Without doubt, one of the most influential record labels in the history of Southern Soul is Fame Records. It released some of the most important music in the history of not just Southern Soul, but soul music. Then there’e the music recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals. 

The artists who recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, reads like a who’s who of soul music. Everyone from Arthur Alexander, Arthur Conley, Candi Staton, Etta James, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. That’s just a few of the names who recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals. What about Clarence Carter, George Jackson, Joe Simon, Otis Clay and Prince Phillip Mitchell, who all feature on Hall Of Fame Volume 2, which was released by Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records. 

Hall Of Fame Volume 2 features twenty-four tracks. Of these twenty-four tracks, only four have been released before. This was on labels like Amy, Chess and Cotillion. Another track, George Soule’s and on a previous Kent compilation Kent 6Ts Anniversary. The other twenty tracks have never been released before. Among them, are some real hidden gems, which I’ll tell you about.

Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn enjoyed one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in the history of Southern Soul. They’re responsible for a string of classics, including It Tears Me Up, which was made famous by Percy Sledge. He’s responsible for the definitive version of the song. Back in 1966, James Barnett’s second single for Fame Records was meant to be It Tears Me Up. That was dependent on his debut single Keep On Talking being a commercial success. It wasn’t. So James’ version of It Tears Me Up was never released. What could’ve been a huge hit, was lost to the world. We missed out of a soul-baring song full of heartache, hurt and regret. Thankfully, at last, this emotive opus sees the light of day.

Despite a recording career that lasted between 1963 and 1972, June Conquest only ever recorded about six singles. Her debut single was 1963s Almost Persuaded, which was released on Fame Records. It wasn’t a commercial success and she was dropped by Fame Records. She left behind the dramatic piano driven Don’t Let It Be Said. Written by Earl Montgomery, it features a vocal powerhouse from June. Mixing power, pride and emotion, June’s vocal is defiant and dramatic. Describing this track as a real hidden gem, is almost an understatement. It’s much better than that. It’s essential listening for fans of Southern Soul.

George Jackson played a huge part in the success of Fame Records. He’s a talented and successful singer and songwriter. There are two unreleased tracks from George on Hall Of Fame Volume 2, Take Me Back and  George Jackson. Of the two tracks, Take Me Back is a real find. Penned by George with Dan Greer, Larry Chambers and Melvin Leakes. It’s an uptempo track, with a real raw, gritty sound. Here, George’s vocal is needy, pleading and heart-wrenching as he makes this some come to life.

I Can’t Stop (No No No), which was written by Roger Hawkins and Dan Penn, is a track that’s been covered by any number of artists. This includes Big Ben Atkins, who recorded it on a demo. As this classic bursts into life, there’s a Motown influence. Indeed, the drums sound as if they’ve been recorded in Motown by one of The Funk Brothers. They weren’t. No. Instead, they were recorded in Muscle Shoals, where Big Ben Atkins gives turns a familiar song  into a joyous stomper.

Billy Young was well travelled when he arrived at Fame. He released Glendora as a single on Original Sound in 1963. After that, he worked with Otis Redding, and had singles released on Otis’ Jotis label. Then when he was dropped by Jotis, Chess released two of his singles. This includes the Tommy Roe penned Have Pity On Me. Dramatic, needy and heartfelt describes Billy’s vocal on I Need You. Accompanied by blazing horns, chiming guitars and dramatic drums, this is the perfect backdrop for Billy’s impassioned, needy, pleading vocal. Why a single as potent and powerful as this wasn’t a commercial success, seems almost unjust.

From the opening bars of Linda Carr’s Are You Teasing Me, you’re enthralled. Briefly, you wonder if this is a lost Diana Ross track. That’s how similar the two are. Linda’s vocal veers between sensual, sassy and ethereal. Rick Hall thought he’d won a watch when he signed Linda to Fame Records in 1966. So much so, that he refused to sell Linda’s contract to Berry Gordy at Motown. Sadly, the success that Rick foresaw, never materialised. Linda released two singles, which were released on Bell during 1967. She recorded four other tracks, including a cover of Ira and Charlie Louvin’s Are You Teasing Me? Groovy, sassy, sensual and soulful, it’s a tantalising taste of Linda Carr.

