Let the Music Play: Supreme Rarities 1960-1969 (Hip-O Select, April 2008)
The producers of this CD combed through the Motown archives in order to come up with a two CD set of 47 previously unreleased takes. As is typical with compilations of this type, the alternate takes reveal elements of the creative and production process through altered verses and extended versions. If you’re only interested in hearing the final versions, this CD set is not for you.
Gladys Knight & the Pips: Claudine/Pipe Dreams. (Shout! June 2008)
Shout Factory has assembled on one compact disc two rare 1970s movie soundtracks featuring Gladys Knight & The Pips. Claudine, released in 1974, was a film starring Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones, with music composed by Curtis Mayfield (this was two years after his much celebrated Superfly score). The soundtrack includes the chart-topping single “On And On,” as well as the more poignant “Welfare Man.” Pipe Dreams, released in 1976, actually featured Gladys Knight in the starring role. The film was not commercially successful and Knight’s acting career went no further. The soundtrack includes one hit single, “So Sad The Song,” though contemporary audiences may be more interested in “Alaska Pipeline.”
Bo Diddley. Road Runner: The Chess Masters, 1959-1960. (Hip-O Select, June 2008)
This is the second installment of Hip-O Select’s tribute to Bo Diddley, who passed away earlier this year (the first installment, I’m A Man: The Chess Masters 1955-1958, was released in 2007). The two CD set features 52 tracks in all, including 23 previously unreleased songs and alternate takes encompassing both his Chess studio recordings and various home recordings. Liner notes were provided by George R. White, Diddley’s biographer. This is great stuff and absolutely essential for anyone interested in the black roots of rock ‘n’ roll.
Yvonne Fair. The Bitch is Black (Reel Music, June 2008)
The late Yvonne Fair performed with the James Brown Revue in the early 1960s and simultaneously released several singles which never took off, even though they were produced by Brown. She then took a stab at Motown, pairing up with Marvin Gaye, but success did not arrive until Norman Whitfield produced several of her singles in 1974, which led up to her one and only album. The Bitch is Black, released in 1975, features some great “in your face” funky R&B from a little known performer. The accompanying booklet features photos and a biographical essay by A. Scott Galloway.
Joe Tex. Get Way Back: The 1950s Recordings (Ace, August 2008)
Joe Tex (1933-1982) was Texas-born soul singer who rose to fame in the mid-1960s, but this compilation traces the beginnings of his career. The 27 tracks that he recorded for the King and the American Ace label, some released on CD for the first time, include elements of rock ‘n’ roll as well as New Orleans R&B. The accompanying booklet offers biographical information and previously unpublished photographs.