on 31 January 2014
This is the third volume of KENT records series of compilations excavating rare and unreleased tracks from the vaults of FAME records. I reviewed volumes' 1 and 2 of this series and reckoned both were solid (but unexceptional) and probably most suited to admirers of the "sound" of the FAME studio and its exceptional session musicians, however I reckoned volume 2 was probably a mite stronger than volume 1 due to superior songwriting on several of the tracks. Well I think Volume 3 is a step back to the slightly lesser quality of Volume 1 with mostly generic songwriting enlivened by excellent musical performances. Nevertheless there are a few very strong selections though these are mostly covers of already well known tracks such as "She's About A Mover" (which was actually released as a single by Otis Clay in an alt. mix), "You've Left The Water Running" (Ralph Soul Jackson; very good but how many versions of this song do we need?), "You Don't Miss Your Water" (Otis Clay; bluesier and arguably better than the great William Bell original). Of the original songs by far the most outstanding (and worthy of release at the time) is the moody, gritty "A Stone Loser" by Ben & Spence, though there are also strong entries by Dan Greer ("Don't Let A Good Thing Go To Waste"), the funky "Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here" by Prince Phillip, and two of the three songs here by Clarence Carter ("I Done Run Out" & "I Feel A Burning") though the third song by Carter ("Hey Man") is weak.
There are about four out-and-out duds unfortunately starting with the lead-out track "A World Of My Own" featuring an eccentric vocal performance by Billy & Clyde, the utterly generic "You're Too Much" by Billy Young and the trite "Love Is Calling On Me" by Roy Lee Johnson as well as "Hey Man" by Clarence Carter mentioned above. The remaining tracks are OK without being really being memorable mostly due to rote songwriting though the performances are always strong.
Therefore in conclusion, another solid entry in this series provided your expectations aren't set too high and you are a committed fan of southern soul ---- I'd therefore score this volume at 3-stars; just about matching the quality of volume 1 but not quite as good as volume 2.
Kent are certainly releasing everything they can land their hands on with Fame and is can become a bit 'samey'. Southern soul can lack the instrumental and production diversity compared to other soul styles so needs strong songwriting and performances. Inevitably this is not about Fame's best but rarest, so the buyer knows that before buying, it's strange to complain afterwards. Having been disappointed with the third George Jackson release which felt scrapping the barrel (though sounded better on repeat listening) this was a pleasant surprise. Almost all the tracks are completely unissued but the quality was good, it helps that there are no stripped down demos and that most of the tracks have some kind of beat to drive them on. It's right to end the series here but I enjoyed this CD in its own right. It lacks the diversity of other CDs as all the tracks are late 60s, so no crossover modern soul sounds (which is a shame as Southern soul sounds great in the 1970s). However this isn't a casual purchase, buyers will surely know it is the very rarest of Fame which is already a fairly hardcore label for soul fans. On that basis the CD delivers however if you are dipping your toe into soul music, don't get this, get the Kent's Cellar of Soul volume 3 also released this month which is essential and a more casual introduction to great dance soul.
Complimenting two previous Volumes (CDKEND 372 in 2012 and CDKEND 386 in 2013) - here comes Volume 3 on KENDCD 410 in January 2014 with a whopping count of Previously Unreleased Deep Southern Soul Cuts (65:14 minutes).
The only two released tracks here are rare American 45s - "You're The One For Me" by BEN and SPENCE (1966, Bell 650) and "You Don't Miss Your Water" by OTIS CLAY (1968, Cotillion 44001). The other 22 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED and recorded between 1965 and 1970. Two tracks ("I'm In Love (That's All I Can Say)" and "Your Sister's Keeper" are literally credited Unknown Male No. 1 and 2!
The scant 8-page booklet shows a photo of the FAME Studios with an advert for Clarence Carter on the rear page with typically informative liner notes by long time Ace contributor TONY ROUNCE. The sound is excellent as always - handled by DUNCAN COWELL - a man whose name graces a huge number of reissues - so knows his way around a tape box or two.
A lot of the outtakes are slow but to my ears sound plodding rather than inspired - with vocals that are off key (you can hear why they were left in the can). But of course there are enough exceptions to make purchase worthwhile. "The Door To My Heart" by DAN BRANTLEY is a chipper dancer and the second CLARENCE CARTER cut on here "I Done Run Out" fairs a lot better than the poor first placing "Hey Man".
Roy Lee Johnson's Demo of "What Our Love's Gonna Turn Out To Be" sounds like Otis Redding on fire - it's absolutely superb (lyrics above). But for me the real nugget on here is a blistering cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet classic "She's About A Mover" by a fully on-form OTIS CLAY. It's the kind of floor-filler fans adore (and what a set of expressive lungs he had). Slinky too is the PRINCE PHILLIP MITCHELL dancer "Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here" which mines the same feel of Clarence Carter's faster tunes. I'd also love to know who Unknown Male No.2 is on the Wilson Pickett blaster "Your Sister's Keeper" - great stuff - and what a voice.
It isn't all genius of course - but you have to say that Volume 3 is yet another gem in the Ace/Kent Soul cannon.
Well done to all involved for getting these unheard Soul Sides out to the hungry faithful...