By the time Don Covay signed to Atlantic, he was already known as a recording artist and a songwriter. Now one of the decade's greatest soul singers, he had sung in gospel and doo-wop groups, chauffeured for Little Richard, played and recorded with the Little Richard Revue, and written songs that were hits for Gladys Knight and the Pips, Wanda Jackson, Hank Ballard, Chubby Checker, Solomon Burke, Tommy Tucker and others.
His breakthrough came in 1964 on the Rosemart label when Mercy, Mercy hit the Billboard pop charts. Recorded in May with his band the Goodtimers, augmented by Bernard Purdie on drums and Jimi Hendrix on guitar (he also appeared on the flipside, Can't Stay Away, recorded a week later), it paved the way for a string of chart successes and led to Rosemart's distributor, Atlantic Records, buying out his contract and releasing an album later in the year.
Mercy! included both sides of the single; the follow-up Take This Hurt Off Me/Please Let Me Know; You're Good For Me, which had come out on the Landa label; and other unreleased recordings from the same New York October 1964 sessions with the Goodtimers, led by producer Horace Ott. Stylistically varied and accomplished, it was a hugely influential album and immediately inspired a number of the British beat groups of the time, his songs being seized by the Small Faces, the Spencer Davis Group, Georgie Fame, the Rolling Stones and a whole crowd more, as well as closer to home compatriots such as Booker T and the MG's and his former mentor Little Richard (I Don't Know What You Got But It's Got Me also featured Jimi Hendrix).
This two-on-one CD from Koch Records is not only beautifully mastered in panoramic stereo, but adds the complete follow-up album (although only 11 of the 12 tracks comprise the second half of this CD, the twelfth track was merely a repeat of Mercy, Mercy, which opens side one).
See-Saw included the singles The Boomerang (Don had a penchant for dance craze numbers), Please Do Something/A Woman's Love, See-Saw/I Never Get Enough Of Your Love, Iron Out The Rough Spots and Sookie-Sookie and four new tracks. Most of it was recorded in New York with the Goodtimers, some of it at the October 1964 sessions which formed the bulk of Mercy!, but also marvelously features some songs recorded at the Stax Studios in June 1965 with Booker T and the MG's and the Memphis Horns. These are See-Saw, I Never Get Enough Of Your Love, Iron Out The Rough Spots, Please Do Something, A Woman's Love and Sookie-Sookie. The album easily equaled Mercy! and gave him more big hits, See-Saw being revived to great effect by Aretha Franklin three years later (she also won a Grammy with his Chain Of Fools).
Don Covay remained successful and influential throughout the sixties and disco-hungry seventies, but this important chapter in his career is fully illustrated on these exemplary albums.