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DEEP #3/2021 (October)

My feature story this time takes a deep look into the new and delightful CD by the evergreen Spinners. It’s their first album in 22 years and altogether their 21st album with fresh material, excluding all The Best of, The Greatest Hits and other compilations. It was produced by the well-known veteran in the music business, Mr. Preston Glass, so I contacted him and had an interesting talk about his earlier career and some of the artists that he’s worked with. I also had a nice chat with the only original member of the group, the sympathetic Mr. Henry Fambrough.

In the reviews section in the second part there are CDs by Robert Finley, Ms. Jody, Jennifer Hudson and Deniece Williams, with a few words from the lady herself, and one vivid Kent compilation on Hodges, James, Smith & Crawford’s early 70s recordings. Rob Bowman’s anything but light book takes us deep in the history of Malaco Records and there’s also a reminder of the existence of the Stax Encyclopedia.

New CD release reviews & interviews:
Introducing... Preston Glass
The Spinners: 'Round the Block and Back Again
Robert Finley: Sharecropper's Son
Ms. Jody: Cowboy Style
Deniece Williams: Gemini
Jennifer Hudson: Respect
Hodges, James, Smith (& Crawford): Early Years and Unheard Pearls 1970-1973

Book reviews:
Rob Bowman: The Last Soul Company: The Malaco Records Story
Graham Betts: Stax Encyclopedia

INTRODUCING... PRESTON GLASS

For the soul music followers all over the world the name Preston Glass must be very familiar, and now with the release of the new Spinners CD his name is relevant again. Preston was born on January the 9th in 1960. Preston: “It was in a city right by Monterey, California. It was called Fort Ord, but that city doesn’t exist anymore. My dad was in a military, so that was a military base.” Fort Ord was closed in 1994.

Preston: “As a very young kid, like 5 or 6 years old, I would listen to the radio stations that were playing wherever we lived. Military families move all over, so I got exposed to all different kinds of music. My dad bought me a guitar, when I was five, so I started strumming and writing songs. When I was a teenager , my older brother started sending my songs to publishers and I started getting a lot of interest in people saying that these are pretty good songs, where do they come from, and that’s how I ended up getting a publishing deal, when I was seventeen.”

“Since we listened to all kinds of music, I loved also the Beatles and a lot of the pop artists like Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, but I also started knowing, who songwriters were, because I started recognizing the style that certain writers would write, like Carole King and Smokey Robinson, so that’s how I got more attracted to songwriters.”

Preston’s first mentor was Thom Bell. “Some of my music was sent out to different publishers and I found out that he was doing a music seminar, when I was sixteen years old. I flew three thousand miles just to meet him, because I loved his music. He kind of liked the direction I was going in. He told me some things to work on, and he said ‘when you finish high school, look me up.’ I certainly did that and right after he signed me and my brother Alan Glass to a publishing deal. That’s how we started getting songs on people like Deniece Williams, the Temptations, Phyllis Hyman and the Stylistics.”

FIRST THOM, THEN NARADA

“My very first song with Thom Bell was That’s the Way Love Should Feel by Dee Dee Bridgewater.” The song appeared on Dee Dee’s self-titled album in 1980 on Elektra, but in spite of some sparkling moments it didn’t evolve into a commercial success. “I think the record company was trying to get her out of that jazz and go more mainstream and Thom would try to please both the record company and Dee Dee, but then the record company didn’t push her.”

“When I was working with Thom Bell, he would use my songs here and there, but I still had dozens of songs just sitting around, so I started sending my songs out to other people, including such hot producers as Quincy Jones and Nile Rodgers. Narada Michael Walden told me later that when I sent him my music he noticed that the letterhead and return address was BellBoy Music, which was Thom Bell’s company. Narada thought ‘oh, I like Thom Bell’s music, but who is this guy.’ He opened it up and liked one of my songs that was in there and ended up doing it on Stacy Lattisaw. Then he asked me do I have more songs and I answered ‘I have dozens of songs’, so he said ‘how would you like to come down and write some songs with me’ and I said ‘sure.’ So I went to San Francisco and he said ‘whenever your contract is free I’d like you to work with me.” The first Alan & Preston Glass song on Stacy Lattisaw is the disco-flavoured Spotlight on her 1981 Cotillion album With You (#46-pop, #8–soul on Billboard charts).

