October 4th, 2006
The subtitle, “Rare and Unreleased Jams by Detroit Indies Recorded in Memphis 1965-1968,” sums up the concept of this CD, produced by Aaron Fuchs for Soul-Tay-Shus, a division of his Tuff City Records. Digging deep into the crates, the album includes material originally issued on the Detroit labels D-Town, Wheelsville, Premium Stuff, Sport, Sir Rah, and Wee 3.
The liner notes by Preston Lauterbach explain that Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg may have been the catalyst behind at least some of the Memphis sessions. The legendary black female deejay, who left radio station WDIA-Memphis in 1963 for Detroit station WCHB, was obviously well acquainted with the “Soulsville” scene. With scant studio space available in Detroit outside of Motown, Wheelsville Records (whose VP just happened to be Steinberg) arranged for their artists to travel to Memphis. All of the sessions on this CD were recorded under the tutelage of producer Willie Mitchell at Hi Records’ Royal Recording Studios, deep in southern soul territory. The back-up band was provided by the studio (these recordings pre-date the Hi Rhythm section), resulting in what Lauterbach aptly describes as “a head on collision with melodic Motown and Memphis funk.”
Numerous Detroit artists are featured on the CD: the Appreciations, Master Keys, Persians, Lil Soul Brothers, and the Fabulous Peps, along with Buddy Lamp, Lee Rogers, Jim Coleman, and Al Gardner. Additionally, five tracks (including four previously unreleased demos) are included by Hi Records singer/songwriter Don Bryant. In an interesting twist, three of the Bryant demos were also recorded by the Appreciations, the Master Keys, and the Persians (all included here), making possible an A-B comparison between Bryant’s original demo and the versions commercially released in Detroit. Here the Motown-Memphis “collision” is never more apparent. Though I prefer the straight-up soul of the Bryant tracks, it is very interesting to discover how these Detroit groups managed to capture a little bit of that Memphis funk.
Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss
Review Genre(s): Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Funk