Tag Archives: Stax

“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

Concord Gives Evans, King and Davis The Respect They Deserve

10 Apr

All three of these collections are worth your time. How can you go wrong with Miles Davis? Or the legendary pianist Bill Evans. Or the mighty Albert King? These 2-CD sets include many of the well known recordings. There are also many more obscure tracks for your discovery and enjoyment.

Miles Davis was obviously a Jazz giant, but his most commercially successful LPs were recorded for Columbia Records. Albert King’s searing blue guitar and powerhouse vocal attack became the blueprint for a couple of artists named Clapton and Vaughan. Yes, those guys! Bill Evans’ piano mastery has always been a bit more off the beaten path. Yet those in the know will tell you how influential he was — and continues to be to this day. We encourage you to seek out these excellent compilations and make them a part of your collection. You’ll be a better person for it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections were released on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles—as a musician and as a bandleader—is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument—who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high- caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings—from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984—by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your- face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

STAX unveils “Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughan in Session” CD/DVD Package

27 Oct

While there is no denying the immeasurable debt that modern blues and rock musicians owe to T-Bone Walker, the first bluesman to plug a guitar into an amplifier, and to B.B. King, who added sustained feedback and more to Walker’s innovations, Albert King was clearly the most influential blues guitar stylist from the mid-1960s on. Born April 25, 1923, Albert had begun his career as B.B. King disciple and, for a time, even claimed to be B.B.’s brother. (Both men were born in Indianola, Mississippi.)

By the time Albert signed with Stax Records in 1966, however, he had developed a highly personal guitar style marked by economical, rhythmically propulsive single-note lines and a razor-sharp tone produced by picking with his left thumb while bending wildly with his right fingers on the strings of a right-handed Flying V guitar turned upside down and tuned to an open E minor chord. His ground-breaking, soul-imbued recordings for the Memphis record company from 1966 to 1973 defined the state of modern blues during that period and had a vast impact on guitar players on both sides of the Atlantic. Not only did Albert’s signature style alter the approaches of such already established blues guitarists as Otis Rush and Albert Collins, but it had a tremendous impact on younger players like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and particularly Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Stevie was born (October 3, 1954) and raised in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, the same part of town in which T-Bone had grown up decades earlier. Stevie idolized Albert. Even before he was in his teens, Stevie had been captivated by the Mississippi guitar masher’s torrid tone, incisive phrasing, even the rocket-like shape of Albert’s instrument. The boy had other musical heroes–most notably older brother Jimmie Vaughan, as well as Lonnie Mack and Jimi Hendrix–but it was Albert’s influence that would remain the most pervasive throughout Stevie’s career.

One of 13 children, Albert was raised by his mother in Forrest City, Arkansas. His first “guitar” consisted of a wire nailed to the wall of his house; he picked it with a bottle. Later, he bought an acoustic guitar for $1.25 and eventually graduated to an electric model purchased for $125 at a pawnshop in Little Rock. After practicing for a few years, he began sitting in around Osceola, Arkansas with a group called Yancey’s Band. “They learned me my chords and what key was what,” Albert recalled 1983. “I didn’t know but two or three songs.”

Driving a bulldozer during the day, Albert soon formed his own band, the In the Groove Boys. “I learned ‘em those three songs that I knew,” he explained with a chuckle, “and we’d play ‘em fast, slow, and medium, but we got over.”

After singing gospel with the Harmony Kings in South Bend, Indiana and playing drums for Jimmy Reed in Gary, Albert made his first record, “Bad Luck Blues,” for the Parrot label in Chicago in 1953. The title proved prophetic, however, and he returned to Osceola for a while, then settled in East St. Louis, Illinois, where he began recording for Bobbin in 1959. He scored his first national hit, “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong,” two years later on the Cincinnati-based King label.