KENNY G, ARETHA, NATALIE...

Preston: “By learning how to produce and arrange from Thom Bell, watching him in the studio, at the office writing arrangements, and then watching how Narada Michael Walden produced as well, I started to learn how to produce. A lot of the demos I started turning in to Narada, they kind of sounded like records. That’s how I got the offer to do Kenny G’s Duotones (in 1986). That was actually the first album I produced by myself. We didn’t know it was going to sell like it did. We were talking ‘maybe 30,000 – 40,000. It went on to sell about 15 million.”

In the 1980s and ‘90s Preston worked practically with everybody – Natalie Cole (Miss You Like Crazy), Aretha Franklin (Who’s Zoomin’ Who?), Whitney Houston, Jennifer Holliday etc. In this long list (http://thrillentertainmentgroup.com/prestonglass-discog.html) I stopped at some of my favourites for more details. Margie Joseph – “She’s great. She reminded me of Aretha Franklin. She has that powerful, soulful voice. I co-produced that album with Randy Jackson. He was a great bass player.” The album in question is titled Ready for the Night and was released on Cotillion in 1984.

Next I spotted Patti Austin. “She’s a great singer and she had a great sense of humour. She was very funny.” Preston co-wrote the dance hit, Rhythm of the Street, which appeared on Patti’s 1984 Qwest album. Besides such classic groups as Earth, Wind & Fire and the Stylistics, Preston also worked with my big heroes, the Dells. “That was real fortunate. That was many years later. I worked with a gentleman named Fred Pittman on quite a few projects, and the A&R guy at the Fantasy Records resigned a lot of the old artists like the Delfonics, the Dramatics, Freda Payne and the Dells. That’s how I got that project.” The project was titled Reminiscing, and it appeared on Volt in 2000. Preston still wants to add that during those years he learned a lot especially from George Benson and Johnny Mathis.

SOLO PROJECTS

At one point Preston worked as a professor at San Francisco State University. “I did that just for about 2 or 3 years, because I wanted to give back and kind of be a mentor to young songwriters. I enjoyed doing it.”  In addition to not only producing, writing and playing on other artists’ albums, Preston has also released numerous solo projects. “Some of the albums that I’ve released are more like compilations with other artists singing. I have a series called Preston Glass Presents Love and Compassion – I have three of those – then I have a series called Preston Glass Presents Dynamic Duets – two of those – and then I have three albums, where I just had guest artists like Al Jarreau and Ali Woodson. Ali was probably my favourite male vocalist that I’ve ever worked with. I just loved his voice. He could sing a song in one take, a great voice. And my favourite female voice to work with was Phyllis Hyman. Then I have about four albums, where I actually try and sing. My most recent one this year was Cycle of Chills.

“I play mainly all the keyboard instruments, which means a lot of different sounds. I do play guitar occasionally. I wish I could play real drums, but I can’t play them.” Preston would like to point out still one name in his musical path: “Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire. We wrote about 40 songs together. I have a record label, a joint venture with David Nathan in London called Platinum Garage Recordings/Soul Music Records. We released an album of some of those forty songs with Maurice, The album is called Manifestation. It was released in 2019, and a lot of his fans love that album.”

Considering how prolific a writer Preston is, are there any personal favourites in his catalogue? “I like different ones for different reasons. I like Prime of My Life by Phyllis Hyman, because there’s a message. I like We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off by Jermaine Stewart, because that was a surprise hit. I like Kisses in the Moonlight by George Benson, because I love that melody I was able to write.”

(Interview with Preston conducted on September the 18th in 2021).

