Recent Ace Records Releases by Ian Johnston
More vital recent releases from Ace Records, probably one of the best reissue labels in the world. By Ian Johnston.
South Texas Rhythm ’n’ Soul Revue – Various Artists
Compiled and noted by Tony Rounce, this excellent compilation gathers together an incredible range of mid 1960s soul and R&B recorded in South Texas by the renowned producer Huey ‘Crazy Cajun’ Meaux.
From the 1940s until the 1980s, Houston was a city on the American popular music map, producing hits in every genre imaginable with a cornucopia of independent producers, record companies, talent scouts and promoters. All that is nearly gone today, but South Texas Rhythm ’n’ Soul Revue shines a spotlight upon Houston’s golden years. Legendary figures such as Johnny Copeland and Barbara Lynn are represented with the powerhouse ‘Sufferin’ City’ (1971) and a previously unreleased demo version of the immortal ballad ‘You’ll Lose A Good Thing’.
Other highlights include Jackie Paine’s version of Huey Meaux’s 1966 dance number ‘Go Go Train’ (another cut of the song which thanks the powerful New York station WMCA and other local luminaries), Warren Storm’s incredible deep soul version of the traditional country ballad ‘Tennessee Waltz’ (1967), The Insight’s 1966 highly successful remake/remodel of James Brown’s ‘Out Of Sight’, Big Walter’s frantic ‘Get To Gitten’ (1966), James Young’s swingin’ Latin tinged R&B ‘Long Gone’ (1962) and TV & The Tribesman’s stompin’ ‘Fat Man’.
South Texas Rhythm ’n’ Soul Revue is a keeper.
The Fame Sessions – George Jackson
Another wonderful vinyl release from Ace, complied by Dean Rudland and Tony Rounce, featuring some of late 60s/early 70s soul singer/songwriter George Jackson’s finest compositions.
Jackson signed to the celebrated FAME record label and studio, home of the much sort after ‘Muscle Shoals Sound’, in 1968, penning big hits for Wilson Pickett and other Fame acts, such as Candi Staton and her husband Clarence Carter. He even scored a number one hit for the clean living Osmonds, ‘One Bad Apple’.
Though he was a highly successful songwriter, Jackson never really got a break as a performer. Ace have done their best to rectify this, with the release of two CD compilations and this LP, the first vinyl album release from his Fame sessions. This record plays like a vintage soul album, though unreleased at the time. ‘I’m Just A Prisoner’, ‘Save Me’, ‘Get It When I Want It’ (written for Candi Staton) are classic soul R&B numbers, all backed up by the superb FAME studios house band, while on ‘Let The Best Man Win’ George Jackson gives his idol Wilson Pickett’s version of his song a run for its money. Also featuring two hot, previously unissued songs (‘Add A Little Sunshine’ and ‘That From The Heart’), The Fame Sessions is the perfect George Jackson album.
Rhythm ‘n’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou – Various Artists
The third Ace CD compilation compiled and noted by Ian Saddler, in their ‘By The Bayou’ series, is a real masterpiece. This edition focuses upon wild and uninhibited blues foot-stompers from the 50s and early 60s, recorded down in South Louisiana. In fact, many of these rollicking’ blues rockers, influenced by swamp music, blues, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino and Zydeco, that shaped the white teenage rockers music that followed, are rarities or previously unreleased.
Simply put, Rhythm ‘n’ Bluesin’ does not get much better than this: Rockin’ Sidney & His All-Stars’ 1958 punchy blues rocker ‘Rocky’ and the fractured and loose ‘Make Me Understand’ (recorded as Sidney Simien), the supremely decadent ‘I Don’t Care’ by Tabby Thomas, the rollicking ‘Give it Up’ by the clearly crazed Charles ‘Mad Dog’ Sheffield, the enigmatic Elizabeth’s propulsive ‘Crazy About Love AKA As Long As I’m Moving’, the bluesy rockin’ Vince Monroe’s harmonic powered ‘Hey Mattie’ and the frantic Jerry Morris’ frenetic ‘Cool Down Baby’.
The compilation even moves into more out and out Zydeco music territory with C.J.Thierry’s ‘Crazy About You Baby’, hot accordion player Thaddeus Decloet’s trance-like gumbo boogie ‘Bull Frog Bop’ and the aptly named Big Chenier’s hypnotic ‘I Wanna Know, I Know Now’.
The World Needs Changing: Street Funk & Jazz Grooves 1967-1976 – Various Artists
Compiled and noted by Dean Rudland, this magnificent compilation presents an eclectic selection of black American music produced between the beginning of funk and the dawn of the disco era. The vintage sleeve photograph by David Fenton, entitled ‘Outside a Black Panther Party Chapter HQ’, perfectly captures the mood of music on the disc.
Kicking off in unusual but fine style with Bob Thiele, the former head of the celebrated Impulse jazz label, and his band Emergency’s 1969 instrumental number ‘Head Start’ (which sounds remarkably like Lalo Schifrin’s theme for Don Siegel’s 1971 flick Dirty Harry), The World Needs Changing covers a whole range of sounds – classic dance tracks (the single version of Lonnie Liston Smith’s epochal 1975 track ‘Expansions’, groovy social protest (Joe Savage & The Soul Power’s 1969 song ‘All The Power To The People’), accurate political analysis with a strong jazz/soul backbeat (an alternate track of ‘Free Will’ by the late, great Gil Scott Heron), empowering soul (Esther Marrow’s 1969 ‘Walk Tall’) and electrifying cover versions (Little Eva Harris’ terrific medley of ‘Get Ready/Uptight’ and The Willand Posey Reunion’s 1971 reworking of ‘Sissy Strut-N-American Woman’).
Hank Jacobs & Don Malone’s 1970 slinky ghetto groove ‘The World Needs Changin’’ is, unfortunately, as relevant as was over four decades ago. Dig it.
Cliff Heard Them Here First – Various Artists
It is an inconvenient truth – with his 1958 hit ‘Move It!’, Cliff Richard was the godfather of home grown British Rock ‘n’ Roll (Johnny Kidd and The Pirates and Vince Taylor would also have to be considered, but Cliff just got there first).
As this compilation by Tony Rounce also illustrates, Cliff Richard also had good taste when it came to picking cover versions, way back when. Rounce sensibly avoids the most obvious cover numbers from Cliff’s back catalogue (‘That’ll Be The Day’. ‘Ready Teddy’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, etc) and instead concentrates on far more interesting fare.
The numerous highlights featured include Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps’ 14th US single, the beautiful doo wop influenced ‘The Night Is So Lonely’, Carl Perkins’ last 1959 US hit, the mighty rockin’ ‘Pointed Toe Shoes’, Ruth Brown’s 1954 R&B classic B-side ‘Somebody Touched Me’, Bill Haley & His Comets’ fifth US 1955 US smash ‘Razzle Dazzle’, Neil Diamond’s evocative 1967 B-side ‘I’ll Come Running’ and The Everly Brothers’ 1965 devastating heartbreaker ‘It’s All Over’.
Together with the LP version of Jerry Lee Lewis’ immortal ‘It’ll Be Me’, an obscure 1962 Elvis number from the soundtrack to Follow That Dream, ‘Angel’, and Jack ‘The Way I Walk’ Scott’s 1958 gospel inspired B-side ‘Save My Soul’, Cliff Heard Them Here First will leave you respecting Cliff a little more than you did before you played the CD. Perhaps.
All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.