By Tony Rounce
Vintage southern soul is more popular now than at any time since its mid-60s heyday. Timeless songs and genre-defining singing enjoy an appreciation that extends way beyond hardcore devotees, and the southern soul fan club just gets bigger and bigger. The music produced by Fame Records’ founder Rick Hall and the incredible musicians, performers and songwriters who plied their trade in his studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama have contributed greatly to this growing popularity.
Although others would emerge in its wake, it was FAME Studios that put the “Muscle Shoals Sound” on the map. Artists such as Wilson Pickett, James & Bobby Purify, Arthur Conley, Clarence Carter, Candi Staton and Aretha Franklin cut some of their most important hits there in the 60s. As well as performers, Fame also cultivated the writing talents of – among others – Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and published many of southern soul’s most revered songs.
Muscle Shoals eventually became a recording Mecca for artists from all genres of popular music, and FAME’s remit expanded to embrace Bobbie Gentry, Tom Jones, Mac Davis, Paul Anka, Liza Minnelli and – perhaps most famously – the Osmonds. These and others all made a different kind of memorable music under Rick Hall’s supervision, but it’s the incredible southern soul recordings which poured out of FAME in the 1960s upon which the studio’s reputation stands.
We’re very proud of the CDs in our Fame reissue programme. A listen to any one of the nine featured here will show why.
The Fame Studios Story
Three CDs of some of the best music ever recorded, by some of the greatest singers and musicians ever to enter a studio. As much a soul music primer as a history of a recording studio. Southern soul heaven from the Home Of The Muscle Shoals Sound.
Spencer Wiggins - Feed The Flame
The recordings this Memphis-born baritone made are among the finest to come out of FAME. This set features all his Fame sides – several previously unissued – along with essential masters cut in the 70s for the revered Sounds Of Memphis imprint.
George Jackson - Don't Count Me Out
Our three volumes of George’s FAME recordings show why he’s so admired by his peers and the soul cognoscenti alike. Features the original versions of songs he wrote for Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, Candi Staton, Dobie Gray and others – all previously unissued.
Candi Staton - Evidence
This 2CD set spans 1968 to 1973 and brings together all of the First Lady of Fame’s recordings for the label, including several goodies not released originally. Female southern soul never sounded better than it does here.
Dan Penn - The Fame Recordings
Widely regarded as one of the true greats of soul songwriting, Dan’s Fame sessions were long the stuff of legend. Not anymore. This CD brings together 24 of his original versions – almost all previously unissued, and handpicked by the man himself.
The Fame Singles Volume 1
Fame’s most consistently successful artist’s singles are split across two Kent CDs. This one covers his releases between 1967 and 1970 and includes a dozen R&B and Hot 100 hits, many of them foundation classics of southern soul.
Hall Of Fame: Rare And Unissued Gems From The FAME Vaults
Various Artists (Fame)
Hall Of Fame: Rare And Unissued Gems From The Fame Vaults
Not everyone who recorded at FAME cut enough material to fill an album. This series shines the spotlight on many of those who didn’t, including some of southern soul’s most revered obscurities. Almost all tracks in this volume are previously unreleased.
Jimmy Hughes - Why Not Tonight
The Fame label’s biggest asset during its formative years, Jimmy’s gospel-infused soul really put Muscle Shoals on the map. His Fame recordings are anthologised on two essential Kent CDs, with his later sides making up the bulk of this one.
James Govan - Wanted
Sounding a lot like his hero Otis Redding, James is one of soul’s greatest unknowns. His Fame discography amounts to just two singles, but he cut enough material in Muscle Shoals between 1968 and 1970 to fill one of the best CDs of 2013.