Recent Ace Records Releases…

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

1. The Seeds – The Seeds
The advertising tag line for this forthcoming Ace release could read: ‘One of the greatest debut rock albums just got better’. There would be no problems with the Advertising Standards Authority, if they were not averse to clichéd advertising (they obviously are not) and had an appreciation and predilectionfor premier US 1960s garage rock (the jury is still out on that). This astonishing deluxe reissue of The Seeds’ eponymous LP features the unbeatable, hard-hitting mono mix, never available before on CD, along with ten-bonus tracks(seven of which are previously unissued) doubling-up the length of the original album. The Seeds was originally released in July 1966, and only reached Number 132 on the Billboard chart, but the record, featuring the late, great deranged genius Sky Saxon’s unrefined and utterly idiosyncratic yelping vocals and compositions, Jan Savage’s raw, blastingfuzz tone guitar, Rick Andridge’s thrillingly primitive drums and Daryl Hooper’s simmering organhas inspired a host of musicians (The Stooges, Alex Chilton, Suicide, Sex Pistols, The Cramps, The Fall and Spiritualized, to name but a few) ever since.

In fact, the DNA of much punk and post-punk can be traced back to the grooves of The Seeds’ hypnotic, unsymmetrical, positively wiped outvision of garage rock. Featuring their two seminal 1965 punk anthem singles ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ and ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’, along with the malevolent ‘Evil Hoodoo’, the ardent ‘Girl I Want You’, the punky ‘You Can’t Be Trusted’ and the truculent ‘Nobody Spoil My Fun’, The Seeds album, featuring all original Saxon songs (many groups still included numerous cover versions on their records during this period), stood head and shoulders above most of the countless American garage bands of the era.

Thepreviously unreleased material includesthe full length, brilliantly deranged, 17 minute unedited take of ‘Evil Hoodoo’, the unreleased song ‘Dreaming Of Your Love’ and early versions of their splendid B-sides ‘Daisy Mae’ and ‘Out Of The Question’, including some precious studio chatter. The excellent 36-page booklet written by Alex Palao diligently dissects the Seeds’ early career in unparalleled detail, established upon newinvestigation and consultation with the survivingband members. Keyboard player Hooper, one of the originators of the Seeds’ influential sound, has opened his files to share whole plethora of unbelievable, rarely seen photographs of the ‘distinctively’ dress band. Ace/Big Beat’s expanded and definitive edition of this ageless garage rock masterwork really does The Seeds justice. Essential stuff.

2. This Is Buddy Guy! – Buddy Guy
Ace has lately reissued some limited edition vinyl only releases from the Vanguard label; “Recordings For The Connoisseur” was Vanguard’s motto. One of the best of these records is simply one of the most electrifying live albums ever issued; This Is Buddy Guy! “His Fantastic In-Person Performance Recorded Live!” Taped before a rapturous audience at New Orleans House, in Berkeley, California (brilliantly documented by Ed Friedner and producer Sam Charters) during 1968,blues legend Buddy Guy and his tight four-piece band, augmented with a hot five-piece horn section, tap into a conduit to Stax style soul groove and James Brown funk. The results are searing, no holdsbarred versions of Little Willie John’s ‘Fever’, Eddie Floyd’s 1966 hit ‘Knock On Wood’ and Guy’s own compelling compositions the deep blues ‘I Had A Dream Last Night’, ‘You Were Wrong’ and the explosive finale ‘I’m Not The Best’.

Born in Louisiana in 1936, Buddy Guy moved to Chicago in the late 1950s to record for Cobra and then the famous Chess Records. By the time he reached Vanguard, Guy had developed his signature sound of hard, funk-flavoured blues with strong impulses towards the dance floor.

Guy’s fleet extended solos and snazzy funky grooves would influence a whole host of rock guitarists, from Jeff Beck to Jimmy Page, by way of the detestable Eric Clapton through to Stevie Ray Vaughan, but only devotee Jimi Hendrix (and arguably Page) would ever come close to igniting the kind of exhilaration evinced on the definitive This Is Buddy Guy!
Thankfully, Buddy Guy is still recording and performing, at the top of his game. Guy stole the show with his cameo in the Scorsese directed Rolling Stones 2008 concert film, Shine A Light, and Mick, Keef, Charlie and Ronnie loved him for it.

3. Hard To Handle: Black American Sings Otis Redding Various Artists (Black America Sings)

The ill-fated Otis Redding was one of the greatest performers who ever lived. Bryan Ferry hitchhiked down to London to see Otis Redding perform at The Roundhouse in 1967 and having witnessed the awe-inspiring show decided then and there that his future lay in music rather than the fine arts.

Redding’s prowess as a singer has often cast a long shadow over his ample talents as a fine songwriter. Otis Reddingwrote a staggering number of quality songs in a very short period of time. In the few weeks leading up to his death (on 10th December 1967, in a light aircraft plane crash), he went into Stax’s McLemore Avenue studio and cut around 30 new songs, leaving behind enough material for a trio of posthumously released albums which, many believe,are better than those that came out while he was still alive.

The high quality of those posthumously issued compositions was quickly recognised by his peers. Superb versions of several of them, by Buddy Miles (‘Give Away My Love’ 1971), Etta James (‘I Got The Will’, 1988), Irma Thomas’ originally unissued 1968 version of ‘Security’, Patti Drew (‘Hard To Handle’, 1968), Percy Sledge (‘I’ve Got Dreams To Remember’, 1995) and others, appear on the Tony Rounce compilation Hard To Handle, the latest volume in Ace’s irregular ‘Black America Sings’ series.

