Here are another five hot recent releases from Ace Records, probably one of the best reissue labels in the world.

1.Elvis Heard Them Here First ”“ Various Artists

From his initial recording to his final session, Elvis Presley was first and foremost an interpreter of songs. The first number he ever recorded on 18th July 1953 at Memphis Recording Service, ”˜My Happiness’, was one he in all probability learned from the 1948 recording by John and Sondra Steele. The last song, ”˜He’ll Have To Go’, recorded by Elvis on 31st October/1st November 1976, in his Graceland home, probably came via Jim Reeves (although Billy Brown was the first to record it). During his twenty four year long career of studio and stage recording, Elvis cut over 150 songs that had been recorded previously but always with his own indelible stamp on all of them, regardless of who sang them first. This of course makes Elvis a guaranteed candidate for his own entry in Ace’s You Heard It Here First (compiled and noted by Tony Rounce) series.

Rather than include the more obvious originals versions of songs such as ”˜Blue Suede Shoes’, ”˜One Night’, ”˜Hound Dog’ and ”˜Blue Moon Of Kentucky’ or Elvis’ numerous revivals of other R&B, blues and hillbilly numbers, Rounce has wisely chosen to compile Elvis Heard Them Here First from songs he recorded after his US Army military service in 1960. This CD contains the originals of some of Elvis’ biggest hits ”“ Brenda Lee’s 1972 ”˜Always On My Mind’, Charlie Blackwell’s 1959 ”˜Girl Of My Best Friend’, Jerry Reed’s swinging 1967 ”˜Guitar Man’, Ray Peterson’s 1959 ”˜The Wonder Of You’ ”“ some great tunes that were used in his awful movies (”˜Bossa Nova Baby’ by Tippie & The Clovers and The Coasters’ 1961 ”˜Girls Girls Girls’) and some of his most obscure B-sides and albums cuts, including the Bards’ mournful 1969 tune ”˜Goodtime Charlie’s Got The Blues’, Bobby Wood’s 1964 ”˜If I’m A Fool For Loving You’ or Roger Douglass’ 1962 pop ditty ”˜Never Ending’. Even some deranged hardcore Elvis collectors will perhaps discover some original versions of songs they may not have even suspected were ever recorded by anyone other than Elvis.
Though nobody can say with absolute certainty that Elvis did hear all the versions included here first, The King always took music from everywhere he found it. A rapacious collector and listener, he loved nothing more than to put his own imprint on a song that he cherished, particularly in the glory years following the ’68 Comeback Special when he was no longer shackled by the restrictions of what his infamous manager ”˜Colonel’ Tom Parker ordered that he record. The excellent Vern Stovall’s 1961 country death song ”˜Long Black Limousine’, Jerry Butler’s 1969 soul ballad ”˜Only The Strong Survive’ and Duane Dee’s 1968 ”˜True Love Travels On A Gravel Road’ were all featured on arguably the greatest album Elvis ever made; the 1969 landmark From Elvis In Memphis.
An essential purchase for Elvis fans, even though he does not sing a note on the disc, and conclusive proof that Elvis still had an abundance of artist taste after the US Army had finished with him.

2. Ike Turner Studio Productions: New Orleans and Los Angeles 1963-1965 ”“ Various Artists

“I’ve been in places where people come in shooting in Texas ”“ it was good for that.” ”“ Thomas ”˜Nose’ Norwood, Ike & Tina Revue drummer.
For nine months of the year The Ike & Tina Revue were on the road during the 1960s, playing across the whole of the United States. The rest of the time they were based in Los Angeles. They even played shows with The Beach Boys and appeared on Phil Spector’s television extravaganza the Big TNT Show, with the likes of The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful and, remarkably, Petula Clarke. The one thing absent for Ike Turner was a habitual run of pop hits.

By 1963 Ike Turner had two pop chart successes under the name Ike & Tina Turner on the Sue label and others under the name of the Ikettes on Atco. Then, during 1963 to 1965 (the period covered by this excellent collection noted and compiled by Brian Nevill ”“ featuring an exclusive interview with Revue singer-songwriter Jimmy Thomas – with extensive tape research by Roger Armstrong), Ike’s highly unorthodox business practices (taking credit for his artists’ song writing credits) and general wheeler dealing went into high gear. He signed the Ike & Tina Revue to his old gang the Bihari Brothers at Modern, where he immediately hit the big time with the fabulous Ikettes. However, hit songs for the Ike & Tina Revue were still allusive, and Ike Turner starting recording material by an array of unproven R&B talent. Some recordings were issued on Modern, some on a surfeit of independent labels instigated by Ike Turner himself, which he then leased out if they were not released.
Ike often held at sessions at Cosimo’s in New Orleans, also used by Allen Toussaint and Dr John. The 1964 session featured on this compilation were held in order to record tracks by various members of the Revue for overdubbing with ‘fake’ audience applause at a later date, to be issued as a “live” album. Nevill and Armstrong have wisely cut the crowd sound effects, restoring visceral raw power to the cuts, with the added thrill of the inclusion of Ike Turner’s directions from the control room.

