By Bill Dahl
The monumental influence of Bo Diddley on the development of rock and roll guitar has never been more extensively chronicled than on Hip-O Select’s essential I’m a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955-1958.
This two-CD blockbuster contains all 48 masters the shave-and-a-haircut rhythm wizard waxed for Checker during his most seminal period.
Along with all the classic rockers we already love, there are two unissued alternate takes of “Bo Diddley” from his first date (one as hot as the hit), an alternate “Say Man,” an early “Run Bo Diddley,” and perhaps most intriguingly, Bo’s original “Love Is Strange,” complete with lyrics. (www.hip-oselect.com)
You wouldn’t think Motown’s archives would still be brimming with unissued ‘60s gems, but A Cellarful of Motown! Volume 3 reveals there’s plenty left.
Forty-six tracks comprise the British two-CD set, and nearly everything by Brenda Holloway, the Miracles, the Contours, the Spinners, Marv Johnson, The Temptations, Ivy Jo Hunter, Stevie Wonder, The Marvelettes, Shorty Long, The Spinners, Jr. Walker and The All Stars, Carolyn Crawford, Clarence Paul, The Originals, Blinky & Edwin Starr, Chris Clark, and plenty more is previously unheard. There’s even a unique pairing of Holloway fronting The Supremes on “Going To A Go Go.” (www.motown45.co.uk)
While a couple of tracks are open to debate (what are Hall & Oates doing on here?), there’s plenty to savor on Rhino Handmade’s four-CD Atlantic Soul (1959-1975).
Much of it is easily obtainable elsewhere, but the set boasts a sizable share of rarities by The Falcons, The Vibrations, The Ohio Untouchables, Mack Rice, Jo Ann & Troy, Tommy Hunt, The Isley Brothers, Jimmy Hughes, Harvey Scales, Alvin Robinson, Garland Green, The Valentinos and The Persuaders underscoring the depth of the label’s mammoth soul catalog. (www.rhinohandmade.com)
Shout! Factory continues to investigate the archives of Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records, with four entries in a new The Best of the Vee-Jay Years series.
Bluesman Jimmy Reed launched the label in 1953 with his laconic vocals and high-end harp; his 18-tracker includes the immortal “Baby What You Want Me To Do” and “Big Boss Man.”
Jerry Butler’s 16-song comp opens with his spine-chilling “For Your Precious Love” as lead of the The Impressions and features “He Will Break Your Heart,” “Find Another Girl,” and “I’m A Telling You” with Curtis Mayfield’s guitar and vocal harmony.
Vee-Jay’s doo-wop roster boasted The Dells, whose 17-song disc ranges from the street-corner ballad smash “Oh What A Nite” to their soul sender “Stay In My Corner,” and The Staple Singers developed into gospel royalty at Vee-Jay thanks to “Uncloudy Day” and “This May Be The Last Time,” two of their CD’s 17 sides. (www.shoutfactory.com)
Breezy soul chanteuses grace the Kent Records release slate.
Nella Dodds was still a high schooler when she waxed the 15 captivating songs on This is a Girl’s Life — The Complete Wand Recordings 1964-1965, including her hit Philly soul cover of The Supremes’ “Come See About Me” and three unreleased charmers.
Still musically active in L.A., Thelma Jones cut the original ‘68 pre-Aretha Franklin version of “The House That Jack Built,” a highlight of her Second Chance: The Complete Barry and Columbia Recordings along with nine more stunners from the same New York-cut late ‘60s motherlode and her entire 1978 Columbia LP. (www.acerecords.co.uk)
Not to be outdone, British EMI’s Stateside logo brings together two dozen delightful sides by one of Chicago’s favorite ‘60s soul thrushes on The Best of Patti Drew — Workin’ On a Groovy Thing, notably both versions of her hit “Tell Him” (solo and the original by her group, The Drew-Vels) and her popular rendition of the Neil Sedaka-penned title track.