In the wake of Aretha Franklin’s huge success with her 1967 version of Redding’s ‘Respect’, many female singers seemed to gravitate to his back catalogue of moving ballads and up=tempo numbers; Judy Clay’s 1969 version of Mr Pitiful’, ‘Sister Pitiful’, Maxie Brown’s 1967 dynamic rendition of ‘Baby Cakes’, Mitty Collier’s haunting and previously unissued 1969 version of the ballad ‘I’m Missing You’. Redding’s more famous numbers are remade/remodelled in high style by artists of the calibre of The Staple Singers ((Sittin’ On The) Dock Of The Bay’, 1969), James Carr (‘I can’t Turn You Loose’, 1977), Lou Rawls’ classy1968 rendition of (‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) and William Bell’s moving 1967 cover of ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)’. Coupled with a previously unreleased Arthur Conley version of ‘A Year. A Month And A Day’ and the incomparable Otis Redding himself performing a blistering take two of ‘Loving By The Pound’, Hard To Handle is an essential acquisition.

4. Cosmic Funk & Spiritual Sounds: The Flying Dutchman Masters- Lonnie Liston Smith

Compiled and noted by Dean Rudland, this is blissed out, post hippie, 70s funk jazz of the first order. Pianist Lonnie Liston Smith’s 1975 composition ‘Expansions’, with lead vocals from Smith’s younger brother, Donald, singing over the tracks distinctive cymbals, congas and compulsive bass impelled groove and drums, instantly became a huge hit with the UK jazz-funk/clubbing fraternity, has been sampled on countlessdance/hip-hop tracks and generally imitated ever since. Fittingly, this new anthology focusing on the Virginia keyboard player’s recording for the Flying Dutchman label, formed by former Impulse label head Bob Thiele, opens with the evergreen ‘Expansions’.

Smith did not just appear from nowhere. Before going solo in the mid-70s, Smith’s record as a jazz sideman was highly notable – he had played with blind saxophonistRahsaan Roland Kirk and with legendary Art Blakey’s hard bop Jazz Messengers, had productive shifts with Miles Davis (he contributed, with no credit, to Miles’ divisiveand groundbreaking punk funk jazz 1972 album On The Corner), Gato Barbieri (Smith played on Barbieri’s classic score for Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris), and most significantly of all, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. It was playing with Sanders that Smith discovered the electric piano, an instrument that became a vitalconstituent in instituting his brand sound.

Smith’s first album for Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label, Astral Travelling (the title track featured here and ‘In Search Of truth’), was similar to the super heavy cosmic jazz he had been playing with Pharoah Sanders, but on the follow up, Cosmic Funk (the eponymous track also included), he started to incorporate the massed effects pedals that Miles Davis had been deploying on his seminal early 70s recordings. Cosmic funk was categorically attained from here on in. Though some may find the constant pleas for world peace and inner tranquillity a little wearing, only the terminally cynicalcould resist thehypnotic, spaced out rhythms of ‘Sunbeams’, ‘Vision of A New World’ (Phase one and Two) and ‘Get Down Everybody (It’s Time For World Peace)’. Nice.

5. Let The Best Man Win – The Fame Recordings Vol 2 – George Jackson

This is the second Ace compilation of the criminally uncelebrated Southern Soul singer songwriter George Jackson and the timeless recordings he made for Rick Hall at his FAME Muscle Shoals studios in the late 1960s. Jackson has written epochal hits for Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Otis Clay, Z.Z. Hill, Bob Seger and others, but his own chart run consists of just two meagre Top 50 R&B hits.Even a cursory listen to Let The Best Man Win will leave the stunned listener perplexed at just how this massive injustice came to pass.

The earliest of these recordings have George Jackson backed by the classic FAME house band of David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett, while on the later tracks he is joined by the Fame Gang. Let The Best Man Win, like the previous FAME volume, Don’t Count Me Out, features George Jackson’s interpretations of his songs, now measured as classics of the Southern soul genre, in performances by Clarence Carter (Jackson covered O.B. McClinton’s ‘Let Me Comfort You’ to show the blind Carter how the song ran), Spencer Wiggins (the world weary ‘Hit & Run’), Candi Staton (the bluesy classic ‘’I’m Just A Prisoner’ and the sassy ‘Get It When I Want It’), Bettye Swann (the rousing gospel influenced ‘Victim Of A Foolish Heart’), Wilson Pickett (the raunchy ‘Mini Skirt Minnie’, the heartfelt ‘Save Me’, both covered by Pickett on his storming Hey Jude LP) and some previously unknown gems from his songbook. These includethe spine chilling ‘Love Came Knocking At Your Door’, the resigned ‘Let The Best Man Win’, the dynamic ‘It’s Not Safe To Mess On Me’ and ‘Looking For Some Action’ (both probably intended for Wilson Picket but remarkably never used).

Be sure not to miss out on the incredibly gifted and impassioned George Jackson, an abiding master of the soul idiom. Complier Dean Rutland opines in the liner notes, based upon interview with Jackson, that these are “some of soul music’s greatest unreleased recordings”, and it is very hard to argue with him.

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