Goin' Back To Miami ~ The Soul Sides 1965-1970 Original recording remastered
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Widely acknowledged as one of the wildest performers of the 1960s, Wayne Cochran's renowned showmanship never translated into hit records, but his various recordings for the Mercury, Chess and King labels are nevertheless compelling glimpses of the wild style which wowed clubs audiences across the United States in the latter half of the 60s. The purple period of this outrageously-bouffanted blue-eyed soul man's career is documented on the first disc of Ace's 2 CD anthology Goin Back To Miami, which collects the choicest sides the singer cut in the R&B style in the last half of the 60s, including the regional hits Harlem Shuffle and Goin Back To Miami, prime cuts from his eponymous 1968 album, partly recorded at Fame in Muscle Shoals, and a dozen tracks completely new to CD, including several unissued titles. In 1968, Cochran took his crack outfit the CC Riders into uncharted territory Las Vegas. Rather than toning down his act, the singer introduced the staid casino showrooms to his version of soul and made enough noise for Elvis Presley to come and take a look. The second disc of this package is an amazing find from the King vaults: a full live-in-the-studio document of Cochran's Vegas routine, complete with the singer's funky downhome patter, and CC Rider takes on numerous Stax and Motown items. Complete with detailed liner notes and plenty of eye-popping illustrations including photos of Cochran getting his famous do worked on Goin Back To Miami is the definitive document of this great entertainer's golden era.
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Wayne Cochran was a paradox in the '60s: an imitator of soul music icons -- especially James Brown (his idol), Otis Redding (his friend) and Joe Tex, whose downhome love-philosophizing raps he became a master of -- but it was his devotion to emulating the great black music of the day as a white man from the Deep South (Georgia) that made him truly unique. He was also righteous and courageous in his attempt to crash through the wall of racial separation of those times with his music. Not adhering to an expected niche cost him record sales, forcing him to tour constantly, and he would unfailingly put on a dynamic, all-out, energy-draining show that eventually literally shredded his vocal cords and required surgery. Ultimately, he succeeded, becoming an Elvis-endorsed Vegas act and getting to tear it up in his numerous national television appearances.
Ace's presentation is up to its usual great standards: a 28-page photo-filled booklet (the subject was never shy about posing for pictures), extensive liner notes (with the participation of the very-much-alive Cochran) and superb sound mastering.
As terrific as Cochran's "Harlem Shuffle" cover is, the problem here is that the majority of the material consists of covers that fall short of the originals, some by quite a bit. He over-relies on the tricks and clichés of the soul singer's trade: the growls, grunts, moans, screams and ad libs; and they often feel forced and come perilously close to parody. His singing can occasionally become ragged and stray off key, deficiencies which are magnified when he's going up directly against great talents like Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, the Temptations, or Otis Redding -- not to mention Muddy Waters in a cover of "Hoochie Coochie Man." One original song, appropriately titled "I'll Be in Trouble," is painfully hard to listen to, as it was recorded right before he desperately needed to have major vocal cord surgery.
Disc One ends with Cochran's abrupt and eccentric turn to motorcycle rock at the dawn of the '70s. Ace made a rare bad choice by including these two tracks in a soul set. (I would rather have his original version of "Last Kiss.")
Disc Two consists of an unissued, projected faux "live" LP that luckily we get to hear without the audience sound effects added. It's dominated by Otis Redding songs, as no doubt part of Cochran's intent here was to do a tribute to his recently deceased comrade. The arrangements are virtually note-for-note identical to the originals (not counting the extended love-and-soul-man raps and ad libs he inserts), making it both a moving experience (since he clearly loved Otis like a brother) and a frustrating one at the same time, due to his obviously lesser vocal ability. However, he displays remarkable restraint on "Dock of the Bay," effectively delivering the song's existential message which became so crushingly sad in Otis's wake. At the end, he mournfully calls out Otis's name and recreates the record's whistling fade-out; but instead of fading out, it flows into a solitary horn playing the concluding notes half in the manner of taps. A hauntingly sorrowful moment heard here for the first time 45 years later.
Thank you, Ace Records.
Cochran is the most underrated rock soul or blues siner that ever existed!