When it comes to chronicling the various regional iterations of rock and soul, Ace Records has few equals. The U.K. label’s Kent imprint has two recent, rarities-packed collections touching on two American locales and their contributions to popular music.
Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Soul Volume Two brings together 24 tracks spanning the 1960s-1980s from Hamilton’s small but prolific Motor City studios. Hamilton had been a presence on the Detroit musical landscape since the late 1940s, and continued to churn out music for decades after. The first volume of this series arrived in 2011, but Ace has long been shedding light on the Hamilton oeuvre with titles like Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Dancers (three volumes to date) and Detroit Funk. A few familiar names pepper the track listing primarily featuring some of Detroit’s finest talents unknown to all but the most dedicated soul aficionados. A full 16 tracks are previously unreleased.
As with so much of the music emanating from Detroit during the 1960s, there are Motown connections here. “I heard it through the grapevine” is a lyric in the opening track of this set, Chico and Buddy’s grooving “Party Time.” More significantly, though, compiler Ady Croasdell has uncovered a previously unreleased track from The Del-Phis, the group that would evolve into Martha and the Vandellas. Martha Reeves, Rosalind Ashford, Annette Beard and Gloria Jean Williams comprise The Del-Fis’ line-up on “It Takes Two,” recorded in 1961 – just a year before Motown stardom beckoned for Reeves, Ashford and Beard. Another Motown link here comes with Rita DuShay’s “All I Need (Steal Away Tonight).” The Hamilton-penned track appeared on Barbara McNair’s 1966 Motown album Here I Am, co-credited to Clarence Paul, but Detroit Soul presents the never-before-released original version of the slinky tune – which itself would have made for a fine release.
Another major name here is Carolyn Franklin, also represented by a never-before-heard track. Aretha’s younger sister came into Hamilton’s fold in the early 1980s; Croasdell reveals in his liner notes that Hamilton’s home and basement studios were located across the road from the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church where Carolyn’s father, The Reverend C.L. Franklin, had preached. Carolyn’s vocal stamp is distinctive on “Guess I’ll Go to Packin’,” a stripped-down ballad in which her voice is supported only by Hamilton’s guitar and a keyboard. The Dynamics had a Franklin family connection; their early manager, Ted White, was at one time Aretha’s husband. The group recorded the previously unissued “Surely,” written by member Ernest Fudge, in the early 1980s.
A few tracks have been unearthed as performed by Hamilton himself, including “When I Say Groove,” “Cracklin’ Bread” and “I’m Shooting High.” An accomplished musician, producer and songwriter, he’s represented in all of those capacities on a number of standout tracks including “Challenge My Love,” a classy soul ballad performed by jazz/soul chanteuse Tobi Lark. Nick Robbins has mastered all of the tracks here, and Croasdell has written detailed track-by-track liner notes.
Another regional-themed release has gotten a second volume from Ace. The label debuted the first volume of South Texas Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue in 2013; Volume Two arrived late in 2015 with another 24 tracks from the Lone Star State. As on the first volume, these selections have been drawn from the archives of Crazy Cajun Records. At one time or another, Crazy Cajun and its affiliated labels (such as Pacemaker, Jet Stream, Running Bear, Tear Drop and Pic 1) were associated with such artists as B.J. Thomas, Ronnie Milsap, The Sir Douglas Quintet, Barbara Lynn, Roy Head, Freddy Fender, Mickey Gilley, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, and Dr. John. Milsap appears on Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue 2 along with other significant music-makers such as Jean “Mr. Big Stuff” Knight and New Orleans legend Johnny Adams.
Crazy Cajun was the brainchild of Huey P. Meaux, South Texas’ most famous record man. Unfortunately Meaux was also South Texas’ most notorious. Following a 1996 raid of his office, he pled guilty to charges of sexual assault of a minor, drug possession and child pornography. But the music released by Meaux remains free of the taint of his sordid private life. Ace’s compilation, produced and compiled by Tony Rounce, is filled with brassy southern soul grooves, Texas-style. These are the kinds of songs one might have heard in a Texas roadhouse in the 1960s (the tracks here span 1962-1971), infused with the diverse strains of white southern soul, black R&B, Latino and Tex-Mex sounds. Sometimes torrid (Margo White’s “I Got a Right to Lose My Mind”), sometimes rousing (The Traits’ “Too Good to Be True”), rhythm and soul were always in abundance.
