Bettye Crutcher – Long As You Love Me (1974)

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Bettye Crutcher
Long As You Love Me
Original release 1974 Enterprise / Stax
Reissue 2013 Ace Records
Remastered by Duncan Cowell at Sound Mastering



01 – As Long As You Love Me
02 – When We’re Together
03 – Passion
04 – A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt
05 – Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us In Love
06 – Sugar Daddy
07 – Call Me When All Else Fails
08 – Up For A Let Down
09 – So Lonely Without You
10 – Sleepy People

BONUS TRACKS

11 – So Glad To Have You
12 – Don’t You Think It’s About Time?
13 – Make A Joyful Noise
14 – We’ve Got Love On Our Side
15 – Walk On To Your New Love
16 – I Forgive You

Rhythm by Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section
Horns and strings by The Memphis Symphony Orchestra

Produced by Bettye Crutcher and Mack Rice
Arranged by Johnny Allen
Engineers – Pete Bishop, Jerry Masters, Steve Melton
Cover design and creative direction – The Stax Organization
Mastering – Larry Nix
A Very Special Thanks to: Bobby Womack
Photography – Frederic Torna
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Unless you are the type who habitually reads the credits on album jackets, you’ve probably never heard of Bettye Crutcher.  A victim of both a chauvinistic industry and a mismanaged label at the end of its lifespan, as a recording artist her one and only album fell between the cracks of Stax and has been relegated to a cult object for the last few decades.  It was finally issued on CD last year, together with a smattering of bonus tracks that include a few demos – this is, as far as we know at present, the entire recorded legacy of Bettye as a performer.

As a writer, however, she left a much larger body of work.  She penned a ton of hits for the likes of Johnny Taylor, Carla Thomas, Soul Children, William Bell, The Staple Singers and others.  She formed part of a triad of writing partners, We Three, that was a bit like the Stax version of The Corporation, cranking out great tunes for their roster of artists.  For this album she worked with Mack Rice as a writing and producing partner, and the material is more low key, with even the funkier tunes coming out mellow.

Fabulous production and arrangements, filled with just enough patches of strings and horns and Isaac Hazey flute riffs, would make this a joy to listen to even if the songs were mediocre.  But the songs are excellent and Bettye has an alluring personality as a singer.  Like a sort of southern soul Carole King, her voice isn’t quite ideal for the funkier tunes on the album but she approaches them with enough charm to make them work.  You might notice that a lot of her vocals are double-tracked to give her voice a thicker sound (this is a studio technique that I like quite a bit, so mind you I am not bashing it).  The opening track is probably the strongest thing here and sets the bar really high, meaning that what follows may take a few listens for its goodness to fully reach you.  There are no throw-away tunes on it, and a lot going on to keep your ears busy and happy.  Swinging effortlessly between deep southern funk, delicate ballads, and AM-radio pop-soul bliss, it is baffling that this album received no attention at the time.  It may not qualify for breathless declarations of “lost genius soul classic” but it is easily as good as dozens of other albums released in 1974 that received critical and financial compensation, and a lot of it really is brilliant.

Unlike Carole King, there are no re-recordings of her famous compositions recorded by other artists, and the liner notes shed no light as to why not (artistic choice of Bettye’s, or contractual stuff with other Stax artists?).  In fact Stax shamefully did not even release a single off this album in the US (they did release “Sugar Daddy,” a track I do not feel is representative of Bettye as a performer, a year later in the UK).  Just as puzzling is the existence of four completed recordings of very high quality that never saw the light of day until this reissue, where they are included as bonus tracks.  “So Glad To Have You” and “Don’t You Think It’s About Time” are exhilarating songs that would have been ideal singles.  Four tracks, two A and B sides – these aren’t even rough mixes, but rather polished, finished product.  Liner note author Tony Rounce muses that it might have been Bettye’s life situation as a single mother, unable or unwilling to go out on the road, that made Stax reluctant to promote her.  But Stax was so close to bankruptcy at this point that it is almost a pointless exercise to try and guess the logic behind anything going on in their disorganized offices.  Two demos tacked on to the end of the disc are solid, but we know nothing about them – when and where and with who they were recorded.  But as I said at the outset, this disc represents the entire legacy of Bettye as a recording artist unless someone finds some tape reels hidden away under their bed, so you’d better enjoy every last second of it.

