VARIOUS: Memphis 60 (Label: BGP)

VARIOUS: Memphis 60

Soul and Memphis go together like stew and dumplings and there have been umpteen excellent compilations outlining and illustrating that city’s contribution to soul’s magnificent heritage. As you’d expect the Ace label group has been at the forefront of such releases and last year – via their BGP imprint – they issued a fine collection that looked at some obscurer Memphis soul sides from the 70s. Now they visit the city’s real golden era – the 60s, with a twenty tracker of lesser known tunes from (in the main) lesser known artists, Each and every one, though, stands comparison with all the well-known Memphis recordings and it’s circumstances and fate – not quality or soul commitment that meant these recordings were never hits. As you’d expect with any Memphis overview, the Stax label furnishes a generous selection – eight in fact. The oldest is Prince Conley’s ‘I’m Going Home’. Recorded in 1961, it was actually issued when Stax was known as Satellite, but despite the Bobby Bland feel to it, it’s still clearly a Stax product. Other Stax cuts include the harmonica-led ‘The Hawg’ from Eddie Kirk, Eddie Purnell’s brassy ‘The Spoiler’ and the bluesy ‘When My Love Comes Down’ from Ruby Johnson. You also get Isaac Hayes’ first Stax recording – ‘Blue Groove’, which was recorded as Sir Isaac and the Do Dads, a Steve Cropper almost-surf-sound instrumental ‘Restless’ (credited to the Cobras) and a brace of gospel tunes from The Dixie Nightingales, who recorded secular songs as Ollie and The Nightingales. The Goldwax label is also well-represented with Spencer Wiggins’ ‘Soul City USA’, standing out. The song – a mix of ‘Sweet Soul Music’ and ‘Land Of 1,000 Dances’ – is a fitting homage to Memphis. Other featured labels are Ruler, Philwood, and XL who provide another ‘Land Of 1,000 Dances’ pastiche in ‘Nothing But The Truth’ from Ann Hodge. The only non-Memphis label represented is the Nashville-based Hollywood but their offering is pure Memphis – ‘Double Up’ from LH and the Memphis Sounds. The obscure group was actually a vehicle for Packy Axton, son of Stax’s Estelle Axton and one of the Mar-Keys, and the cut is a wonderful piece of group soul. You’ll wonder just why it didn’t fare better on release back in the 60s…but then you’ll find yourself asking the same question about each and every cut here.
(BB) 4/5