Sometimes surprises can be good.
It has been nearly six years since Alec Palao and myself locked ourselves away in Ardent Studios in Memphis for a week of tape copying, to get everything we had found in the Sounds Of Memphis vault into a useable form. It was a weak of hard work, fun and lunches at the Blue Monkey, from which we came away with a lot of good music. By last year, seven or so albums’ worth of material down the line, we thought we had released everything that we could. Then Linda Lucchesi, guardian of the catalogue, told us that she had found some acetates and more tapes. Not holding out much hope for the quality, we headed back to Memphis to hear what was there. It was amazing; more tracks by Willie Bollinger, a session from Rudolph Taylor, unreleased tracks by Vision and Louis Williams and an acetate with previously unheard Barbara & the Browns – at least a couple of CDs’ worth of material stretching from the mid-60s through to the mid-80s.
It is an absolute pleasure to hear two more tracks from Barbara & the Browns. One is an alternate take of her Cadet single ‘I Don’t Want To Have To Wait’ and the other is a slab of prime Memphis soul titled ‘So Cruel’. The Willie Bollinger tracks offer us further insight into this under-recorded vocalist, and it is an absolute treat to get our hands on a Charles Chalmers-produced session on Rudolph Taylor, who was previously thought to have only recorded just one single.
From the 70s, we offer up very rare 45s by Carl Sims and Otis Wheat from the Wet Paint label, plus some incredible unreleased material by Billy Cee & the Freedom Express, Fran Farley and Marjorie Ingram. We also have the earliest version of Vision’s ‘Play The Game’ and a Dan Greer solo track which is sublime. The Louis Williams cut is verging on disco, but it is incredible to hear his voice on a previously unknown track. George Jackson produces his own single ‘Things Are Getting’ Better’, for which we’ve finally found a tape, and is also behind the desk for the Jacksonians’ version of ‘Vehicle’.
Our final titles from the 1980s demonstrate that although soul music had changed – it was no longer regional – good music was still being recorded. Demetrius later made an album for Motown, while Erma Shaw had earlier released a single on Hi.
I can happily say we have plenty more lined up from this bastion of Memphis soul. Sounds Of Memphis: a gift that keeps on giving.
By Dean Rudland