SAM DEES-IT’S OVER-70s SONGWRITER DEMOS AND MASTERS.
SAM DEES-IT’S OVER-70s SONGWRITER DEMOS AND MASTERS.
Sometimes, for whatever, reason, an artist doesn’t enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim they deserve. Instead, their music is only enjoyed a discerning circle of music lovers. That’s the case with Sam Dees. He is, without doubt, one of soul music’s best kept secrets. Sam Dees could’ve, and should’ve, been one of the biggest names in music. Sadly, that’s not the case. Instead, Sam Dees is better known as a songwriter.
That’s why Sam Dees is described as: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.” That’s true. While Sam has written nearly four-hundred songs, he’s only released three albums. Sam’s debut album was 1975s The Show Must Go On. After a gap of fourteen years, Sam returned in 1989 with Secret Admirer which was released on his own label, Pen Pad Records. Another nine years passed, before Sam released 1998s Lovers Do. Since then, nothing has been heard of Sam Dees. As a result, it looks as if Sam Dees will never fulfil his potential. Things, however, looked very different in the early seventies.
Back in the early seventies, Sam Dees had just signed to Clintone Records. It would be home for Sam Dees for the next few years. Sam released one of his best known singles, Claim Jumping on Clintone Records. It’s one of nineteen tracks on It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.
It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters is the most comprehensive retrospective of Sam Dees time at Clintone Records. There’s singles, demos and thirteen unreleased tracks. This includes two alternate takes of tracks from Sam Dees’ 1975 album, The Show Must Go On. Quite simply, It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters is essential listening for anyone interested in Sam Dees music.
Sam Dees was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in December 1945. He was born into a large family. Sam stood out though. The reason for that was his voice. From an early age, it was obvious that Sam was a talented singer. When he was just nine, Sam was a veteran of talent contests. He’d won numerous talent shows, so decided to form his own group The Bossanovians. By the time Sam was ten, it became apparent Sam had a way with words.
Unlike most ten year olds, Sam was writing poetry and songs. Looking back, Sam Dees was something of a musical prodigy. So, it’s no surprise that he would make a career as a songwriter. Before that, he had dreams of becoming a singer.
Although Sam was a still teenager, he was already travelling from his Birmingham home to perform. This was the equivalent of Sam serving his musical apprenticeship. Then in 1968, Sam caught a break, He got the chance to record his debut single.
Given Sam was an aspiring soul singer, it sees strange that he made his recording debut in Nashville. I Need You Girl was released on SSS International. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success. Neither were Easier To Say Than Do nor It’s All Right (It’s All Right), which sam released on Lo Lo Records in 1969. Then as a new decade dawned, Sam’s luck changed.
Since 1968, Clarence Carter had been signed to Atlantic Records. He’d released a trio of albums, to varying degrees of success. His fourth album, Patches, was released in 1970. Produced by Rick Hall, and featuring some of Memphis’ top musicians and backing vocalists, including Chalmers, Rhodes, Chalmers, Patches featured songs from some top songwriters. This included Sam Dees. He wrote Changes, a heartbreakingly beautiful slice of Southern Soul. For Sam Dees, an up-and-coming singer and songwriter, writing a song for Clarence Carter was something of a coup. He was, after all, signed to Atlantic Records, one of the biggest soul labels. Little did Sam realise that in a few years, he’d be signed to Atlantic Records. Before that, Sam signed to another famous label, Chess Records.
1971 proved to be an important year for Sam Dees. He signed to Chess Records, releasing two singles, the Larry Weiss penned Maryanna and Can You Be A One Man Woman. Despite the quality of music, Sam wasn’t making that important commercial breakthrough. At least other artists were covering his songs.
Rozetta Johnson covered A Woman’s Way. It was the B-Side to her single Mine Was Real. Sam wrote both songs using the nom de plume Lillian Dees. He co-produced the songs with Clinton Moon. Released on Clintone Records, it reached number ninety-four in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-nine in the US R&B Charts. This was the first hit single Sam had written. Despite this, Sam saw himself as a singer first, and then a songwriter.
Having written and produced his first hit single, Sam hadn’t given up hope of forging a successful career as a songwriter. After leaving Chess, Sam signed to Clintone Records as a solo artist in 1972.
By then, Sam was no stranger to Clintone Records. Using the alias Black Haze Express, he had released Won’t Nobody Listen as a single in 1971. A year later, Sam’s solo career began at Clintone Records.
