Recent Ace Records Releases by Ian Johnston
Here are another five hot recent releases from Ace, perhaps one of the best reissue labels in the world
Alex Chilton ”â Free Again: The ”Ë1970' Sessions
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This incredible set of recordings that the late, great Alex Chilton made in 1969, that have subsequently become known as ”Ë1970', really rank with some of his finest work.
These inspired tracks catch a brief period between the demise of the chartbusting Box Tops and the beginning of one of the greatest American cult bands of all time, Big Star. These probing sessions have all the exhilarating air of an inscrutable musician violating any notions of stylistic moderation to search for his own unique artistic vision.
As a regular visitor to Ardent studio in Memphis in the late 1960s, Chilton had become friends with engineer Terry Manning. Together the pair planned to feature Chilton on a set of his own songs. Offered in vain to Atlantic, the incomplete album lay undeveloped for 25 years, with only pieces circulating on cassette amongst Big Star and Chilton devotees. In 1996, Manning remixed the recordings and presented them on Ardent as the ”Ë1970' album, so-called because there was lingering uneasiness over the fact that, at the time the sessions occurred, Chilton was still theoretically a Box Top. This release tops that in sound quality, together with an informative essay by Bob Mehr and a wealth of bonus material.
These recordings indicate the path Chilton would follow in Big Star and his solo career thereafter. ”ËFree Again', featuring the alternative vocal track Chilton unrealistically overdubbed in the 1980's for the Rhino compilation 19 Years, is bold declaration of independence. Two elegant ballads, ”ËEvery Day As We Get Closer' and ”ËThe EMI Song (Smile For Me)', openly declare the influence of Brian Wilson's Beach Boys and The Beatles respectively upon Chilton. ”ËI Wish I Could Meet Elvis' and the rockin' ”ËAll I Really Want Is Money' (you can hear the birth of Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion right here) display Chilton's mischievous sense of humour, while on ”ËI Can Dig It' he tackles fractured funky soul, with a round of punchy country pop on ”ËSomething Deep Inside' and former Box Top B-side, ”ËCome On Honey'.
One song proposed for the original album was left off the 1996 release, for obvious reasons. ”ËAll We Ever Got From Them Is Pain' is a staggeringly private number that Chilton initially rejected, but it reverberates with the unruly candour that can later be found on the classic Third Big Star LP. Chilton's full on grinding, punky assault upon The Archies' bubblegum smash ”ËSugar Sugar', with a slice of James Brown's ”ËI Got The Feelin'' thrown in for good measure, anticipates the wayward genius that would infuse his 1979 solo masterpiece LP, Like Flies On Sherbert. His sleazy interrogation of The Rolling Stones' ”ËJumpin' Jack Flash' must rank as one of the best Jagger/Richards covers yet produced.
Perhaps most importantly this newly renovated version is also available on lovely clear vinyl LP, approximating the shape the project might have taken, had it come out as intended at the time. This is an essential purchase.
Various Artists ”â On With The Show ”â The Johnny Otis Story Volume 2 1956-1974
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The mercurial Johnny Otis, multi instrumentalist, singer, DJ, bandleader, civil rights activist, memoirist and one of the pivotal figures in the whole development of American rhythm & blues, died on January 17th 2012.
Otis had celebrated his 90th birthday on 28th December 2011, and Ace had commemorated the event with the release of this compilation, which together with The Johnny Otis Story Vol 1: 1945- 1957 (previously reviewed on Louder Than War and both devotedly compiled by Tony Rounce) present a succinct overview of his entire career as a composer, musician, producer, talent scout and songwriter.
As the title implies, On With The Show continues where the first volume left off, with a slew of his hot Capitol Records R&B 45s ”â including ”ËGood Golly', ”ËCastin' My Spell', ”ËCrazy Country Hop' and ”ËMumblin' Mosie', from 1957 until 1961. Otis' cover of Bo Diddley's ”ËThe New Bo Diddley', though slightly spoilt by the presence of too many white backing singers, and his own number ”ËJelly Roll', give a good indication of Otis' deep admiration for the Black Gladiator.
By 1963, the combination of The Beatles led ”ËBritish Invasion', lily livered white American pop, Motown and the fading popularity of R&B, led Johnny Otis to retire from recording for a few years. But you can't keep a good man down.
Otis would return to music in the late 60's with funky soul singles for Eldo Records (”ËKeep The Faith Part 2', ”ËBanana Peels') the laudable Cold Shot album and the superb propulsive R&B/blues funk smash hit ”ËCountry Girl' (a variation upon Lowell Fulson's ”ËTramp' riff), both featuring the burgeoning talents of his young guitarist son, Shuggie. They led to a full-on revival of the Johnny Otis Show and to further amazing recordings for Epic, such as the dazzlingly funky ”ËThe Watts Breakaway', the Elmore James inspired ”ËI Got The Walking Blues' and ”ËBarrelhouse Blues', featuring Shuggie's blistering, soulful guitar licks.
On With The Show continues through to the mid-70s ”â the point at which Johnny Otis stopped releasing new music and began diversifying his genius into educational, religious and political quarters.
The Johnny Otis Story and On With The Show compilations offer the perfect introduction to this great man's work.
Various Artists ”â Smash Boom Bang: The Songs & Productions Of Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer.
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Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer are three New York-based writer-producers who hit a successful vein with their highly stylised productions and crafty songs in the mid-60s. Smash, Boom, Bang!, noted and compiled by Rob Finnis, with the co-operation of Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer, covers their four years together as a hit making team.
