Cream of The Crate: Album Review # 181 – Joe Tex: The Best Of

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cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of

 

 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.

 

“I Like to write songs from true experiences. Things that have actually happened. You can't get away from the truth of everyday life." - (Joe Tex to Jim Delehant in Hit Parader, Jan 1967) .. .. .. "Joe Tex is one of the unsung stars of southern soul." - (Soul Train retrospective 2015) .. .. .. "Joe Tex - relatively unknown outside R&B circles, until you hear one of his tracks, and then it's, "Oh I know that track . . .""(This review)

This is album retro-review number 181 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.

Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

The music of today has buried in its roots the music of the 1950’s, and the 1960’s. One stream that developed in the 1950’s and became particularly popular in the 1960’s was, R&B – Rhythm and Blues.

I have pulled an R&B artist from my Crate, who, if you asked people to name five R&B artists, would probably not be mentioned – what a shame!

The artist I am talking about is Joe Tex and this, a vinyl album, is titled – The Best Of.

Released on the Atlantic label in 1984, it has the identifying code of 81278-1. It is a single album and has twelve tracks, six on each side side.

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of
The Album Label – [CLICK to enlarge]
 


Joe Tex was born Joseph Arrington, Jr on August 8, 1933 in Baytown Texas. His early career is emblematic of black musicians of his era.

Raised in Texas, he began by singing in the church choir and won more than his fair share of talent shows, first in nearby Houston, then later at the famed Apollo Theater Amateur Night (which he won four times!).

All of this activity got him signed to King Records in 1955. However the right combination of producer and song eluded him for a decade, as he recorded over 30 sides on the Ace, Anna, Parrot, and Checker labels without scoring one hit.

Now as a result of a young up and coming soul singer, James Brown, recording one of Tex’s tracks – Baby You’re Right, in 1962, Tex found himself signing to Dial Records.

Dial Records was a Nashville based soul label owned by song publisher/producer Bobby Killen, and was set up specifically so that Killen could record Tex and have him on a sole contract.

We may never know what drew Killen to Joe Tex, but he saw something, or rather heard something in him, that led him to believe Tex could really be big.

After a few tries and misses, Tex came up with a song called Hold What You’ve Got. It was a ballad that bridged traditional rhythm and blues with the emerging Southern soul style.

It also pointed toward a future consisting of rap, thanks to Tex’s spoken, almost testifying homily midway through the song.

(Tex, in fact, was actually nicknamed “The Rapper” in these years, waaay ahead of his time).

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of
A young Joe Tex – [CLICK to enlarge]
Now among his peers, such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Sam Cooke just to name a few, Tex was the relative unknown outside the R&B/Soul fraternity.

Yet his voice, which he would deliberately make hoarse to give it a grittier sound, and his stage performances were really as good as anyones. But although he had quality hits, he was never able to translate them into “quantities” of hits.

Between 1964 and 1972 he had four R&B number 1 singles – Hold What You’ve Got (1964); I Want To (Do Everything For You) (1965); A Sweet Woman Like You (1966) and, I Gotcha (1972).

He had three top 10 pop singles, ten top 10 R&B singles and, two top 10 R&B albums, those being Hold On To What You’ve Got (1965) and The New Boss (1965).

In fact there are a total of 18 albums released under his name, with the last being in 1978 and those 18 albums include this album, The Best Of.

From his second album in 1965 – Hold On To What You’ve Got, through to the next ten albums were all while recorded on Dial, but released on the Atlantic label.

Then Atlantic stopped releasing Joe Tex albums after the 1971 album – From The Roots Came The Rapper, with the subsequent 6 releases being variously released by Dial, Mercury and Epic.

There are probably a number of reasons for not having had more success especially during the 1972 – 1976 period. Certainly in 1972 he converted to Islam, took the name Yusef Hazziez, and quit the business.

That didn’t help!

He returned in 1975 after Elijah Muhammad died and the Nation of Islam movement gave him permission to record again, but really with the rapid changes to music styles, that two and a half year gap in recording really finished him.

