Joe Tex made his first chart impact in 1965, with the genre-defining Southern Soul masterpiece ‘Hold What You’ve Got’. Few people suspected, at the time, that it was intended to be the final throw of a dice in a career that had already seen ten years and around 20 singles come and go without any kind of chart success. Had ‘Hold...’ maintained Joe’s losing streak, he would have given up and gone back to farming in his native Texas. Fortunately for all soul fans, it was a smash and one that paved the way for around 15 years of virtually unbroken succes for this most beloved of performers.
Had fate been a little kinder, Joe should have seen significant chart action years earlier. The records that he made for King, Ace (MS), Anna, Checker and Dial embraced everything from frantic rock’n’roll, to artful blues balladry and proto-deep soul, but he couldn’t get a break on any of them. “Get Way Back” gathers together everything that the rock‘n’roll cowboy cut for the first two of those venerable imprints between 1955 and 1960, and brings together some of the best New York and New Orleans recorded R&B of the second half of the 1950s.
The humour that enlivens many of Joe’s hits of the late 60s is already to the fore in most of the uptempo items featured, while the ballads show that Joe was several steps ahead of many contemporaries in shaping soul music. With instrumental accompaniment from such stellar musicians as Mickey Baker and Specs Powell in the Big Apple, and Lee Allen, Allen Toussaint and Hungry Williams in the Big Easy, it’s amazing that even one of these records failed to chart, never mind that all of them did.
From a distance of 50 years it matters not a jot whether or not these sides were hits, flips or flops. All that matters is that they are great records, with most of them making their legitimate CD debut in “Get Way Back”. As a documentation of the early activities of one of soul’s master craftsmen, it’s an invaluable release. And as a collection of top-tier R&B and rock‘n’roll recordings, it’s another essential Ace purchase.
By Tony Rounce