THE SPINNERS

  Preston was the one, who came up with the title for the Spinners’ new album, ‘Round the Block and Back Again (BFD319). It was released on Andi Howard’s Peak Records (http://Peak-Records.com) out of Malibu, California. Peak mostly concentrates on contemporary jazz but has releases also by such r&b artists as Will Downing, Peabo Bryson, Regina Belle, Chanté Moore and Phil Perry.

Mr. Henry Fambrough is the only original member in the group, so naturally he’s the one to explain, why it took 22 years to release a new CD after their At Their Best on Dick Clark’s Click Records in 1999.Henry: “We’re doing a lot of travelling and we had to wait until we could get the material that catches the sound of the Spinners and the material that we thought that our public would accept. We just can’t record anything. We’ve had a lot of songs presented to us, but some of them weren’t right for our sound.”

Preston: “Back in the 90s, when John Edwards was the lead singer, I produced six songs on them. They didn’t have a record label, but they were going to shop it around and find some interested parties, but they never got a deal, so the songs stayed on the shelf. With the masters of those songs and with this label that David Nathan had, I contacted the Spinners’ manager and asked, if I could release half of those. So we worked out a deal and I released a couple of years ago three of those songs that John Edwards sang (https://www.soulmusic.com/article/spinners-leap-year-extra-soulmusic-recordswarner-x). It was through that little release that I then contacted them about ‘how would you guys like to do a brand new album.’ They were interested and of course Henry Fambrough, who’s an original member and knew about me working with them before, said ‘yes, let’s do it!’”

Henry: “It’s very, very fresh – not something that we used to do, but it still has the same flavour, and that flavour matches the Spinners sound.” Preston: “I did the music here in Los Angeles and the singers did their vocals in Detroit. With the Covid-19 we weren’t supposed to get together anyway, so we would have meetings over Zoom and go through all the material. After I recorded all the music, I would give them instructions on the vocals and they did it in their studio, and I mixed it all in L.A. I played all the keyboards and sometimes I played bass, too. I have a studio, so I do drums on one track, do bass on the second and come back and do other parts.”

The opening song, a light and melodic dancer called I’m in My Pride was written by Preston Glass and David Nathan, and on lead vocals there are Jessie Peck and Marvin Taylor, on saxophone Jermaine Lockhart and on guitar Ray Parker, Jr.

CLICHÉ

Henry and C.J. Jefferson are the lead vocalists on the catchy and enjoyable mid-pacer named Cliché, which was chosen as the first single off the CD. It was written by Preston. Preston: “One of the reasons I like Cliché is because Henry is singing on there. He’s 83 years old and it’s just amazing to me that he can still sing like that.” Henry: “My favourite is Cliché. It’s a very good song and you enjoy listening to it. I did my best to present it to the audience.”

CJ and Ronnie Moss share the lead on a soft stepper titled Bedroom Butta, co-written by Narada Michael Walden. Preston: “We wrote that a couple of years ago for an artist that was signed, but he never recorded it. So it was just sitting there and when I got this project I thought that this would be a great song for the Spinners.” On the track Paul McMannus plays the trumpet.

MISSING YOUR EMBRACE

Led by CJ and Jessie, Missing Your Embrace is a smooth and pretty ballad, co-written by Nigel Lowis. Preston: “Nigel is a guy that I got introduced to maybe five years ago. He lives in London and sometimes makes his own remix albums. He is known for dance and remix music. He also writes, and he’s a big Spinners and Thom Bell fan. Nigel has done a lot of work with me over the recent years. We did a remix on Freda Payne and Clif Payne that ended up going to number one at the U.K. Charts” (No Payne, No Gain in 2016). Nigel also did the remix on Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now on Stan Mosley’s recent CD, Resurrection.

I told Henry that actually this beautiful ballad with monologues reminds me of the hits that the Manhattans used to do in the 70s. Henry: “It’s got that same flavour. The Manhattans were a great group.”

Down for the Count is a slow-to-mid-tempo ditty, written by Preston and his brother, Alan. Preston: “We have a brand new song that we released in September and co-wrote for a new artist by the name of Terrell Edwards. The song is called 100 % and it is on our label with David Nathan, Platinum Garage Recordings/Soul Music Records.” Henry: “It’s kind of mellow. It calms everything down.”

