Here are a few more vital recent releases from Ace, probably one of the best reissue labels in the world. By Ian Johnston.
1. Various Artists – New Breed Blues with Black Popcorn
Compiled and noted by Ady Croasdell, the New Breed Blues with Black Popcorn compilation is simply a blast from start to finish. Composed of 24 hot, early to mid 60s R&B/soul dance tracks; New Breed Blues covers the thrilling period when rhythm & blues was slowly mutating into funky soul.
The compilation opens in volatile style with the greatest song that Ray Charles never wrote – Carl Lester & The Showstoppers’ 1961 number, ‘When You See Me Hurt’. This tune, by the group who would become The Rivingtons (of ‘The Bird Is The Word’ fame) would be reason alone to buy this CD, yet there remain another 23 classics.
Among the treasures are the unforgettable cuts J.J. Jackson & The Jackaels’ ‘Oo-Ma-Liddi’ (1961, together with the following year’s ‘answer’ record by the same songwriter, Hank Blackman & The Killers’ ‘Itchy Koo’), Etta James’ 1961 version of Berry ‘Motown’ Gordy’s ‘Nobody Loves You Like Me’, the remarkable white singer Sinner Strong aka Joyce Harris’ powerhouse ‘Don’t Knock It’ (1963) and the wonderfully strident ‘Well I Done Got Over It’ by Bobby Mitchell (1959).
Together with alternative takes of numbers (Carl Edmondson with The Charmaines’ breezy version of the standard ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’) and previously unreleased gems (Adolph Jacobs’ Coasters style number ‘Cannibal Style’, Tony Gibson’s aptly titled ‘So Strange’ and Freddy North’s swingin’ blues ‘Mr. Lonely’), New Breed Blues with Black Popcorn is an essential acquisition.
2. Charlie Feathers – Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine
A very special Record Store Day 7-inch EP release from Ace, featuring four previously unreleased and alternative takes of songs by the late, great Memphis rockabilly legend, Mr. Charlie Feathers.
Recorded towards the end of 1961 by Memphis producer (and Feather’s former Sun records associate) Quinton Claunch for his Goldwax label, the tracks capture Feathers at a fascinating juncture in his career. At Sun during the mid 50s Feathers had cut some of the greatest Rockabilly sides ever made, but an uncertain future lay before him with the dawn of the 60s.
The tile track is classic Feathers, a top quality unissued mix of his Holiday Inn single cut, which captures his utterly unique vocal styling, as does the harmonic powered ‘The Side Wind’ (a remarkably never issued Feathers/Claunch composition). The propulsive ‘Love Never Treated Me Right’ (Feather’s breakneck interpretation of W.C. Handy’s ‘Careless Love Blues’), with an organ simmering in the background, gives an indication that Feathers saw the future direction of music. With the organ dominating his version of the traditional number ‘Deep Elm Blues’, only underlines the point.
There are still some copies of this very limited edition treasure left, so get one while you can. It is releases like this that still make Record Store Day an event.
3. Mouse And The Traps – The Fraternity Years
A most welcome album release, of vital mid to late 60s cuts, by the strange cult psychedelic garage punk band, Mouse And The Traps. Leader singer/guitarist Ronnie ‘Mouse’ Weiss’ five-piece Texan band first achieved notice at the start of 1966 with the single, ‘A Public Execution’ (featured on the legendary Lenny Kaye 1972 compilation, Nuggets).
‘A Public Execution’ was such an accurate imitation of the mid 60s Bob Dylan Highway 61 sneering vocal, caustic lyrical and musical style that many believe it was His Bobness. Yet there was much more to Mouse and his Traps than their ‘A Public Execution’ regional hit, as this vinyl compilation amply illustrates. Mouse and The Traps could produce deranged 60s garage punk the match of any band around at the time – the evidence is in their previously unreleased berserk reading of Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m A Man’ and in their own fevered compositions ‘Lie, Beg, Borrow And Steal’ (featuring some great howling from Mouse) and the boisterous guitar of the fantastic Buddy ‘Bugs’ Henderson’s guitar on ‘Maid Of Sugar, Maid Of Spice’.
