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From the Inside Out

Stax Profiles: Hearts Full Of Soul, Part 1: Rance Allen, Booker T & The MGs, Eddie Floyd, Albert King, Little Milton

By Published: August 16, 2006

Eddie Floyd
Stax Profiles
Stax Records
2006

If Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett flashed across the soul music scene like incendiary lightning, Eddie Floyd was vocal rolling thunder. Before they went their respective ways, Floyd sang alongside Pickett (in the Falcons) and the two remained close enough that Floyd co-wrote with Cropper Pickett's hit record "634 - 5789. (Small wonder that Floyd saunters through his own version on Profiles like he owns it.)

Floyd received the full spectrum of Stax accompaniment and recorded most of Profiles with Booker T & The MGs or the Con Funk Shun Rhythm as backup, plus the Mar-Key Horns and Hot Buttered Soul (Hayes' usual backing troupe) on backup vocals. He also wrote hits for himself, such as his classic bump and grinder "Knock On Wood (co-written with Cropper) and "Big Bird (co-written with Jones), which features Hayes on tumbling dice piano and his own big, warm powerfully soaring voice.

A flat-out howlin' blues, "When The Sun Goes Down proves a genuine revelation: Floyd's voice resounds hot and blue enough to carry the verses without any instrumental accompaniment. When the band enters to jackhammer the blues down hard and tight, Floyd wails four consecutive times over, "I just want to be loved! It's a magical blues moment, primal expression of a basic human element, that many listeners might not have heard before.

Floyd's mojo was a bit more musically derivative than Redding's primal fury: "Raise Your Hand echoes the bass of "Midnight Hour ; "Love Is You sounds more than a little inspired by George Harrison's "Something ; and the sweetly layered vocal harmony to "I've Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do ) is a rare Stax acknowledgement of the other American record company dominating 1960s soul music, Motown.

(Compiled by Dan Aykroyd, aka "Elwood Blues" from The Blues Brothers franchise.)

Albert King
Stax Profiles
Stax Records
2006

Brandishing a big voice and an even bigger-sounding guitar, Albert King walked among blues royalty and could lay down a hurtin' that truly embodied the blues.

Slow rolling and powerful, like a blackout at midnight, "Angel Of Mercy and "The Sky Is Crying conjure mystically dark blues. So does King's own "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong, his first single to chart, here a live version shotgun blasted from King's acclaimed series of 1968 performances at the Fillmore Auditorium, hot and dangerous.

But King could pull a sunny smile out from underneath his blues. Just try to get through the rollicking "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride without cracking a grin.

Compiler Bill Belmont bookends King's Profile with two of his most famous and powerful blues—a previously unreleased live version of "Born Under A Bad Sign where King swaps meteoric riffs with one of his most famous devotees, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the full-length version of the title track to King's ultimate studio work, I'll Play the Blues For You, in collaboration with the Bar-Kays, the Movement, and the Memphis Horns.

(Compiled by Bill Belmont, producer and executive for Fantasy Records, who notes that King "...was a great influence on Sixties and Seventies players, most notably Michael Bloomfield, Eric Clapton and of course Stevie Ray. )

Little Milton
Stax Profiles
Stax Records
2006

Few if any artists could make the blues sound so soulful—or, if you prefer, could make soul sound so deep-down blue—as songwriter, guitarist, vocalist and producer Little Milton Campbell, who recorded for the venerable labels Sun Records, Chess Records, and, for the first half of the 1970s, Stax Records.

Milton proved as durably soulful and bluesy a guitarist and vocalist as you'd expect from a musician who claimed his two primary influences were guitarist B.B. King and vocalist Bobby "Blue Bland. This set honors Bland with a slow-rolling "Blind Man, heavy with the emotional weight of the blues, and B.B. with King's trademark "The Thrill Is Gone. It would normally seem unwise to select a song so closely associated with the person it sets out to honor, but Milton's guitar and vocal prove full worthy, their combined sound completely saturated in wanting and then wrung out until it leaves the listener limp.

Milton's slow in-concert boils of "Let Me Down Easy and Willie Dixon's "I Can't Quit You Baby are deeply pained blues. So is this original single version of his classic "Walkin' The Back Streets And Crying, a blues, but with the crescendos and other emotional dynamics of soul music like "It's A Man's Man's Man's World (and a blues where, as sharp as Milton's guitar stings, his vocal is probably even better). He also expertly draws out "Blue Monday long and slow, like trying to stretch out putting your feet to the cold floor for the first day of the workweek until the last possible moment, with the Memphis Horns swaying sleepy counterpoint.



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