So Much in Love was a # 1 hit for the Tymes in 1963, but the tempo is increased on this new “discoed” cover. Preston: “That was the Spinners’ manager that they had at the time. He said ‘I’ve been trying to get them record this for about thirty years.’ He didn’t think I would do it. I and Nigel Lowis did a new arrangement, turned it in and they loved it.”

Another song, where Henry is leading with Marvin, is an atmospheric and tender “middle-of-the-road” ballad called Show Me Your Heart. Henry: “I enjoyed it. I really did. Once you put a song like that on the album to back up your other material, then you got a good album.” The song was co-written by Vinnie Barrett. Preston: “Her very first start was with Thom Bell. She wrote Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely (with Bobby Eli and John Freeman) and for the Spinners on their first Atlantic album Just Can’t Get You Out of My Mind. We’ve been writing quite a few songs now. Her real name is Gwen Woolfolk. Back in the early 70s, when she started out as a writer, she met Thom Bell and Thom told her ‘why don’t you change your name into a man’s name to open up some doors for you in this business.’”

VIVID MEMORIES

Vivid Memories is a haunting, light dancer that bears a slight resemblance to those 70s Thom Bell sounds. Henry: “Vivid Memories is a great song. It kind of put the album where it’s supposed to be. Even the title of the song is great. It makes you want to listen to it.” With Marvin and CJ on lead, the song was co-written by Cassie Amos. Preston: “She’s a local writer. She writes lyrics mainly. Of the ones she sent me, finally I heard one that I liked. It was Vivid Memories, but I didn’t tell her at first who it was going to be for.”

A recording artist in his own right, too, Simeo Overall wrote a melodic toe-tapper titled Love Never Changes, and he handles all the instruments as well. Henry: “That’s for those of our fans, who like to dance to the music.” Preston: “That’s a new song. Simeo wrote this for the Spinners. At least that’s what he told me” (laughing).

CJ is on the lead on a mid-tempo, intense and soulful number named Leftover Tears. Henry: “That’s in the r&b section.” Along with Preston the co-writers are Billy Mac and Brandon Wattz. Preston: “Billy Mac is a great artist. He’s married to Merrilee Rush (remember Angel in the Morning in 1968?). Billy has been on the Nashville scene for many years. The other gentleman, Brandon Wattz, is probably the best new singer I’ve ever heard. He reminds me of the modern Sam Cooke. On one of my compilation albums called Love and Compassion Brandon is singing one of the old Spinners songs called Ghetto Child.”

Henry leads on a soft and dreamy ballad called I’m Looking for My Baby. Henry: “Even the title makes you want to listen to it and find out just what it is. Looking for My Baby – everybody’s doing that” (laughing). The song was written and arranged by Keith Ferguson. Preston: “Keith is the Spinners’ music director on tour and their keyboard player.” Keith has worked with the group ever since 1990 and he has released two solo CDs as well.

The subtle and ethereal Only Want You is sung and written by CJ. Henry: “I like that song. It’s separate from everything else on there.”

IN HOLY MATRIMONY

Ronnie is leading on a beautiful, even churchy ballad titled In Holy Matrimony. Henry: “That song will pull you right back down to earth and make you sit down and listen. It brings back all your memories of who you are and who you married or dated or whatever the situation was with your love life.” Seabron Sawyer co-wrote the song with Preston. Preston: “Seabron is also a great singer, and he’s a young man that I’ve collaborated before on a couple of my CDs.”

As stated earlier, Henry is the only original member of the group, and now for many years he’s surrounded by four younger but very talented singers. Henry: “I’ve tried to choose the voices that will blend with the voices before. All my original guys are gone, so I’ve tried to choose voices to match theirs.”

