If the name Homer Banks doesn't immediately strike a chord, check out the song-writing credits on your records: he'll be in there somewhere. Amongst his compositions were "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right", "Ain't That Loving You" and "I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down". His work has been covered by everyone from Bryan Ferry to the Rolling Stones, via Nana Mouskouri and Tom Jones.
Best known, then, as a writer for the Stax stable from 1966-75, Banks was also a recording artist in his own right, and it is this much less celebrated facet of his career that's addressed on this 20-track compilation. Originallyrecorded for the Minit label in the mid-'60s, the songs fall broadly into two camps: the riff-heavy dance tracks and the big Southern soul ballads. He proves himself a master of both styles.
His first release was "A Lot of Love", with a rhythm that the Spencer Davis Group reworked for "Gimme Some Loving". "Sixty Minutes of Your Love" and "Hooked By Love" follow a similar pattern -honking tenor sax, brass stabs, tight backbeats and chanting choruses whip up an impressive storm, out of which emerge Bank's slightly gruff but precisely enunciated vocals. Irresistibly danceable, this is music for which the Blues Brothers would have sold their souls.
Perhaps even better are the slow tracks like "Foolish Hearts Break Fast", where "Banks" demonstrates an unexpected subtlety to his voice, almost cracking at times as he soars into a very attractive falsetto register.
None of these were hits, though listening to, say, the catchy desperation of "Sometimes It Makes Me Want To Cry", you'll find that hard to credit. And amongst the tales of love, the stand-out track is the social commentary "A Poor Man's Son", opening with the lines 'The streets was my playground, tears was my toys.'
It comes as no surprise that he writes great songs, but it's the singing that gets you again and again on these recordings. Its a genuine treat to re-discover this great lost star of Stax Records. --Alwyn Turner
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