When it comes to vintage soul, no stone is left unturned by the team at Ace and Kent Records. A number of recent releases hit points from Miami to Memphis, and just about everywhere in between. In today’s Part One of our Ace Soul Round-Up, we’ll look at releases from the Sounds of Memphis label and vocalist Mary Love!
Memphis is a long way from Hollywood, but the famous MGM lion adorned the releases of the Sounds of Memphis label, subject of Kent’s new More Lost Soul Gems from Sounds of Memphis. The SOM story began in the early 1960s with entrepreneur Gene Lucchesi, whose family of independent labels struck gold in 1965 with a little song called “Wooly Bully.” The Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs track caught the attention of the Hollywood giant, who picked the record up and guided it straight to the top of the charts. Within the next couple of years, the massive success of the danceable garage-rocker had paid for Lucchesi’s Sounds of Memphis studio. Top quality soul sounds were de rigeur for the studio; its house band was even lured away by Atlantic’s Jerry Wexler to become The Dixie Flyers. Lucchesi’s studio right-hand man Stan Kesler used SOM as a home base for outside productions, and Lucchesi brought Dan Greer on board as the in-house producer and A&R man. When Lucchesi and MGM entered into a deal in the early 1970s to team up, the Sounds of Memphis label took flight with releases from The Minits, Barbara Brown, the Ovations, Spencer Wiggins, and others. When SOM and MGM went their separate ways, the label continued to issue smoldering southern soul from George Jackson, Billy Cee and The Ovations.
More Lost Soul Gems continues Kent’s definitive series reissuing (and in many cases, issuing for the first time) music from Lucchesi’s labels including XL and Sounds of Memphis. Of its 22 tracks, all but four are previously unissued. Those four tracks, of course, are genuine rarities: both sides of Carroll Lloyd’s Memphis-recorded single released on Capitol’s Tower subsidiary including a bluesy cover of Johnny Rivers’ chart-topping “Poor Side of Town”; Tommy Raye (later Tommy Tucker)’ s “You Don’t Love Me” as released on XL 101 in 1964; and Willie Cobbs’ 1973 “Hey Little Girl” from the Bracob label. The unreleased material – all recorded in the 1960s and 1970s – includes tracks from George Jackson and the group he produced, The Jacksonians (named for their hometown, not for George, on the Marvin and Tammi classic “If I Could Build My World Around You”), as well as Dan Greer, Stax and Hi veteran keyboardist Art Jerry Miller, and Barbara and the Browns (like George Jackson, subject of their own SOM anthology). Billy Cee and the Freedom Express’ “Don’t Matter if It’s in the Past” is an Al Green-esque find. The Donald O’Connor here is, of course, not the MGM star of days gone by, but a soulful singer with “You Don’t Understand Me.” Dean Rudland has compiled and annotated this collection of deep soul treasures, which has been remastered by Duncan Cowell and includes a 12-page booklet.
After the jump: the scoop on Mary Love, plus track listings and order links for both titles!
Over in Los Angeles, Mary Love was making some great, under-the-radar records with the cream of the crop of the city’s R&B talent including future 5th Dimension manager Marc Gordon, soon-to-be-Motown producers Frank Wilson and Hal Davis, and others including Arthur Wright, Richard Parker, and Chester and Gary Pipkin. Lay This Burden Down: The Very Best of Mary Love compiles 25 rare sides from the late singer (1946=2013) as originally released on the Modern, Josie, Elco, Generation, Magic Disc, Kent and Co-Love labels between 1965 and 1994. Though she faced numerous personal demons in her life, as chronicled in compiler Ady Croasdell’s copious liner notes, music always brought out the best in her.
Mary Love, renamed by Hal Davis from Mary Allen, moved up from background singer (with The Ikettes, Lowell Fulson and Vernon Garrett, among others) to lead vocalist at Modern, although her records rarely broke out beyond the regional scene. Still, “You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet” and this collection’s title track “Lay This Burden Down” became classics of the northern soul movement, and the ballad “Move a Little Closer” did manage a No. 48 placement on the U.S. Top 100 R&B chart. Many of Love’s Modern sides have a Detroit-esque quality, which is no surprise considering the future Motown talent behind them. Modern paired Love with young writers Nickolas Ashford and Valarie Simpson for a couple of tracks (“Dance, Children, Dance” and “Baby, I’ll Come”) and she also recorded Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni’s “Is That You” at Modern.
