Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Like Stickin' Your Finger In A Socket!!!

1000 Volts Of Stax


by Lindsay Planer
Leave it to an English record company, in this case Ace is the place, to begin exploring long-lost nuggets from the definitive American Stax and Volt R&B catalogs. 1000 Volts of Stax (1991) is the first in a series of single-CD sets gathering "rare & unreleased tracks from the golden era of soul." The dozen-and-a-half tunes on this inaugural volume skim the surface of the hours upon hours of alternate takes and sensational cutting-room floor remnants from some of the most revered musicians in the genre. This further punctuates the prolific nature of many of those who emerged from the Memphis soul scene. One initial observation reveals that a majority of the platters included in this (and each subsequent) package often equal their "released" counterparts. Examples abound, with practically every side revealing new sonic twists on instantly recognizable and otherwise established themes. The alternate versions of Rufus Thomas' "Walking the Dog" or the pair of Otis Redding classics, "I've Got Dreams to Remember" and "Cupid," capture these late legends in their absolute prime. Although some songs vary only slightly, there is an overwhelming energy that remains as both vocalists familiarize themselves with the nuances of the melodies as well as their own interactions with the labels' respective and collective house bands, Booker T. & the MG's and the Mar-Keys. Some of the lesser-known sides are easily equal to the vibe on their more common counterparts. The Mad Lads' "Cloudburst," Ruby Johnson's "When My Love Comes Down," and Bobby Marchan's "Don't Worry About Tomorrow" may not have made any hit parades or seen much action on the respective pop or R&B charts; however, they bear the same driving rhythms and undeniable catchiness that propelled so much of the music emanating from the Stax and Volt empires. The annotations from series producer Roger Armstrong are insightful as well as thoroughly entertaining. 1000 Volts of Stax and its companion volumes are essential for the collector as well as highly recommended for the more casual listener.