The Stax Story
Stax (Fantasy) 4SCD-4429-2 Soul / Pop
recently got the new four CD set of The Supremes. That's a lot of
"ooh Baby!", but we plowed through all four discs and
lived to tell about it. It was fun but frankly, a one CD "Greatest
Hits"-type thing would have been fine. Then along comes The
Stax Story. Some prefer gin to vodka, Christmas to Easter and
light meat to dark, and The Stax Story made us happy in a
way no Motown anthology could.
aren't going to deny the importance of Motown, but our hips and
heart just react more automatically to the Memphis-based Stax sound.
It's simpler, gutsier and in most cases, more melodic. Maybe the
sound isn't as instantly identifiable and surely the acts weren't
the crossover sensations of Motown, especially in the early 1960s,
but to our ears, the music is just better and a hell of a lot more
The four discs on The Stax Story are very loosely themed
as The Hits, Kinda Blue, Finger-Snappin' Good, and Live.
Each CD has its moments. The Hits is almost too intense with
one smash presented after another. Kinda Blue and Finger-Snappin'
Good are pretty much interchangeable. Live is a surprise
in that the bands sounded just as good in concert as they did in
the Stax studios.
are too many great tracks to go into much detail but a few things
become obvious while listening to The Stax Story. First and
foremost the genius of Isaac Hayes. From his writing and producing
in the early days to his own performances from 1969 on, Hayes is
clearly of the most influential yet underrated musical giants of
20th century popular music. That's a pretty strong statement but
whether you listen to the hits of Sam and Dave (Hold On I'm Comin',
Soul Man) or to the lush sexy soul of his own works like Theme
from Shaft, you can't help wonder why this man isn't
given more respect. Perhaps it's his cartoonish lovemaking monologues,
which are a little better and much more believable than Barry White's,
but they're still pretty campy. He did record an awful lot of garbage
but we we shouldn't let that diminish the importance of his better
work, just as we would never dismiss Stevie Wonder for I Just
Called to Say I Love You.
thing that becomes clear is that while obviously everyone wanted
to have a hit, the singers and musicians were hired because they
were good and had something to say, not because they fit a particular
marketing niche. We'd be much more forgiving of much of today's
pop music if we really believed labels were doing this.
are three other collections containing almost 40 hours of Stax singles,and
while they are beyond great, they may be a little intimidating and
perhaps aren't the best way to discover the Stax sound. This new
four-CD collection is an ideal introduction and a more portable
way to get your daily dose of Soul.
Mack is Back
kind of fun to watch the excitement build as the world rediscovers
Bobby Darin. He wasn't very good-looking, he didn't have the voice
of an angel, he was a fair songwriter and he played a lot of instruments,
none very well. So what's the big deal? Attitude and musical taste.
Darin willed himself to greatness and in our eyes, he succeeded
best as an interpreter of classic popular music. As a rock and roller,
he was typical and as a young folkie rebel, he was horrible. But
he was always fascinating so it's no wonder that his records are
finally showing up on CD, his son's really interesting book on Darin's
stormy life is still in print and Kevin Spacey wants to play him
in a film.
the new video and DVD Mack is Back is an attempt to either
stir up more excitement or cash in on it, it's hard to say. But
it's really for hard core Darin fans. The main footage is of a TV
special filmed months before Darin's untimely death. This is post-If
I Were a Carpenter Bobby Darin and while he seems to be trying
to balance all aspects of the Bobby Darin repertoire, from Splish
Splash to Simple Song of Freedom, it's still 1973 and
Darin seems silly and forced. He looks uncomfortable in his tight
clothes and he seems oblivious to the fact that his back up band
all is not lost. The DVD version of Mack is Back has specialty
material that makes it a worthwhile purchase. Scenes of Bobby with
his family, in the studio, at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and
on the road are all from the 1960s when Bobby Darin was making his
best music, married to the complicated Sandra Dee and the world
just seemed to be a better place.
even a short but great clip of Darin with Joanie Sommers! With an
orchestra led by Billy May, we wish that these vintage clips were
the focus of Mack is Back and that the scenes from his last
show were the bonus material.
