Memphis’ location on the border of three states and the Mississippi River, means it has been a hub for a couple of hundred years now. It is also an incredibly inventive place – the home of the first supermarket, Federal Express and the Holiday Inn, as well as rock’n’roll. In the field of black music the city had been critical as a centre for blues and R&B, really making its mark throughout the 60s and 70s. Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and the mighty Stax label put the Memphis sound on the map, raw and gritty. In the late 60s, after the death of Otis Redding, there was a determined effort to keep the sounds of Memphis relevant and it became the music’s most successful period.
MEMPHIS 70 hones in on a group of labels to bring you a selection of incredible sounds. It covers the spectrum of soul, funk, and instrumental grooves and by digging deep into the vaults we’ve discovered unissued gems as well as some very sought after rarities.
These include Smithtonian’s Mississippi Mud, an expensive 45 on Stax’s Enterprise label that is popular with funk collectors, as is Stacey Lane’s one single for the BAR label – a gritty groovy little cut, that is terribly obscure. Lillian Hale’s one 45 on Fretone is a sure fire dancefloor slice of sister-funk and Willie Tolliver’s Papa Killed A Chicken would be very in-demand if only it wasn’t so obscure. We have some great soul as well, including John Gary Williams masterful Come What May and Mel and Tim’s Keep The Faith.
It is the unreleased cuts where this album reaches heights unattainable elsewhere offering an almost secret history of Memphis soul. For instance it has been suggested that David Porter had lost his muse by the early 70s, yet with cuts such as I Can’t Tell No Difference in the can this seems far fetched. We also have a couple of incredible soul tunes from the Sounds Of Memphis vaults, one by the greatly under-recorded Willie Walker, and another by former Stax artist Art Jerry Miller. SOM is also where we found a brilliant take on Aretha Franklin’s Pullin’ by the Minits and the Ovations doing an insanely funky version of Sam Cooke’s Shake. A personal favourite of mine is a version of Who’s Been Warming My Oven (James Carr / Spencer Wiggins) recorded by Sir Walter in an Al Green style from 1975.
Memphis 70 is a veritable trip through an obscure part of Memphis soul. We aim to keep walking this path
By Dean Rudland
NB: Look out for our Ovations featuring Louis Williams CD “One In A Million” that includes their SOM / XL recordings coming late March on Kent CDKEND 294.