Together with the twofer Road Runner & Home Cookin' these two CDs collect all the studio material released by Junior Walker and the All-Stars in the sixties, including the three singles they recorded for the Harvey label from 1962 (excepting only the B-side Brainwasher Pt 2), before it was swallowed up by the Motown empire. There was also a live album in 1967 briefly made available on a CD that now fetches over £100 a copy.
Shotgun was the first Junior Walker and the All Stars album, released to capitalize on the success in 1965 of Shotgun and Do The Boomerang. On the Motown sessions the line-up of Junior Walker (tenor sax, vocals), Willie Woods (guitar, vocal, composer of Hot Cha), Vic Thomas (organ) and James Graves (drums) was augmented by members of the Funk Brothers, notably James Jamerson on bass and additional drums by Benny Benjamin, but the album kicks off with the unadorned instrumental Cleo's Mood. This had originally been a single on Harvey in 1962 (Harvey being named after Harvey Fuqua, who produced the majority of their records throughout the sixties). Monkey Jump, a 1964 B-side that came out before Shotgun, features George Fowler on organ (he gets a composer credit on the album sleeve reproduction but not on the inner booklet).
One of my favourite tracks is Tune Up, another B-side, which opened side two of the record and has some great playing, though the whole album is hot. The disc has been digitally re-mastered and at last a clean version of the track Shotgun replaces the muddy, distorted pressing found on numerous compilations until now. Apart from Tally Ho! the whole album appeared on singles, through to 1967 (five A-sides and six B-sides), and this album probably represents the peak of Junior Walker's commercial success, so this makes an excellent first stop for new converts.
The second album included on the CD is Soul Sessions, originally released in February 1966, though both the singles included on it had been released prior to the Shotgun album. These were Good Rockin', the album's opener, which had been a single on Harvey in 1963, and Satan's Blues, their first single for Motown's Soul subsidiary. This was a sinewy blues rather in the style of the Mar-Keys but for the tenor sax lead, and like Monkey Jump on the flipside was recorded on 23 June 1964, both featuring stand-in George Fowler, and released that August, but without troubling the charts.
The album has a different mood to Shotgun as apart from a few vocal interjections it is entirely instrumental. As none of the tracks were familiar to me, unlike the Shotgun album, it took a while longer for it to really stand out and grab me, but I'm pleased to say it has repaid the attention. It is perhaps the band at their purest, though it is not their most essential record. All the tracks are originals apart from the standard Moonlight In Vermont.
I have been unable to find recording dates for many of the tracks on Soul Session, though Everybody Get Together was cut on the same day as Tune Up, on 4 May 1964, while Three Four Three shares a date with Shotgun, recorded on 15 December 1964. Recording could have taken place up to January 1966, but as most of the album was produced by Harvey Fuqua it is possible that some of it dates back to their time at the Harvey label in 1962 and 1963.
There are two bonus tracks. One, Willie's Blues, is the instrumental B-side of Twist Lackawanna. This was their first single back in January 1962, and reappeared on the album Road Runner. Finally, closing the disc in fine style is Break It Up, an all-stops out shouter from November/December 1964. This could easily have been a single but remained unreleased until a compilation in 1979.