Love actually notched her biggest hit once she departed Modern with 1968’s “The Hurt is Just Beginning,” a No. 46 R&B hit on the Josie label. She penned the song herself, and she would continue as her own primary songwriter for the rest of her career. Lay This Burden Down includes southern soul and gospel-inspired cuts from her soundtrack contributions to a couple of comedian Rudy Ray Moore’s blaxploitation films, Dolemite and Petey Whitestraw, but overlooks her disco/dance records on a variety of labels in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The collection picks up with a couple of songs recorded for Kent in 1994, her final secular session for some time, before concluding with two gospel tracks cut in 1987 including the ballad “The Price” in its previously unheard extended version.
Lay This Burden Down has been remastered by Nick Robbins; for this set, nine of the thirteen Modern tracks have been remixed from the original four-track recordings to match the original single mixes with improved sound quality.
Coming next: a rundown of recent releases from two smoking soul men – Arthur Prysock and Wayne Cochran! Both More Lost Soul Gems from Sounds of Memphis and Lay This Burden Down: The Very Best of Mary Love are available now for order at the links below!
- Tempted – Marjorie Ingram
- Hold On Hold Out – George Jackson
- Since My Baby Left Me – Dan Greer
- That’s Why I Keep Her – William Bollinger
- One Man’s Poison – Rudolph Taylor
- Human Emotions – Barbara and the Browns
- It Don’t Bother Me No More – unknown male vocalist
- A Great Big Thing – Carroll Lloyd (Tower 411, 1968)
- Misery – Rudolph Taylor
- That’s How I Take to You – Barry Jones
- I Care for You – Fran Farley
- Don’t Matter if It’s in the Past – Billy Cee and the Freedom Express
- You Can Always Depend on Me – Art Jerry Miller
- If I Could Build My World – The Jacksonians
- You Don’t Understand Me – Donald O’Connor
- Lost in a Dream – Vision
- Memphis Funk – Fran Farley
- Hey Little Girl – Willie Cobbs (Bracob 1001, 1973)
- You Don’t Love Me – Tommy Raye (XL 101, 1964)
- You’re Using Me – Rudolph Taylor
- Your Own Free Will – Ann Hodge
- Poor Side of Town – Carroll Lloyd (Tower 411, 1968)
All tracks previously unreleased except as indicated above.
- You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet (Modern 1006, 1965)
- I’m in Your Hands (Modern 1006, 1965)
- Hey Stoney Face (Modern 1010, 1965)
- I’ve Gotta Get You Back (Modern 1010, 1965)
- Let Me Know (Modern 1020, 1966)
- Move a Little Closer (Modern 1020, 1966)
- Think It Over Baby (Modern 1029, 1966)
- Lay This Burden Down (Modern 1029, 1966)
- Satisfied Feeling (Modern 1033, 1967)
- Baby I’ll Come (Modern 1033, 1967)
- Talkin’ About My Man (Modern 1039, 1967)
- Dance, Children, Dance (Modern 1039, 1967)
- Is That You – Arthur and Mary (Modern 1042, 1967)
- The Hurt is Just Beginning (Josie 999, 1968)
- If You Change Your Mind (Josie 999, 1968)
- Born to Live with Heartache (Elco 444, 1971)
- There’s Someone for Me (Elco 444, 1971)
- When We Start Making Love (Generation LP 2501, 1975)
- Power of Your Love (Generation LP 2501, 1975)
- Joy (Magic Disc LP MD 112, 1977)
- Loving You (Magic Disc LP MD 112, 1977)
- I Can’t Wait (Kent CDKEND 109, 1994)
- Because of You (Kent CDKEND 109, 1994)
- Come Out of the Sandbox (Co-Love 1001, 1987)
- The Price (previously unreleased extended version from Co-Love 1001, 1987)