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Bettye sitting in between We Three partners Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson and a stack of what look like Universal Audio compressors.

The Soul Children – Genesis & Friction (1972 & 1974)

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The Soul Children
Friction (1971) / Genesis (1974)
Reissue 1999 Stax SCD-88038-2

are J. Blackfoot, Norman West, Anita Louis, Shelbra Bennett

GENESIS, 1972 Stax (STS 3003)

01 – I Want To Be Loved     (Sam D. Bell)     8:24    
02 – Don’t Take My Sunshine     (Bobby Newsome)     3:59    
03 – Hearsay     (John Colbert, Norman West)     3:38    
04 – All That Shines Ain’t Gold     (John Gary Williams, Tommy Tate)     3:55    
05 – It Hurts Me To My Heart     (Bettye Crutcher)     3:00    
06 – I’m Loving You More Everyday     (James Mitchell)     4:52    
07 – Just The One (I’ve Been Looking For)     (A. Isbell, E. Floyd, S. Cropper)     3:20    
08 – Never Get Enough Of Your Love     (Eddie Floyd)     4:22    
09 – All Day Preachin’     (Bettye Crutcher, Bobby Manuel)    3:55    
10 – Get Up About Yourself     (Carl Hampton, Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson)    4:12  

Produced by Jim Stewart and Al Jackson, Jr.

 Track 1:
James Alexander – bass
Michael Toles – guitar
Allen Jones – organ
Howard Grimes -drums

Tracks 2 through 9:

Piano and organ – John Keister, Marvell Thomas
Guitars – Raymond Jackson, Bobby Manuel
Donald “Duck” Dunn – bass
Al Jackson, Jr. – drums

Track 10: 
Carl Hampton – piano
Raymond Jackson, Michael Toles – guitars
James Alexander – bass
Al Jackson, Jr. – drums

Produced by Carl Hampton, Homer Banks, and Raymond Jackson
————————————————————
String arrangements – Dale Warren
Engineered by William Brown, Bobby Manuel, Eddie Marion, Daryl Williams, Dave Purple

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FRICTION, 1974 Stax (STS 5507)

11 – I’ll Be The Other Woman (Banks-Hampton)    3:36    
12 – What’s Happening Baby (Banks-Hampton)    6:42    
13 – Can’t Let You Go (Banks-Hampton)    4:47    
14 – It’s Out Of My Hands (Banks-Hampton-Jackson)    3:24    
15 – Just One Moment (Banks-Hampton)    4:58    
16 – We’re Gettin’ Too Close (Banks-Hampton)    3:52    
17 – Love Makes It Right (Banks-Hampton)    5:52

Lester Snell – Piano
Carl Hampton – electric piano
Charles Pitts, Michael Toles – guitars
James Alexander – bass
Willie Hall – drums

Tracks 11 & 15: Bobby Manuel, guitar / Donald “Duck” Dunn – bass / Al Jackson, Jr. – drums / The Memphis Horns / Memphis Symphony Orchestra

Produced by Homer Banks and Carl Hampton (Al Jackson, Jr. also co-produced “I’ll Be The Other Woman”)

Arrangements by John Allen, Carl Hampton, Homer Banks.  Engineered by Pete Bishop

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1999 remastering at Fantasy by Kirk Felton and it SOUNDS REALLY GOOD
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With over a dozen soul and R&B hits to their credit, it is a shame The Soul Children aren’t more better remembered for their contributions.  These last two records for the original Stax label are quality, top-notch soul ,but at this point the Stax label wasn’t too far away from bankruptcy and a lot of records were criminally under-promoted.  I think “Genesis” is particularly stellar and it’s my favorite of the two, perhaps because it has more of a gospel deep-groove swing to it, and a lot of people feel that “Friction” was their peak.

