What a pleasure it was to be forced to listen to every available Goldwax recording we have on the Ovations! When the project was delegated to me, I wasn't too sure how it would go, as I only knew half a dozen of their recordings in any depth. Also the Goldwax tapes have a habit of throwing up weird alternate takes and rogue recordings trying to sneak onto the CD.
Firstly there were a couple of nice demos that turned out to have been written for the Ovations (one was by George Jackson), not sung by them. Then there was a basic version of a Sound Of Memphis label recording that we couldn't use, a totally different mix of the first single, Pretty Little Angel and the discovery that one of the singles, Dance Party, was appreciably slower than all the masters we had. But the set-backs were more than outweighed by the discovery of songs like Let's Stick Together which shows the group at its very best and would have made a great single. Other big bonuses were the added brass and strings on I Miss You Baby a great Detroit-sounding recording that had only ever sneaked out onto a Japanese CD prior to this improved release.
I'd forgotten how fine the original Goldwax 45s were too, admittedly hearing them from the original masters gave me a more impressive re-introduction to them, but Qualifications, I've Gotta Go and Rockin' Chair won me over for the second time since I first shelled out for them. The sound was often so clear on some of them that for example on They Say, I would have sworn there was added instrumentation. When I compared the tape to the record I found it was actually identical, but so much clearer; and what an uptempo, uptown production to come outta Memphis!
But the Ovations were particularly revered for the beauty of their harmonies and Louis Williams' exquisite lead vocals on the ballads that were so appropriately chosen for and by them. There's a slab of four in the middle of the CD, I'm Living Good, Ride My Trouble And Blues Away, Happiness and You Had Your Choice that is absolutely sublime.
We've managed to access Nathan Williams' personal photo collection to add to the pleasure of reading Martin Goggin's detailed sleeve notes which are based on extensive interviews with Nathan in Memphis.
And if you're an Ovations or Goldwax completist, don't worry we'll put out the demos and alternates on future Goldwax Various Artists compilations. For now don't worry too much about what's in the can; what's on the disc is terrific.
by Ady Croasdell