cream of the crate: album  review #111 – atlantic r&b: volumes 1 – 3 (1947 to 1957)

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Covers of Cd’s #4 and #5 – [CLICK to enlarge]
  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

"This CD set should be a part of any collection that presumes to take American music - not just rock & roll or rhythm & blues - seriously." - (All Music)

This is album retro-review number 112 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.

The series is called
“Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!

In fact I am retro-reviewing a series of Cd’s released by Atlantic Records called the R& B releases – and I have Numbers 1 – 5 in my collection, covering a total period of eighteen years, from 1947 to 1965, of fantastic Atlantic R&B releases.

In order to make the review manageable, I have broken it into two reviews.

Yesterday I examined and discussed Cd’s volumes 1 – 3 and now it’s the turn of Cd’s volumes 4 and 5, which cover the periods 1957 – 1960 and 1961 to 1965 respectively.

Atlantic R&B Volumes 1 – 5 were released by Warner Bros Music (UK) in 2006 on the Warner Platinum label as part of a series that actually contained eight albums going through to 1974.

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
CD’s 1 to 5

 

I chose to stop at Volume 5 as the period up to 1965 was the halcyon years as far as I’m concerned.

A brief history of Atlantic Records can be found in last weeks review, but it’s worth looking at what was happening at Atlantic in 1957, which is when volume 4 commences. Stax Records, originally named Satellite Records, was founded in Memphis in 1957 by Jim Stewart.

It initially operating in a garage on a small time basis with early releases being country music, rockabilly records or straight pop numbers, reflecting the tastes of Stewart, who was a country fiddle player at the time.

Satellite’s first release by a rhythm and blues act occurred in September 1959, with the Veltones’Fool In Love“.

With the success of “Cause I Love You,” by Rufus and Carla Thomas, Stewart made a distribution deal giving Atlantic first choice on releasing Satellite recordings. With these two artists signed to his label, Stewart recognised that Atlantic were are far better label for distributing their music.

As part of the deal with Atlantic, Satellite agreed to continue recording Carla Thomas, but to allow her releases to come out on Atlantic and shortly after Satellite signed a local instrumental band known as The Royal Spades. Changing their name to The Mar-Keys, the band recorded and issued the single “Last Night“, which shot to #3 on the US pop charts, and #2 on the R&B charts.

By now there was a looming court battle over the use of the name “Satellite” and to short circuit any possible legal actions Stewart changed the label to STAX, allowing Atlantic to access the music of the Mar-Keys and a range of other potentially big artists.

Atlantic began pressing and distributing Stax records and Wexler soon sent Tom Dowd ( a senior Recording engineer and producer) to upgrade Stax’s recording equipment and facilities.

Jerry Wexler of Atlantic was impressed by the easy-going, cooperative atmosphere at the Stax studios and by the distinctive sound of the label’s racially integrated group of ‘house’ musicians and he was soon bringing Atlantic artists to Memphis to record.

So it is that many of those Stax artists appear on the final two Cd’s, artists such as the Mar-Keys, Booker T, Rufus Thomas, and Otis Redding.

By the time 1965 had arrived, Atlantic Records was anything but redundant, but they were certainly feeling the pinch as wave after wave of British artists hit the American airwaves.

So let’s look at Volume 4 – 1957 – 1960.

 

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Cd #4 label – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Cd #2 Rear Cover: Track Listing – [CLICK to enlarge]


Ray Charles had successfully fused rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues styles into early performances recorded by Atlantic Records, and in doing so had begun to stand out in a roster full of talent.

His amazing talent and charismatic personality not only had him dominating during this period, but he would build upon this fame until it could be argued, he became even more important to music development than Elvis. Certainly in 2004 Rolling Stone named him as number 10 in their top 100 artists of all time.

Charles had by 1959, already recorded some memorable tracks on Atlantic, such as This Little Girl of Mine, and, Hallelujah I Just Love Her So, Mess Around and, I Got A Woman – his first hit way back in 1955.

