When my Ace colleagues Roger Armstrong and Peter Gibbon began combing the Stax vaults for unreleased recordings in the 1990s, they were surprised by the quality and quantity of the material. As soon as they returned to the UK they began compiling CDs from these vault goodies. A reassessment of the remaining unissued material over the last couple of years has led to many more highly agreeable Stax packages, and this month sees the release of the first-ever CD by Memphis’ underrated sweet soulsters the Newcomers.
The Newcomers joined Stax at the start of the company’s second golden era, after the end of its affiliation with Atlantic Records. Their beautifully harmonised sweet soul was right up there with their Stax predecessors the Mad Lads and the Astors, but the world never got to hear most of their 1960s and early 70s recordings because Stax never really focused on the group’s career. They were afforded just six singles in as many years, and for a while were pushed as Memphis’ answer to the Jackson 5, rather than on their own merits. The great lead vocals of Terry Bartlett and Randy Brown deserved a better fate and the sides Stax left unissued will delight fans of group soul everywhere.
A few of their shelved tracks have been out before in our “Volts Of Stax” series and elsewhere on Kent, but the majority debut here on “Mannish Boys”. Highlights include a sweet essay on the Steve Mancha/Johnnie Taylor classic ‘I Don’t Want To Lose You’, the torrid ‘Stop By Here’ and the sublime ‘The Exit’, which in my opinion is one of the greatest group records to ever come out of the American south.
By Tony Rounce