HALL OF FAME VOLUME 3.
HALL OF FAME VOLUME 3.
Eventually, when someone decides to write a definitive history of Southern Soul, Fame Records name will loom large. There’s two reasons for this. The first is the music released on Fame Records. Then there’s the artists who recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals.
Back in the sixties, Fame Recording Studios was the place record companies sent their artists to work with producer Rick Hall and the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The artists who headed to Fame Recording Studios is like a who’s who of soul music. Everyone from Arthur Alexander, Arthur Conley, Candi Staton, Etta James, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. These artists are just a few of the names who recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals. Then there’s What Clarence Carter, George Jackson, Otis Clay, Dan Greer and Prince Phillip Mitchell. They all feature on Hall Of Fame Volume 3, which was recently released by Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records. Hall Of Fame Volume 3 is a welcome addition to the Hall Of Fame series. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about Hall Of Fame Volume 3. Before that, I’ll tell you about the history of Fame Records.
The story starts during late fifties when Rick Hall, Tom Stafford and Billy Sherill founded a record label, and built their first studio above the City Drug Store in Florence, Alabama. However, by the early sixties, this nascent partnership would split-up, resulting in Tom Stafford and Rick Hall needing a new studio.
They decided to move to what had been a tobacco warehouse in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. As if by magic, Rick Hall soon recorded what would be his first hit single, Arthur Alexander’s You Better Move On. Wisely, he decided to invest the profit in a better studio, and moved to their current location Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The first hit single Rick Hall recorded in his new studio was Jimmy Hughes’ Steal Away. Little did Rick Hall know it back then, but soon his new studio would see artists coming from far and wide to record at Fame.
After Rick’s success with Jimmy Hughes, word got out that Fame was the place to go to record a new single or album. Quickly, everyone from Tommy Roe to The Tams, and from Joe Tex, Joe Simon, George Jackson and Clyde McPhatter right through to Irma Thomas, Etta James and Mitty Collier. Even Aretha Franklin recorded at Muscle Shoals. Indeed, it was at Muscle Shoals that Jerry Wexler brought Aretha Franklin, to record her 1967 album I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You. However, why did all these artists choose to head to Muscle Shoals to Fame?
Part of the reason was the session musicians that worked with Rick Hall. This included the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns. They were some of the hottest and tightest musicians of that era. This included drummer Rodger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Barry Beckett. When they recorded together, they were one of the finest backing bands ever. Between 1961 and 1969, when they departed from Fame to found the rival studio Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. However, for eight years, they helped make Fame Records Southern Soul’s greatest label. They can be heard on numerous singles and albums. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns can also be found on many of the tracks on Hall Of Fame Volume 3.
Hall Of Fame Volume 3 features another twenty-four tracks from Fame Records illustrious back-catalogue. This includes twenty-two previously unreleased tracks. They’re a fascinating insight into the music being made in Muscle Shoals between 1965 and 1970. Just like the previous instalments in the Hall Of Fame series, Hall Of Fame Volume 3 features a whole host of hidden gems, emotive epics and tear jerkers. No wonder. With contributions from Clarence Carter, George Jackson, Joe Simon, Otis Clay, Dan Greer, Billy Young, Big Ben Atkins and Prince Phillip Mitchell. Some artists feature more than once. That’s no bad thing. These artists played a huge part in the Fame Records story. You’ll realise that when I tell you about Hall Of Fame Volume 3.
Billy and Clyde’s A World Of My Own opens Hall Of Fame Volume 3. It’s a real stomper. with a lead vocal that’s reminiscent of Billy Stewart. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns drive the arrangement along, braying horns and thunderous drums providing the backdrop to a stomper which Northern Soul fans will love.
Deservedly, Clarence Carter features three times on Hall Of Fame Volume 3. After all, Clarence played an important part in Fame’s success. He wasn’t just a singer, but a songwriter. Clarence released four singles on Fame. Hey Man, I Done Run Out and I Feel A Burning have never been released before. Given their quality that seems strange. The best of the three tracks is Hey Man. It epitomises everything that’s good about Southern Soul. Especially a soul baring vocal from Clarence. He’s torn and tormented, as the lyrics comes to life. I Done Run Out features a vocal that oozes emotion. Rasping horns are a constant companion as Clarence tells it like it is. Then there’s the mid-tempo I Feel A Burning. Clarence kicks loose, reminding me of Otis Clay and O.V. Wright. His lived-in, worldweary vocal is a full regret at the love he lost.
Dan Greer is better known as a songwriter that singer. He only released a handful of singles and one album. However, he wrote songs for Candi Staton, Spencer Wiggins, Wilson Pickett, Chaka Khan and The Ovations. Don’t Let A Good Thing Go To Waste is another of Dan’s composition. He delivers a sassy, strutting vocal where Southern Soul and funk unite. Truly, this is a real hidden gem. Compiler Tony Rounce deserves our thanks for including this track.
Ben and Spence released two singles for Atlantic in 1968. I Do and I Can’t Stop were the only singles they released for Atlantic. However, they were a talented duo, who feature three times on Hall Of Fame Volume 3. Their contributions include the slow,beautiful, bluesy paean L-O-V-E Love. You’re The One For Me is best described as tender ballad, featuring a needy, pleading vocal. Briefly, A Stone Loser reminds me of Sam and Dave’s Soul Man. It has a slow and bluesy sound. As for the vocal, it’s a fusion of emotion, power and soulfulness.