Then in 1959 he released What’d I Say (Parts 1 & 2).

There is no argument that this is a rock and roll song, and it is said that It was improvised one evening late in 1958 when Charles, his orchestra, and backup singers had played their entire set list at a show and still had time left; the response from many audiences was so enthusiastic that Charles announced to his producer that he was going to record it.

With the original version coming in at around seven and a half minutes, it created a real problem as “normal” tracks on the radio rarely went over 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

If that wasn’t enough, with lyrics including “Shake that thing”, it set off alarms in the ever growing “righteous” movement to have all obscene music (read most rock and roll) removed from air play around 1959.

This is the period that I like to think of as the “emasculated rock” period, when the ballads of Pat Boone reigned supreme.

The producers split the track into parts 2 & 2 and spread them out over sides 1 and 2 of the record to overcome it’s length. However there were still the lyrics to deal with and sure enough, radio stations refused to play it because it was too sexually charged, but in response. Atlantic refused to take the records back from stores so they were forced to push the sales

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Ahmet Ertegun and Ray Charles

 

A slightly sanitized version was released in July 1959 in response to the complaints and the song hit number 82.

A week later it was at 43, then 26. In contrast to their earlier review, Billboard several weeks later wrote that the song was “the strongest pop record that the artist has done to date”.

Within weeks “What’d I Say” peaked at number one on Billboard’s R&B singles chart, number six on the Billboard Hot 100, and it became Charles’ first gold record. It also became Atlantic Records’ best-selling song at the time.

Ray Charles – What’d I Say – Parts 1&2 (Vol 4)



Another style of music that took off in the late 50’s through to the early 1960’s was the novelty record
. Now when novelty record was mixed with clever music and lyrics, and performed by a great group, it was destined to become a big hit.

Track number 7 on Volume 4 is Yakety Yak, by The Coasters.

In last weeks review of Volumes 1 – 3, I looked at how a group called The Robins, eventually evolved into The Coasters. By 1958 all semblance of The Robins was gone and The Coasters were incredibly popular.

In 1958 they came up with Yakety Yak. Written by one of the best song writing teams of the period, Lieber and Stoller, the track raced to number 1 on both the R&B and the top 100 playlist.

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
The Coasters

 

It had everything!

It had a great beat, it’s melody was catchy, it had a fabulous vocal hook, and it told the tale of the American teenager.

What a winning combination!

What is often overlooked is the great sax playing in it – and that playing was by one of the great sax players of all time (in the pop world) – King Curtis.

The threatened punishment for not taking out the garbage and sweeping the floor is told in the song’s humorous lyrics:
“You aint gonna rock and roll no more,”
And the refrain is:
“Yakety yak; don’t talk back.”

Hell, the track is only 1 minute and 49 seconds long but it propelled The Coasters into the top group of acts, and the only thing that would stop them, was the soon to arrive British music scene.
Take out the papers and the trash
Or you don’t get no spendin’ cash
If you don’t scrub that kitchen floor
You ain’t gonna rock and roll no more

Yakety yak (don’t talk back)

Just finish cleanin’ up your room
Let’s see that dust fly with that broom
Get all that garbage out of sight
Or you don’t go out Friday night

Yakety yak (don’t talk back)

You just put on your coat and hat
And walk yourself to the laundromat
And when you finish doin’ that
Bring in the dog and put out the cat

Yakety yak (don’t talk back)

Don’t you give me no dirty looks
Your father’s hip; he knows what cooks
Just tell your hoodlum friend outside
You ain’t got time to take a ride
Yakety yak (don’t talk back)

Yakety yak, yakety yak
Yakety yak, yakety yak
Yakety yak, yakety yak

The Coasters – Yakety Yak (Vol 4)

 

It’s worth recalling that as the decade began to draw to a close, rock and roll was in disgrace due to the payola scandals.

