Tag Archives: Memphis

“The Best Album Otis Redding Never Made”

2 Mar

otis

I have always loved the voice of Otis Redding. Who doesn’t, right? So much soul and feeling. So raspy and unique. More of a song stylist than a true singer. He could scream and shout with the best of ‘em, but his talents were perhaps best on display when he performed a slower ballad. That is especially true when the ballad tackled the topics of pain, loneliness, heartbreak or sorrow.

The cover looks like an old, time-worn LP cover. The cover art fits within the time period. Yet this is a completely new collection being released for the first time. Cool concept — and it works. The album is a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar. The original songs and a few alternate versions. Some Redding penned originals and compositions by the likes of Eddie Floyd and Lloyd Price.

Most all the cuts here click. Those that don’t on all levels still demand your attention and curiousity. An example of the latter would be the alternate take of “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember.” There are a few awkward key changes that can be hard on the ear, but the feeling and emotion is still very much there. The backing band (Steve Cropper, Booker T and the boys) seems to be experimenting — trying to find their way at times on this take. I’m guessing that is why this version is subtitled “Rougher Dreams.” You can understand why this rougher take didn’t make the original record back in the late 60′s.  

On the other hand, the alternate version of “Open the Door” is simply killer stuff. Subtitled “Skeleton Key Version,” this one delivers the goods in the best Redding tradition. The 2:29 slow burn comes complete with door knocks and goosebump-inducing blasts from the mighty Memphis Horns and Booker T’s Hammond B-3. The collection closes with the hopeful “My Lover’s Prayer” — long one of my favorite Redding performances. It leaves you wanting more, so don’t forget to punch that REPEAT button. This makes for ideal late night listening.  

Turn the lights down and the volume up.

You’ll find plenty to like about this new addition to Otis’ legendary catalog.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Otis Redding’s Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding could pass for a title Stax/Volt might have released in the late ’60s. The look of the album reflects Stax’s design themes of the era. But in fact it’s a collection that never existed, until now, that homes in on one mood and one theme —heartbreaking, yearning ballads — of which Redding had many. The album will be released as a CD and blue vinyl LP on March 5, 2013 on Stax Records through Concord Music Group.

Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding contains the hits (“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “These Arms of Mine,” “My Lover’s Prayer,” “Free Me”) alongside many lesser-known songs (“Gone Again,” “Open the Door,” “Waste of Time,” “Everybody Makes a Mistake,” to name a few). They’re all included in this compilation because they share the tangled theme of sorrow.

According to compilation producer David Gorman, “Given how nobody delivered a gut-wrenching sad song like Otis, I always felt he should have made an album you could put on late at night and settle into with a glass of something strong. The mood and the subject of every song is the same — Otis, heartbroken, and begging for love. I tried to find the saddest most potently heartbreaking songs he ever sang, with no regard for chart position or notoriety. There are a few hits on the album, but they’re there because they fit the mood, not because we wanted to include the hits.”

For instance, an alternate version of “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” features lyrics that are darker and tell a more personal story than the better-known hit version. Little-known tracks like “Gone Again” and “A Waste of Time” are given the same weight as “I’ve Been Loving You too Long.” The motif of love is even subtly addressed in the sequencing, the album closing with “Send Me Some Lovin’” and “My Lover’s Prayer.”

The concept of Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding plays out in the packaging as well, which was intentionally designed by Gorman to look as if Redding actually did put this album out at the height of his career. The typography, color palette, and layout are all meant to adhere to the Stax/Volt LP designs of the time. This extends to the liner notes, which are written in the present tense and credited to a fictitious DJ so that they read as if they were written while Redding was alive at his peak.

“The goal,” explains Gorman, “was to create the best album Otis never made and ‘reissue’ it in 2013 rather than do another hits compilation. We hope this album will reframe him as something more than an oldies radio staple and become his Night Beat (a classic 1963 Sam Cooke LP) — the album that exists as a starting point for people wondering why so many consider Otis Redding the greatest soul singer of all time.”

Track Listing:
1. I Love You More Than Words Can Say
2. Gone Again
3. Free Me
4. Open the Door [Skeleton Key Version]
5. A Waste of Time
6. These Arms of Mine
7. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
8. Everybody Makes a Mistake
9. Little Ol’ Me
10. I’ve Got Dreams to Remember [Rougher Dreams]
11. Send Me Some Lovin’
12. My Lover’s Prayer

B.J. Thomas Gets 2-Disc Scepter Re-Issue Thanks to Real Gone Music

4 Jul

Texas native B. J . Thomas had a great set of pipes — that most of us can agree upon.  He had a tremendously rich voice and a powerful upper range. His career started as a country crooner, reached its zenith via the pop artistry of Bacharach and David, and then returned to country stardom with hits like “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Yet I contend that his collaboration with producer Chips Moman, tunesmith Mark James, and his time spent in the American Recording Studio in Memphis yielded perhaps his most durable platters. All those singles were released on the Scepter label and all are thankfully included in this excellent new collection from Real Gone Music.

