Doesn't time fly - I've been with Ace for nearly three years now and - for me at least - it still feels like it's been about three weeks (although I suspect that my long-suffering colleagues may feel a little differently about that from time to time!) I've never regretted joining the Ace team for even a second, and if I ever have a regret at all its that I was not here when my A&R associates Roger Armstrong and Peter Gibbon made their first forays into the Stax tape vault and emerged with the tapes that made up, among other things, the wonderful Volts Of Stax" series and sundry other first-rate, single-artist compilations"
The chaps had already dealt with the bulk of Stax by the time I pitched up on the doorstep, but we're all ever-agog to find new ways that we can bring you more of our - and surely everyone's - favourite Southern Soul label's fine fare. And this month I'm particularly delighted to be both instigator and perpetrator of a splendid collection from the label's flagship female harmony group - who else could that be but the Emotions?
Longtime Stax collectors will know that the Hutchinson sisters and their cousin Teresa Davis twice had a Songs Of Innocence And Experience" album scheduled for release on the Volt subsidiary during Stax' 'fingerclickin' heyday. First time around, the title was changed at the last minute and the album became "Untouched". Second time out, the release was cancelled, even though a number was allocated (and subsequently never reassigned). But finally, a mere 33 years on, The Emotions at last have a "Songs Of Innocence And Experience" collection that, likely as not, contains many of the tracks that were destined for that cancelled album, as well as a number of selections that have never previously made it to any Emotions CD, PLUS a beguiling assortment of hitherto unissued demos and finished tracks that all make their world-wide debut here! The release of this CD does, in fact, ensure that every finished Emotions Volt master is now available on a UK CD. Good news for everybody, don't you agree?
Many of these tracks were originally issued on the 1978 vinyl album "Sunshine", that Fantasy culled from their stockpile of Emotions Stax masters, shortly after they bought the catalogue and resurrected the imprint, and released at a time when the girls were hot with Best Of My Love and Don't Ask My Neighbours. Even though the Emotions did not originally endorse the release of "Sunshine", there was nothing on it for them to be embarrassed about - and that is still the case, 26 years later. Far from being a bunch of rejects, the original "Sunshine" set actually included some of their finest recordings ever, and if the opening trio of I Really Miss You, the single Shouting Out Love and the gorgeous version of Carla Thomas' Gee Whiz aren't themselves enough to convince you that "Sunshine" was and still is a 'must-have' item then nothing will!
As well as bringing you the "Sunshine" album in its entirety, this new project includes some wonderful unissued sides, among them a demo of the Charmels' Hayes-Porter masterpiece As Long As I've Got You that comes from the Emotions' very first Stax session. Also featured is a marvellous version of (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right that presents the song from a woman's viewpoint and that would have been recorded at about the same time as (and possibly even before) Luther Ingram's seminal take on the song. Among the other unissued delights is a superb essay on Tony Hester's You've Got Me Going Through A Thing (also cut around the same time by Kim Weston, whose version lay similarly unreleased until it popped up on one of our earlier Stax comps). When you hear it, your only question as to its 'previously unissued' status will be, "why"?...
I'm also delighted to have been afforded the opportunity to include the girls' two holiday offerings. Black Christmas is a great song with a strong message that transcends the merely seasonal aspects of its title. For my money What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas is one of the 20 finest Stax sides of all time, as well as possibly the saddest song ever written (I'm welling up even as I sit here now, just writing about it).
So there you have "Songs Of Innocence And Experience" - a collection that features plenty of both, performed by one of the finest female vocal groups of all time. Happily the Emotions are still very much an active act - and they'll be appearing in the UK in October on a not-to-be-missed bill that also includes the Pointer Sisters and Candi Staton. Don't miss that, and whatever you do please don't miss this, either.
By Tony Rounce"