So with rock being largely emasculated at the change over of the decade, I though an appropriate track to share is the 1958 track, Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes, by Chuck Willis (track number 6).

Willis didn’t have this a major hit, despite it having all the right reasons for a hit, but with C.C Rider in 1957 and What Am I Living For in 1958, he was quite in demand.

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965) cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)


Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes was the A-side of this 1958 single, and What Am I living For was the B-side, but the vagaries of the music scene are many and the DJ’s pushed the B-side, and it actually became a million seller.

He released 12 singles between 1952 and 1958 and every one of them charted in the Billboard R& B charts, and his last three (all with Atlantic) also charted in the pop charts.

Certainly the folk at Atlantic had him penciled in as the next big thing, but we will never know, as shortly after this single was released Willis died of peritonitis.

My mama told me she didn’t like that rock and roll
I said, “Please, Mama, please, Mama you just don’t know I don’t want
(Shoop-bop, shoop-bop) hang up my rock and roll shoes”
You know I get that feelin’ ev’ry time I hear those blues
(Shoop-bop, shoop-bop)

That music’s got a beat that will keep you alive
The kids are rock and rollin’ from 8 to 25
I don’t want (shoop-bop, shoop-bop) hang up my rock and roll shoes
Because I get that feelin’ ev’ry time I hear those blues
(Shoop-bop, shoop-bop)

Yes, I will do my homework
Clean the yard every day
Yes, I will wipe those dishes
I’ll do anything you say

They say that rock and roll will soon fade away
No matter what they say, rock and roll is here to stay
I don’t want(shoop-bop, shoop-bop) hang up my rock and roll shoes
(shoop-bop, shoop-bop)because my feet start movin’ ev’ry time I hear those blues
(shoop-bop, shoop-bop)

They say that rock and roll will soon fade away
No matter what they say, rock and roll is here to stay
I don’t want(shoop-bop, shoop-bop) hang up my rock and roll shoes
(shoop-bop, shoop-bop) because I get that feelin’ ev’ry time I hear those blues
(shoop-bop, shoop-bop)because my feet start movin’ ev’ry time I hear those blues
(shoop-bop, shoop-bop)
(shoop-bop, shoop-bop)

Chuck Willis – Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes (Volume 4)



So we move to the final volume in my collection – Volume 5 which nominally covers the period 1961 – 1965.

What an amazing period for music this was!

By 1963 the Beatles had started a scene in Britain which would sweep the world, and certainly by 1965 the “British Invasion” was more like a tsunami!

It is so very easy while remembering the power and freshness of groups like the Beatles, the Stones, the Dave Clarke V, the Moody Blues, Kinks, the Hollies, the Who, Animals to marvel at their “song writing” abilities.

Yet their early success was almost entirely due to the music that had been recorded in the USA.

In fact we could be forgiven for thinking that American music during this period was being utterly crushed. 

Thanks to labels such as Atlantic, this wasn’t the case.

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Cd #5 Label – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Cd #5 Rear Cover – Track listing – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

We could also be forgiven with the dominance of the English music scene that in the US, it was a “last gasp” effort by the American music scene. Certainly for a while it seemed to be a temporary lull in dominance.

Yet when we look back at 1965 we can see that the American R& B scene was anything but dead.

Volume five has some utterly brilliant tracks on it.

For example we have The Coasters with the fantastic rendition of Little Egypt, William Bell’s soulful You Don’t Miss Your Water.

There was the legendary Solomon Burke with Cry To Me (which would shortly be covered by the Rolling Stones), the truly magnificent and dominant Booker T & the MG’s with the all time favourite Green Onions.

Yet, there was more! The Drifters, who in such a short frame of time recorded some of the most endearing tracks of all time such as – On Broadway and Under the Boardwalk (yet another track covered by the Stones).