The band could also fashion great psychedelic pop music, evinced by the buoyant 1968 ‘Cryin’ Inside’, the reflective 1966 single ‘Like I Know You Do’, and the mysterious 1968 up-tempo rocker ‘I Satisfy’ (Mouse’s echoed vocals anticipate Neu!).
The Fraternity Years is in effect the album that Mouse And The Traps never produced during their career and the perfect purchase if you are looking for prime 60s Texan garage rock with an edge.
4. Johnny Copeland – It’s Me: Classic Texas Soul 1965-72
This excellent double disc compilation, compiled and noted by Tony Rounce (with recent extensive archive research by Alec Palao), captures the work of the legendary blues based soul singer/guitarist Johnny Copeland (1937-1996) during his years recording for producer Huey Meaux.
Thankfully, 15 years before his untimely death, Copeland’s searing vocals and hard-hitting guitar playing had drawn high praise from the Blues festival crowd and had led to a series of albums, including the Grammy award winning Showdown!, with Albert Collins and Robert Cray. Yet it was these, at the time, commercially underappreciated Wand, Jet Stream, Kent, Suave and Boogaloo recordings that forged the artist’s utterly distinctive soul / blues style.
Highlights include a propulsive 1966 soul cover of Dylan’s ‘Blowing In The Wind’, Copeland’s own 1966 song ‘I’m Going To Make My Home Where I Hang My Hat (featuring a blistering Copeland guitar solo and a heartfelt, scorching vocal), the epic ‘You’re Gonna Reap Just What You Sow’ and the wedding day drama ‘The Invitation’.
Of particular interest are his 1970 compositions he recorded with his band The Soul Agents, on his own Zephyr label, before they were picked up by Kent: the full on funk of ‘Soul Power’ and the harrowing and pointed ‘Ghetto Child’, which encapsulates the grinding poverty suffered by young black children in the harsh ghettos of Houston during the 60s and 70s.
Together with previously unreleased demos, unissued tracks (the foot stomping ‘Why Don’t You Make Up Your Mind’) and duets with the unidentified ‘Lilly’ (rollicking versions of Atlantic hits ‘Suffering City’ and ‘Somebody’s Been Scratchin’’), It’s Me is a fitting tribute to Johnny Copeland’s artistry.
5. Various Artists – BGP Singles
Another dynamic selection of four 7-inch single re-releases from the BGP wing of the Ace organisation.
First up, what could possibly be described as the definitive Mod jazz dance single – the irresistibly groovy 1966 ‘Smokey Joe’s La La’ instrumental by the Googie Rene Combo, backed with the fantastic organist Jack McDuff’s 1968 party number, ‘Hot Barbeque.’
These ebullient tracks (‘Smokey Joe’s La La’, originally released on Atlantic, was sampled on David Holmes’ tune ‘My Mate Paul’) could raise the dead and are guaranteed to fill any dancefloor. As is the handy 7-inch single issue of Lonnie Listen Smith’s mid 70s funky jazz masterwork ‘Expansions’, backed with his ’A Chance For Peace’.
An altogether much more reflective but equally vital 7-inch release is the poetic funk of Gil Scott Heron’s 1971 masterpieces – the sardonic social comment of ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ and the gritty social realism of the life of a drug addict, ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ (famously covered by Esther Phillips in 1972 and by Antia Lane ). Both tracks were included on Ace’s recent 3 CD Scott Heron The Revolution Begins set but, obviously, they sound even better on 45 RPM.
Ernie Hines’ 1972 cut ‘Our Generation’ also conveys a strong social message; albeit with a more upbeat soul feel, in the same vein as Curtis Mayfield. On the flip side is The Blackbyrds 1978 soulful jazz disco number, ‘Rock Creek Park’. This release is Ace/BGP’s tribute to the Blackbyrds’ producer, the late, great jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, who died in January of this year.
Every BGP single is indispensable and considerably cheaper to buy than an original copy.
All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.