Live albums are the Marmite of music…. you love ’em or loathe ’em. But whatever camp you’re in all would agree that James Brown’s 1963 ‘Live At The Apollo’ is the benchmark for all live recordings. That album sent more than year on the American music charts and encouraged other labels to cut live sets on their stars. Soul fans all have fond memories of the live Motortown Revues for instance and that other giant soul-issuing label, Atlantic , was quick to jump on the bandwagon too. On November 16th 1963 they recorded a selection of artists on their roster live at the Harlem Apollo then a year later they repeated a similar exercise at Philadelphia’s Uptown Theatre. The result was a pair of LPs that meant little on release but have since become collectors’ items. Real Gone Music here unite the two sets on a “twofer” and, you know, despite the definite “lo-fi” and the raw edges, there’s a great feel to the proceedings that goes some way to illustrate the excitement that 60s soul could generate.
The Apollo set, hosted by MC King Coleman, features The Falcons, Doris Troy, Rufus Thomas, The Coasters, Ben E King and a young Otis Redding. Redding is second on the bill offering impassioned readings of ‘Pain In My Heart’ and ‘These Arms Of Mine’ while King, the putative bill topper, delivers ‘Groovin”(not the Young Rascals’ song… too early for that, of course), ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Don’t Play That Song’. At the end the whole ensemble combine for a wild reading of ‘What’d I Say’.
The Philly show is fronted by local music entrepreneur Jimmy Bishop and the featured artists include The Drifters, The Vibrations, Wilson Pickett and Patti Labelle with the Bluebelles while, oddly there’s input from non-Atlantic acts Barbara Lynn (she later joined the label, of course), Patty and the Emblems and The Carltons.
Sure, recording quality here leaves a lot to be desired and in places the editing is rough but if you’re looking for an atmospheric audio snapshot of soul’s Golden Age, this collection’s a good starting point.