Albert didn’t return to the charts until 1966, when his Stax recording of “Laundromat Blues” became one of that year’s biggest blues hits. The innovative melding of Albert’s dry, husky baritone voice and incendiary lead guitar with the Memphis firm’s crack rhythm and horn sections brought blues into the soul era. His seminal Stax singles, which also included “Crosscut Saw” and “Born Under a Bad Sign,” were initially bought primarily by African Americans. With the introduction of “underground” FM radio in 1967, Albert began attracting white listeners—who had been primed by Eric Clapton’s incorporation of Albert’s licks and even entire solos into his popular sides with Cream—in increasingly large numbers. His 1968 debut at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium solidified his crossover following. “People had been waiting to hear me play a long time before I even showed my face out there,” recalled Albert, who remained until his death one of the few blues artists to consistently attract substantial numbers of both black and white fans.

At the In Session taping, 60-year-old Albert ruled over the proceedings like a benevolent father, retaining control while allowing his 29-year-old guest loads of solo space in which to display his awesome command of the electric guitar. Stevie avoided flaunting his prowess, however, and instead delivered some of the most deliciously restrained playing of his career, laying back when his mentor dictated, turning up the heat only when Albert deemed it appropriate. The interplay between the two blues masters is uncannily empathetic, and Albert’s fans will find special pleasure in hearing him play rhythm parts at such length. At one point between tunes, Albert complained about problems with his guitar strings, then told Stevie, “I’m about ready to turn it over to you…. I’ve got to sit back and watch you.”

Albert was, in a sense, passing the torch to Stevie. The following month, in January 1984, Albert and his band traveled to Fantasy Records in Berkeley, California to record I’m in a Phone Booth, Baby. It would be his final album. He never did retire from the road, however, and continued touring until his death from a massive heart attack in Memphis on December 21, 1992. Albert was 69 and had enjoyed a full life in the blues.

Stevie wasn’t as fortunate. At the height of his career, on August 27, 1990, he was killed in a helicopter crash at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. He was 35.

In Session is the only known recording of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan performing together. Its long-overdue commercial release stands as a fitting tribute to the genius of two of the greatest musicians ever to have played the blues on electric guitar.

Albert King died December 21, 1992.

Two New CDs Worth Picking Up

11 Apr

booker

Booker is known as a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, record producer, and arranger, and is best known for fronting Booker T and the MGs. This is his first solo album in decades. He teamed with southern rockers Drive-By Truckers to produce an album that is raw and edgy, fun and innovative. And just to seal the deal, long-time Booker associate Neil Young dropped by to play blistering lead guitar on nine of the ten tracks. Produced by Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck, Rickie Lee Jones, Foo Fighters) and Booker T.

jj2

Roll On is JJ Cale’s first batch of new solo material since 2004′s To Tulsa and Back and comes on the heels of his gold selling 2006 collaboration with Eric Clapton, The Road to Escondido, which also earned him his first Grammy. Comprised of 12 new songs, including the previously unreleased title track recorded with Eric Clapton, Roll On finds Cale still in love with making music and passionately creating future classics that he’ll one day tuck into his very own chapter of the Great American Songbook.

Stax Reissues “Black Moses” on Double CD

7 Feb

black-moses1

Long overdue re-issue of classic Isaac Haye’s 2-LP set.

A big thanks goes out to Stax/Concord for keeping this music alive!

Stax records proudly presents the reissue of Isaac Hayes’ epic 1971 album Black Moses, which captured the artist at the peak of his popularity. The release is a complete replication of the original Black Moses package, folding out into a cross-shaped image of the artist. The album was re-mastered from the original tapes. New liner notes are by Rob Bowman, the Grammy Award-winning Stax scholar and author of Soulsville U.S.A: The Story of Stax Records.

Stax Records was re-launched by Concord Music Group in 2007, the year of the legendary soul label’s 50th Anniversary.

Black Moses, a 14-song two-album set that will be reissued on two CDs, reached #1 on Billboard’s soul album chart and #10 pop, remaining on the charts for 40 weeks. Bowman describes it as “a wondrously crafted, intense evocation of the vagaries of love gone bad,” which Hayes himself corroborated: “I was going through some emotional turmoil. You can tell by the tunes on the album that I was going through a break-up of my marriage. It was the only way I could express myself.”

