Memphis' Beale Street is one of the most famous musical thoroughfares in America, known for the sounds of rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, and rock-and-roll that pulsate through its shops, restaurants, and bars. On the first weekend every May, The Beale Street Music Festival is staged, celebrating the city's diverse musical legacy. While COVID-19 sadly has kept the Festival once again from taking place, it's already set for 2022. And Omnivore Recordings has looked back on a special performance to honor a festival founder by one of Memphis' - and the label's - favorite sons.
Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street documents the late Alex Chilton's 1999 show at Memphis' New Daisy Theater. The concert resulted from the Box Tops and Big Star frontman's generosity. Fred Ford, co-founder of the Festival, had been diagnosed with cancer. David Less organized Fredstock as a fundraiser to help pay for Ford's medical bills. Chilton was eager to join Fredstock but no longer had a band in Memphis on which to call. Less suggested the Hi Records Rhythm Section, the same group of musicians who had played on records by Al Green, O.V. Wright, Ike and Tina Turner, and others. As the story goes Chilton responded, "That will work." Mabon "Teenie" Hodges on guitar, Charles Hodges on keyboards, Archie "Hubie" Mitchell on keyboards, Leroy Hodges on bass, and Howard Grime on drums comprised the band, and Jim Spake (tenor saxophone), Roland Kirk Smothers (baritone saxophone), and Scott Thompson (trumpet) all joined in with their horns.
The setlist was eclectic, to say the least, with covers of songs popularized by The Supremes (a laid-back "Where Did Our Love Go"), Chuck Berry (the rollicking "Maybellene"), Little Richard ("Lucille"), Wilson Pickett (a loose, swinging "634-5789"), Otis Clay ("Trying to Live My Life Without You"), and Jimmy Reed ("Big Boss Man"). Chilton sounds energized throughout, powered by the funky, brassy horn section even on the most seemingly improbable material such as the opening rendition of KC & The Sunshine Band's "Boogie Shoes." While the voice had changed over the years, Chilton was back in southern soul/Box Tops territory, and enjoying every second. The band, too, had ample opportunity to solo and demonstrate their ample chops on most every track.
Omnivore's premiere of this fun and spirited concert on CD, LP, and digital formats features a cover painting by Lamar Sorrento. Michael Graves has mastered the audio from the original tapes. (The show was professionally recorded for Fred Ford as he was too ill to attend.) David Less has penned the new liner notes remembering his friend Alex; they're printed within the six-panel digipak. A limited edition bundle at the Omnivore store has the LP plus a print of the cover artwork. Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street is out today.
Like Alex Chilton, Omnivore has previously celebrated the legacy of late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman with numerous releases. The new It Sure Looked Good on Paper: The Steve Goodman Demos, due next Friday, May 14, in 1CD and 2LP formats, offers the most close-up look yet at his legacy as a songwriter. The collection produced by Cheryl Pawelski presents 20 intimate demo recordings from the artist and storyteller who died of leukemia in 1984 at the too-young age of 36.
The set opens with a brisk, sprightly band demo of "City of New Orleans," the future folk standard which Arlo Guthrie took to the top 20 in 1972 and was subsequently recorded by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Lynn Anderson, Judy Collins, and countless others. "City of New Orleans" was the song which afforded Goodman the opportunity to pursue music full-time; another hit included in embryonic form on this set is the witty riposte at the Nashville country establishment, "You Never Even Call Me by My Name." Co-written by Goodman and an uncredited John Prine, it was recorded by the outlaw country artist David Allan Coe in 1974. Another of Goodman's most famous songs as a performer was one he didn't write: Michael Peter Smith's finely-wrought character study "The Dutchman." It's here, too, in demo form.
Other tracks feature Goodman's would-be contributions to films. The biting Hollywood tale "Face on the Cutting Room Floor" was pitched for the Steve Martin comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Steve G. had opened for Steve M. at the height of the latter's stand-up popularity) and while it wasn't heard in the film, it was recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band whose Jimmy Ibbotson co-wrote it with Goodman. The wistful "Six Pack" was submitted for the Kurt Russell film Used Cars for Kenny Rogers to sing; it, too, didn't make the movie but here's the chance to hear Goodman singing for the superstar. All of the songs are marked by Goodman's vocal warmth which invites the listener into the world of a song.
Grammy Award-winning engineer Michael Graves has also mastered this collection, and Lee Zimmerman has written the liner notes. Photos in the 12-page booklet come courtesy of the Goodman family archive. It Sure Looked Good on Paper: The Steve Goodman Demos is a moving and impressive tribute to a still far-too-unsung singer-songwriter. It hits stores from Omnivore next Friday, May 14.
Both titles are available for order now at the links below!
- Boogie Shoes
- Precious, Precious
- Kansas City
- Big Boss Man
- Where Did Our Love Go
- Hello, Josephine
- Trying to Live My Life Without You
All tracks previously unreleased.
- City of New Orleans (Band Demo)
- The Sun and The Bridge (Demo)
- Climb the Hills to Dale (Band Demo)
- Jazzman (Demo)
- Hands on Time (Band Demo)
- Eight Ball Blues (Band Demo)
- Would You Like to Learn to Dance (Demo)
- Turnpike Tom (Demo)
- Ballad of Paul Powell (Demo)
- Yellow Coat (Demo)
- You Never Even Call Me by My Name (Demo)
- The Dutchman (Demo)
- Song for David (Demo)
- Kiss Me Goodbye Again (Demo)
- The Auctioneer (Demo)
- Six Pack (Demo)
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (Demo)
- Face on the Cutting Room Floor (Demo)
- It Sure Looked Good on Paper (Demo)
- The Water Is Wide (Demo)
All tracks previously unreleased.