Billy Young’s You’re Too Much is easily one of the highlights of Hall Of Fame Volume 3. It’s a joyous explosion of soulfulness. Written by his hero Otis Redding, Billy pays homage to the King of soul. Accompanied by a stomping beat and blazing horns he creates a blistering track fans of Northern Soul will adore. Why Don’t You Care features a very different side to Billy Young. Here’s he’s transformed into a balladeer. As he delivers a vocal that’s tender, heartfelt and beautiful Billy demonstrates his versatility and ability to make lyrics come to life.
Roy Lee Johnson’s career began back in 1966, when he released So Anna Just Love Me on Josie Records. His career has spanned nearly fifty years. Despite this longevity, Roy never enjoyed the commercial success his talented deserves. He features twice on Hall Of Fame Volume 3. What Your Love’s Gonna Turn Out To Be, a tale of tumultuous relationship, demonstrates Roy’s undoubted talent as a singer and songwriter. The lyrics come to life, thanks to his feisty, emotive and grizzled vocal. Sometimes, despair fill his vocal on this dance-floor friendly track. Love Is Calling On Me is Roy’s other contribution. It’s very different. A slow, heartachingly beautiful ballad, Roy reminds me of Otis Redding as he breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics.
Herman Moore is one of Southern Soul’s best kept secrets. Just one listen to Come On Home and Love Light and that’s apparent. Again, Come On Home epitomises everything that’s good about Southern Soul. Sadness, heartache and regret fills Herman’s needy vocal. Listening to the track, it’s as if Herman has been inspired by Otis Redding. Love Light is quite different. It’s a jaunty dance track. Pounding beats and stabs of braying horns accompany Herman as he shows us another side to his music.
George Jackson played huge part in the success of Fame Records. He was a singer and songwriter. Despite his undoubted talent as a singer, George is better known as a songwriter. Listening to I Don’t Want To Know, he brings the lyrics to life. Wistful and melancholy describes his delivery, while the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section provide the backdrop for George’s pensive vocal masterclass.
Prince Phillip Mitchell was signed to some of soul music’s biggest labels. Among them are Atlantic, Hi and Fame, who he recorded a handful of singles for. One track that’s lain unreleased is Prince Phillip Mitchell’s cover of Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here. This is a traditional track that’s given a makeover by producer Rick Hall. Here, Prince Phillip Mitchell accompanied by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section Mk. II prove a potent partnership, matching each other every step of the way, as old track takes on new life and meaning.
My final choices from Hall Of Fame Volume 3 come from Otis Clay. He’s an artist whose music I’ve been championing for more years than I can remember. He’s another case of an artist who commercial success eluded him. When you hear the delicious, hook-laden dance track She’s About A Mover you’ll wonder why? Quite simply, Otis delivers a vocal powerhouse on this alternate version of his 1968 single on Cotillion. The same year, Otis released You Don’t Miss Your Water as a single. It’s a soul searching ballad where Otis vocal literally oozes emotion, sadness and regret. This is one of two reasons to discover the music of Otis Clay, one of the soul music’s best kept secrets.
Whilst I’ve only mentioned seventeen of the twenty-four tracks on Hall Of Fame Volume 3, I could just as easily have mentioned any of the tracks. That’s how good the music is. From the start of Billy and Clyde’s World Of My Own, right through to Otis Clay’s You Don’t Miss Your Water, the twenty-floor slices of Southern Soul ooze quality. No wonder.
Some of the most talented Southern Soul singers make an appearance. This includes old friends like Clarence Carter, George Jackson, Otis Clay, Dan Greer and Prince Phillip Mitchell. They make a welcome return. Then there’s contributions from Billy and Clyde, Ralph Soul Jackson, Billy Young, Herman Moore and Roy Lee Johnson. Quite simply, there’s not a bad track on Hall Of Fame Volume 3.
Compiler Tony Rounce has dug deep and discovered a whole host of hidden gems. That’s why Hall Of Fame Volume 3, which was released by Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records, is the best instalment in the Hall Of Fame series. For anyone with an interest in either Fame, Records, Southern Soul, soul music or just good music, then Hall Of Fame Volume 3 is an essential purchase. It’s also the perfect addition to the two previous volumes in the Hall Of Fame series. Just like much of the music on the two previous volumes, Hall Of Fame Volume 3 features timeless Southern Soul. They’ve all got one thing in common.
Each of the twenty-four tracks were recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals. The artists who feature on Hall Of Fame Volume 3 were accompanied by some of the greatest session musicians of all time. These musicians, the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, played Arthur Alexander, Arthur Conley, Candi Staton, Etta James, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. That’s how good they were. That’s apparent from the music on Hall Of Fame Volume 3. The twenty-four tracks on Hall Of Fame Volume 3 ooze quality, emotion, heartbreak and joy. They’re a poignant reminder of Fame Records’ glory days, when they were one of the most important labels in history of soul music. Their legacy is the music they recorded released, including the music on Hall Of Fame Volume 3. Standout Tracks: Billy and Clyde A World Of My Own, Clarence Carter Hey Man, Billy Young You’re Too Much and Otis Clay She’s About A Mover.
HALL OF FAME VOLUME 3.