Elvis Presley struck vinyl gold at American — so did Neil Diamond. Chips Moman sure had the midas touch … that’s for certain. It helped having a guitar/sitar picker like Reggie Young, songwriters like Mark James and Spooner Oldham, and drummers like the mighty Gene Chrisman. After Thomas enjoyed some regional country success, the James’ composition “The Eyes of a New York Woman” really got the ball rolling for B.J. (charting #28 in 1968). That was soon followed by the classic “Hooked on a Feeling,” a James creation. “It’s Only Love” came next and crested at #45, although it deserved a much better fate. “Pass the Apple Eve” stalled out even further from the top of the charts and it seemed the run was just about over for Thomas.

Just as hope was fading, Burt Bacharach entered the picture and B.J. Thomas’ 1969 recording of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” became a certified worldwide smash.  “Everybody’s Out of Town” (1970) is vintage Bacharach-David and one of my personal favorites. Then came “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” another top ten hit — this one from the pens of the legendary Mann-Weill songwriting team. “Send My Picture to Scranton, PA” (1970) and “Long Ago Tomorrow” (1971) are two more Bacharach contributions not to be overlooked. And I still cannot believe that Mark James’ song “The Mask” did not fare better (it didn’t even chart — madness!).

Sure, some of the B-sides were clunkers. Shoot, some of the A-sides were too. But listening to them is half the fun with collections such as this. You’re not just enjoying a little music. You are listening to a talented artist trying to find his way. Or an singer attempting to live up to the promise of his previous smash. Or a genius producer, top notch session players, and a young vocalist creating a sound that remains branded in our collective mind some 4 decades later.   

From his 1966 recording of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” through his 1972 double-sided hit single “That’s What Friends Are For”/”Happier Than the Morning Sun,” B.J. Thomas enjoyed a string of hits rivaled by few artists of that time. And the fact that he did this on an indie label, Scepter, makes the achievement even more impressive. Various compilations of Thomas’ Scepter sides have come and gone. But Real Gone’s 44-track anthology is the first to offer A- and B-sides of every one of the artists’ Scepter singles, including his 19 hits. Many of the B-sides never appeared on albums. DJ/journalist Michael Ragogna wrote the notes, which feature quotes from Thomas.

STAX Number Ones is a Good Place to Start

29 Mar

For those seeking a quick intro to classic Southern Soul, I suggest looking no further than the new Stax Number Ones CD. The new disc from Concord Music contains many of the most recognizable tracks laid down in the historic Memphis studio. There are a couple welcome surprises in the form of two somewhat obscure Johnnie Taylor hits:  “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone.” Pick up this CD and you’ll soon find yourself on the hunt for the countless other smashes conjured up at 926 East McLemore Avenue.   

Stax Records is where Southern soul became a global force in music. The label, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, gave rise to a number of stars – many hailing from its Southeast Memphis neighborhood. During the ’60s and into the ’70s, Stax studio was a wellspring of hit records that topped both the R&B and pop charts. On March 30, 2010, Stax Records – now operating within Concord Music Group – will release Stax Number Ones, an compilation of 15 chart-topping hits by Stax’ best-known artists.

Included in Stax Number Ones are Booker T. & the MGs’ “Green Onions,” Sam & Dave’s “Hold On! I’m Comin’” and “Soul Man,” Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Johnnie Taylor’s Who’s Making Love,” “I Believe in You (You Believe in Me)” and “Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone,” Rufus Thomas’ “(Do The) Push & Pull [Part 1],” Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff,” Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” the Dramatics’ “In the Rain,” the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” and Shirley Brown’s “Woman to Woman.”

Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group, has placed more than 175 hit songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop charts as well as a staggering 250 hits on the R&B charts. Stax Number Ones represents all 15 songs that hit #1 on either chart from the label’s golden era. It is a perfect sampling of classic Stax. 

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Stax-Number-Ones/

Recipe for Spicy Honey Dipped Fried Chicken

23 Jan

If you can’t get to Uncle Lou’s in Memphis, this is the next best thing …

Chicken and honey is a classic combination that takes on a fiery twist in this recipe for crispy fried chicken dipped in honey and cayenne. This works well for any kind of fried chicken—bone in, boneless, or chicken fingers and nuggets. Short on time? Give deli fried chicken a quick dip and listen to your family rave about your cooking! Serve with cold, creamy cole slaw and buttered biscuits.

Tip:  The heat of hot pepper increases when it is heated up in food, so taste the honey dip to find your desired level of fire-power after heating it.