He made one more big splash with the disco joke Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman), but his run was mostly over.

Tex retired in 1979 and died in 1982 at the age of 49, suffering a heart attack at his Texas ranch less than 100 miles from his birthplace.

Wilson Pickett and Ben E. King were two of the pallbearers at the funeral.

Apart from some damn fine music, we can remember him as an early pioneer of melding soul with funk and, country with soul.

Probably the only other story that should be related was the bitter and notorious feud he had with James Brown.

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

At one point the feud became so heated that James Brown attempted to murder Tex with a shotgun, reportedly wounding six or seven people in the process.
The rivalry dates back to the early days of their careers, according to Joe Tex’s Wikipedia page:

The feud between Tex and fellow labelmate James Brown took its origins allegedly sometime in the mid-1950s when both artists were signed to associated imprints of King Records when Brown allegedly called out on Tex for a “battle” during a dance at a local juke joint.

In 1960, Tex left King and recorded a few songs for Detroit-based Anna Records, one of the songs he recorded was the ballad “Baby, You’re Right”.

A year later, Brown recorded the song and released it in 1961, changing up the lyrics and the musical composition, earning Brown co-songwriting credits along with Tex.

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of
[CLICK to enlarge]
  

It had to have stung having your song usurped, with a songwriting credit added, and watching it become a bigger hit than your single. According to Wikipedia, it went further than that.

In 1963, their feud escalated when Brown and Tex performed at what was Brown’s homecoming concert at Macon, Georgia.

Tex, who opened the show, arrived in a tattered cape and began rolling around on the floor as if in agony, and screamed, “please – somebody help get me out of this cape!”

Tex would later claim that Brown stole his dance moves and his microphone stand tricks. In a few interviews he gave in the sixties, Tex dismissed the notion of Brown being called “Soul Brother No. 1” insisting that Little Willie John was the original “Soul Brother No. 1”.

Tex even claimed Brown stopped radio disk jockeys from not playing his hit, “Skinny Legs and All“, which Tex claimed prevented him from taking down one of Brown’s number-one songs at the time.

Track Listing:

Side 1

1. SYSLJFM (The Letter Song)
2. Hold What You’ve Got
3. One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show
4. You Better Get It
5. You Got What It Takes
6.
I Believe I’m Gonna Make It

Side 2

1. Show Me
2. Papa Was Too
3. A Woman (Can Change A Man)
4. The Love You Save May Be Your Own
5. Build Your Love
6. I’ve Got To Do A Little Bit Better

So let’s start at the start with track 1 SYSLJFM (The Letter Song).

Released in 1965 as a single, it managed to reach number 9 in the US R&B Charts, with the typical Joe Tex easy delivery style.

The letters (if you aren’t aware of the song), stand for “Save your sweet love just for me”. From then Joe goes into other letter combinations as he sings his love song to his girl. But if you think because it’s a love song it’s slow and soppy, think again.

 

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of

Joe and the band kick the pace immediately into top gear and the song really is representative of what could be called the “Golden Age” of R&B.

It has that amazing Muscle Shoals horn sound and really, it is a kick-ass track and a great opener to the album!

SYSLJFM (The Letter Song)

Track 2 was Joe’s first number 1 hit on the R&B charts and reached number 5 in the pop charts as well.

The year was 1964 and the track is Hold What You’ve Got, which was lifted from his second album by the same name.

Unlike the previous track, this is very much a love ballad. It kicks off with a gentle piece of acoustic guitar, but as the song develops, the intensity of the piece also raises.

It really is a great piece of music, I even love the triangle. Apart from the general song, there are what can be called two spoken delivery pieces.

The first is directed first to all the men, then the second to all the girls – as Joe pleads with them to stick to their partners and not to take them for granted.

It was Joe’s second single, and this was the one that bought him to the attention of the record buying public.

Some younger listeners may think it’s pure “corn” – but this is the bases of R&B/Soul, and when we listen back, it’s not hard to hear why it was popular.

