HAPPY TIMES-THE SONGS OF DAN PENN AND SPOONER OLDHAM VOL 2.

Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘30th’ October 2020.

One of the greatest songwriting partnerships of the past sixty years is without doubt Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. The pair met at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals in the mid-sixties and went on to form a formidable songwriting partnership.

Over the next few years the pair wrote hit singles for Arthur Conley, Dionne Warwick, Etta James, Irma Thomas, James Carr, Joe Simon Percy Sledge, Solomon Burke and The Sweet Inspirations. Many of the songs that Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote are now known as Southern Soul and the pair were architects of the genre.

The Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham songwriting partnership was a versatile one, and they also wrote country, pop and rock songs. BJ Thomas, Charlie Rich and The Box Tops were beneficiaries of the pair’s songwriting partnership.

Sometimes, the pair joined forces with other songwriters and this brought further success their way. By the time the Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham songwriting partnership came to an end in the early seventies, they had achieved more than many songwriters achieve in a lifetime.

Nearly fifty years after this exclusive songwriting partnership came to end Ace Records are about to release Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 on ‘30th’ October 2020. It’s the much-anticipated followup to Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn And Spooner Oldham which was released in 2011 and featured some of the pair’s best known songs.

Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 turns its attention to the pair’s lesser known songs and features contributions from Arthur Conley, Bill Brandon, BJ Thomas, Bobby Womack, Don Varner, June Conquest, Merlee Rush, Percy Sledge, Ronnie Milsap, Spooner’s Crowd, The Box Tops, The Yo Yo’s and Wilson Pickett. These tracks are a mixture of unreleased tracks, singles, B-Sides and album tracks and is another reminder of one of the great songwriting partnership Dan Penn And Spooner Oldham.

June Conquest opens Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 with I Do. It was produced by Rick Hall and Staff at Fame Studios in 1966 and was regarded as a potential single. However, this soulful dancer which seems to have been influenced by Motown lay unreleased until 2012 when this soulful dancer made its debut on all Of Fame (Rare And Unissued Gems From The Fame Vaults).

In 1967, The Box Tops which featured future Big Star vocalist Alex Chilton, released their biggest hit single The Letter. Tucked away on the B-Side was the Dan Penn production Happy Times which is a vastly underrated example of pop-soul.

In 1966 Sandy Posey from Jasper, Alabama, released her debut album Single Girl on MGM Records. The most powerful track on the album which was produced by Chips Moman was  Hey Mister. It features a vocal full of despair and hurt as she breathes meaning and emotion into the harrowing lyrics.

When Arthur Conley released his third album Soul Directions on Atco, in 1968, it opened with You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy. The song had originally been recorded by Jimmy Hughes in 1965. However, this latest Southern Soul cover featured a vocal full of sadness, regret and a sense of melancholia.

The Power Of Love was recorded by Don Varner at Quinvy Studios in early 1967 but this Motown influenced song lay unreleased until 1989. That was when it featured on a Charly compilation Rainbow Road-Rare Soul From The Quinvy/Broadway Sound Studio Volume 5. At last, this long-lost hidden soulful gem was available for all to hear. It makes a welcome return on Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol 2.

I Need A Lot Of Loving was released as a single on Goldwax in 1966. Lead vocalist Louis Williams sounds as if he’s paying homage to Sam Cooke on this single which it was hoped would result in a change of fortune for the label.

The late Bobby Womack was one of the greatest soul singers of his generation. Proof of this is Broadway Walk which Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote with Darryl Carter and was released as a single on Minit in October 1967. It’s now regarded as one of Bobby Womack’s finest performances as he vamps his way through the lyrics to this soulful slice of Memphis funk.   

Cousins James and Bobby Purify formed a soul duo in 1965 and by 1966 had signed to Bell Records. In 1967, they released The Pure Sound Of The Purifys-James and Bobby which featured the beautiful ballad Hello There. It’s another hidden gem that is a welcome addition on the compilation.

By 1968 Dee Dee Sharp had signed to Atco and was working with producer Tom Dowd. He produced Help Me Find My Groove which is a stunning slice of gospel-tinged Southern Soul.

It was hoped that The Goodies would be Memphis’ answer to The Shangri-Las. Sadly, things didn’t turn out that way. By the time Stax sent them to record with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham their career was teetering on the brink. They wrote and produced the ballad Goodies which has a vocal that sounds as if it’s been influenced by The Shangri-Las. Despite this, and an arrangement that was recorded at American Studios commercial success eluded this carefully crafted single.

In 1969, BJ Thomas recorded I’ll Pray For Rain for his album Young and In Love which was released on Scepter Records. It’s a compelling ballad with an impassioned vocal that showcases a truly talented singer.

Closing Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 is I’ll Be Your Baby by Spooner’s Crowd. It’s an instrumental that features Dan Penn on piano and is played waltz time. It was proceed by Rick Hall and released on Cadet in 1966 but failed to find an audience. This oft-overlooked track is the perfect way to close a compilation that pays homage to two songwriting greats.

Nine years after the release of the critically acclaimed compilation Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn And Spooner Oldham, Ace Records are about to release then much-anticipated followup. This is Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 which features twenty-four of the pair’s lesser known tracks. There’s tracks that lay unreleased, B-Sides, album tracks and singles that failed to find the audience they deserved. They all have one thing in common quality.

That’s no surprise as these songs were written by one of the greatest songwriting partnerships of the past sixty years. They were all produced by top producers who brought out the best in artists who were either well known names or making their way in the world of music. The result is a compilation that oozes quality and Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 and is a fitting followup up to Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.

Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2.

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