The Recipe

Spicy Honey Dipped Fried Chicken

  • 3lbs chicken pieces, boneless breasts, or chicken strips
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne, or to taste

How to Make Honey Dipped Fried Chicken

  1. Pour buttermilk over chicken in a ziplock bag and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
  2. Combine the flour, seasoned salt, and pepper in a plastic bag.
  3. Remove chicken from buttermilk and drain off excess.
  4. Shake the chicken one piece at a time in the bag of flour; shake off excess flour and allow the floured chicken to rest on racks for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Heat oil in a deep fryer, or pour to a depth of 1/2-inch in a deep frying pan and heat to 325 F.
  6. When oil is hot, place the chicken skin side down in the pan or fryer and cook for 10-12 minutes per side for bone-in chicken pieces, or until the chicken is cooked through and crispy brown.
  7. While chicken is cooking, combine the honey and cayenne in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until hot and thin in consistency.
  8. When chicken is done, use tongs to lift one piece at a time from the pan, shake gently to drain off excess oil, and dip immediately in the hot honey. Allow excess to drain back into the pan for a moment; place the dipped chicken on cooling racks over a cookie sheet to finish draining.

Serve immediately.

Don’t worry. You’re still the best, Uncle Lou!

Buy This Magazine!

13 Dec

oa-cover

This issue just came out — I scored my copy at Barnes & Noble.

The annual CD release is as excellent & eccentric as always.

Don’t miss Ella Fitzgerald’s killer version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” No kidding, folks — it is actually very good. The big band rocks and Ella gives the rock standard her own unique twist.

Neko Case’s “Hold On, Hold On” is 100% pure ear candy. This track alone is worth the cost of the 2 CDs and magazine that I am here to usher into your lonely little word. Neko’s voice is silky smooth & loaded with emotion.

Also noteworthy is Jerry Lee Lewis’ take on Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” Lewis is backed by the Stax rhythm section of Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, etc. It’s a very unique interpretation I think you’ll dig.

I met Jerry Lee two or three years ago in Memphis. I told him that he still sounded great. He gave me a glassy-eyed stare, grinned and replied in his easy Louisiana drawl, “Why, Thank ya!” The Killer looks very frail these days, but he will no doubt go down rockin’ and rollin’.  Shake it, baby! 

’TIS THE SEASON FOR SOUTHERN MUSIC

Let the parties begin—The OA’s 10th Anniversary Music Issue is out! To celebrate this special birthday, we’ve packed TWO groovin’ CDs with firepower: enough fierce, funky, and fun music to keep your days and nights rockin’ into 2009 (and beyond). That’s right, kids, this issue is accompanied by FIFTY-FIVE party tunes (from Jack Tea to Jerry Lee, Little Walter to Lucinda, plus thrills and chills galore).

In addition to the music, the issue is chockful of exuberant and daring writing by some of the best writers in the country (and one or two from abroad). See below for FOUR FREE ARTICLES from the issue.

We’ll be updating the website every week in December with Online Exclusives: feature articles, multimedia extravaganzas, Editor Marc Smirnoff’s CD Liner Notes, interviews, holiday offers (check out our new line of stylish T-shirts), and other neat stuff.

Shangri-La in Memphis (a great record store and record label) has this to say about the issue: “Check out the bitchin’ cover pic of Jerry Lee Lewis in Mad Plaid! It’s fun time around the Shangri-La HQs when this issue comes out, and this year is no exception. Order it from the folks who keep Southern culture flowing.”

www.oxfordamericanmag.com

Alvin Youngblood Hart – Modern Blues Master

29 Oct

I saw Alvin a few times when we lived in Memphis. Super-talented cat.

He normally plugs in and puts on an amazing electric show.

The video above showcases his equally powerful acoustic side.

Catch his live act – he mixes 70s rock, blues and country. That’s a rarity!

Start your collection with this CD — it kicks some serious booty!

O.V. Wright Deserves this First Class Tribute

9 Oct

Thanks to our old Memphis pal Preston Lauterbach for hipping us to this event.

Get there if you can.

If you can’t, dig deep and give what you can to this wonderful cause.

To learn more, go to www.ovwright.org or www.backroadsofamericanmusic.com 

Now, have a listen to O.V. belting out the classic, “Nickel and a Nail.”

Vote for our friends at Stax Museum

31 Jul

The Stax Museum needs your help! As you know, it’s election season again, which means that it’s time  for the Memphis Flyer’s annual BEST OF MEMPHIS poll–and we want YOU to help make sure that the Stax Museum is rightfully recognized as the BEST MUSEUM in Memphis! 

If you’re a true soul supporter, CLICK HERE to cast your vote for the Stax Museum today! One lucky balloter gets a pair of all-access badges to the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, September 17-20, featuring Joan Baez, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, Bruce Robison, and James McMurtry, among many others. This prize package includes all access to shows and panels and two tickets to the awards show at the Ryman Auditorium. Another lucky balloter will receive an Americana Music Festival prize pack with a “This is Americana” CD sampler pack, volumes I and II, plus an official AMA T-shirt. And 10 lucky balloters will receive a handsome Memphis Flyer T-shirt! All winners will be notified by e-mail and/or phone on Thursday, August 14th.
 

Vote now or Shaft will grab you where it hurts!

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