Ronnie Milsap is heard here on 1965’s uptempo “Wish You Were Here,” first issued on Meaux’s Pacemaker label. Johnny Adams is best-known as an artist in the place of his birth, New Orleans, but he came into the Pacemaker stable for a brief period which yielded six tracks including the funky “Spunky Onions.” Jean Knight is heard on the 1971 release “T’aint It the Truth.” Meaux dug into his vaults following the success of “Mr. Big Stuff” on Stax and found her cover of an Ernie K-Doe song previously released on his Tribe label. He remixed it with a new “Mr. Big Stuff”-style intro and even hired a sound-alike to shout “Mr. Big Stuff!” during the record. Needless to say, the ruse didn’t pay off. Two previously unreleased tracks debut on this compilation: the sublime, string-enhanced ballad “Strange Love” from Eugene Gamble (no relation to Kenny!) and Jo Jo Benson’s fine revival of Barbara Lynn’s “You’re Losing Me.” Nick Robbins has remastered all tracks here, and Rounce’s liner notes provide biographical details for all of the artists represented.
Connoisseurs of rare soul will find much to love on both of these collections. They’re available now from Ace Records at the links below!
- Party Time – Chico and Buddy (TCB 828, 1970)
- When I Say Groove (Vocal) – Dave Hamilton (rec. 1970)
- I Gotta Have You (Alternate Take) – Little Ann (rec. 1968)
- Showdown Part I – Simon Barbee and the Barbabes (Bar Bee 105, 1972)
- The Love Bandit – O.C. Tolbert (rec. 1974, first issued on BGP CDBGPD 261, 2012)
- (Marriage is Only) A State of Mind – The Tokays (rec. 1972, first issued 2013)
- All I Need (Steal Away Tonight) – Rita DuShay (rec. 1966)
- The Dreamer – Felecia Johnson (rec. 1977) (*)
- My Sweet Baby (Instrumental) – J.T.’s Rhythm Band (rec. 1967)
- Challenge My Love – Tobi Lark (Topper 1015, 1966)
- All I Want is You (Long Rap Version) – O.C. Tolbert (rec. 1972)
- Somebody Is Wrong – Presberry (rec. 1975)
- It Takes Two – The Del-Phis (rec. 1961)
- Guess I’ll Go to Packin’ – Carolyn Franklin (rec. 1982) (*)
- Love Me or Leave Me – Anxiety (rec. 1980) (*)
- Must Have Had Company – Elayne Starr (rec. 1978) (*)
- Mister Fireman – The Morning After (rec. 1973)
- Surely – The Dynamics (rec. 1983) (*)
- Moving On – Little Stevie and the Sensational Reynolds Singers (Demo Ristic X110, 1970)
- Four O’Clock Blues – Glemie (Blue Boy) Derrell & The Detroit Dynamite Blues Boys feat. Little Mary (TCB 6039, 1969)
- You Fool, You Fool – The Prophet and His Disciples (Pressco 101, 1972)
- Cracklin’ Bread (with vocals) – Dave Hamilton (rec. 1970)
- I’m Shooting High (Vocal) – Dave Hamilton (rec. 1968)
- Remember Me – Jimmy Scott (rec. 1984) (*)
All tracks previously unreleased except where indicated.
Mono except (*) stereo.
- Too Good to Be True – The Traits (Pacemaker 254, 1966)
- I’m Losing You – Chet McDowell (Jet Stream 727, 1967)
- Half a Man – Charles Berry (rec. c. 1967 – first issued on Crazy Cajun LP CCLP 1060, 1978)
- The Bad Times Make the Good Times – Warren Storm (Pic 1 135, 1966)
- I’ve Got a Right to Lose My Mind – Margo White (Tear Drop 3043, 1964)
- You Better Investigate – David “King” Thomas (Jet Stream 809, 1971)
- T’AIn’t It the Truth – Jean Knight (Jet Stream 806, 1971)
- Strange Love – Eugene Gamble (previously unreleased)
- You’re Losing Me – Jo Jo Gamble (previously unreleased)
- At Your Wedding – Jackie Paine (Jet Stream 729, 1967)
- Wish You Were Here – Ronnie Milsap (Pacemaker 246, 1965)
- Neighbor, Neighbor – Margo White (rec. c. 1967 -first issued on Crazy Cajun LP CCLP 1062, 1978)
- Total Disaster – Lee Maye (Pic 1 120, 1965)
- I’m Losing You – Henry Moore (Jet Stream 731, 1967)
- All About Love – Big Sam (Running Bear 8301, 1962)
- The Pleasures of My Woman – Rocky Gil and The Bishops (Jet Stream 813, 1971)
- Please Pass My Soul – Dean Scott (previously unreleased)
- Skid Row Blues – Jackie Paine (Jet Stream 741, 1967)
- Sick – Prince Charles (Jet Stream 715, 1966)
- Good Doctor Sweet Soul – Joe Fritz (Jet Stream 731, 1967)
- Tender Loving Pain – Luvenia Lewis (Jet Stream 800, 1969)
- After Hour Man – Joe Medwick (Edsel CD EDCD 632, 2000)
- The Rains Came – Joe Hughes (Jet Stream 816, 1967)
- Spunky Onions – Johnny Adams (Pacemaker 249, 1966)
All tracks mono except Track 23 stereo.