But it doesn’t end there, and in what shows that volume 5 of this set might just be the dominant Volume of them all, we add Ben E. King, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas (whose hit Walking the Dog gave the Stones yet more material), Don Covay and Joe Tex. This is a veritable who’s who of the R&B scene and they all deliver stunning performances on this Cd.

I’m kicking off with a down tempo track by a man who often didn’t get the due credit he deserved. Track number 7 is Cry To Me by Solomon Burke.

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Solomon Burke – [CLICK to enlarge]
Burke started off singing in churches and in fact he embraced what was loosely called the “Church Shout” style of singing.

He eventually bridged the gap between mainstream R&B and grittier R&B and while he wasn’t as popular as his contemporaries such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, he still managed to have a number of medium hits on the Atlantic label.

In fact Volume 5 has two of his best, If You Need Me, inadequately covered by the Rolling Stones, and Cry To Me, also not done justice by the Stones.

 

It’s somewhat of a mystery how a man with such a great voice failed to find popularity that his contemporaries found.

This is somewhat exemplified by the fact that although he released 38 albums and 35 singles (of which 26 made it to the Billboard R&B charts), it took 17 different recording labels to achieve this.

 

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)

Cry To Me is a beautiful track that makes us understand that the essence of soul music is, that the singer puts their very “soul” into the music.

Solomon Burke – Cry To Me (Volume 5)

Two tracks away in position number 9 on the CD, is a group that is utterly synonymous with Soul and R&B and in fact can be credited with developing what is termed the “Memphis Soul Sound”.

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
Booker T (Top Middle) & The MG’s – [CLICK to enlarge]
Booker T & The MG’s were fronted by Booker T Jones (organ, piano), Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg (bass), and Al Jackson Jr. (drums), the group were at the forefront of breaking down the racial stereotypes in as much as two members were black, and two were white.

The MG’s (Memphis Group) remain as one of the all time great soul bands, fronted by Booker T and featuring the fantastic guitar work of Steve Cropper.

In 1965, Steinberg was replaced by Donald “Duck” Dunn, who played with the group until his death in 2012. If it was possible to improve on the original lineup, it was done by the addition of “Duck” Dunn.

In the 1960s, as members of the house band of Stax Records, they played on hundreds of recordings by artists, in fact EVERY soul/R&B artists worth their salt from that period recorded with them.

Because of the formal arrangement between Stax and Atlantic, discussed earlier, it is totally righteous that Booker T and the MG’s not only appear on this compilation, but they are represented by the very best known and seriously successful track – Green Onions.

Amazingly it only reached number 33 on the Pop Albums chart in the month of its release, but has gone on the be one of the most recogniseable instrumentals of all time and most definitely, one of the coolest!

Booker T and the MG’s – Green Onions (Volume 5)

 

I said it earlier and its worth repeating, just about every track on this Cd is worth discussing, but in the end I have chosen a track by The Drifters. Track 23 is Under The Boardwalk.

Yet another song covered by the Rolling Stones this track remains today a favorite of mine and many Drifters fans.

It is almost impossible to discuss The Drifters in a meaningful way without a lengthy discussion.

Part of the reason is that the group was ever changing and in a serious way for there has been around twenty five members over the years, and many versions of the group under a variety of modified names. The facts – Ahmet Ertegun wanted Clyde McPhatter and when he located him, he signed him up to front a group to be called The Drifters.

They were William “Chick” Anderson (tenor), David Baldwin (baritone), James “Wrinkle” Johnson (bass), and David “Little Dave” Baughan (tenor). After a single recording session of four songs on June 29, 1953, Ertegün realized that this combination didn’t work and had McPhatter recruit another lineup.

This second group of new recruits consisted of gospel vocalists; first tenor Bill Pinkney (of the Jerusalem Stars), second tenor Andrew Thrasher and baritone Gerhart Thrasher (both formerly of the gospel group, the “Thrasher Wonders”), and Willie Ferbee bass, with Walter Adams on guitar.

