The Stax Records’ story began in 1957, when Jim Stewart founded Satellite Records. Four years later, in 1961, Satellite Records changed its name to Stax Records. That day, one of what become one of the most successful independent soul labels was born.

This success lasted fourteen years. Then on December 19th 1975 Stax Records and its sister label Volt Records were forced into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Less than a month later, on January 12th 1976, a bankruptcy judge ordered that Stax Records close its doors for the last time. The last person to leave Stax Records was engineer and producer Terry Manning. It was the end of an era.

Since then, countless compilations of Stax and Volt Records have been released. Many play it safe, and stick with the tried and tested. They showcase Stax and Volt’s bigger names, including Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, The Soul Children, Johnny Taylor, William Bell, Judy Clay, The Dramatics and The Bar-Kays. However, often, what veterans of Stax and Volt compilations long for, is a compilation where the compiler has dug much deeper. They got their wish recently.

Stax Records, an imprint of Ace Records, recently released Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations. It’s the followup to a compilation Ian Levine compiled back in 1974. That was Solid Soul Sensations, which was the first ever Northern Soul compilations. It featured tracks from the Scepter and Wand back-catalogues. On its release, Solid Soul Sensations was a huge success in Britain, reaching number eleven. A followup was planned, but somehow, Ian Levine never got round to it, until recently. 

While Solid Soul Sensations was released on vinyl, and featured just sixteen tracks, the newly released Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations has been released on CD and features a mighty twenty-five tracks. On Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, Ian digs deeper into the Stax and Volt vaults than other compilers. He’s eschewed the familiar, and tried and tested. 

Instead, Ian has chosen tracks from some of the lesser known names to have recorded on Stax and Volt. This includes Bobby Whitlock, Joni Wilson, Annette Thomas, The Stingers, Reggie Milner, Paul Thompson, The Newcomers and John Gary Williams. Familiar faces include William Bell, The Dramatics, Barbara Lewis and David Porter. However, the tracks from these “familiar faces” aren’t the ones most people would expect. That’s what makes Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations such a captivating compilation.

Opening Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is Bobby Whitlock’s And I Love You. It was the B-Side of Raspberry Rug, which was released on Hip Records, an imprint of Stax Records. And I Love You was produced by Don Nix and Donald “Duck” Dunn. However, Raspberry Rug sunk without trace. Later, the hidden gem that is And I Love You was discovered by the Northern Soul crowd. By then, Bobby Whitlock had been a member of Derek and The Dominoes, and collaborated with Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones. Bobby also release four solo albums between 1972 and 1976. The best of these albums are Bobby Whitlock and Raw Velvet. They’re the perfect introduction to one of music’s best kept secrets.

The Rance Allen Group feature three times on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations. They released I Know A Man Who as a single in 1973, on Gospel Truth Records. This was an imprint of Truth Records. Soul and gospel combine as Rance Allen delivers an impassioned vocal powerhouse. 

Gonna Make It Alright was hidden away on the B-Side of The Rance Allen Group’s 1973 single I Got To Be Myself. As a result, I Got To Be Myself passed most people by. Not any more, this uplifting, joyous gem makes a welcome comeback on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations.

Ain’t No Need Of Crying is the third and final track from The Rance Allen Group. It’s a David Porter composition, which was released as a single on Stax Records’ gospel imprint Truth Records in 1974. It features a beautiful, heartfelt vocal where soul and gospel combine seamlessly.

Charlene and The Soul Serenaders’ Can You Win was originally released on Paradox in 1970. When Stax Records heard the single, they decided to take a chance on the single. However, promos were sent out to DJs, Love Changes and Can You Win as a double-A-side on Volt. These singles are now a real rarity. Then when the single was released, Can You Win was the B-Side. Since then, it’s become a favourite in the UK’s Northern Soul scene.

Tony Hester and Richard Wylie cowrote You’re My Only Temptation. It was recorded by Roz Ryan and produced by Don Davis, and released on Volt in June 1970. Despite its smooth, soulful and melancholy sound, You’re My Only Temptation passed record buyer by. This proved to be Roz’s one and only single for Volt. Mind you, what a single it was. Later, Roz would go on to enjoy a successful career as an actress.

