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Still On The Move, CD (£11.50)
It's now been almost ten years since Ace released its first Lonnie Mack CD. Lonnie On The Move (CDCH 352) was, in essence, a (slightly-revised) reissue of a 1976 double album's worth of sides that Fraternity label boss Harry Carlson had originally leased to US reissue label Trip, and that contained a mix of Mack's Fraternity singles and masters which had hitherto lain unissued in Carlson's tape archive.
In the intervening decade, Ace has released two further compilations which, between them, have now made most of Mack's other Fraternity recordings available in the CD format - more often than not for the first time. Beautifully presented and comprehensively annotated - so much so, in fact, that yours truly feels absolutely no need to repeat the fulsome biographical aspects detailed by either Bill Millar or Stuart Colman as a) I can add nothing to information already provided by those fine fellows and b) I'm pretty sure that those who buy this set will already have those packages, and will therefore know Mack's history almost as well as Mack himself does! -Memphis Wham! (CDCHD 713) and From Nashville To Memphis (CDCHD 807) collectively set new standards in Lonnie Mack reissues. No surprise, then that ten years on from its original release, On The Move! was beginning to look a little puny in comparison to its two follow-up volumes...
Ace owns Fraternity outright, but in 1992 we were contractually obliged to release the Trip LP as it was. Since then we have fully researched all the tapes in our Fraternity archive and happily, these tapes were found to include better sources for a number of tracks than issued on On The Move. Thus we've taken the opportunity to give it a deserving makeover that upgrades not only the CD's packaging, but also its contents wherever possible.
As well as doing all this, we've also taken the opportunity to correct a few errors and anomalies that have crept in elsewhere, and to expand our original set by including several singles masters that haven't yet appeared on an Ace CD. And finally, we've topped the whole thing off by adding the cream of our remaining, hitherto-unreleased, alternate takes for your approbation. Is this a good deal or what?
This collection does not repeat the mistakes of its predecessor by including both Soul Express and Jam And Butter - per the original Trip album - as it becomes fairly obvious in an A/B test that these are, in fact, one and the same master (albeit the J&B tape runs marginally faster than the tape for SE). In fact, we haven't included it at all, as we have a splendid stereo mix of that mono SE/J&B master on Memphis Wham, where it appears under its 'proper' title, The Freeze!
We've also excised the original mono Lonnie On The Move for similar reasons, as a stereo mix of this take appears on Memphis Wham! under its 'proper' title, Turn On Your Lovelight. However, to compensate, we've included a previously unissued Take 2 - which boasts several subtle differences, including the gals from the Charmaines on some hitherto unheard backing vocals. (Incidentally, the session tapes reveal that the original intended title of Lonnie's powerhouse version of Bobby Bland's R&B classic was 'For Kicks!'...)
Our previously reissued version of (There's) Snow On The Mountain lacked the tambourine overdub heard on the single (as, to be fair, did the version on the Trip album that was taken from the same tapes!), so we've put that right here. And we've also taken the opportunity to bring you the single master of Omaha (the ?ífast version?ì of Down In The Dumps) - an alternate take of the ?íslow version?ì having been erroneously credited as an alternate take of this version of Omaha on From Memphis To Nashville (still with us?...)
This might be a good point in the proceedings to clear up any confusion about the instrumental that's known as The Circus Song. On the session tapes, engineer/producer Carl Edmondson is heard to call 'A Good Woman's Love - Take (whatever)' before all surviving takes. Quite how the issued 45 came to be credited as both The Circus Song and a Lonnie Mack composition is unclear, as the melody most definitely is that of early 50s Tin Pan Alley songsmith Cy Coben's A Good Woman's Love. (If you don't believe me, go and check out Hank Locklin's original 1956 RCA recording of the song). Anyway, it's a nice record whatever Lonnie and/or Harry Carlson chose to call it, and here you can hear the single master for the first time on an Ace CD. As you can on Tonky Go Go, which Edmondson's pre-take calls identify as originally being titled Heaven but which - to these ears, at any rate - has always sounded like a corruption of 'In Your Easter Bonnet, With All The Frills Upon It...'
...All of which, effectively, brings us to the alternate takes featured here, which are receiving their world premiere. Listening to the session masters, as your compiler has been privileged to do in the course of revamping this project, the similarities between most of the unissued alternates and the master takes quickly becomes apparent. In most cases, Lonnie obviously had a firm advance idea of how he was going to pick and sing any particular number, and he tended to nail a performance in no more than six takes - several of which might invariably be false starts or breakdowns. Having said that, those that we've selected for this compilation are, mostly, earlier takes that do differ from the more familiar versions in many ways.
The Take 2 of Cry Cry Cry has Lonnie still perfecting the blistering guitar runs that highlight the unknown take that was previously issued. Take 2 of Money is noticeably slower, likewise Take 6 of Oh I Apologise which is also more ragged vocally and definitely more soulfully intense than the previously issued Take 7. (As an aside, these two songs represent a rare example of an artist loving two sides of a record so much - in this case, Barrett Strong's 1959 Anna/Tamla single - that he covered both!) Probably the best of the previously unheard 'alternates' is that of Florence Of Arabia, which runs for more than a minute longer than the take that Trip used on the original Lonnie On The Move set, and which features plenty of exciting pickin' to compensate for the slightly below-par quality of the sound reproduced from a damaged mastertape...
The previously reissued highlights of the original Lonnie On The Move vinyl and CD are, of course, still here and are still highlights. Yours truly has always regarded the heavy, heavy monster sound of Sa-Ba-Hoola as being the third component of a titanic triumvirate that also incorporates the incomparable Wham and, obviously, Memphis. Ray Charles' influence on Lonnie is all over the rocking Dorothy On My Mind, an influence that's focused by the Charmaines' call-and-response backup vocals. The instrumental take on the Falcons' I Found A Love is a respectful homage to that other great purveyor of Magnatone magic, Ohio Untouchables guitar star Robert Ward. And remaining tracks like I've Had It, Shotgun and I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water give a good representation of the diversity of repertoire that you might be likely to hear in the course of a night at the hop with Lonnie Mack and the Twilights. In his formative days, and in Mack's neck of the woods, you had to be able to play anything from country to R&B to doo wop to keep the dancefloor and tip jar full. It goes without saying that Lonnie Mack had no problems doing any of this...
What you hear here, then, is both the "rest" of Lonnie Mack and, most assuredly, a whole lot of this great artist's "best". When reviewing our original CD issue of Lonnie On The Move, UK rock weekly New Musical Express' blessedly anonymous reviewer informed his readership that Lonnie "either twiddles his axe weedily or sings not too well". (This self-same, incredibly ill-informed hack also assured his readership that Lonnie wrote Memphis, by the way. Roll over Harry Carlson and tell Chuck Berry that news!)
by Tony Rounce