BACK TO THE RIVER-MORE SOUTHERN SOUL STORIES 1961-1978.

BACK TO THE RIVER-MORE SOUTHERN SOUL STORIES 1961-1978.

With Christmas just around the corner, Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, have just released the perfect present for the soul man or woman in your life, Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978. This luxurious, and lovingly compiled three disc box set, features seventy-five songs, from the great and good of Southern Soul. It’s the long-awaited and much anticipated followup to Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977, which was released in November 2006. Since then, many fans of Southern Soul have awaited the followup to what was, one the best box sets of 2006. They’ve had a long wait.

Given the success of Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977, music fans were hoping that a followup would be released in 2007. However, compiling a box set takes time and patience. That was the case for Dean Rudland and Tony Rounce, who compiled Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978.

The first stage was choosing a long-list of tracks that would make their way onto Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978. Dean and Tony spent many a happy hour searching through their respective record collections. These record collections have been built up over more years than they care to remember, and bring back memories of countless crate-digging expeditions.

Dean and Tony are  battled scarred veterans of crate-digging expeditions in record shops, thrift stores, dusty warehouses and garage sales. Record fares have proved a happy hunting ground for the pair. So have the sales tables at soul nights and all-nighters. Then there’s the countless trades they’ve done over the year. Every record tells a story, and Dean and Tony are always looking for vinyl.

Wherever they go, no source of vinyl is left undisturbed. If it was, that would lead to sleepless nights. After all, that pile of vinyl might just contain that elusive hidden gem. Often, it does. Their impressive record collections are proof of this. They’re the perfect place to start when work began on Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978.

No corner of Dean and Tony’s record collection were left untouched. They’ll worked  their way through thousands of records. This took time. They then headed to Ace Records H.Q., where they began listening to master tapes at Ace Records H.Q. Tracks began to make their way onto their wish list of records that potentially, might make their way onto Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978.

Potentially was the operative word. That’s why Dean and Tony’s long-list could have had over a hundred tracks. They’ll have the tracks that in an ideal world, would make it onto the compilation. Then they’ll have a list of of alternatives. That made senses. Any compiler knows that they could’ve come across a problem with licensing. That’s not unheard of. 

Often, a compiler comes across a killer track, but is unable to license the tracks. There can be any number of reasons for this. When that happens, it pays to have a plan B. The compiler then dips into his list of alternative track. Veteran compilers know, that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll get every one of their preferred tracks on a compilation. If they do, there’s every chance they’ll also be clutching the winning lottery ticket come Saturday night. 

Once all the tracks are licensed, work begins on things like sleeve-notes and packaging. The sleeve-notes to Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 are best described in-depth and informative. Reading them, it’s obvious that Tony Rounce is passionate about soul music. His enthusiasm jumps off the page. What he doesn’t know about each of the seventy-five tracks isn’t worth noting. Throughout the sixty-four page booklet, there’s evocative photographs and scans or record labels and adverts. Suddenly, you’re transported back to the river, as you enjoy more Southern Soul stories which were released between 1961 and 1978.

These seventy-five tracks featured Southern Soul royalty. There’s no bigger names than Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. Or how about Bobby Bland, Solomon Burke, Joe Simon, O.V. Wright, Esther Phillips, Sam Dees? That’s nat all. What about Brook Benton, Jimmy Lewis, Z.Z. Hill, Don Covay, Otis Clay, Fontella Bass, Aaron Neville or Little Richard? These are just a few of the names that made their way onto Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978.

By the time the track listing to Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 was completed, and Ace Records announced that this long-awaited box set would be released just in time for Christmas, nine years had passed since Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977 was released. By then, many doubters wonder if the followup would ever be released?

Many Southern Soul fans never stopped believing. The doubters began comparing these Southern Soul fans to the optimistic big band fans who still think that Glen Miller is just running late. However, these Southern Soul fans patience was recently rewarded, when Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 was released. It’s a luxurious, lovingly compiled, three disc, seventy-five song box set. Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 will nestle in nicely to Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977. However, is Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 a fitting followup to Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977, and worth the nine year wait?

