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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews


Various Artists
The Stax Story
Stax (Fantasy) 4SCD-4429-2 Soul / Pop

The Stax Story

We 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.

We 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 fun.
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.

There 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.

Another 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.

There 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.


Bobby Darin
Mack is Back
Questar DVD

Mack is Back

It's 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.

Whether 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 stinks.

But 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.

There's 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

Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters

This 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.

The 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.

Readers, 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.


Various Artists
Just Another Taste of Electronic Watusi Boogaloo
Kindercore Records KC051 Dance

Just Another Taste of Electric Boogaloo Watusi

We 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.

Could 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 is.

So 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.


Sue Tucker
Meant For You
Self-produced by Sue Tucker / Vocals

Meant for You

You 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.

Luckily 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.

It 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.

We 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 disc.

OK- 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.

As 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.


 


 



The Martini rating System

Coconut Grove Media


Scientific, Accurate
& Easy To Understand!
5 Martinis = Classic
4 Martinis = Great
3 Martinis = Good
2 Martinis = Fair
1 Martini = Poor

 

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