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Various: Fame Northern Soul

Reviewed by Heikki Suosalo

Rating: 7/ 10

Kent UK CD, 2018

1) Keep On Talking - James Barnett
2) A World of My Own - Billy & Clyde
3) It's Not Safe to Mess On Me - George Jackson
4) Slippin' Around With You - Art Freeman
5) It Ain't What You Got - Jimmy Hughes
6) Looking for a Fox - Clarence Carter
7) In the Heat of Love - Marjorie Ingram
8) One More Hurt - Candi Staton
9) I'm at the Breaking Point - Spencer Wiggins
10) You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy - Ralph 'Soul' Jackson
11) Almost Persuaded - June Conquest
12) I'm Getting Better - Jimmy Hughes
13) A Stone Loser - Ben & Spence
14) Holding On (To a Dying Love) - Spencer Wiggins
15) Midnight Affair - George Soule
16) Your Love Lifted Me - James Govan
17) I'm Qualified - Otis Clay
18) Love Light (Edited Version) - Herman Moore
19) The Door to My Heart - Dan Brantley
20) I Can't Stop (No, No, No) - Arthur Conley
21) Baby Come Back - Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces
22) Everytime - Linda Carr
23) Ten Miles High - David & The Giants
24) Love Is a Wonderful Thing - Prince Philip


  Fame Northern Soul (CDKEND 475; 24 tracks, 62 min.; track listing at concentrates on the uptempo, more danceable material that they cut in Muscle Shoals between 1964 and ’74.  Many of these tracks on display have evolved into firm northern soul favourites, and in the notes Ady Croasdell tells in detail about them and the history of the artists.  Thirteen tracks were not released at the time but were put out on different compilations only within the last seven years.

  Biggest personal delights on this set include Jimmy Hughes’ soulful beat ballad called I’m Getting Better, Candi Staton’s catchy dancer named One More Hurt and Linda Carr’s Motownesque Everytime.  The most stunning track, however, for me was Spencer Wiggins’ gorgeous reading of Holding On (to a Dying Love).

  Other noteworthy and listenable – not only danceable – numbers are Clarence Carter’s first Atlantic single, the driving Looking for a Fox, George Soulé’s mid-tempo Midnight Affair, James Govan’s demo of Your Love Lifted Me, Otis Clay’s powerful scorcher titled I’m Qualified, Marjorie Ingram’s storming In the Heat of Love and June Conquest’s wistful Almost Persuaded.  There’s also Prince Phillip’s nice toe-tapper called Love Is a Wonderful Thing, which was cut at Fame already in 1966 but put out two years later ( 

Muscle Shoals - Small Town Big Sound

1) Road of Love - Keb' Mo'
2) I'd Rather Go Blind - Grace Potter
3) Brown Sugar - Steven Tyler & Nuno Bettencourt
4) Gotta Serve Somebody - Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton & Lee Ann Womack
5) Steal Away - Eli "Paperboy" Reed
6) Snatching It Back - Kid Rock
7) I'll Take You There - Aloe Blacc
8) Cry Like A Rainy Day - Michael McDonald
9) True Love - Vince Gill & Wendy Moten
10) Come And Go Blues - Alison Krauss
11) Respect Yourself - Mike Farris & The Blind Boys Of Alabama
12) Wild Horses - Alan Jackson
13) Mustang Sally - Brently Stephen Smith
14) We've Got Tonight - Chord Overstreet
15) Givin' It Up For Your Love - Tom Johnston & Delbert McClinton

  Muscle Shoals – Small Town Big Sound (Dreamlined 538420062;, 15 tracks, 72 min.; notes by Alec Palao), on the other hand, features brand new Fame material and was released about two months ago.

 Produced for the most part by Keith Stegall, Rodney Hall and Jim Brown, and featuring such musicians as Clayton Ivey, David Hood, Jesse Boyce, Mark Becket, Steve Potts, Spooner Oldham and dozens of others, the “album is dedicated to the memory of Rick Hall (1932-2018) the Father of the Muscle Shoals Sound and all of the great Singers, Songwriters, Musicians, Engineers, Producers and administrators who have helped to create and continue the Muscle Shoals Sound.”

  This set revives fifteen songs that were cut at Fame mostly in the 1960s and 70s and are now interpreted by, either pop/rock and country, or urban r&b artists.  In other words, this is not a traditional soul music CD.  Instead they focus on hit artists of the day and that way try to breathe new life into the Muscle Shoals music legacy.    

  When listening to these tracks, you can’t help but feel the genuine joy of music, dynamism and energy that is put down to create a varied music fiesta with rich and full sound.  Not everything is to my liking, but I really enjoy Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s intense reading of Steal Away and Michael McDonald’s interpretation of Feargal Sharkey’s 1991 big ballad named Cry like a Rainy DayEtta James covered it six years later.  Also Vince Gill and Wendy Moten sing a nice duet on Glenn Frey’s 1988 pretty hit, True Love.

  Grace Potter is an actress and country artist, who cut in Los Angeles a poppy version of I’d Rather Go Blind, which was partly overdubbed at Fame later.  As many as four well-known country artists – Jamey Johnson, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton and Lee Ann Womack – join forces in creating an over 8-minute country-rock version of Gotta Serve SomebodyClarence Carter’s Snatching It Back uses the original 1969 Fame track, and the overdubs were done by Kid Rock in Tennessee.

  Alison Krauss’ cover of the Allman Brothers’ 1973 recording Come and Go Blues, Alan Jackson’s poignant version of the Rolling StonesWild Horses and Chord Overstreet’s interpretation of Bob Seger’s 1987 song, We’ve Got Tonight, can all be filed under “country music.”  On their tracks Keb’ Mo’, Steven Tyler & Nuno Bettencourt and Bentley Stephen Smith lean on storming rock.  The closing track, Jerry Lynn Williams’ 1979 Giving It up for Your Love was covered a year later by Delbert McClinton, who now again does a duet on it with Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers fame, but most soul music fans remember this song by Z.Z. Hill. 


© Heikki Suosalo

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