Just like his time time at SSS International, Lo Lo Records and Chess Records, Sam Dees wasn’t exactly prolific at Clintone Records. Far from it. He only released one single on Clintone Records. This was Claim Jumping Man, which was released in 1972.
Claim Jumping Man is one of the nineteen tracks on the Kent Soul compilation, It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters. It’s one of Sam’s finest hours. Penned by Sam and Bill Brandon, Claim Jumping Man is an outpouring of anger, frustration and emotion from Sam, as he delivers what’s akin to a vocal powerhouse. On the flip side, was I’m So Very Glad, which was wrongly credited to Phase IV. However, I’m So Very Glad enjoyed its moment in the sun three years later, when it featured on Sam’s classic album The Show Must Go On. So would two other tracks on The Show Must Go On, What’s It Gonna Be and So Tied Up.
The versions of What’s It Gonna Be and So Tied Up on It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters are alternate versions. They’re quite different from the versions on The Show Must Go On. What’s It Gonna Be is shorter, and doesn’t have such a heavily orchestrated arrangement. However, it’s a heartachingly beautiful track, one that features a heartfelt, pleading vocal. Sam then drops the tempo on So Tied Up.
So Tied Up is Sam Dees at his best. It’s a tender ballad, where lush strings and backing vocal accompany Sam’s soul baring vocal. These backing vocals don’t feature on the version on The Show Goes On. However, they feature more heavily on the Atlantic single. This alternate version of what’s beautiful, heartfelt, ballad, shows another side to what’s one of the best tracks on Sam’s debut album. There’s more to It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters than just two tracks.
This includes dance floor friendly tracks. It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters is a proto disco track, where Sam delivers a gravely vamp. Total Love is a hook laden dancer, that could’ve filled dance floors forty years ago. So could A Case Of The Boogie, where Sam Dees does disco. After this, the tempo drops again.
The mid paced Today Is A New Day is best described as a slice of musical sunshine. Sam delivers the lead vocal, while what sounds like Fredrick Knight adds whispery backing vocals. This whets your appetite for Sam Dees doing what he does best, delivering ballads.
I Know Where You’re Coming From is one of thirteen unreleased tracks on It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters. Originally, it was released as a single by Loleatta Holloway in 1975, on Aware Records. It also featured on Loleatta’s 1975 album Cry To Me. By then, Sam had recorded a version of I Know Where You’re Coming From. Sam takes the track in a very different direction from Loleatta, transforming it into a tender, thoughtful ballad. We’ve Got To Get It Together is another ballad. Keyboards add an element of drama, before Sam tenderly, tells the story of young love. Soon, his vocal grows in power, becoming emotive and needy, during a long lost hidden gem of a ballad.
Anything Is Fair In Love And War is another ballad, that was first released in 2000. Penned by Sam with Jesse Lewis, Sam breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics, against an understated arrangement. This reinforces that when it comes to ballads, Sam Dees is one of the best. That’s obvious on Married, But I’m Still In Love With You, which was originally released in 2014, on the Kent LP Take One. Here, Sam’s trapped in a loveless marriage, unleashes a needy vocal. It’s akin to a heartfelt, confessional, where Sam sounds as if he’s lived the lyrics. You think the ballads can’t get any better. However, they do.
Slow and sultry describes Someone To Run To. Gimme A Little Action is similar to Someone To Run To. However, sultry becomes sensual as Sam delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. This isn’t the end of the ballads. Touch Me With Your Love features a lovestruck Sam, he delivers a needy, pleading vocal on a track that’s bristling with sexual energy. Not for the first time, do you think things can’t get any better. They do. It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters, Nobody Wins, which closes It’s Over is an outpouring of emotion. Without doubt, one of Sam’s finest ballads, and leaves you wondering why Sam Dees wasn’t one of soul’s superstars?
That looked like being the case. Later in 1973, after his brief spell at Clintone Records, Sam Dees signed to Atlantic Records.
Later in in 1973, Sam release two singles for Atlantic, So Tied Up and I’m So Very Glad. Despite their undoubted quality, they weren’t the commercial success they deserved to be. At least a song Sam cowrote proved much more successful.