If you wish to get more acquainted with the other members of the group, please read my earlier bios with interviews at:

Jessie Peck: The Spinners: A Tribute to Pervis Jackson and Introducing Jessie Peck (soulexpress.net)

Ronnie Moss: https://www.soulexpress.net/deep7_2013.htm#ronniemoss

Marvin Taylor: https://www.soulexpress.net/deep409.htm#spinners

C.J. Jefferson: C.J. Jefferson | A New Lead Singer for The Spinners | Soul Express

Henry: “I hope all readers enjoy the new material, because we enjoyed recording it. And I hope they will accept the sound that we put out for them to listen to. I hope they’ll be happy with it.”

(The interview with Henry conducted on October the 4th in 2021; acknowledgements, besides Henry, to Heather Fambrough Williams, Paul Mathis and Brielle Smith).

www.thespinners.com


ROBERT FINLEY

On his third CD, Sharecropper’s Son (Easy Eye Sound, EES-015; www.robertfinleyofficial.com), Robert Finley continues to work with Dan Auerbach. Their previous collaboration, Goin’ Platinum (https://www.soulexpress.net/deep1_2018.htm#robertfinley), was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, and released in late 2017. Sharecropper’s Son was recorded there as well and with many of the same musicians who played on that preceding CD. This time we have Nick Movshon and Eric Deaton on bass, Dan himself, Kenny Brown and Russ Pahl on guitar, Gene Chrisman and Jeffrey Clemens on drums, Bobby Wood and Mike Rojas on keys and many, many more on percussion, horns, harmonica and background vocals, including Robert’s daughter, Christy Johnson. In other words – a guaranteed full sound!

All new songs were written by Robert and Dan with some help from Bobby Wood and Pat McLaughlin, and the overall sound and concept of the CD don’t really differ that much from their former work. Again down-to-earth soulful sounds go hand in hand with southern rock-blues and sweaty swamp trotters. There are at least three videos available, and one of them is on a rocky beater called Make Me Feel Alright and another one is on the driving and dynamic title song. Both the mid-tempo Country Child and the country-tinged and bluesy Country Boy (the third video) are autobiographical, as well as most of the songs on this set.

One song is even called My Story and this impressive down-tempo song is one of the cream cuts, along with a big-voiced and preaching mid-pacer named Starting to See. The slow and relaxed I Can Feel Your Pain is one of the songs that inspired Robert to reach for higher register in his voice. One gem is the opening song, an aching and slightly bluesy number called Souled out on You, which builds up gradually and simply grabs you along.

The only outside song on this CD is the waltz-time All My Hope, which the contemporary Christian singer David Crowder co-wrote and recorded five years ago. Although Sharecropper’s Son is a high-quality and very worthy CD, I still prefer Robert’s debut album, Age Don’t Mean a Thing (https://www.soulexpress.net/deep5_2016.htm#robertfinley), simply because it focused more on my favourite addiction - pure soul music.

MS. JODY

Joanne Delapaz aka Ms. Jody is one loyal girl. If I calculated correctly, Cowboy Style (ECD1187; www.eckorecords.com) is her 16th album and they all have been released on Ecko Records. Her first CD, You’re My Angel (https://www.soulexpress.net/deep206.htm#msjody), came out in 2006. It’s true that O.B. Buchana has released as many as 17 albums on Ecko, but he started already in 2004. Incidentally, for some reason that title of the CD, Cowboy Style, immediately brought to my mind another of my favourite Ecko female singers, Sheba Potts-Wright, and her 2004 CD, I Need a Cowboy to Ride My Pony – one of those curious mental connections.

Again,John Ward is the producer, guitar player and co-writer of songs along with John Cummings, Gerod Rayborn and Raymond Moore. Vertie Joanne co-wrote four of the ten songs here, and they are mostly up- or mid-tempo party ditties. Actually there’s only one ballad, the soothing and slightly poignant I Can’t Wait. Since I’m a big fan of Ms. Jody’s ballads on her previous albums, I wasn’t overjoyed by the number of those more anemic and monotonous beaters or a couple of standard mid-pacers, but I liked the punchy That Dog Don’t Hunt and also a duet with Big G on his I Can’t Tell Nobody, originally from his 2020 album Keep on Rockin.