Disc One-Muscle Shoals-Memphis Redux.

Just like each of the three discs, disc one of Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 has twenty-five tracks. It’s entitled Muscle Shoals-Memphis Redux, and unsurprisingly, features tracks recorded in Muscle Shoals and Memphis. This includes some of the tracks that never made it onto Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977. It doesn’t say which one, but that doesn’t matter as disc one features contributions from some of the biggest names in Southern Soul.

This includes Solomon Burke’s 1968 Atlantic Records’ single I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free). Released at the height of the civil rights movement, Solomon Burke delivers a hope filled vocal which sets the tone for the rest of disc one.

Bettye LaVette, one of Southern Soul’s finest female vocals unleashes a vocal masterclass on her 1969 single Nearer To You. Then Dean Rudland and Tony Rounce play one of their trump cards.

This is a previously unreleased extended version of Judy Clay and William Bell’s Private Number. Don’t worry, they’ve another trick up their sleeve. This a previously unreleased take of Free Me, which Otis Redding recorded in 1967. It’s a spine-tingling track. Only four tracks in, and Dean Rudland and Tony Rounce have the listener hooked. There’s still plenty more delicious Southern Soul treats to come. 

How about Bobby Bland’s 1967 single A Touch Of The Blues? Produced by Willie Mitchell, it’s a heart wrenching, soulful, blues. Equally emotive is an unreleased take of Eddie Floyd’s I Got Everything I Need. It was recorded in 1966, at Stax Studio’s in Memphis, with Stax’s house band accompanying Eddie Floyd. Another tale of heartbreak is Joe Perkins 1969 single Think I’ll Go Somewhere And Cry Myself To Sleep, which was recorded at Quinvy Studios in Memphis. Joe delivers the lyrics as if he’s lived them. Sadly, when the single was released on Nugget, it never enjoyed the commercial success it deserved. Jeanie Greene’s Sure As Sin was also recorded at Quinvy Studios, and released on Atco in 1969. However, it has a much smoother, polished sound, from one of Southern Soul’s best kept secrets, Jeanie Greene.

Mary Wells however, is a name that’s much more familiar. She recorded I Found What I Wanted at the Fame Studios, and the single was released in 1971. It’s a track that could only have been recorded at Fame, and features Mary Wells at her best. She’s not alone.

That’s the case with Joe Simon’s vocal on his 1974 single Message From Maria. It was produced by Willie Mitchell, and released on Monument. Willie Mitchell seemed to get the best out of Joe Simon. That was also the case with O. V. Wright, who released  I’ve Been Searching on Hi Records in 1974. This is an irresistible introduction to O.V. Wright, one of the most underrated Southern Soul men on disc one. 

Another is Clarence Carter, who may be a new name to all but the the most devoted Southern Soul fans. He worked extensively with producer Rick Hall, at Fame Studios. However, She Ain’t Gonna Do Me Right was lain unreleased for far too long, and makes a welcome debut on Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978. Bettye Swann also made the journey to Fame Studios in 1971. She had released her biggest hit single Make Me Yours in 1967. Since then, Bettye Swann never reached the same heights. So in 1971, she made her way to Fame Studios, where Rick Hall worked his magic. The result was the a beautiful soul-baring single I’m Just Living A Lie. It’s not the only ballad on disc one.

Another ballad is The Soul Children’s dramatic, soulful, cover of Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday. Incredibly, this David Porter and Ronnie Williams production has never been released before, and brings disc one of Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 to a poignant close.

Disc Two-Southern Routes.

Just like disc one, disc two, which is entitled Southern Routes, oozes quality. One of the highlights has to be Brook Benton’s 1970 hit single Rainy Night In Georgia which was released on Cotillion. Ironically, this soul classic was recorded in Criteria Studios, Miami, not Georgia. So was Joey Gilmore’s Somebody Done Took My Baby and Gone. It was released in 1971, on Saadia Records, and features an outpouring of hurt from Joey Gilmore. Helene Smith’s A Woman Will Do Wrong was also recorded at Criteria Studios, Miami, in 1960. The single was released on the Phil L.A. label, and is a reminder of Helene Smith, who during the early sixties, was Miami’s first lady of soul. It was to Miami, Esther Phillips headed in 1969.

