We have received many requests to add Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham to our songwriter series. It’s never really been about if we would, so much as when. With 2011 being something of a “Year Of Southern Soul” for Ace and Kent, what better way to kick it off than with a genius gathering of 24 of the best songs ever to bear their names below the title.
“Sweet Inspiration” does a bang-up job of assembling the key songs Dan and Spooner wrote together during the 1960s and early 1970s. A quick look at the track listing will show prospective buyers that my co-compiler Bob Dunham and I have tried hard to make sure that there’s a version of every major Penn and Oldham composition included. We haven’t always chosen the obvious versions, so there will be some nice surprises here for even the most avid collectors. It was difficult to bring what started out as a massive wish list down to just 24 selections, but we think our choices do justice to the performers of the songs and, most importantly, the writers.
Everyone will have their own highlights. Mine would include Arthur Conley’s Fame recording of ‘In The Same Old Way’ (which was originally written as a straight ahead country song) and country thrush Jeanne Newman’s riveting, previously unissued Goldwax recording of ‘It Tears Me Up’, one of the earliest songs Penn and Oldham wrote together. I’m also very partial to the Southern sincerity of the Box Tops’ ‘Everything I Am’ (a UK Top 3 hit for Plastic Penny in late 1967) and Tommy Roe’s little-known 1966 take on ‘Wish You Didn’t Have To Go’, a number made more famous a year later by James and Bobby Purify. But greatness abounds from beginning to end of this set, and it’s unlikely that any prospective purchaser will not be totally impressed by everything it contains.
A companion volume – which will also include songs co-written by Dan and/or Spooner with collaborators such as Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall, Marlin Greene and Chips Moman – will hopefully see the light of day next year. In the meantime, here’s over an hour of the sweetly inspired songwriting of Wallace Daniel Pennington and Lindon Dewey Oldham. Oh, what a power!
By Tony Rounce