The exalted singers featured include Jimmy Thomas (the raunchy ”˜The Darkest Hour’), Stacy Johnson (the swinging Ike tune ”˜Don’t believe Him’), Vernon Guy (the dramatic horn powered Ike song ”˜You’ve Got Me (Just Where You Want Me)), Jessie Smith (debuting with Vernon Guy on Ike’s foot stomping ”˜They Ain’t Lovin’ Ya’), Bobby John (the Elmore James/Robert Johnson blues standard ”˜Dust My Broom’), Jackie Brenston (the alcoholic vocalist label credited with Ike Turner’s first big 1951 hit ”˜Rocket 88′, belts out Ike’s rock ”˜n’ roll number ”˜In Love’), Venetta Fields (the bluesy Turner number ”˜Through With You’) and of course Tina Turner (the fantastic ballad ”˜All In My Mind’) ”“ in addition to one of the greatest line-ups of the Kings of Rhythm Ike Turner ever assembled.
There are previously unreleased songs (Jackie Brenston’s zealousreport of Billy Gayles’ Federal single ”˜I’m Tore Up’), unreleased versions (Bobby John & The Ikettes singing ”˜Think’, which had recently been a hit for James Brown) and alternate takes of a few cuts only ever issued before on the long-deleted Ike Ace LP, Talent Scout Blues (Jimmy Thomas’ jumping version of Junior Parker’s ”˜Feelin’ Good’, recorded as ”˜Feel So Good’). All 27 tracks are freshly mastered directly from the original 3-track and 2-track master tapes and sound truly astonishing.
This might be one of the legendary Ike Turner’s overlooked eras of musical operations but it is certainly one of his most prolific and artistically rewarding.

3. Shorty Long ”“ Here Comes Shorty Long ”“ The Complete Motown Stereo Masters

The career of the wonderful Frederick ”˜Shorty’ Long has not been well served on CD. Thankfully Ace has now rectified this indignity presenting his two albums on one disc, which together with two out-takes (an alternative version of Shorty’s stealthy cover of The Big Bopper’s ”˜Chantilly Lace’, nearly a minute longer than the issued single, which was mixed to stereo but never used and a stereo mix of the deeply groovy ”˜Mobile Lil The Dancing Witch’ ”“ worth the price of the CD alone), comprise all the material that was mixed to stereo during his term at Motown.

Shorty was born in Birmingham, Alabama and spent his early years in the music business touring the USA with vocal harmony group the Ink Spots. When Harvey Fuqua (the younger brother of Ink Spot Charlie Fuqua) started his own label, Tri-Phi, in 1961, Shorty was one of the earliest signings. Tri-Phi released three singles of his but like most of Tri-Phi’s output they were commercially unsuccessful. When Fuqua decided to move under Berry Gordy’s rapidly growing Motown umbrella in 1963, Shorty was invited along.

Shorty was among the first of Tri-Phi’s acts to enter the Hitsville studios, but it was nearly a year before the slinky classic groove ”˜Devil With The Blue Dress’ (covered by The Cramps live in the mid 80s) was chosen for his debut 45 ”“ and moreover as the first release on Gordy’s new Soul imprint ”“ in March 1964. That and the follow-up failed to chart, but with his funky third 1966 single, ”˜Function At The Junction’, he scraped into the Hot 100, in time to feature with much bigger names on Motown’s 1966 Christmas Greetings promo disc ”“ a sign that the company had him marked for superstardom. But two more singles went by before he finally came up with his one and only Top 10 hit, ”˜Here Comes The Judge’, a catchphrase from the hugely popular TV comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Despite severe competition from a Chess 45 by Pigmeat Markham, who claimed to have originated the Judge routine and actually appeared on the show, Shorty’s ”˜Judge’ ”“ a different song with the same title ”“ reached #8 on the US Hot 100. An album followed swiftly, combining tracks from Long’s back catalogue with a mixture of new material and covers of what surely must have been his personal selection of 1950s R&B hits (a fine, fast version of The Jayhawks/The Cadets ”˜Stranded In The Jungle’, covered in 1974 by The New York Dolls on too Much Too Soon).

Shorty was to have one more single released, before he died in a tragic boating accident on 29 June 1969. A few months later, Motown released the LP The Prime Of Shorty Long, consisting mostly of new material he had been working on, including soulful covers of Dean Martin’s ”˜Memories Are Made Of This, Procol Harum’s ”˜Whiter Shade Of Pale’, an up-tempo version of ”˜Lillie Of The Valley’ and Fats Domino’s ”˜I’m Walking’ and ”˜Blue Monday’. Truth be told, The Prime Of Shorty Long fails to live up to the title, but considering the circumstances, that is hardly surprising.
Fans of Andre Williams and Rudy Ray Moore will really dig Here Comes Shorty Long (compiled and noted by Keith Hughes and Tony Rounce). Despite his lack of success and bad luck, or perhaps because of it, Shorty Long deserves to stand alongside these legendary unsung heroes.

