Woody Allen film (What's Up, Tiger Lily?). Before the year was out they would have three more hits. The first of these proved to be their biggest, as the hard-driving "Summer In The City" became their first #1 pop hit. It also charted at #8 in the UK. The follow-up singles "Rain On The Roof" and "Nashville Cats" got to #10 and #8 respectively.
All three singles were featured on their third album, Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful, released late in 1966. It proved to be a much more diverse record than their first two, mixing various strains of folk, blues, country and jug-band music into a collection of upbeat good-time music. For the first time, all the songs were written (or at least co-written) by frontman John Sebastian. The album itself charted at #14.

Daydream (1965) <|> Everything Playing (1967)
More from The Lovin' Spoonful


James & Bobby Purify - Shake A Tail Feather! (1966-1971)

James & Bobby Purify were an American soul music duo.

James Lee Purify (b. 1944) and Robert Lee Dickey (b. 1939) came from Florida, and were not brothers but cousins. As a guitarist, Robert had been a member of R&B group The Dothan Sextet, where his cousin James also came to fill in as a singer. In 1966 they came to the attention of producer Papa Don Schroeder, who took them both to record at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Here the idea of having them sing together as a duo was conceived, and they took the stage name James & Bobby Purify. They recorded the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham song "I'm Your Puppet", which became an instant hit on Bell Records, getting not only to #5 on the R&B chart but #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 too.
Lesser hits followed in 1967, first with another Penn/Oldham song - "Wish You Didn't Have To Go" charted at #27 R&B. Production then moved from Muscle Shoals to Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, where a marathon recording session produced a cover of "Shake A Tail Feather" (originally recorded by The Five Du-Tones in 1963), which charted at #25 pop and #15 R&B. "I Take What I Want" (a Sam & Dave cover) went to #23 R&B, and "Let Love Come Between Us" went to #18 R&B and #23 pop. Two albums were also released.
By 1968 their singles were not charting as high, but they were still touring extensively. The next year the hits had dried up and they parted ways with Bell Records. By 1971 Robert Lee Dickey retired for health reasons, and the Purify name slipped away unnoticed. That was until 1974 when Ben Moore was recruited as the 'new' Bobby Purify for another album.
This compilation covers most of the recorded output of the 'original' James & Bobby Purify, during their years with Bell. Along with "I'm Your Puppet" and the other hits are a good number of b-sides, album tracks and previously unreleased numbers. Some excellent soul music, with just the right balance of pop and gritty southern R&B vibes.


Percy Mayfield - Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield (1970)

Percy Mayfield was an American R&B singer and songwriter.

After his one-album deal with Brunswick Records in the late 60s, Percy Mayfield found himself signed to RCA Victor in 1970. His first album on his new label, Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield, was an excellent release - effortlessly cool with its smoky, lazy blues vibes. The twelve original songs were as clever and insightful lyrically as his songwriting had always been, and they were strengthened by some splendid arrangements courtesy of Joe Jones. 
By now Mayfield was 50, and any hopes of having any hit singles were long gone, but on his albums he was sounding better than ever.

Walking On A Tightrope (1969) <|> Weakness Is A Thing Called Man (1970)
More from Percy Mayfield


The Box Tops - Non-Stop (1968)

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

Non-Stop was the third album in two years to be released under the Box Tops name. Like its predecessors, it was in reality mostly a product of the staff at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, produced by Dan Penn and featuring the studio's experienced session musicians (mostly guitarist Reggie Young, bassist Tommy Cogbill, drummer Gene Chrisman and keyboard men Spooner Oldham and Bobby Emmons). Alex Chilton was the lead singer, but the rest of the band were practically nowhere to be found as they were busy touring.
Like the other Box Tops albums, it was a brilliant showcase of the sounds and songs of the American team, mixing rock, pop, blues, soul and country. It included covers of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On", BB King's "Rock Me" and Mac Gayden's "She Shot A Hole In My Soul", along with some good new originals. Two of the tracks became minor hits - "Choo Choo Train", by Donnie Fritts and Eddie Hinton, charted at #26 and "I Met Her In Church", from Penn and Oldham, reached #37.

Cry Like A Baby (1968) <|> Dimensions (1969)
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The Impressions - Keep On Pushing (1964)

The Impressions are an American R&B vocal group originally formed in 1958.

In 1964 The Impressions released the "Keep On Pushing" single, which hit #10 on the pop chart. This song was one of the first to reflect an increasing social and political awareness in Curtis Mayfield's writing, and came to be seen as something of a black pride anthem. The album of the same name, released the same year, was their most successful to date, itself charting in the Top 10 and featuring several other hits. Indeed 1964 was a good year for The Impressions, with four singles getting into the Top 20 on the pop chart.
On the Keep On Pushing album, "Talking About My Baby" had actually been a hit the year before (#12 pop). "Amen" was their second biggest to date - a traditional black spiritual set to a marching rhythm, it charted at #7 pop. "I've Been Trying" would chart at #35 R&B the next year. The two other pop hits of the year not included on the album were "I'm So Proud" (included on their previous album) and "You Must Believe Me" (on the next album). Many of these high-charting pop songs didn't actually have a position on the R&B chart - that is because the R&B chart was discontinued at the end of 1963, but returned in 1965.

The Never Ending Impressions (1964) <|> People Get Ready (1965)
More from The Impressions