FOR MANY SOUTHERN soul fans Goldwax was the Memphis label from the Golden Age. Although only around 60 singles were issued between 1964 and late 1969, when the concern closed its doors, pound for pound the quality was almost unparalleled. Owners Quinton Claunch and Rudolph Doc" Russell specialised in heavyweight music, with their country roots forming a potent hybrid with the gospel-based singers they recorded. This compilation, with its mixture of classics and rarities, follows on from the highly successful first volume Kent released a couple of years ago. If anything it contains more of the ballad wizardry that has made the Goldwax name such a fabled one."
The jewel in the Goldwax crown was undoubtedly the dark, rich baritone vocals of James Carr - the subject of three individual Ace CDs in this series - whose subtlety of phrasing and nuances of expression produced many a deep soul masterpiece. His cut here is a rare mix of one of his typical 6/8 tempo, country, soul gems, A Woman Is A Man's Best Friend, which was previously only available in Japan in this version.
But the label was far from a one trick pony - there were several other artists who cut for Goldwax whose places in the soul pantheon are assured. Take Spencer Wiggins for example, whose impassioned pleadings have made him a cult hero. His version of Aretha's I Never Loved A Man, with the genders reversed, is one of his best-ever performances, with the screw tightened even further by the super-charged whine of Duane Skydog" Allman's slide guitar egging him on. Or what about O V Wright, the Boss of Southern Soul, who made a brief visit to Goldwax at the start of his illustrious secular career. His track, the chugging There Goes My Used To Be, only confirms his stature. Louis Williams, lead singer with Ovations who sadly died recently, deserves to be mentioned in this company as well. His uncanny Sam Cooke-styled vocals never fail to lift the spirits and his two tracks here are both fine examples of his art.
Other highlights on the CD include the hard, bluesy style of Dorothy Williams - Eddie Jefferson's classic, deep, When You Look In The Mirror and three wonderful Percy Milem songs - especially the tender ballad Crying Baby Baby Baby, which is simply one of the best songs ever put out by the company. A particular treat is the inclusion of a couple of numbers by the late O B McClinton, who not only penned some great material for James Carr, but went on to a unique career as a black country performer.
For the anoraks, there are a couple of previously unissued tracks apiece by Barbara Perry and the underrated Wee Willie Walker, whose Goldwax recordings both on the label and leased out to Chess are perhaps definitive of Claunch and Russell's output. They never owned a recording studio, preferring to use the cream of the local facilities, as well as taking the occasional foray down to Fame in Muscle Shoals. The roll-call of the musicians on these recordings would read like a Who's Who of the profession-.-they take centre stage in the only instrumental here under the leadership of the late Gene "Bowlegs" Miller.
The music is superbly enhanced by some fascinating reminiscences from Claunch himself on the artists and songs on the CD courtesy of researcher Colin Dilnot. The CD shows yet again just why the name Goldwax makes the heart beat a little faster - and why the sight of that gold/yellow logo spinning on a turntable was such a potent one"
by JOHN RIDLEY