Stop This Merry-Go-Round was was a song Sam, Albert Gardner and Clinton Moon had written. Originally, Bill Brandon took the song to number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts. Now, John Edwards a future Detroit Spinner would record the track. His Johnny Taylor styled cover was released on Aware in 1973, reaching number forty-five in the US R&B Charts. Again, Sam was enjoying more success writing songs than singing them. He wasn’t for turning his back on his solo career,
Sam returned to his solo career in 1974. He released two singles, Worn Out Broken Heart and Come Back Strong. Neither were a commercial success, but Come Back Strong proved to be prophetic.
With the last couple of years proving unsuccessful for Sam Dees, 1975 was a big year for him. Sam was about to release his debut album The Show Must Go On. It featured ten tracks. Four were penned by Sam, including The Show Must Go On, Come Back Strong, What’s It Gonna Be and Good Guys. Sam cowrote Claim Jumpin’ and So Tied Up with William Brandon. He also cowrote Just Out Of Reach with James Lewis and Worn Out Broken Heart with Sandra Drayton. Child Of The Streets was a collaboration between Sam and David Cammon. The pair cowrote Troubled Child with Al Gardner. These ten tracks became The Show Must Go On, and were recorded at two studios in Birmingham, Alabama.
To record his debut album The Show Must Go On, Sam headed to home to Birmingham, Alabama. He recorded The Show Must Go On at two studios, New London Studios and Sound Of Birmingham. For the recording sessions, Sam drafted in a small, tight band. The rhythm section featured drummer Sherman “Fats” Carson. bassist David Camon and guitarist Glen Woods. Arrangers included Randy Richards, Ronnie Harris, Skip Lane and Sam. Aaron Varnell arranged the horns on Claim Jumpin.’ Sam played piano and produced The Show Must Go On, which was released in 1975.
Sadly, when The Show Must Go On was released, musical tastes had changed. Disco was now King. Soul albums weren’t selling well. The Show Must Go On wasn’t a commercial success. Neither were the singles The Show Must Go On, nor Fragile, Handle With Care. For Sam, this must have been a huge disappointment. Here he was signed to one of soul’s most prestigious labels, but at the wrong time. Belatedly, however, The Show Must Go On has come to be regarded as a Southern Soul classic, and was the last time we heard from Sam until 1989.
After a gap of fourteen years, Sam returned in 1989 with Secret Admirer which was released on his own label, Pen Pad Records. Another nine years passed, before Sam released 1998s Lovers Do. Since then, nothing has been hear of Sam Dees. As a result, it looks as if Sam Dees will the commercial success and critical acclaim he deserved.
This wasn’t down to a lack of talent. Far from it. Sam Dees is, without doubt, one of the most talented soul singers of his generation. Sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded him. That’s why nowadays, Sam Dees is better known as a songwriter.
Realising he was never going to become one of soul’s superstars, Sam Dees decided to concentrate on writing songs. He’s enjoyed a long and successful career, writing songs for the great and good of soul music. That’s why nowadays, Sam Dees is described as: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.” However, back when Sam was signed to Clintone Records, he still had dreams of enjoying a career as a successful singer.
No wonder. Throughout It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters, the nineteen songs literally ooze quality. It’s a case of all killer, no filler. Love songs sit comfortably side-by-side with dance tracks and songs full of social comment. Back in the early seventies, it Southern Soul had found its conscience. However, Sam Dees is at his best writing love songs.
That’s where Sam shines, especially on ballads. He breathes life, meaning and emotion into ballads like I Know Where You’re Coming From, Anything Is Fair In Love And War, Married, But I’m Still In Love With You, Someone To Run To, Gimme A Little Action and It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters, Nobody Wins feature Sam Dees at his very best. During these tracks, the betrayal, hurt and loneliness come to life. So do the hope and joy. Sam sings the lyrics as if he’s lived, loved and survived the lyrics. Other times, he sounds as if he’s experienced the hope and joy that love brings. This makes the music on It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters sound very personal. It also makes the music on It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters absolutely captivating. That’s why, Sam Dees is, without doubt, one of soul music’s best kept secrets.
Sam Dees could’ve and should’ve been one of the biggest names in music. You’ll realise why, when you hear It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. It’s Over-70s Songwriter Demos and Masters is a welcome addition to Sam Dees’ discography, and is a tantalising taste of a man who, nowadays, is described as: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.” However, a better of description of Sam Dees is a man who could’ve and should’ve been King of seventies soul.
SAM DEES-IT’S OVER-70s SONGWRITER DEMOS AND MASTERS.