Various Artists “A Deep Dip Into Alabama Soul Vol.1”
(Soul From The Vaults SFTV #11)
by Pete Nickols
Go On Home Girl ~ Bobby Hendricks ~ Williams 001; Too Little In Common To Be Lovers ~ Dee Dee Young ~ Mil-Smi NR 7611; I Can’t Live Without You ~ Jay Robinson & The Dynamics ~ Mala 551; Memories ~ Ed Boze ~ Avco 4622; The Only Time You Say You Love Me ~ Cissy Houston ~ Janus 230; This Thing Called Love ~ Jesse Henderson ~ Unissued (rec. at Fame); Here Comes The Night ~ Little Joe & His Soul Brothers ~ Hot Cakes 202; If You Really Love Him ~ Lloyd Price ~ Scepter 12310; I’m Comin’ Today ~ Lovelles ~ Atco 6670; Satisfy My Hunger ~ Benny Conn ~ Wand 11211; Reap What You Sow ~ Otis Rush ~ Cotillion LP 9006; Pressure Cooker ~ Inclines ~ Atco 6674; Since I Don’t Have You ~ Tamiko Jones ~ Metromedia MM 205; In My Arms To Stay ~ Toussaint McCall ~ P-Vine LP PLP 722; You’re Killing Me Slowly But Surely ~ Reuben Howell ~ Motown LP M 771; Give Me Back The Man I Love ~ Barbara West ~ Ronn 32; End Of The World ~ Coldwater Stone ~ GSF LP 1010; You Get A Lot To Like ~ Bobby Hatfield ~ MGM LP SE 4727; How Long Can I Go On Fooling Myself ~ Jean Elias ~ Back Beat 623; Got To Get Away From You ~ Israel Tolbert ~ Warren 108
The studios of the Muscle Shoals area have understandably taken the soul limelight on behalf of Alabama but this geographically big State had plenty of other studios putting out soul product in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, especially those in Birmingham and Mobile, and some of these examples (in addition to quite a few Shoals cuts) are included on this latest SFTV 20-track compilation.
Ex-solo rocker and Drifters member, Bobby Hendricks cut a great double-sided ‘deep soul’ winner for the Williams label in 1968 and “Go On Home Girl” makes for a superb opener to this set (you can sample it here). It’s followed by another fine piece of soul, in the shape of Dee Dee Young’s lovely, moody, emotive interpretation of a song often associated with The Newcomers and Randy Brown. Somewhat more lay-back and a touch lighter-weight (with a feel of Curtis Mayfield about it) is the Jay Robinson offering, cut in the Shoals with Spooner Oldham arranging and Papa Don producing (catch it here).
There’s more than a ‘nod’ to “Patches” in the good, mid-paced Ed Boze track (listen here), though it’s the Chairmen Of The Board’s version (not Clarence Carter’s) that it most brings to mind. Boze hailed from the Carolinas but this one was cut at Muscle Shoals Sound, somehow finding its way onto a Hugo & Luigi label!
Some of Cissy Houston’s Janus work was amongst her best secular solo material (I especially love her ‘take’ on the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”) but here we have the slower, deeper “The Only Time You Say You Love Me”. She was a terrific interpreter of a song and I only wish she’d recorded in this style more widely.
Although starting out in New York, Jesse Henderson (see his page on this site here) cut the driving, pacy, quality item “This Thing Called Love” at Fame. Inexplicably it remained ‘in the can’ but can now be legally downloaded from the web.
It’s great to hear a good-quality CD version of Little Joe’s very rare, gut-bucket deep offering “Here Comes The Night”, originally cut for John Edd Thompson and Travis Turk’s Hot Cakes label out of Mobile. From the lyric though, I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t simply called “Why Did You Leave Me”.
Lloyd Price had a flexible-enough voice to encompass rock ‘n roll, schmaltzy pop and genuine soul music, an example of which we have here with his appealing slow-paced storyline offering, leased out to Scepter.
The Tampa-raised Lovelles were spotted in Atlanta in ’68 by Dave Crawford and taken by him to Alabama for a session with Roy Lee Johnson, from which this powerfully sung mid-pacer, with its Duane Allman guitar-break, duly resulted. (Listen to it here). Later the group found commercial success as Faith Hope & Charity.
Benny Conn’s contribution is southern funk of a good standard, his throaty vocals adding an almost swampy touch. Meanwhile, Otis Rush is best-known for potent Chaicago blues; however here we find him in March 1969 down at Fame cutting a slow-burner on which it’s claimed his own trusty guitar was joined by that (once again) of Mr Allman. A soulful item for sure, which appeared on his “Mourning In The Morning” LP, but it’s still more blues than soul to my ears and I wouldn’t have included it on this particular CD, great of its kind though it is.
I could live without the repetitious instrumental here from the Chattanooga-based Inclines which was a Mickey Buckins Fame production with Jimmy Johnson arranging; and I’m not very enamoured either of Tamiko Jones’ too ‘straight’ a take on the old Skyliners 1959 ‘warhorse’ “Since I Don’t Have You”, a much-recorded song which has never greatly appealed to me.
Monroe Louisiana native, Toussaint McCall shows he was perhaps more than a one-song man with his gently rolling waltz-tempoed offering here, which didn’t see release on Ronn but eventually surfaced on a rare Japanese P-Vine LP. Pleasant but not outstanding, although McCall certainly plays some nice piano.
Blue-eyed soulman Reuben Howell next offers up a reasonable Wishbone-produced cover of a Freddie North original, perhaps a touch ‘watered down’ to keep Motown (who included it on Howell’s eponymous LP) happy.
It’s back to Toussaint McCall - this time on organ, backing up the sadly much under-recorded Barbara West on a good Ronn soul-ballad which boasts some impressive dramatic passages.
I’m not mad about Coldwater Stone’s (Freddy Briggs’) “End Of The World” from his “Defrost Me” LP – it seems to have just too many lyrics crammed into it, most of which Briggs’ apparently limited vocal range (on the day) struggles to sing meaningfully as opposed to semi-speaking – what’s more, it degenerates towards the end into a quasi-message opus full of grunting and groaning. His wife, Kim T, would have done it twice as well but it’s just not my cup of tea. You can read about Freddy and his music here.
It’s back to blue-eyed soul for Bobby Hatfield’s bouncy “You Get A Lot To Like”. The very lacklustre mid-track instrumental break weakens an otherwise very well sung if somewhat ‘commercial’ opus which I can even imagine the great Otis taking on in his prime.
We return to genuine 5-star emotive soul quality with a terrific beat-ballad from Jean Elias. Everything is good about this track – a great lead-vocal, superb instrumental support including some great string work which really adds pathos rather than the usual ‘sweetening’, plus some top-drawer back-up vocals too. Simply wonderful soul music, which you can enjoy here.
‘Poppa Stopper’ Israel Tolbert had an impressive approach to dramatic soul and here we have a really great deep Warren side from the man to bring the CD to a close. Check him – and his fine music – out here.
Overall a very worthwhile CD, strong at the beginning and at the end, though it gets a tad weaker in the middle circa Tracks 11 to 15.