The R&B and soul clubs of the 60s gave young music fans like me a unique opportunity (after years of package shows and festivals in cinemas and public halls) to experience some of the most exciting acts on the planet, at close quarters - and I do mean close! Most clubs were tiny, packed tinderboxes, breaching a dozen safety regulations, dripping in sweat and atmosphere. Artists often found them a pain - I once heard Little Richard blasting promoter Don Arden, over the phone, for booking him into 'a dirty, stinking, mother-f..... hole in the wall' (whilst apologising to us for his 'toilet-talk!') - but fans loved them.
It was in just such surroundings that I first saw both Ike & Tina and Inez & Charlie Foxx and the experience of sitting on the edge of a small stage, with those ladies throbbing away at no more than arm's length is something I shall carry to my grave! Inez was among the most delectable women I ever saw and she and brother Charlie benefited enormously from these clubs (and by Mockingbird being the inaugural release on the legendary British Sue label) during the period from 1963 to 1968, when they were among our most frequent and welcome visitors.
The Ike & Tina reference is not inappropriate as both duos gained their earliest success with Juggy Murray's US Sue label - long overdue for similar re-issue - and (over a memorable Chinese nosh, in Manchester) he made no bones about seeing the Foxxes as his replacement duo. Inez & Charlie, however, ploughed a lighter furrow, with their infectious brand of pop-soul and Mockingbird and Hurt By Love (with Charlie's gyrations and vocal 'bass-lines,' behind Inez's seductive singing) are still revered on the Northern Soul circuit, along with many on this fine compilation by Pete Gibbon of the best of their subsequent Dynamo output.
This set, then, takes up their story after Sue and their move to Musicor's soul subsidiary, under producer Luther Dixon (Shirelles, Chuck Jackson & Co and to whom Inez was also married, briefly). Whilst they never repeated the success of Mockingbird they had a few minor hits, the biggest being 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 (perhaps most closely resembling their earlier biggies), with a more varied mix of their jauntier Northern soul fare, sweet soul ballads presaging the way things would go in the 70s and, best of all, a couple of truly startling, gospel-like 'testifying' double-headers: one segueing Jerry Butler's I Stand Accused into their own 'post-verdict' sequel, Guilty, the other turning Vaya Con Dios into a soul classic, leading into their paean to The Boys In Vietnam, which must have ruffled a few feathers at the time.
Recording in NY and Memphis, using top arrangers and the likes of Willie Mitchell, Barbara Gaskins and the Sweet Inspirations providing accompaniment, Charlie had gradually moved over from vocal to production duties by the time their stint ended - prior to Inez's short solo spell with Stax (memorably preserved on CDSXD 034), which was so good that her subsequent retirement was all the more regrettable.
Nothing much seems to be known of Inez, since then-.-Charlie continued in his role of producer before sadly falling victim to leukaemia in 1998. They deserve more than their relative footnote in 60s music history and this splendid gathering of their last work together should go a long way to providing it.
By Brian Smith