Andy Bey & the Bey Sisters
Andy Bey & the Bey Sisters
Prestige 24245-2 Vocals / Jazz
is what we would call a "desert island disc." Great songs,
fabulous voices and sparse, modern arrangements all meet on Andy
Bey and the Bey Sisters, a compilation of their two Prestige albums,
Now! Hear! and 'Round Midnight. The Beys obviously
had been singing for years when they met up for these mid-1960s
recordings. They have an odd, intriguing mathematical way of singing
that's hard to pinpoint and may take a little work to "get,"
but it's a unique, soulful belt. The sound obviously influenced
the early Pointer Sisters.
Beys perform an intoxicating mix of jazz, soul, gospel and pop.
Brother Andy is apparently the musical genius behind the group,
but it's sister Salome with her deep, muddy voice that makes the
trio so distinctive.
we rarely go out on such a limb, but this is a near perfect record.
We can't get enough of it and have a hard time imagining a MrLucky
reader not being completely enchanted.
Just Another Taste of Electronic Watusi Boogaloo
Kindercore Records KC051 Dance
knew we were asking for trouble when we saw this CD. Boogaloo is
one of our favorite musical sub-genres and the thought that someone
had updated the sound was almost too much to hope for. Could it
be that some of today's finest young music impresarios had discovered
Latin Soul and had updated it for today's generation? No.
it be, that just like the Martini cocktail, someone thought the
word "Boogaloo" was funny and therefore decided to redefine
its meaning for a bright new generation? Yes!
Boogaloo is an easily-identifiable type of music. It was all part
of the 1960s Latin Soul movement, along with the Watusi, the Shing-a-ling
and several other dances and grooves. It is basically a dumbed-down
Cuban son with English lyrics. We doubt the makers of Just Another
Taste of Electronic Watusi Boogaloo even know what a Cuban son
if the Boogaloo hasn't been updated, what's on the disc? It turns
out it's better than average post-Trip Hop dance music, with a retro
twist. What the various artists on this compilation have done is
update Go-Go music, not Latin Soul. It's light, fun and frothy without
leaving a bad taste in your mouth. We can almost recommend it, if
they'd just change the title.
Meant For You
Self-produced by Sue Tucker / Vocals
probably have no idea, but here is an army of well-meaning but boring,
young-ish white chicks who want to sing jazz. We don't mean a handful,
we mean hundreds. And they all send us their CDs to review.
for you, these women aren't very popular so you're not likely to
have heard of them. Their sincere, bland 50-minute CDs, complete
with bad graphics and uninspired song selections, don't usually
make it to your local record store. It's anybody's guess where all
these CDs end up. Well, actually we have a pretty good suspicion
where these platters end up.
is an admirable thing to want to be a white chick jazz singer, especially
if you consciously chose this path over singing Christian Rock,
Young Country or Gangsta Rap. Still, it takes a lot more than knowing
the difference between George Gershwin and Barry Manilow to impress
us. You must pop, zip, zing and sing well enough to justify our
time spent with you, let alone the cost of your CD.
fully expected to send Sue Tucker a pleasant "Thank You"
letter for sending us her new CD, Meant For You. We had no
intention of reviewing it. Instead, we feel we should compose a
love letter. Meant For You is a fine CD by any standard and
it has moments so wonderful, we can heartily recommend you buy this
the graphics are bad, Ms Tucker needs to see a hairstylist and someone
should get her a new pair of Ray-Bans, but what a voice! She is
equally at home swinging as she is singing ballads and even though
the song selection isn't particularly clever, she chooses good songs
and most of the arrangements have just enough of something new to
warrant new versions.
The absolute must haves are a driving Sugar (the Stanley
Turrentine song, not the old chestnut), and an absolutely dreamy
version of The Very Thought of You that will justify the
purchase. With the latter, we actually get chills.
we wipe the egg off our face, we ask Sue Tucker to kindly forgive
us our prejudices and know in her heart that she has a new fan.