Latest album release from Australian archive label, PLAYBACK RECORDS turns the spotlight on one of Southern soul’s great heroes – New Orleans’ JOHNNY ADAMS. The “Tan Canary”, as he was known on the chitlin’ and sugarcane circuit, never made the major leagues but his oeuvre typifies what Southern soul is all about – a little rough-hewn but always emotion-packed and with just a touch of country.
Like many of his kind, Adams made his money where he could – playing the clubs, bars and juke joints of the South. Record deals didn’t bring in much money (artists were often scammed out of their royalties anyway) – but it was deemed important to have a record out there to help publicise the shows; thus Adams and many others flitted from label to label, releasing singles as and when and hoping one might just break through.
There are plenty of Johnny Adams’ collections out there already but this new one focuses on the music he recorded for two labels – Huey P Meaux’s Pacemaker imprint and Shelby Singelton’s SSS International Records. All six sides of Johnny’s three Pacemaker singles are included. Of real interest is the wonderfully titled ‘Spunky Onions’ – a clever amalgamation of every dance record that was then (1996) current and the jaunty ‘A Place Called Home’. Both have a Bobby Bland feel. Hardly surprising, they were recorded in Houston and credited to “A Valier” – a pseudonym of Joe Medwick, a long-time collaborator of Bland!
In 1968, Johnny signed up to Singleton’s SSS set up and there he enjoyed his biggest successes – a version of the oft recorded country classic ‘Release Me’ and ‘Reconsider Me’, another country song. This one made it into the R&B top 40 and even dented to pop hot 100! His other (minor) hits are all included – ‘I Can’t Be All Bad’, ‘Proud Woman’ and ‘I Won’t Cry’ alongside almost everything else he recorded for Singleton. Listen up to a great rip off of ‘Funky Broadway’ – ‘South Side Of Soul Street’.
Johnny Adams left SSS in 1971 and went on to work with other labels with little success till he was “re-discovered” by Rounder Records in 1983. There he recorded a series of critically acclaimed (mainly blues) albums.
He died in 1998. He was a quintessential Southern soul man – both musically and in his personal life and business dealings; this new Playback album, named for his hit ‘Release Me’ represents some of his very best work!