Friday, October 05, 2012

Vinyl Obscurities - red Atlantic Part one

Atlantic can justly claim to be the greatest R and B, jazz and soul record label in history, with literally hundreds of great records being produced during its heyday from its formation in 1947 to its takeover by Warner in the late sixties, after which it developed largely as a rock label with Led Zeppelin, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and others.
In the UK, Atlantic records were released for a while on Columbia and then famously on London, before getting its own black label in 1965. Polydor took over distribution in 1966 and the red label with black writing was born, releasing many great records, including those recorded for Stax, by soul stars such as Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge and Rufus and Carla Thomas. For part one of my Vinyl Obscurities feature on the red Atlantic label, I've chosen ten records by some of the lesser known artists released in 1966 and early '67, including a couple which fall under the heading of rock, rather than soul. Check the Youtube links.
1. Shadows Of Knight - Oh Yeah/ Light Bulb Blues. Mint value £35.
A rock band from Chicago, these guys were originally called the Shadows until they belatedly found out there was a British group of the same name. After enjoying a big US hit with a cover of Them's Gloria they turned their attention to this Bo Diddley number, released originally on the US Dunwich label and picked up by Atlantic.
2. Mable John - It's Catching/ Your Good Thing (Is About To End). Mint value £15.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Mable perform at Porretta on several occasions and she never fails to excel. The sister of Little Willie John, she was the first female artist to be signed by Motown and sang with the Raelettes before joining Stax and releasing this excellent double sider, and some other great tracks in 1966.
3. Rex Garvin & the Mighty Cravers - Sock It To 'Em J.B Parts 1 and 2. Mint Value £18.
Rex had a couple of releases on Atlantic, recorded originally for Link, but his story began several years earlier when he teamed up with Zelma Sanders and helped formed doowop group the Hearts. Later he wrote Over The Mountain, Across The Sea for Johnnie and Joe, recorded a duet with Marie Adams (I Can't Sit Down), and had several successful records under his own name, including My Darling Dear and Emulsified, This funky homage to James Bond also pays tribute in style to the other JB, James Brown.
4. Little Mack & The Boss Sounds - In The Midnight Hour/ You Can't Love Me (In The Midnight Hour). Mint value £25.
This is a great organ-led version of the Wilson Pickett number which still gets plays on the soul scene today. The B side, which is well worth a listen, featues the excellent voice of Ann Mason, who for some reason is not credited on this Atlantic release.
5. Mike Williams - Lonely Soldier/ If This Isn't Love. Mint value £25.
This beautiful deep soul record was produced by Gene Barge (Daddy G of Quarter to Three fame) in Chicago, but I haven't found much information about him on line. The song was later recorded by Gregory Isaacs, but this was Mike's only UK release.
6. Loretta Williams - Baby Cakes/ I'm Missing You. Mint value £50.
Alabama born Loretta was a protege of Otis Redding and this excellent double sider was originally released on Otis's short-lived Jotis label. The B side is a deep soul classic, while Baby Cakes is a Northern soul favourite.
7. Barbara Lewis - Make Me Belong To You/ Girls Need Loving Care. Mint value £15.
Barbara Lewis has one of the greatest voices in soul music, as evidenced by classics such as Hello Stranger, Baby I'm Yours and Baby What You Want Me To Do. This Billy Vera/Chip Taylor song is another beauty.
8. The Mad Lads - Sugar Sugar/ Get Out Of My Life Woman. Mint value £15.
John Garry Williams of the Mad Lads was one of the stars of this year's Porretta Soul Festival, but he didn't sing this one, the third Atlantic release by the Mad Lads in the UK and recorded for Volt. The B side is the Lee Dorsey number.
9. Art Freeman - Slipping Around/ Can't Get You Out Of My Mind. Mint value £175.
This is a rare Dann Penn/Spooner Oldham composed Northern soul favourite, hence its high value. It was recorded for Fame down at Muscle Shoals but its Motown feel is untypical of the rest of Art's material, which was very much in the deep southern soul style. Definitely worth a listen though.

10. Sharon Tandy - Toe Hold/ I Can't Let Go. Mint value £20.
Sharon was a blue eyed soul singer from South Africa who made her name in England, but later recorded this single for Stax: the A side was written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter and the B side by Steve Cropper. Later she teamed up with the Fleur De Lys, but by 1970 she had returned to South Africa. Strangely this record isn't on Youtube, so here's her version of Lorraine Ellison's Stay With Me.


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