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In this Case, King and Queen is Aces
on 14 February 2010
Memphis has produced many great musicians. Sam Phillips' Sun Studio, launched in February 1952, boasted Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. Beale Street started BB King's career. And then there was Stax/Volt, home to Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Johnnie Taylor and Rufus Thomas. These Stax acts, ably backed by one of the greatest studio bands of all time, otherwise known as Booker T. and the MGs, have left us unmatched rhythm and blues. (Now, I'm not going to get into the argument of which had the greatest studio band, Detroit's Motown, Atlantic's Muscle Shoals, or Stax: I'm just not competent to do so, unfortunately. I'm just going to say that with Booker T and the MGs behind him, Otis Redding has to be on the short list for greatest rhythm and blues singer, greatest Southern soul singer, however you prefer to characterize his music.) "Sitting on The Dock of the Bay," "Knock on Wood," "Try a Little Tenderness," "I'm Coming Home:" the man had range. What he didn't have, on his own, was humor: that's where Carla Thomas, daughter of Rufus, came in. "Tramp" is an exuberant corn-pone-flavored duet: once heard, it lingers in the mind, or at least in mine. It's funny. The rest of this record, first released in 1967, lingers well, too: the covers of several rock and roll masterpieces like "Tell It Like It Is," "It Takes Two,"and "Bring It On Home to Me," are crisp, light-handed, and sure-footed.
People say that the late, great Marvin Gaye never sang better than when he was paired with Tammi Terrell; that's a matter of personal taste, and I wouldn't say the same about Otis Redding and Carla Tucker. I would say they sang superbly together: if you love 1960's Southern soul, you want to get this rare record before it goes out of print.