Other delights include a mellow, mid-paced opening song, I Wanna Celebrate, and the smooth and atmospheric Let’s Go Crusin’. As for the rest, I think that this CD falls into the category of routine intermediate projects.

DENIECE WILLIAMS

It really is fascinating to listen to Deniece Williams’ voice again on a new material - after 14 years, to be exact. Deniece: “This is the first EP since Love, Niecy Style.” Gemini (Keyz2poetry/Gateway Music House) features five songs and such luminaries as producers Harvey Mason Jr., Emile Ghantous and sax virtuoso Gerald Albright were involved. Written by Deniece and Emile, the lively, midtempo lead single, When You Love Somebody, was released already over a year ago, and now we are treated to two beautiful and heartfelt ballads, If It’s Magic (written by Stevie Wonder) and One Kiss, which both bring the recognizable nightingale out of Niecy. The latter song was composed by Harvey Mason Sr., Jerry Peters and Deniece, and first introduced already in 2008.

Initially Deniece wanted to cut a jazz album, and indeed slight jazzy elements are included on the downtempo Lover’s Holiday (by Bill and Mari Cantos and Deniece) and the self-penned You Are the Melody, which presumably will be featured in a play where Deniece acts in the role of Sarah Vaughn. You can read Niecy’s full bio at https://www.soulexpress.net/deniecewilliams.htm. Gemini soothes your soul with beautiful melodies and attractive singing. Deniece: “There’s more music to come.”

JENNIFER HUDSON

After watching Jennifer Hudson’s impressive portrayal of Aretha Franklin in the film Respect, I just had to go and buy her soundtrack CD, Respect (Epic 19439824922), and it confirms that Jennifer – who just turned forty – has lost none of the power in her voice since her show-stopping And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going (from the 2006 version of Dreamgirls). Actually, it became evident already in the film. Personal favourites on this CD include Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman, Spanish Harlem and Here I Am (Singing My Way Home), but there’s not a dud on display.

THE VOLCANIC HODGES, JAMES, SMITH & CRAWFORD

Prior to recording four albums and seventeen singles between 1973 and ’79 on the 20th Century Fox and London labels – including Since I Fell for You/I’m Falling in Love (1977) – the trio of Pat Hodges, Denita James and Jessica Smith had worked already for three years with Mickey Stevenson and had four singles released. In late 1971 Carolyn Crawford joined them for one year and they also performed and recorded under the name of Love ‘N’ Stuff.

All those early single releases and previously unissued tracks are now compiled on Hodges, James, Smith (& Crawford) / Early Years and Unheard Pearls 1970-1973 (Kent, CDKEND 503; 21 tracks, 66 min.; track listing: https://acerecords.co.uk/early-years-and-unheard-pearls-1970-1973). Annotations are by Ady Croasdell and the early history of the group with interviews with Mickey Stevenson, Pat Hodges and Carolyn Crawford is chronicled by A. Scott Galloway and Rudy Calvo. They compare the sound of the group to that of Sisters of Love and the Pointer Sisters, and I’d still add the Emotions, the Ikettes and LaBelle, depending on the song. Those parallels should be enough to convince you that we’re talking about strong and intense singing... and loud.

The plug side of their very first single on People in 1970, Somewhere a Valley, is a powerful ballad, and a slow funk called Right on, Brothers, Right on and the preaching Let It out, Let It in was released on Pride in 1971 as Love ‘N’ Stuff. The rest two singles came out on Mickey’s Mpingo label. The fast I’m in Love was written and produced by Ronnie McNeir, whereas Mickey himself wrote and produced the pretty and melodic Write Me a Letter.

Of the unreleased tracks the opener on this CD, Wishful Thinking, is a strong dancer and Clarence Paul’s mid-tempo song (Baby) Don’t Leave Me offers first-rate harmonizing. There are as many as eleven ballads on this set. Some of them are smooth, even fully orchestrated, and some draw near to show songs. But there are also many big-voiced and soulful performances, such as (It Was) Never Meant to Be, (I Wanna be a) Hang-Up to You, Baby My Love Is Showing and If You Wanna Love Me. A creditable compilation!