By 1969, Miami was where for Atlantic Records sent their artists to record. Esther Phillips recorded Linda Cooke and Bobby Womack’s I’m In Love at Atlantic South-Criteria Studios. The journey was worthwhile, and Esther Phillips rolled back th years, unleashing a vocal powerhouse, which was released in 1969. However, not all the songs were on disc one were recorded in the Sunshine State. Far from it. 

Sam Dees recorded Easier To Say Than Do, in Birmingham, Alabama. That was where one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the history of soul music called home. It’s also where he added the vocal to heart-wrenching Easier To Say Than in 1969. Since then, Sam Dees has spent more time writing songs for the great and good of soul, than recording. However, no self-respecting Southern Soul compilation is complete without a Sam Dees’ song.

Joe Medwick is just one of several artists on disc two who recorded at Pasadena Sounds Studio, in Pasadena, Texas. That’s where he recorded Nearer To You, a track that epitomises what Southern Soul sounds like. It was released on Tear Drop in 1967. The same year, Toussaint McCall released Nothing Takes The Place Of You. It was also produced by Ray Doggett, and released on Tear Drop. Johnny Adams’ (Sometimes) A Man Will Shed A Few Tears Too was recorded at Pasadena Sounds Studio. This time, Huey P. Meaux produced the single, which was released on Pacemaker Records. For anyone whose yet to discover Johnny Adams, this is the perfect introduction, which was recorded at the prolific Pasadena Sounds Studio. However, it wasn’t the only prolific studio. 

Criteria Studios in Miami, was still one of the city’s busiest studios. Della Humphrey’s horn lead ballad Your Love Is All Need was recorded there in 1968. It was released on Arctic in 1968. Two years later, Little Beaver’s cover of Frank Williams’ Do Right Man was recorded at Criteria Studios. Producing the session was Frank Williams and Willie Hale. Despite a soulful, impassioned vocal, when the single was released on Saadia, it sunk without trace. It makes a welcome return on Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978. It’s not alone.

George Perkins’ 1972 single How Sweet It Would Be was recorded at Sound City Studios, Shreveport. Accompanying George’s hurt filled vocal are gospel inspired harmonies. Together, they play their part in one of the highlights of Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978. This isn’t the only  tracks recorded at Sound City Studios. So was Reuben Bell’s heartfelt, string-drenched ballad Asking For The Truth. It was released on Alarm in 1975. That was two years after the release of Charles Crawford’s A Sad Sad Song, on Hy Sign in 1973. This was another track recorded at Sound City Studios, which in the early to mid seventies, was enjoying a hot streak.  Back then, Southern Soul was enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

Back in 1966, when Aaron Neville released Tell It Like It Is on Par-Lo, Motown was providing the soundtrack for America. However, this beautiful, timeless ballad rivalled anything coming out of the Detroit, or anywhere else. It’s should be a soul classic, and it’s fitting that Tell It Like It Is closes Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978. 

Disc Three-Going Back Home.

The third and final disc in the Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 box set, is entitled Going Back Home. There’s certainly not letup in quality. An unreleased extended version of The Girls From Texas almost waltzes along, showcases Jimmy Lewis’ voice. Talking of voices, one of the most famous voices in soul, steps forward.

That’s Aretha Franklin on the sultry sounding Ain’t No Way, which she released as single on Atlantic Records in 1968. Aretha Frankin has not left her gospel roots behind, on this soulful offering. Neither has Clay Hammond on Take Your Time, which he released on Kent in 1966. Don Covay’s roots were also in the church. His father was a baptist minister. However, Don Covay  crossed over, and in 1965, released You’re Good For Me, on the Landa label. Clay Hammond and Don Covay are just two of the great voices of Southern Soul men.

