Clarence Carter – The Fame Singles Volume 2, 1970-73 Kent CDKEND 407
By Pete Nickols
Patches; Say It One More Time; It’s All In Your Mind; Till I Can’t Take It Anymore; The Court Room; Getting The Bills (But No Merchandise); Slipped, Tripped And Fell In Love; I Hate To Love And Run; Scratch My Back (And Mumble In My Ear); I’m The One; If You Can’t Beat ‘Em (Clarence & Candi); Lonesomest Lonesome; Back In Your Arms; Holdin’ Out (On Me Baby); Put On Your Shoes And Walk; I Found Somebody New; Mother-In-Law; Sixty Minute Man; I’m The Midnight Special; I Got Another Woman; Love’s Trying To Come To You; Heartbreak Woman.
With the release of this CD, UK Ace/Kent have now completed their reissue of all of Clarence Carter’s Fame-recorded singles (my review of Part 1 can be found here). Interestingly Carter, who was known for his songwriting almost as much as for his performing, only penned 4 of these sides, against his having a hand in the creation of no less than 17 of the 24 earlier tracks to be found on Part 1. This is partly because that other fine songwriter (and singer) George Jackson was contracted to Fame through the period covered by this latest CD and Carter would use six of George’s works to good effect as well as resorting to some ‘covers’ of songs already commercially recorded by others.
Clarence’s best-known hit “Patches” was of course a cover of a Chairman of the Board recording and this 1970 track kicks off the proceedings. Seen as schmaltzy and even corny by some soul fans, nonetheless its storyline syrupy pathos certainly caught the ear of the record-buying public and it became Clarence’s third US million-seller, as well a global hit, attaining a No.2 position even on the UK pop chart.
The flip was more suited to soul-loving ears. “Say It One More Time” was a nice gently rolling piece of southern-soul reminiscent of Clarence’s earlier big hit “Slip Away”.
The follow-up to “Patches”, Jackson and Moore’s “It’s All In Your Mind”, echoes some of the ‘Mama said’ storyline of the big hit but was actually less coy and more soulful. It’s flip “Till I Can’t Take It Anymore” was almost pure country and, whilst very listenable, doesn’t really include quite enough trademark Carter ‘soul’ – it’s almost Carter-meets-Bobby-Hebb.
“The Court Room” is a good swampy tale of a preacher apparently wrongly accused of some naughty activity. There’s plenty of rap at the expense of singing but it suits the piece, which retains a certain impressive ‘power’ thanks also to the bluesy guitar and the Los Angeles-supplied string arrangement. This one sounds more like Carter-meets-Tony-Joe-White.
The flip “Getting The Bills (etc)” is a classic George Jackson and Raymond Moore composition penned specially for Clarence and returns our man to his best scenario – one related to sexual innuendo such that we even get a tad more of that trademark ‘evil’ Carter laugh. Great stuff. On the CD “Don’t Count Me Out – The Fame Recordings Volume 1” (Kent CDKEND 363) we can enjoy a demo of this song by George Jackson. Certainly some of George’s demos rivalled the later commercial 45s, but here I think Clarence just shades it.
Jackson’s horn-led southern dancer “Slipped, Tripped And Fell In Love” was also recorded by Ann Peebles whose 45 was released soon after Clarence’s. Peebles’ version would make No. 42 R&B in September 1971 whereas Carter’s had already entered the chart by August and would make no.25. Carter sings this one strongly with real involvement in his vocal, including even some rare (for him) falsetto.
The flip, “I Hate To Love And Run”, is a funky slow-stomper with a bluesy edge and, yes, it suits Carter’s voice well.
“Scratch My Back (And Mumble In My Ear)” was Clarence’s ‘take’ on Marcel Strong’s self-co-penned ‘classic’. Marcel, Raymond Moore and Earl Cage had penned the song with Clarence in mind but Strong first cut it himself at Fame and I have to say his own version is superior even to Carter’s very acceptable interpretation – indeed I regard Strong’s as a rare example of mid-tempoed, almost cheerful, yet still deep soul, so involved is Strong’s vocal delivery and so fine is the accompaniment.
Jackson and Moore’s “I’m The One”, on the flip of Carter’s version of “Scratch…”, is an unexceptional but pleasant-enough mid-paced dancer with Clarence in fairly lay-back mode and with a popish chorus giving the song what, in different circumstances, might have led to a crossover hit. I can imagine Patches-originators Chairman of The Board cutting this one.
Back we go to the swampy stuff with the duet “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em”, which Carter cut with then-wife Candi Staton – but this is very much a Carter 45 with Candi reduced to a rather unimpressive squeaky-voiced echo of the title phrase. I quite like the rolling riff and I think this track has been undervalued somewhat by certain Carter afficianados.
The flip, Mac Davis’ confusingly-titled “Lonesomest Lonesome”, returns us to Carter-meets-Hebb ultra-countrified semi-soul. Not too impressive to my ears.
Clarence’s first UA-distributed Fame outing saw him singing the upfront struttin’ funk of “Back In My Arms”. Some might think that this track is his take on the Jackson, Moore and Melvin Leakes deep song cut so well by Wilson Pickett and Thomas Bailey, but no – Carter here is singing a quite different song of that title, penned by St Louis bandleader/songwriter Oliver Sain.
Fame engineer/singer/songwriter Mickey Buckins wrote the flip, “Holdin’ Out (etc)”, a pleasant rolling-paced piece of pop-soul which heralded the somewhat smoother southern styles that were seeing favour now that the early 70’s had arrived.
The gently funky and rather repetitious “Put You Shoes On And Walk” duly returned Clarence to the Top 40 and was another ‘cover’, this time of a New York-penned song first recorded by Harmon Bethea on Dynamo 145. Clarence was in good voice though, and he even gets rather impressively animated towards the track-end.
The dreaded wah-wah guitar opens up the flip, the self-penned “I Found Somebody New”, and, sadly, it continues to dominate the musical backdrop throughout. Frankly, it ruins the piece for me.
“Mother-In-Law” was a strange choice for Clarence in view of Ernie K-Doe’s original version having attained the very considerable achievement of reaching the top of both the R&B and the Pop charts, whilst simply being a prime example of early-60’s New Orleans R&B/soul, most of which never broke out beyond regional level. To me K-Doe’s catchy novelty offering is one of those special hits which just don’t suffer covers gladly.
One might assume the flip, “Sixty Minute Man”, was another cover (of the old Dominoes hit) but not so – this is a self-penned Carter storyline-soul outing with that trademark ‘cheating’ style to it, including once again that risque laugh. By the time of its release this was something of a ‘throwback’ - but a welcome one, for sure.
Carter’s final two 45s for Fame both stemmed from his 1973 album “Sixty Minutes With Clarence Carter”. “I’m The Midnight Special” is a pacy paen to Carter’s by now well-established late-night-lover-man persona, while it’s flip on 45 release, “I Got Another Woman”, was another welcome throwback to a genuine and beautifully-sung, slow country-soul cheating song. This is one of the highpoints of Carter’s Fame output for me, complete with its superbly-telling guitar and brass interjections.
Apparently there's some doubt about whether Carter’s final single (UA WX 415) ever saw a full release. It comprised two more album tracks, the rather unexceptional Jackson-penned mid-paced lilter “Love’s Trying To Come To You”, and Mark James’ “Heartbreak Woman”, a country-meets-pop-with-a-touch-of-soul outing. Carter sings poorly on this latter track, struggling in the higher registers and occasionally even sounding ‘flat’.
It’s a shame that such a performance should end an otherwise worthy collection of songs by a man who was capable, at his best, of singing meaningful southern soul as well as anyone.