Clydie King is best known as an L.A. session singer, but her own beguiling ‘60s soul output is front and center on Stateside’s alluring 22-track The Imperial & Minit Years. (www.statesiderecords.com)
Collectors’ Choice Music gives us The Drifters’ first and last Atlantic albums on separate discs: Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters splits between the group’s groundbreaking 1953-55 hits (“Money Honey,” “Honey Love,” “Whatcha Gonna Do”) and Clyde’s subsequent pop-slanted solo stuff.
I’ll Take You Where The Music’s Playing spotlights the veteran group’s mid-‘60s uptown soul exploits with Johnny Moore fronting the delicious “I’ve Got Sand In My Shoes,” “Come On Over To My Place,” and “He’s Just A Playboy.” (www.collectorschoicemusic.com)
The new * label announces its arrival with the polished sweet soul harmonies of Columbus, Ohio’s, Four Mints, digitally pressing up their sinfully rare 1973 Capsoul LP Gently Down Your Stream in attractive digipak housing and adding three bonus tracks for good measure.
Nearly as unjustly overlooked were The Tempests, beach music specialists from North Carolina whose hard-driving ‘68 Smash album Would You Believe! makes its CD debut with four bonus items on Cherry Red (www.numerogroup.com; www.cherryred.co.uk)
Bear Family continues to mine gold from the seemingly bottomless 1950s Sun Records vaults.
Mack Self was one of the Memphis label’s few overtly country singers, yet his jam-packed Easy To Love — The Sun Years, Plus sports the blazing rocker “Vibrate” among his rich C&W output.
Shreveport rockabilly Tommy Blake’s sizzlers for Sun and RCA Victor constitute most of the 29-song Koolit — The Sun Years, Plus, with guitarist Carl Adams’ stinging solos sparking Blake’s “Honky Tonk Mind,” “Flat Foot Sam,” and “Lordy Hoody.” (www.bear-family.de)
Bill Lowery tried to transform Atlanta into a rock and roll capitol during the late ‘50s with his NRC Records and various subsidiaries.
Signing talent like Joe South, Paul Peek, Ric Cartey, Wayne Cochran, Ray Smith, Sweetie Jones and Rod Willis, it nearly worked. They’re all on Ace’s The Rockin’ South, a wild 30-song ride that happily unearths Tommy Roe’s original 1960 version of “Sheila.” (www.acerecords.co.uk)
Sure, Gary Lewis & the Playboys plied the pop side of the rock spectrum, but with Snuff Garrett producing and Leon Russell arranging, his mid-‘60s Liberty albums Everybody Loves a Clown and She’s Just My Style, now twinned on a BGO CD, offer more than those two familiar hits. The latter LP contained credible Beatles and Yardbirds covers. (www.bgo-records.com)
As an adjunct to its dazzling two-DVD “The Best of The Johnny Cash TV Show 1969-1971,” Columbia/Legacy has assembled an audio disc of live highlights from the same bountiful source, though Bobby Bare’s “Detroit City” and the Man in Black duetting with Lynn Anderson on “I’ve Been Everywhere” weren’t in the video version. (www.legacyrecordings.com)
No DVD on the market better captures the exhilarating excitement of a live soul concert than Concord Music/Reelin’ in the Years Productions’ Stax/Volt Revue Live in Norway 1967.
Shot on crisp black-and-white videotape, it’s a 75-minute extravaganza starring Booker T. & the MG’s, The Mar-Keys, Arthur Conley, Eddie Floyd, Sam & Dave and Otis Redding, all sweating buckets as they vie to top one another for a wildly appreciative audience. Redding whips the throng into a frenzy, pushing the MG’s to supersonic tempos.
“Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding,” from the same company, is just as indispensable, boasting a wealth of super-rare full-length video clips of the late soul legend.
Volumes 3 and 4 of Shanachie’s amazing DVD series “Best of the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show” contain two half-hour-long black-and-white 1961-62 episodes apiece.
The episodes feature the pioneering bluegrass duo and their band in a charmingly stark studio setting. The kinescopes are still intact with original commercials for Martha White Flour and Pet Milk.
Volume 3 is notable for an appearance by 7-year-old Ricky Skaggs, who looks very serious indeed as he plays “Foggy Mountain Special” on his mandolin and credibly sings “Ruby.” (www.shanachie.com).