BLACK BOOKCASE

MALACO MIRACLE

Rob Bowman writes that “the Last Soul Company has become the longest standing completely independent record label in American history.” Rob is the author of the book The Last Soul Company: The Malaco Records Story (The Malaco Press; www.malaco.com; ISBN: 978-0-578-23334-5; 194 pages, printed in China!). It’s not a pocket book. It has the size of a long-playing vinyl record, 30 x 30 cm, and weighs 2 kg. Foreword is by Peter Guralnick.

In 1999 Malaco released a 6-CD box set also called The Last Soul Company, and the accompanying 110-page book was also written by Rob Bowman, so consequently for the most part the very same text is repeated in this book. Rob himself has done some editing, because the box set book features the artists that perform on those discs while this new book covers the whole spectrum of the company. On the other hand it means that some artists like Nolan Struck, the Fiestas, Tyrone Davis, Carl Sims and Stan Mosley are omitted. They have tracks on the CD set, but they’re not featured in this new publication. Many of the photos are also lifted from the 1999 set, but there are new ones as well, and in abundance. Actually those never-before seen and colourful pictures are the first thing that really strikes you. They’ve even scattered a few 8-page long photo specials in the book.


At the old Malaco headquarters in 2000.

Malaco’s rich gospel division has caused the biggest additions and extensions to the text compared to the CD set book. Rob not only features some of the company’s best-selling gospel acts – the Jackson Southernaires, the Soul Stirrers, the Sensational Nightingales, the Fantastic Violinaires, the Pilgrim Jubilees, the Mississippi Mass Choir, the Dorothy Norwood Singers etc. – but also profiles the most important figures behind Malaco’s success in that field, such as Frank Williams, Roy Wooten and Mosie Burks. There are chapters titled Malaco gospel in the 1980s, Malaco gospel continues and Malaco gospel in the twenty-first century.

I’m afraid that Finland is once again ignored, because it is not included in the list of the countries that Malaco’s second tour in Europe in 1993 went to. However, I still vividly remember doing face-to-face interviews with Denise LaSalle and Latimore at the Pori Jazz Festival for our Soul Express magazine.


The New Muscle Shoals Studio by the Tennessee River.

The last thirty-five pages of the book describe what happened with the company during the last 20 plus years. Southern soul and soul blues records sold less and less mostly because of bootlegging and lack of radio play. Syndicates took over and distant and centralized programming ignored local taste. But still, after 53 years, Malaco exists and keeps coming up with innovative solutions in the ever-changing field of recording industry. Malaco’s present President, Thomas Couch Jr. says that “we’re just looking to make content available - - We’re really managing assests because no one is buying physical product anymore.” Southern soul and blues fans fondly remember Malaco as the epitome of down-to-earth, inspirational and soulful music, and The Last Soul Company tells you the whole story of that musical stronghold.

STAX ENCYCLOPEDIA

The publication of Stax Encyclopedia (AC Publishing, ISBN:  978-1530000357) by Graham Betts went almost unnoticed last year. In many ways this 530-page tome is similar in structure to his Motown Encyclopedia six years earlier. There are 657 entries, and in many cases those entries include comments and interesting history from the artists, producers, songwriters and musicians themselves. Every top twenty single and album is included, and also some big companies and institutions, such as Grammys, are presented, if somehow they were linked with Stax. Along with obvious names there are many artists and groups that I bet you’ve never even heard of. This time I found only a couple of small details I don’t agree with (smile).

The most rewarding part, however, is the 60-page section at the end of the book: complete discographies of Stax, its subsidiaries and other affiliated labels - both singles and albums, both the U.S. and the U.K. All you Stax and Memphis music aficionados who still don’t have this book, I trust that there’s still room for one more on your bookshelf.

© Heikki Suosalo


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