4. Royal Grooves – Various Artists

During the late 60s King Records was at the centre of a funk revolution. This disturbance was lead by James Brown who, on his return to the label in 1965, had changed the course of popular music with the groundbreaking single ”˜Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’. This record may not have been pure funk but it was very close to it. Over the course of the next two years he honed the style until he thundered to number one on the US R&B chart (and Top 10 Pop) with ”˜Cold Sweat’, the opening round in a barrage of hits that established him ineradicably as Soul Brother #1. James Brown became the only artist that really counted at the label. If King was not releasing records by James Brown, they were releasing the work of his entourage, or records that were emulating him. King became the home of funk with a vigorous quantity of soul, but the label never really recovered when Brown left to join Polydor.

Royal Grooves, compiled and noted by Dean Rudland, scrutinizes this latter period of King’s existence, from the celebrated point in the late 60s when the money made by Brown allowed an enormous quantityof records to be made and released, to the frantic exploration for the next big thing in the early part of the 70’s.

This notable collection contains James Brown productions by Wendy Lynn (the grooving 1970 torch song ”˜I Can Remember’), Kay Robinson (the funked-up 1970 traditional gospel number ”˜The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow’), comic Clay Tyson (the amusing 1968 rap ”˜Man On The Moon’ over Brown’s ”˜I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)’and Leon Austin (the 1970 powerhouse ”˜Steal Away’), which collectors have sought for years, and even harder to find unrelated 45s by artists such as Elaine Armstrong, whose devastating 1968 neo-funk workout ”˜Sad But True’ has only recently been rediscovered. Also featured are the frenzied 1968 single by the Brownettes (previously and subsequently known as the Jewels) ”˜Baby, Don’t You Know’, a couple of 45s from the Indiana funkers the Presidents (the rabid 1968 dance number ”˜Shoe Shine -Part 1 and 2′) and the 1970 horn powered instrumental ”˜Peter Rabbit’) and DJ King Coleman’s crazed 1967 ”˜Boo Boo Song’.

From the post-James Brown period are The Coasters with their 1972 Latin style version of ”˜Cool Jerk’, a previously unissued take of Bill Doggett’s ”˜Wet And Satisfied (featuring Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel), the mesmeric ”˜Somewhere Down The Line’ by Albert Washington and the astonishing Texas soul of Gloria Edwards’ 1973 ”˜(Need Nobody To Help Me) Keep Up With My Man’. Finest of all is Barbara Burton & the Messengers 1972 ”˜Love’s Sweet Water’, a stealthy and torrid funk/gospel tour de force which may have never been released.

King was a label of many aspects and Royal Grooves covers most of them. This is undoubtedly high eminence soul and funk of the first order.

5. Nobody Wins ”“ Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975 ”“ Various Artists

Stax was the label that had effectively defined Southern Soul music with William Bell’s ”˜You Don’t Miss Your Water’, and then took it to the world via Otis Redding. By 1968, much had altered. Redding had died in a plane crash in 1967. The end of the label’s distribution deal with Atlantic left Stax without its back catalogue. To counter these problems label chief Al Bell made Stax a full-service record label, recording, manufacturing, distributing and marketing the recordings. Stax would have to compete with Motown and release far more material. With this intention producer Don Davis was brought in to add some Detroit knowledge, with other music and ideas imported from all over the USA.

Stax might not have been exclusively releasing Southern music any more but it was still a Southern label – a magnet for anyone from the region who hoped to get a record deal. The Southern sound was so successful that even records that were recorded in other parts of the country tried to emulate the sound (noticeable on Calvin Scott’s West Coast recorded Stax album, from which the soulful, backing vocal propelled ”˜I Never Found A Girl To Love Me Like You Do’ was culled). Nobody Wins, compiled and noted by Dean Rudland, gives an overview of the general progress within Southern Soul, from a Stax-dominated topography towards the styles being championed by Hi Records on the other side of Memphis.

The music is unfailingly sensational and during Johnny Daye’s impassioned 1968 ”˜Stay Baby Stay’, William Bell’s 1973 bittersweet ”˜Loving On Borrowed Time’ or the emotionally raw 1968 number ”˜Shouldn’t I Love Him’ by Mable John, inspirational. Oft unjustly neglected cuts from Willie Singleton (the importunate 1974 ballad ”˜Two Fools’), Mack Rice (the captivating 1975 groove ”˜Nobody Wins ”˜Till The Game Is Over’) or Freddie Waters, which have been hidden away as B-sides, can be found alongside some formerly unreleased classics from the previously unknown Sylvia and the Blue Jays (the lush gospel soul recital ”˜The Fault Is Not In Me’), and from Bettye Crutcher (the aptly titled ”˜Make A Joyful Noise’) and former Ike & Tina Turner Revue singer-guitarist Chuck Brooks (the authoritative ”˜Hold On This Time’). Nobody Wins also features better-known tracks by the Soul Children (the shattering, bluesy Isaac Hayes/David Porter 1968 composition ”˜Move Over’), Little Milton (the great 1974 blues ”˜n’ soul ”˜Woman Across the River’), Eddie Floyd (the 1975 funky street strutting ”˜Stealing Love’) and Ollie & The Nightingales (the 1969 gospel flavoured masterpiece ”˜You’re Leaving Me’). From beginning to end, Nobody Wins is soul music, to the max.

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