Prince Phillip Mitchell, like George Jackson, has two songs on Hall Of Fame Volume 2.They’re Fool For A Woman and How Much More Can A Poor Man Stand, which he wrote. Fool For A Woman has an understated arrangement. Phillip’s accompanied by just a piano. This allows his vocal to take centre-stage. Raw, sincere, soul-baring and soulful describes his delivery. How Much More Can A Poor Man Stand is a track that will appeal to Mods with its stomping beat and a raw, powerful vocal from Phillip. He unleashes a vocal that’s controlled power and emotion. Despite his undoubted talent as a vocalist, Phillip enjoyed more success as a songwriter, writing a string of soul classics.

Clarence Carter is another artist who contributions two tracks to Hall Of Fame Volume 2. Although they’re just demos or unfinished tracks, they leave you wondering what would they have been like if they’d been finished? The first is Take It All Off, which Clarence wrote. The other is They’re Gonna Find Us (At The Dark End Of The Street), which is Clarence’s take on Dark End Of The Street. Building on what’s a classic track, Clarence somehow add to the emotion and heartache. In Clarence’s hands, the lyrics comes to life. The danger, the anticipation and the fear of being caught it all seems very real. Only a singer and songwriter as talented as Clarence Carter is capable of this.

Joe Simon’s Get In A Hurry is my final choice from Hall Of Fame Volume 2. During his long career, Joe Simon enjoyed commercial success. He worked with a variety of producers. This includes Rick Hall. Their partnership wasn’t a long-lasting one. It may have lasted just one session, which resulted in the hit single Let’s Do It Over. Another track from that session was Get In A Hurry, which is a deliciously melancholy slice of country soul. One of the highlights of Hall Of Fame Volume 2, it’s one of many reasons why you should explore Joe’s back-catalogue.

Featuring twenty-four tracks, Hall Of Fame Volume 2 is a glimpse of the music recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals. Twenty of the tracks have never been released before and are a tantalising glimpse of what might have been. Some of the tracks, the quality is indisputable. You wonder why the songs never saw the light of day? Among them are June Conquest’s Don’t Let It Be Said, Linda Carr’s Are You Teasing Me and Joe Simon’s Get In A Hurry. Then there’s contributions from George Jackson, Prince Phillip Mitchell and Clarence Mitchell. Then there’s a quartet of intriguing tracks.

These are the tracks that compiler Tony Rounce couldn’t work out who recorded them. They’re credited to unknown female and unknown male. Of this quartet, the version of Another Good Woman Gone Bad stands head and shoulders above the other three tracks. If only we knew who this unknown singer was? All we know, is she’d the voice of a soulful angel. 

Of the four tracks that have been released before, Billy Young’s Have Pity On Me will make your life all the better for hearing it. It should’ve been a huge success. Sadly, maybe the problem was when it was released, music was changing and changing fast. However, despite that, Have Pity On Me has a timeless quality. That could be said of many of the tracks on Hall Of Fame Volume 2.

No wonder. They’ve all got one thing in common. That’s that they were recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals. Backed by some of the greatest session musicians of all time, they were responsible for a string of hit singles. Then there’s all the other sessions they played on. Not every session they played on, resulted in a single or album. Not at all. So, there’s no end of hidden gems awaiting discover in Fame Records‘ vaults. Hopefully, further volumes of this Hall Of Fame series will be released and Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records, will continue to released compilations like Hall Of Fame Volume 2, which cherry picks the hidden gems tucked away in Fame Records’ vaults. Standout Tracks: June Conquest Don’t Let It Be Said, Billy Young Have Pity On Me, Linda Carr’s Are You Teasing Me and Joe Simon’s Get In A Hurry.


Hall of Fame Volume 2

Hall of Fame Volume 2

Hall of Fame Volume 2

Hall of Fame Volume 2

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