Wow; has it been five long years since we issued “Full Time Groovers” CDKEND 183, a collection of southern soul sides from GRC records out of Atlanta, Georgia? 1,000 apologies for the wait.
GRC also had the Aware and Hotlanta labels and later acquired Clintone and Moonsong from Birmingham, Alabama. “Groovers” was actually a sequel itself, to “Good Guys Don’t Always Win” CDKEND 163, which was issued two years previously. In effect HOLDING THE LOSING HAND is volume three of this series.
One of the main musical links between the two cities is the magnificent singer/songwriter Sam Dees, who hailed from Birmingham and wrote for Act One Music which was acquired by GRC. They knew a good song when they heard one and several of Sam’s songs were cut by their top artists John Edwards and Loleatta Holloway. The company’s tape vault contained many of Sam’s original demo recordings of his music and despite having released two acclaimed CDs worth of these, we have found even more examples of Sam’s craft gathering dust on the tape vault shelves.
Indeed the opening track is Sam’s demo of the beautiful I Know Where You’re Coming From that Loleatta had a hit with in 1975. Taken at a more sedate pace than the single, it is a rather restrained start to a Kent CD, but what it lacks in drama and impact is more than made up for by Sam’s emotive vocal and a beautiful accompaniment that includes his own soulful, electric piano work.
Virtually all of Loleatta Holloway’s Atlanta sides have been out on Kent solo CDs, so it is Roszetta Johnson who is the most heavily featured female here. She had several Clintone singles out, but sadly not enough for a solo CD. We’ve put the addictive A Woman’s Way up as track two and again it is full of emotion but has an easy rhythm and feel that is so hard to try to attain, but sounds ridiculously easy when it works. There are four songs by Roszetta in a variety of styles, check out her Early Morning Love, a Rock Your Baby-influenced mid-70s groover.
Roszetta’s male equivalent at Moonsong was Bill Brandon who also benefited from Sam Dees songs, production and general tutelage. Though he could handle a ballad with the best of them, it is on the gritty, slightly funky, uptempo numbers that he shines on this album. Doing Right Don’t Wrong Nobody moves along at quite a pace and Bill is well served by a tough sounding female backing group. He has three more excellent tracks here, plus a tender ballad recorded with Lorraine Johnson.
As well as showcasing important artists who don’t have quite enough tracks for their own solo CDs, these Various Artist comps always have some gems from semi-known singers and complete unknowns. CL Blast and Delia Gartrell aren’t household names but serious soul fans know of their hard-earned reputations. Mr Blast gives us a tough, tough tune, unsurprisingly written by Sam Dees, that he wrings every ounce of emotion from. Delia delivers an uplifting Beautiful Day that was new to me, as the vinyl is incredibly rare. It’s another one that etches itself onto your memory: in the nicest possible way. The Johnny Smith Congregation however are complete unknowns but their church origins are clear on A Better Way, a fabulous ballad, co-written by Mr Dees.
There’s a typical Jimmy Lewis song that escaped the net previously when we were compiling his two solo CDs and Delia Gartrell’s husband of the time, King Hannibal, provides two tracks, one from his solo LP and an equally fine one that was found in the vaults. Detroit group Deep Velvet travelled all the way down to Atlanta to record a soundtrack for a Blaxploitation flick about a female bandit called Hanna Mae, but all that came out of the project was a few pre-production stills and the catchy title track on a 45.
There are also one-offs from Dee Ervin, Peggy Scott and Frederick Knight all of which were undeservedly unreleased at the time. Compiler John Ridley gives the package a critical and historical eye, along with the good news that there are still extra tracks, that we couldn’t squeeze on here and we have already scheduled a fourth volume. However John informs me that if I take five years over it again, I’ll be writing the notes myself!
By Ady Croasdell