Ace Records has had quite a 2021, from collections spotlighting the songs of Lou Reed and Donovan through this past week's releases from Petula Clark, late producer Norman Whitfield, and the ladies of Motown. Today, we're taking a look at a pair of recent releases from the venerable label.
Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman (1937-2016) may never have become a household name, but the music he helped create certainly did. A guitarist, producer, songwriter, and engineer, Moman pioneered the sound of Stax Records before forming his own American Sound Studio in Memphis. Ace has paid tribute to the "American Boys" who played at Moman's studio on past releases including last year's The Soul of the Memphis Boys, but now, the spotlight has been turned on Moman himself for the latest entry in the label's Songwriter Series, Back to the Basics: The Chips Moman Songbook. While Moman is rightly praised as a producer for Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, and countless others, this set is a long-overdue appreciation of his work as a songwriter. While he wrote both music and lyrics, Moman frequently welcomed collaborators including Larry Butler, Bobby Emmons, David Porter, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, and Toni Wine.
The 24-song collection boasts major hits from Waylon Jennings (1977's "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)," the outlaw hero's biggest country success and a crossover top 30 pop hit, too) and B.J. Thomas (1975's irresistible chart-topper "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song"), co-written by Bobby Emmons and Larry Butler, respectively. Both songs demonstrate Moman's ability to blend pop, country, and R&B sounds without losing the authenticity of either sound.
Back to the Basics also features choice cover versions of familiar Moman songs (Cher's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Dark End of the Street," Georgie Fame's "Last Night") and hidden gems from the top-flight stars drawn to Moman and his studio: Kenny Rogers ("Daytime Friends" flipside "Lying Again," first recorded by B.J. Thomas), Brenda Lee ("Staring Each Other Down"), Dottie West ("Here Come the Flowers"), Johnny Cash ("Easy Street"), Tammy Wynette ("He's Rolling Over and Over (In Someone Else's Clover")," George Strait ("So Much Like My Dad"), and Willie Nelson ("Old Fords and a Natural Stone"). Moman's early Stax-era artists including The Veltones ("Fool in Love"), The Canes ("I'll Never Give Her Up (My Friend)," Barbara Stephens ("If She Should Ever Break Your Heart"), Carla Thomas ("Promises") and William Bell ("Somebody Mentioned Your Name") are also represented on this wide-ranging anthology. Many of the tracks were produced by Moman, too, but friends and associates such as Butler, Oldham, Jimmy Bowen, and Ron Chancey all maintained the raw soul of Moman's compositions with their productions.
Compilation producer Tony Rounce has expertly annotated the 20-page full-color booklet with track-by-track notes while Duncan Cowell has remastered. In 2016, Petula Clark (whose 1970 Memphis LP was helmed by Moman) told this author, "I was touched by Chips, and I was touched by the musicians who played differently...The whole ambiance of being in Memphis, or in Nashville...there's something about it that touches me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's very powerful. It's interesting that you can actually hear it." You certainly can hear that Memphis Moman magic on these two dozen tracks.
Historian Jon Savage has also continued his series of year-by-year compilations for Ace with Jon Savage's 1972-1976: All Our Times Have Come. Past volumes have recognized 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969-1971. As with those volumes, this one is focused on rock of the period - in this case, per the release, of "its many variants: power pop, pub rock, glam, Krautrock, punk, etc." Those seeking soul, R&B, funk, and dance/disco (all forms which proliferated during this period) as well as SoCal singer-songwriter pop (think Carole King, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell) may look elsewhere, but those up for a fine survey of U.S. and U.K. (and beyond) rock singles need look no further.
1972-1976: All Our Times Have Come reflects the diversity of the period. There's California rock (the reunited Byrds' "Full Circle," Little Feat's "Easy to Slip"), hard rock (Alice Cooper's timeless "School's Out," Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear)The Reaper," Iggy and the Stooges' primal "Search and Destroy"), power pop (The Wackers' Gary Usher-produced "I Hardly Know Her Name," Big Star's infectious "With My Baby Beside Me"), glam (Mott the Hoople's "One of the Boys," The Sweet's "Blockbuster," Suzi Quatro's "48 Crash"), art-rock (Roxy Music's "Editions of You," Sparks' "Girl from Germany"), punk (New York Dolls' "Trash," Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop"), prog (Hawkwind's "King of Speed"), pub rock (Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City," The 101'ers' "Keys to Your Heart"), and happily unclassifiable songs (Yoko Ono and Plastic Ono Band's "Yang Yang"). While David Bowie presumably was unavailable for inclusion here, a number of tracks bear his production stamp including those by Mott, Lou Reed, and Dana Gillespie for whom he produced and wrote "Andy Warhol."
Like "School's Out" and "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," John Lennon's impressionistic "No. 9 Dream" stands out here a major hit (No. 9 in the U.S. and No. 23 in the U.K.). While The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb" didn't chart any higher than No. 6 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart, the all-female band's debut single has proven mightily influential. The hidden treasures curated by Savage include Dutch band Smyle's Beatles-esque "She Means a Lot to Me," Patti Smith's intense, pre-Arista indie single release of "Hey Joe," Murray Head's affecting "Say It Ain't So, Joe," and the offbeat, experimental slice of Krautrock from Faust, "So Far."
The two-disc package features a 28-page full-color booklet with an introductory essay and track-by-track annotations by Savage. Nick Robbins has remastered.
Both Back to the Basics: The Chips Moman Songbook and Jon Savage's 1972-1976: All Our Times Have Come are available now at the links below.
- Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love) - Waylon Jennings (RCA 10924, 1977)
- Fool in Love - The Veltones (Satellite 100, 1959) (*)
- Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - Cher (Atco LP SD 33-298, 1969)
- For You - Gizzelle (Wild Records CD 0807 001, 2008) (*)
- This Time - Troy Shondell (Gaye 2010, 1961) (*)
- Lying Again - Kenny Rogers (United Artists 1095, 1977)
- (Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song - B.J. Thomas (ABC 12054, 1975)
- Dark End of the Street - The Flying Burrito Bros. (A&M LP SP 4175, 1969)
- Promises - Carla Thomas (Atlantic 2101, 1961)
- Every Little Bit Helps - Helen Henry (rec. 1962, issued Kent CDKEND 459, 2017) (*)
- Sandcastles - Merrilee Rush and The Turnabouts (Bell LP 6020, 1968)
- Last Night - Georgie Fame (Columbia LP SX 6043, 1966) (*)
- Somebody Mentioned Your Name - William Bell (Stax 138, 1963) (*)
- You're Gonna See a Lot More (Of My Leaving) - Barbara Lynn (Atlantic 2553, 1968) (*)
- Don't Let It Be (This Time) - The Gentrys (MGM 13495, 1966)
- I'll Never Give Her Up (My Friend) - The Canes (Stax 123, 1962) (*)
- If She Should Ever Break Your Heart - Barbara Stephens (Stax 120, 1962) (*)
- Okeechobee Purple - Gary Stewart (RCA Victor LP AHL1-3627, 1980)
- Staring Each Other Down - Brenda Lee (MCA LP MCA-5143, 1980)
- Here Come the Flowers - Dottie West (RCA Victor 10553, 1976)
- Easy Street - Johnny Cash (Columbia 05672, 1985)
- He's Rolling Over and Over (In Someone Else's Clover) - Tammy Wynette (Epic LP FE 37104, 1981)
- So Much Like My Dad - George Strait (MCA 54439. 1992)
- Old Fords and a Natural Stone - Willie Nelson (Columbia 03385, 1982)
Stereo except (*) mono
- Easy to Slip - Little Feat (Warner Bros. 7553, 1972)
- Do Ya - The Move (Harvest HAR 5050, 1972)
- End Unkind - Grin (Spindizzy ZS7 4006, 1972)
- School's Out - Alice Cooper (Warner Bros. 7596, 1972)
- I Hardly Know Her Name - The Wackers (Elektra 45783, 1972)
- So Far - Faust (Polydor Germany 2001 299, 1972)
- Slow Death - Flamin' Groovies (United Artists UP 35392, 1972)
- One of the Boys - Mott the Hoople (CBS S 8271, 1972)
- When My Baby's Beside Me - Big Star (Ardent ADA 2902, 1972)
- She Means a Lot to Me - Smyle (Polydor 2050 215, 1972)
- Wishing Well - Free (Island WIP 6146, 1972)
- Full Circle - The Byrds (Asylum AS-11016, 1973)
- Blockbuster! - The Sweet (RCA 2305, 1973)
- Vicious - Lou Reed (RCA 2318, 1973)
- Avenging Annie - Annie Pratt (Columbia 4-45804, 1973)
- Yang Yang - Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band (Apple 1859, 1973)
- Editions of You - Roxy Music (Warner Bros. WB 7719, 1973)
- Search and Destroy - Iggy and The Stooges (Columbia 4-45877, 1973)
- 48 Crash - Suzi Quatro (RAK 158, 1973)
- Trash - New York Dolls (Mercury 73414, 1973)
- Andy Warhol - Dana Gillespie (RCA 2446, 1974)
- # 9 Dream - John Lennon (Apple 1878, 1974)
- Girl from Germany - Sparks (Bearsville K 15516, 1974)
- You Really Got Me - The Hammersmith Gorillas (Penny Farthing PEN 849, 1974) (*)
- The Man Who Couldn't Afford to Orgy - John Cale (Island WIP 6202, 1974) (*)
- Hey Joe (Version) - Patti Smith (Mer 601, 1974) (*)
- Third Uncle - Eno (Island 6837 233, 1974)
- Kings of Speed - Hawkwind (United Artists UP 35808, 1975)
- I Don't Mind - Dr. Feelgood (United Artists UP 35815, 1975) (*)
- After Eight - Neu (United Artists UP 35874, 1975)
- Red Temple Prayer (Two Headed Dog) - R. Ericson and Bleibalien (Mars 1000, 1975)
- Roadrunner - Jonathan Richman (Beserkley B-5701, 1975)
- Say It Ain't So, Joe - Murray Head (Island WIP 6252, 1975)
- Radioactivity - Kraftwerk (Kling Klang 1C 006 82 119, 1976)
- Final Solution - Pere Ubu (Hearthan 102, 1976)
- Blitzkrieg Bop - Ramones (Sire 725, 1976)
- Max's Kansas City '76 Part 1 - Wayne County and The Backstreet Boys (Max 1213, 1976)
- Cherry Bomb - The Runaways (Mercury 73819, 1976)
- X Offender - Blondie (Private Stock 45.097, 1976) (*)
- Horseplay (Weary of the Schmaltz) - Eddie and The Hot Rods (Island WIP 6306, 1976)
- Keys to Your Heart - The 101'ers (Chiswick S3, 1976)
- (Don't Fear) The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult (Columbia 3-10384, 1976)
- Heart of the City - Nick Lowe (Stiff BUY1, 1976)
- Train, Train - The Count Bishops (Dynamo DYR 45001, 1976)
Stereo except (*) mono