What really was notable about Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer was their tough energetic productions, driven by the drummer (usually New York session musician Herb Lavelle) surrounded by a massed array of percussive instruments. Their work in the studio features a sharp sense of space with much ambiance, found in abundance on their number one hits ”ËMy Boyfriend's Back' by the Angels (immortalised by its use in Kenneth Anger's 1964 avant garde classic movie Scorpio Rising), ”ËHang On Sloopy' by The McCoys (The McCoys version of Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer's ”ËSorrow' was first covered by The Merseys and then David Bowie on Pin Ups in 1973) and in the work of the rock band The Strangeloves.
The Strangeloves, named after the Kubrick picture, were in fact Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer camouflaged in zebra patterned waste coats and dressed in black as an Australian rock group comprised of brothers with different fathers. The band was supposedly Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer's repost to the British Invasion, but they could not manage to master the required accents so an Australian identity was chosen instead. The excellent Strangeloves tracks featured here are ”ËNight Time' (eventually included on Lenny Kaye's legendary 1972 Nuggets compilation, which motivated many 70's punk bands) and the Bo Diddley inspired ”ËI Want Candy', memorably covered in the early 1980's by twisted entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren's own manufactured band Bow Wow Wow.
Other gems include the raucous ”ËHide & Seek' by The Sheep (another Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer garage style group), the blistering rock ”Ën' roll instrumental ”ËDon't Monkey With Tarzan' by The Pygmies, Dean Parrish's boisterous reworking of Johnny Thunder's 1962 hit ”ËTell Her' and Ray Pollard's existential soul ballad, ”ËThe Drifter', written by Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer with Ben E King in mind.
Eddie Holland ”â It Moves Me ”â The Complete Recordings 1958-1964
Much has been opined about Holland-Dozier-Holland's songs and productions for Motown, which made them one of the most successful song writing teams of the 1960s. However, little is generally known about Eddie Holland's recording career as a performer, which spanned six years and resulted in 15 singles, one LP and an array of tracks that have never been issued. This is a situation Keith Hughes' excellent double disc, 56 track compilation, featuring 30 new to CD (18 previously unreleased) and an exclusive interview with Eddie Holland about his solo career, seeks to rectify.
Holland's biggest hit was the electrifying, fast paced 1963 plea for better treatment for the women of the Motor City, ”ËLeaving Here', issued on Berry Gordy's Motown. The Holland-Dozier-Holland song, though never released in the UK at the time, became a staple cover of the British R&B boom, first covered by The Birds, Ronnie Wood's first band, then by The High Numbers/The Who and in the late 1970's by Motorhead. Holland's other buoyant, propulsive Motown hits ”ËJust Ain't Enough Love' and ”ËCandy To Me' are also included on It Moves Me, together with an alternative stereo version of the yearning ”ËJamie', according to Hughes possibly the first number cut with strings at Motown's Hitsville Studios.
Rarer items include the moody ”ËShock', a wonderful 1958 number, co-written by Gordy and his brother, and released on the tiny Kudo label, the strutting 1959 ”ËIt Moves Me', complete with false start, and the 1958 version of ”Ë(Where's The Joy?) In Nature Boy, also on Kudo and recorded as Briant Holland. Berry Gory's 1963 up-tempo song for Holland, the grooving ”ËBaby Shake', should have been as big a hit as the song it anticipated, ”ËLeaving Here'. Holland obviously deeply felt the words he wrote for another great near miss 1963 single, ”ËI'm On The Outside Looking In'.
From 1964 onwards, Eddie Holland withdrew from performing to concentrate on writing songs for the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas, the Four Tops and others. But as It Moves Me amply illustrates, Eddie Holland, singer, had an abundance of soul.
The Apollas ”â Absolutely Right! The Complete Tiger, Loma & Warner Bros Recordings
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Alec Palao's flawlessly compiled and noted package does exactly what it says on the tin. This is The Apollas' joyous mid-60s soul trio works collected in one place, with the unexpected bonus of several unissued cuts, including Leola Jiles' solo heartbreaking tour de force, ”ËI've Got So Used To Loving You'.
The Apollas played around the globe, toured extensively with the Monkees (they knew Peter took and Michael Nesmith from their folk club days), backing up Frankie Laine and appearing on virtually every US 1960's television show (the remarkable photos in the booklet show Apollas' Leola Jiles, Ella Jamerson and Billie Barnum with everyone from Bobby Darin to James Brown and Sidney Poitier). Inconceivably, The Apollas were not as commercially successful as other soul vocal groups of the era, but their true worth shines out like a Belisha beacon on Absolutely Right!
Recorded in New York when The Apollas were still in principle a gospel group, their first secular recordings were issued on Leiber and Stoller's Tiger label in 1963 under the name the Lovejoys (featured here with the rock ”Ën' roll soul hybrid ”ËHe Ain't No Angel' and the gospel inspired ”ËWait ”ËRound The Corner', which borrows heavily from the traditional spiritual ”ËWade In The Water'. Moving to Loma and Warner Bros under the skilled auspices of producer Dick Glasser and arrangers Gene Page and H.B. Barnum, between 1965 and 1968 The Apollas began an enticing series of single releases. Cuts such as ”ËPretty Red Balloons' and ”ËSorry Mama' are now Northern Soul standards, but the group's ballads (”ËAll Sold Out') lustre just as dazzlingly. Their glorious classic recordings ”ËMr Creator', ”ËSeven Days', ”ËLock Me In Your Heart' and ”ËYou're Absolutely Right' are simply dynamite soul, the perfect tonic for the winter blues.
Hopefully, this indispensible Absolutely Right! Ace compilation will introduce the legacy of The Apollas to a far wider audience.