As most RT readers will know, Ace spent a lot of 2004 saluting the late Guy Stevens, and his accomplishment in establishing the Sue label as the UK’s first important independent outlet for R&B, Blues and Soul 45s and albums. Guy had compiled and released three vinyl volumes of “The Sue Story” during his time in charge of the label, and Ace had originally planned to mirror Guy’s achievements with just a trio of CDs that would cover the entire spectrum of what UK Sue had released between 1963-1968.
However, many soul fans have always believed that Guy was intending to issue a “Sue Story Vol 4” at the time of his departure from the label, yours truly and journalist/long-time Sue obsessive Mike Atherton among them. When Mike sounded Ace out about the prospect of making this dream a reality, it was not something that any of us here had to think about for any length of time – especially as we’d already had so many people e-mailing to ask why the previous three volumes of “The UK Sue Story” hadn’t included their favourite Sue release. After more than a year of batting ideas back and forth and winning some, losing some in the licensing stakes – and almost 40 years after the late great Mike Raven proclaimed that he was “looking forward to [it]” - we’ve finally arrived at the unbeatable fourth volume that debuts on Kent this month.
Everyone will have his or her own favourites here, and yours truly is no exception. I’ve always felt that Danny White’s Stax-recorded I’ve Dedicating My Life is the epitome of a deep soul classic, while Rosco Gordon’s romping version of Fats Domino’s Goin’ Home is among this unique artist’s most vibrant recordings. Joe Haywood’s original of Warm And Tender Love has always wiped the floor with Percy Sledge’s unjustifiably better-known remake, and it’s a real pleasure to get the Dorsets’ greasy-as-it-sounds Pork Chops onto CD for what surely is the first time. Big City soul does not get any more melodramatic or histrionic than it does in Claudine Clark’s marvellously out of control The Strength To Be Strong, and “The Late, Fantastically Great” Elmore James demonstrates that you do not need to be Phil Spector to create a wall of sound with the mighty Knocking On Your Door – which also debunks any myth that every up-tempo Elmore record is a variation on Dust My Blues.
We’re also really happy that we have been able to help Guy fulfil his thwarted ambition of getting Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You onto a UK Sue release, 40 years after the intended issue on WI-4008 was cancelled at the last minute. And we’re pleased to unravel a mystery that has baffled collectors for almost as long, by revealing the true identity of Alexander Jackson and the Turnkeys and the real title of The Whip.
All this, plus a bunch of names that are as synonymous with Sue as the familiar red and yellow logo itself (Inez, Charlie, Ike, Tina, McGriff, Jacobs, Soul Sisters, Huey Smith etc etc) and a cover that (only slightly!) updates the design of the original vinyl “Sue Story” is sure to be enough ensure that this new compilation pleases absolutely everyone who admires the pioneering work of the UK’s first specialist record label of any real importance. If there’s ever to be a fifth volume, we promise that we won’t make you wait another 39 years for it.
By Tony Rounce