 

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)

 

By 1964 McPhatter had come and gone, and Ben E King had replaced him, only to be replaced himself as the group splintered and various forms of it evolved.

Then Atlantic scheduled a recording by the “New Drifters”, featuring Rudy Lewis, and the session to record this song was scheduled for May 20, 1964. but The Drifters new lead singer, Lewis , was found dead that morning (the cause of death is unclear, but likely either a drug overdose or heart attack).

So the session was rescheduled for the next day, and Johnny Moore was called in to replace Lewis. Moore was with The Drifters in 1958 when their manager fired everyone in the band and brought in new members. He was a convenient replacement for Lewis, and stayed on as their main vocalist.

The group was distraught over Lewis‘ death, and their subsequent performance added a tinge of melancholy to the song, which is about spending some time under a seaside boardwalk with a love interest, out of sight from the crowds above.

The Drifters – Under The Boardwalk (Volume 5)



What is undeniable, is that without Ahmet Ertegun and to a lesser degree his brother Neshui, Atlantic Records would never have come to be.

Whilst the artists that were responsible for the massive popularity that Atlantic sustained over many years, would still have recorded somewhere if Atlantic had not been in existence, it is unlikely that such an amazing stable of talent would ever have come together under the one label.

cream of the crate: album review #112 – atlantic r&b: volumes 4 – 5 (1957 to 1965)
The great Ahmet Eregun – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Sadly Jerry Wexler “lost his nerve” fearing that the days of Independent labels like Atlantic, had come to the end of their days, and he successfully pressured Ahmet to sell.

In October 1967 Atlantic was sold to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts for US$17.5 million, although all the partners later agreed that it was a poor deal which greatly undervalued Atlantic’s true worth.

Initially, Atlantic and Atco operated entirely separately from WB-SA’s other labels, Warner Bros. and Reprise Records.

WB-SA’s management did not interfere with the music division, since the ailing movie division was losing money yet the Warner recording division was booming – by mid-1968 Warner’s recording and publishing interests were generating 74% of the group’s total profits.

The story is by no means complete and I have it in my mind once Cream of the Crate runs its course, to return to telling the Atlantic story, as there is so much more story and music.

However, while the vinyl Lp collection of this series is highly desirable, and many such albums are in my crate, there is no doubt that the Cd version is most definitely worth having.

It is impossible to conceive and R&B/Soul collector not having all or at least some of these Cds/albums, in their collection.

The complete box collection of Cd’s is on Ebay for around $78.00 and individual Cds are available at a variety of prices depending upon whether new or second hand.


VIDEOS:

Not unexpectedly, the Youtube video vault is light on in regard to live R&B performances in the 1950’s, and the early 1960’s is not much better.

I have managed to find at least one of every artist featured above with the exception of the great, Solomon Burke. There appears to be no know video of early performances by this man, and that is tragic. What I have done is included a video of a singer even great than Burke (and frankly I can’t believe I left him out of the major review) and that is Otis Redding.

I found a great quality live version of “Mr Pitiful” which is on Volume 5.

 

Chuck Willis – Betty and Dupree

 

The Coasters – Searching

 

Ray Charles – Let The Good Times Roll

 

The Drifters – Saturday Night At the Movies

 

Booker T & The MG’s – Green Onions

 

Otis Redding – Mr Pitiful


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:

#101:  Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (Live)

#102:  Les Paul and Mary Ford – The World Is waiting For The Sunrise

#103:  Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

#104:  Los Fronterizos – Misa Creole

#105:  Bobby Bright – Child Of Rock And Roll

#106:  The  Nylons – One Size Fits All

#107:  Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come [Soundtrack from the film]

#108:  Paul Simon – Graceland

#109.  The Ventures – The Very Best Of

#110.  The Pardoners – Indulgences

#111.  Atlantic R&B: Volumes 1 – 3 [1947 to 1957]