Proud As Punch released their one and only since on Stax in 1970. That was So Easy To See, On the B-Side was If You Look Into My Eyes in 1970. It was written by Ted Tierce and produced by Don Nix. With its big, bold and jaunty arrangement, it’s a delicious slice of blue-eyed soul.

The Stingers are another group who only released one single on Stax, Do The Cissy. On the flip-side was Refuse To Be Lonely. It was produced by future member of M.F.S.B. Lenny Pakula. He also cowrote the track with Palmer Lakes and Robert Seville. In The Stingers’ hands, Refuse To Be Lonely is transformed into a stomper, Philly style.

Originally, The T.S.U. Tornadoes were the house band at Skipper Lee Frazier’s Ovide Records. They later, became Archie Bell’s backing band. However, in 1969, they released My Thing Is A Moving Thing. This was the first of two singles The T.S.U. Tornadoes released on Volt. On the flip-side of My Thing Is A Moving Thing is the the Leroy Lewis penned I Still Love You. It has Northern Soul written all over it, and is a real find by Ian Levine.

A real rarity is Ilana’s single Where Would You Be Today. It was released on Volt in 1971, and proved to be her only single. Accompanied by female backing vocalists Ilana delivers an under soulful vocal of a single that’s almost impossible to find. When copies of  Where Would You Be Today become available, they’re beyond the budget of most record buyers. So its inclusion on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is to be welcomed. It’s one of my highlights of Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations.

Before signing to Volt, Margie Joseph was briefly signed to Okeh. That’s where she released her debut single Why Does A Man Have To Lie? After that, Margie Joseph signed to Volt, and released One More Chance as a single in 1969. It was produced in New Orleans by Larry McKinley. Margie Joseph delivers what’s without doubt one of the most soulful ultimatums as she sings I’m gonna give you One More Chance to prove your love.”

After leaving Atlantic Records in 1968, Barbara Lewis signed to Enterprise, an imprint of Stax Records. Two years later, in 1970, Barbara released what was the final album of her career, The Many Grooves Of Barbara Lewis. It featured The Stars, which features Barbara at her soulful best, delivering a heartfelt, hopeful vocal. It’s a tantalising taste of what Barbara Lewis is capable of.

One of the most underrated albums released on Stax was John Gary Williams’ 1973 eponymous album. It was released on Stax, and featured John Gary Williams’ 1973 single The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy. His melancholy vocal is tinged with disbelief as he sings “The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy.” Social comment and soulfulness, it doesn’t get much better than that.

My final choice from Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is David Porter’s If I Give It Up, I Want It Back. This is the opening track on what’s regarded as the finest album of David’s career, Victim Of The Joke?….An Opera. It was released in 1973. However, If I Give It Up, I Want It Back had been released two years earlier, in 1971 on Stax. Sadly, the single failed commercially. However, by the time Victim Of The Joke?….An Opera was released in 1973, David Porter was enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim his talent as a singer deserved. 

Over the years, I’ve bought countless Stax compilations and box sets. Sometimes, compilers stick to the tried and tested. They never stray far from Stax and Volt’s biggest names. This means a compilation packed full of tracks from Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, Isaac Hayes, The Soul Children, Johnny Taylor, William Bell, Judy Clay, The Dramatics and The Bar-Kays. Usually, they’re these artists biggest hits. Occasionally, however, a compiler goes of piste and digs deeper. This includes veteran DJ Ian Levine.

For Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, the veteran and venerable DJ has dug deep in the Stax vaults. He’s also dipped into the Volt, Truth, Hip and Enterprise vaults, and found twenty-five tracks that eschew the familiar and predictable. The result is Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, a compilation that’s all killer, and no filler. That’s no surprise.

Ian Levine’s life has revolved around soul for over forty years. He’s lived and breathed all things soul. From his days spinning Northern and Modern Soul at the Blackpool Mecca, Ian Levine knew where the soulful secrets were hidden. He’s decided to share a few of them on Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations, which was recently released by Stax Records on Ace Records. It’s one of the best Stax compilations money can buy. Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations is also the perfect way to dig deeper into Stax’s discography.

Especially for those whose budget can’t stretch to the trio of box sets that were reissued earlier this year. They feature every single released by Stax and its various imprints between 1958 and 1975. However, they’ll set you back in excess of £200. Ian Levine’s Solid Stax Sensations won’t break the budget, and is a welcome introduction to some of the best kept, soulful secrets in the Stax Records’ vaults.





















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