on 20 May 2012
The latest reissue from Ace/Kent's excavation of the legendary FAME southern soul catalogue is this odds'n'sods set comprising unreleased studio outtakes, studio demos and a single home demo. As ever with compilations of this type it quickly becomes clear why this stuff was left on the shelf; the unreleased songs were either released in better versions or simply considered not good enough for any sort of release and of course the demos were tarted up prior to commercial release.
A fair few of the songs on here are uptempo with deep soul ballads comprising slightly less than half the set so if you are a fan of the latter rather than the former bear that in mind. In addition a few of the uptempo tracks have more of a classic R&B sound than you might expect, so not quite the `classic' FAME southern soul sound which again comes down to personal preference. All of the better songs on the set (`Almost Persuaded', `Tell Daddy', `Steal Away', `Let's Do It Over') are either demos or are available in better versions that were actually deemed worthy of commercial release.
There are no absolutely blinding finds on this set, the closest is probably the piano demo of "I Need Someone" by The Entertainers which has some sublime singing but that said the complete studio version by "The Wallace Brothers" on the `Sweet Inspirations: The Songs Of Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham' CD is even better. The Clarence Carter demos with a slightly more spontaneous, rougher sound than the finished product are pleasant but non-essential. The remainder in the main is fairly generic southern soul played superbly by the FAME players with plenty of bottom-end and lashings of organ so it you are happy with just the `feel' of a type of music rather than actual killer songs then you might find this to your liking.
The bad? Well the closing home demo "For You" by George Jackson is simply crummy with wretched sound quality and the song is simply not strong enough to transcend this; it simply shouldn't be here. The more R&B tracks are not really to my liking in this context and I skip these which knocks the effective running order below 20-tracks for me. Finally I have to take issue with the tag-line that 21 tracks of this compilation are completely unreleased and the remaining 3 haven't been issued on CD. If that is the case how come the Jimmy Hughes track "I Worship The Ground You Walk On" is here? This track is identical to that recently released on the KENT "Why Not Tonight?" CD compilation of Jimmy Hughes' FAME tracks; sloppy and misleading work by KENT (I thought it would be a demo or alt-tk when 1st looking at the tracklisting).
After the patchy George Jackson "Don't Count Me Out" `demo' CD I am scratching my head a bit about how KENT are treating the FAME Studios legacy after an excellent beginning with their Candi Staton, Jimmy Hughes compilations and `The Story Of Fame' box. Hopefully they'll have a re-think and realise that quality, not just quantity, is key when assembling these sets and whilst no-one expects that everything recorded by FAME will be a pearl it is KENT's job to separate the wheat from the chaff if they are to attract fresh listeners and hold onto those they've already got.
on 13 June 2012
Ace/Kent continue to mine the vaults of the legendary FAME southern soul catalogue. This is just one of a planned series of releases and the prospect of some hidden gems being discovered continues to excite this prospective buyer. The initial reaction was a plus as the graphics are top class and the presentation is pleasing on the eye.
Alas the music disappoints as this collection comprises unreleased studio outtakes and studio demos. Most of the cuts were not intended for public consumption and still ought not to be. There are too many songs here that are substandrd with alternative versions often too similar to the released versions.The listening experience proved a major disappointment.
I do have a personal preference for the uptempo material and of course, those wonderful horn lines are in evidence throughout. Probably the best cut here is the Entertainers 'I need someone', a toe tapper that I reprised several times. That cut aside the rest of the compilation fails to inspire although it was interesting to listen to Clarence Carter's tougher approach on demos (Ace are intending to release a series of Clarence Carter Fame retrospectives and these could have been added to those).
I don't want to highlight the duff cuts preferring to say that the George Jackson selections are particularly disppointing. George Jackson is a song writer of the highest class and it does him a disservice to include these demos. The remainder is generally generic southern soul played beautifully throughout but rarely inspiring. There is nothing on this CD to compare with Ace/Kents retrospective of Candi Staton which remain essential. Some quality control should have been exercised . I'm not hopeful for further volumes.
on 13 June 2012
As a comment to previous review I'd like to add that Ace/Kent are absolutely right to present even the most obscure Fame masters! They have been hidden for so long now and this is the first and maybe the last and only opportunity to get to hear them. These compilations are an expensive enterprise and now there is still an audience for it who actually crave and willingly pay to hear outtakes or unissued sides of Otis Clay, Jimmy Hughes of June Conquest and the like, even if they may not all be fully up to the standard of their issued works. Please Ace/Kent keep it UP!