I guess these days we tend to be used to hearing our women on records called “Ho’s” and “Bitches”.

I know which version of music mentioning women I prefer, what about you?

You’d better hold on to what you’ve got
You’d better hold on to what you’ve got
Cause if you think nobody wants it
Just throw it away and you will see
Someone will have it before you can count 1, 2, 3
Yes they will, yes they will

Listen fellows, you know it’s not all the time
That a man can have a good woman
That he can call his very own
A woman who will stay right there at home
And mind the children while he’s gone to work
A woman who will have his dinner cooked
When he comes home
Where some men make mistakes is
When they go out and stay because they feel
No other wants his woman but him
Well listen, if you think no other man wants her
Just throw her away and you will see
Some men will have her before you can count 1, 2, 3
Yes he will, yes he will

Listen girls, this goes for you too
Because you know I’ve seen so many women
Who’ve had so many good men in life
Men who would stand by them thru thick and thin
Men who’d go to work everyday and
Bring home their hard earned pay
Men who’d give their woman anything
Their little hearts desired
Where some women make mistakes is
When their men go out and let em play they would stay
Because they felt that no other woman wanted him but her
Well listen, if you think no other woman wants him
Just pitch him out in the street and you will see
Some woman will have your man
Before you can count 1, 2, 3
Yes she will, yes she will

Hold What You’ve Got

Track 3 is One Monkey and it’s  a “heart-breaker” and can best be described as a down-tempo soul/R&B crossover.

The following track, You Better Get It, was a modest hit in 1965, reaching number 15 on the R&B chart.  It’s another tear jerker that has Joe singing to one girl, about going out and getting the man she wants, and doing it soon. Then in a style reminiscent of Hold What You’ve Got, the “narrator” turns his attention to the men in a similar story.

Track 5 was released in 1965 and is You Got What It Takes.

It’s a good track, worthy of mention. The track catches most listeners by surprise, as a honky tonk piano kicks in before Joe’s familiar voice follows shortly. The track pulses along, almost slinks along at times, with Tex oozing sexuality.

The final track on side 1 is I Believe I’m Gonna Make It.

1966 and it reached number 8 on the R&B chart and number 67 on the Pop charts. A full Muscle Shoals production with full on brass.

It follows the Tex formula of half singing have spoken – but is updated with current affairs of the time, the Vietnam War and is a song of hope and belief, that as a black man in Vietnam, he is going to make it home.

I love this track!

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of

Turn the album over, and track 1 is Show Me.

The year is 1967 and this might just go down as the best Joe Tex track – ever!

Beautifully uptempo, with a great lyrical hook and brilliant backing for Joe’s fabulous lyrics and delivery.

The brass both pushes and punctuates and the track has one of the simplest and most effect short guitar licks of all time.

This is a party must, and why it only reached 35 on the Pop charts is a mystery, but why it only reached number 24 on the R&B charts is stunning in as much as it deserved far, far better..

Ahhhh Show me a man that’s got a good woman
Show me
Show me a man I bet’s got a good woman
Show me
Show me a man that’s got a good woman
Show me a man that’s got a good woman
Show me a man that’s got a good woman
Show me a man that’s got a good woman

Show me a man that’s got a good woman
I’ll show you a man that goes to work hummin’
He knows he’s got some sweet love coming
At the end of his working day.
*Yeah*

Show me a woman that’s got a good man
Show me!
I wanna see a woman out there that claims she got a good man!
Show me!
And if you show me a woman that’s got a good man
Show me a woman that’s got a good man
Show me a woman that’s got a good man
Show me a woman that’s got a good man

Show me a woman that’s got a good man
I’ll show you a woman doin’ all she can
To make life worth living for her good man
So his troubles don’t cross his mind.
*Yeah*

Show me two people that’s in love with each other
Y’all, show me.
I want you to show me two people that’s in love with each other
Show me.
Ah ya show me two people that’s in love with each other
Show me two people in love with each other
Show me two people in love with each other
Show me two people in love with each other

Show me two people that’s in love with each other
I’ll show you two people that ain’t going no further
Than their arms can reach to hold one another
Let them lovers alone, yeah
They doin’ all right

Show Me

Track 2 is a funky little thing title Papa Was Too.