Z.Z. Hill is another. He helped rejuvenate Southern Soul’s popularity with singles like Don’t Make Me Pay For His Mistakes. It was released in 1971, on Hill. Around this time, Hi Records were about to become one of the most successful Southern Soul labels. One of their signings would be Otis Clay, who in 1967, released That’s How It Is (When You’re In Love) on One-derful. It’s a tantalising taste of one of the most underrated Southern Soul men. Willie Hightower falls into the same category. He was signed to Hi Records when he released Don’t Blame Me in 1973. This Willie Mitchell production epitomises everything that’s good about Southern Soul. 

Southern Soul was also blessed with some fantastic female singers. This includes Fontella Bass, whose synonymous with her hit single Rescue Me. I Want Everyone To Know, which was released on the Paula label in 1972, shows another side of Fontella Bass, on this smouldering slice of sultry Southern Soul. She’s joined on disc two by another soul sister, Philly born Barbara Mason. She might sound like an unlikely Southern Soul singer. However, in 1975, Barbara Mason joined forces with producer Don Davis. The result was the album Love’s The Thing. One of the highlights was the Millie Jackson inspired Shackin’ Up, which was one of the album’s highlights.

From the opening bars of Timmy Willis’ Easy As Saying 1-2-3, it’s obvious that something special is unfolding. Timmy Willis’ live-in vocal brings the lyrics to life, while the Muscle Shoals rhythm section and horns accompany him. What follows is a hidden Southern Soul gem, that was released on Jubilee in 1970. That was two years after Bobby Rush released Mary Jane on Galaxy in 1968. Bluesy and soulful, Mary Jane features one of the veterans of Southern Soul, Bobby Rush whose still playing live in 2015. So it’s fitting that Bobby Rush closes Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978.

Nine years have passed since the release of the Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977. Since then, fans of Southern Soul have patiently awaited the followup. Recently, that wait was over, when Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, have just released Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978.  This luxurious, and lovingly compiled three disc box set, features seventy-five songs, from the great and good of Southern Soul. There’s everyone from Southern Soul royalty like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, to Bobby Bland, Solomon Burke, Joe Simon, O.V. Wright, Esther Phillips and Sam Dees. Then there’sBrook Benton, Jimmy Lewis, Z.Z. Hill, Don Covay, Otis Clay, Fontella Bass and Aaron Neville. However, this is just the tip of a musical iceberg, which oozes quality.

So good is Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977, that it’s manage to surpass the quality of Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story 1961-1977. That’s no surprise. Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 features familiar faces, new names and hidden gems among the seventy-five tracks. There’s something for everyone. 

Ballads and tales of heartbreak and betrayal, rub shoulders with songs full of emotion and joy over Back To The River-More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978’s three discs. This seventy-five song roller coaster, is a reminder of the glory days of Southern Soul, and is the perfect Christmas present for soul man or woman in your life.

BACK TO THE RIVER-MORE SOUTHERN SOUL STORIES 1961-1978.

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3 Comments

  1. Jeffrey L. Denbo

    Create review of a great album. Have you noticed that the booklet’s liner notes left out tracks 23 & 24 from disc 3?

    • Hi Jeffrey.

      Glad you liked the review, and hope you’re enjoying the box set. There’s some great Southern Soul on the three discs.

      The notes relating to track 23 disc 3 Timmy Willis’ Easy As Saying 1-2-3, can b on page 52, under track 8, Al Gardner’s Just A Touch Of Your Hand.

      Likewise the notes relating to track 24 disc 3 Little Richard’s I Don’t Know What It Is, But It’s Got Me, can be found on Page 53, under track 9, Don Covay’s You’re Good To Me.

      Hope that helps. Happy New Year.

      Regards,
      Derek.

  2. Jeffrey L. Denbo

    Great review of a great album. Have you noticed that the booklet’s liner notes left out tracks 23 & 24 from disc 3?

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