The album may be best remembered by its lead single, Hayes’ signature version of the Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye,” which was on the radio months before the rest of the album had been completed. Other highlights include the Bacharach-David-penned Carpenters hit, “Close to You,” Toussaint McCall’s “Nothing Takes the Place of You,” the Curtis Mayfield-authored Gene Chandler hit “Man’s Temptation,” Little Johnnie Taylor’s “Part Time Love,” Kenny Gamble and Thom Bell’s Aretha Franklin hit “A Brand New Me,” Luther Ingram’s “Help Me Love,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Need To Belong,” the Whispers’ “Your Love Is so Doggone Good,” Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times,” which had been a hit for Ray Price, Bacharach-David’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and the Hayes composition “Good Love.” “Isaac’s ability to take other people’s material and make it so deeply personal is nothing short of brilliant,” writes Bowman.

As the ‘70s progressed, Hayes adjusted admirably to the disco onslaught. On his exit from Stax, he released four albums in a little over a year (Chocolate Chip, Disco Connection, Groove-A-Thon and finally Juicy Fruit [Disco Freak]) while launching his career as a movie star in Three Tough Guys and Truck Turner. Hayes was loyal to his band members (known as the Movement) and many of them are featured on Juicy Fruit (Disco Freak) including drummer Willie Hall, keyboardist/co-arranger Lester Snell and guitarists Michael Toles and Charles “Skip” Pitts. Trumpeter Ben Cauley was a member of the Bar-Kays who survived the tragic 1967 plane crash that claimed the life of Otis Redding. Juicy Fruit (Disco Freak) is also one of the few Hayes albums written entirely by Hayes and includes several noteworthy songs including “Let’s Don’t Ever Blow Our Thing,” “The Storm Is Over” and “Music to Make Love By.”

Hayes’ unexpected death on August 10, 2008 at the age of 65 robbed us of future soulful treasures, but we can rediscover R&B classics like Black Moses and overlooked gems like Juicy Fruit and groove anew on his extraordinary musical vision.

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/Black-Moses-Deluxe-Edition-STX-31238-02/

Eddie Floyd Releases New CD on Stax Label

4 Oct

Soul man Eddie Floyd’s first new album in six years, Eddie Loves You So, marks his return to Stax Records. The singer who scored a monster soul classic with “Knock on Wood” in 1967 has returned to his Southern roots for the new CD. Includes 10 original songs written for fellow soul artists in the `50s and `60s.

Watch Eddie & Phil Upchurch perform Floyd’s hit, “Knock On Wood.”

Dan Aykroyd’s Wines are No Joke

1 Oct

Dan Aykroyd Wines celebrate the spirit and flavour of the world’s top wine producing regions.

From his highly successful career in film and television to his co-founding the House of Blues, Dan Aykroyd has brought laughter, music and entertainment into the homes and hearts of millions of people around the globe.

Under Dan’s direction, his wines will be produced by Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits Ltd., a top independent Toronto-based wines and spirits agency which owns several Canadian award-winning wineries.

Dan Aykroyd has found a way to share his passion for great wine and his affinity for entertaining by creating a portfolio of new and exciting world-class tasting wines that people can proudly serve at their tables.

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www.danaykroydwines.com – This is no joke, people. The wines are said to be very good!

Note: Aykroyd credits former Blues Brothers guitarist Steve Cropper (Booker T & MGs/STAX fame) with introducing him to the many wonders of the fermented grape. Who knew a Tennessee country boy like Cropper could have such a far reaching impact on the typically snobby wine industry? Good work!

Cropper & Cavaliere “Nudge It Up a Notch”

16 Sep

Sounds like a keeper – can’t wait to hear it start to finish …

Steve Cropper’s guitar, production and songwriting embodied the sound and the spirit of Stax and the southern soul of the `60s. At the same time, in the Northeast, there was a band called The Rascals, whose sound was epitomized by the brilliant songs, B-3 organ and voice of Felix Cavaliere. Now these two R&B legends come together to Nudge It Up a Notch, a tour de force of 12 smokin’ original tunes, guaranteed to satisfy your soul.

http://www.amazon.com/Nudge-Up-Notch-Steve-Cropper/dp/B001B2KUP6/ref=pd_sxp_grid_i_1_1

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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