Released in 1966 it crept up into the number 15 position on the R&B charts. A nice downtempo track, it is made to “groove” too, while not being outstanding track.

Now, the next three tracks vacillate between pretty standard R&B and almost boring.

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of
A grooving Joe tex – [CLICK to enlarge]
Strange that they were included, while fantastic tracks like I Gotcha (1972), which reached number 1 in the R&B charts and number 2 in the pop carts, and another great track is the 1977 Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman), were left off.

 

Who can fathom the decisions of the record companies?

That leaves us with the final track, I’ve Got To Do A Little Bit better

Taken from his fourth album which is actually a very good album.  Anyway this track was released as a single and made it to the number 20 position in 1966. At times it could be considered as a soul/R&B crossover, and at other times it has elements of the “church” style of singing in it.

It’s a track I find as quite appealing and the use of a cello in it gives it a most unusual edge, especially for an R&B track.

I’ve Got To Do A Little Bit Better

In some ways Joe Tex could be called a RAP artist – Rhythm and Poetry! There is no doubt he is one of the best R&B crossover soul singers rarely heard.

In fact, Joe Tex is relatively unknown outside R&B circles, until you hear one of his tracks, and then it’s, “Oh I know that track”!

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of
Joe Tex – I Got What It Takes – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Sadly he died far too young when he passed away at his home in Navasota, Texas, on August 13, 1982, following a heart attack, five days after his 47th birthday. Some would say he was just coming into his prime.

cream of the crate: album review # 181 – joe tex: the best of
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

With 18 albums to choose from, and 12 of them released after this album – The Best Of, you might get some debate among R&B/Joe Tex fans as to which album is the better. 

There is no doubt about it, that if this album had at least been released with I Gotcha and I Ain’t Gonna Bump . . . then it really would have been the Best Of.

It isn’t, and it doesn’t deserve that title.

Yet it does provide us with some excellent Joe Tex material and I would still chose this as a good album to have to give the collector a spread of Joe Tex material.

There are vinyl copies available in good condition Discogs. The killer is the postage. $10-$15 is a good price, but then you have to add on anything from $20 – $30 for freight.

That price really is unjustifiable so unless you are a collector, keep your eye out for a second hand copy of the CD which was subsequently released.


VIDEOS:

Sadly, there are not many live performances by Joe Tex but here are a few.

 

Skinny Legs

 

I Ain’t Gonna Bump No More With No Fat Mamma

 

Show Me


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 –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.

#151.  The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World

#152.  The Animals – The Animals

#153. Omah Khorshid & His Group  – Live In Australia 1981

#154. Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe

#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier

#156. Aretha Franklin – The Best Of

#157. Big Bill Broonzy – Big Bill’s Blues

#158. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go 

#159. The Band – Stage Fright

#160. Ray Brown and the Whispers – Hits and More 1965 – 1968

#161. Guitar Junior – The Crawl

#162. Jimi Hendrix – Radio One

#163. Memphis Minnie – Queen of the Blues

#164. Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy)

#165. The Loved Ones – Magic Box

#166. Various Artists – On The Road Again [ An Anthology of Chicago Blues 1947 – 1954]

#167. Janis Joplin – Greatest Hits 

#168. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust [The Motion Picture]

#169. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

#170.  Chain – Two Of A Kind

#171. Bob Marley – Legend

#172. Koko Taylor – What It Takes

#173. Stevie Wonder – Original Musiquarium

#174. Various Artists – The Unissued 1963 Blues Festival

#175. Noeleen Batley – Little Treasure

#176. B.B. King – The Best Of

#177. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac

#178 – Memphis Slim – I Feel So Good

#179. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Live at Budapest

#180. Flowers – Icehouse