1972’s “Genesis” has a great set of songs contributed from the likes of Eddie Floyd, Chicago’s Bobby Newsome, and Bettye Crutcher.  The backing musicians included members of the reconstituted M.G.’s and The Bar-kays and also feature Howard Grimes (of Hi Records) on the drums for what may be my favorite song here – the very first.  It should probably surprise nobody that a vocal group put together by Dave Porter and Isaac Hayes (who played on their early records) would be adept at the type of long slow-burner that opens up the album, “I Want To Be Loved.”  They dig into this tune with an impassioned flare that sets it apart from Hayes’ epic cool delivery, however.  After a suspenseful minute’s worth of subdued build-up, the rhythm section drops out as Anita and Shelbra launch into some intense gospel harmonies and eventually a brief sermon crowning love over the material things in life, and then Blackfoot comes tearing in with his gritty response and ups the ante.  The group on “Genesis” reminds me a little of the early records by label-mates The Emotions, but with the added bonus of a male-female dynamic.   The bigger of the hits on this record was “Hearsy”, penned by Blackfoot and West, and it has a very M.G.-ish vibe to it, which is fine, but it also may be the least interesting song on the record.  “It Hurts Me To My Soul” is a favorite of mine here, and in fact I played it on one of my podcasts.

“Friction” was apparently a concept album based around the idea of cheating  and being cheated on.  The record is admirable in the way it traces a narrative from start to finish without any kind of heavy-handed high drama.  But in some ways I kind of think the idea could have benefited from trying it as a ‘soul opera.’ They could have brought in special guests with assigned roles, Johnnie Taylor as “Jody,” Isaac Hayes as whoever he wanted to be (except Truck Turner)… As it stands, the record is almost too downbeat for me (all the songs are slow to mid tempo except for “We’re Getting To Close”), but then again it has been a long time since I have had any nasty breakups involving cheating partners, so maybe that’s what it takes to bring out the best in this album.  The bookends of the album are undeniable classics, “I’ll Be The Other Woman,” and “Love Makes It Right” are powerful and honest explorations of themes that get glossed over with cliches in even some of the best music.  In fact, let me extend that statement to all the tracks here – “Friction” really is a sophisticated treatment of an eternal and complex subject, and deserves a lot of credit as a unique artist achievement in the Stax canon.  It’s just that I don’t dig listening to it as much as “Genesis.”  Maybe it is the fact that all the songs were written by the production team of Hampton/Banks leaves the songs with less melodic and dynamic variety than the previous record with its overflow of writing talent.  Or maybe it’s that I prefer the MGs and Bar-kay’s (reconstituted though they may have been) to the instrumentalists on “Friction.”  With a group as good as The Soul Children, this is kind of like trying to decide which of your luxury cars you are going to drive today – in the end, it’s a quibbling born of privilege.

In putting together this post I discovered that Shelbra Bennett passed away at the end of May of this year.  She was the first of the four members to go her own way (I think) career-wise but not the first to pass away:  J.Blackfoot died in 2011. 

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Frederick Knight – I've Been Lonely For So Long (1973) {STAX}

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Frederick Knight
“I’ve Been Lonely For So Long”
Stax Records 1973 (STS 3011)

I’ve Been Lonely For So Long
This Is My Song Of Love To You
Take Me On Home Witcha
Friend
I Let My Chance Go By
Your Love’s All Over Me
Pick’um Up Put’um Down
Now That I’ve Found You
Lean On Me
Trouble
Someday We’ll Be Together

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This is a lovely lost classic of an album by Alabama native and soul music underachiever Frederick Knight. It’s not his only album but it might as well be, as its the one that people remember, and (though I could be wrong) he didn’t record again until the late 1980s except for one more single in 75.

The record leads off with what is probably the strongest song here (always a risky move), the singular “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long.” It’s one of the those tunes that everybody has heard but not many know who sang it. The instrumentation lacks a drum kit, which is part of its signature sound – high-hat, tamborine, and a wooden plank equalized to sound like a kick drum make up the rhythm. Prominent acoustic guitar and electric slide guitar parts give some country-soul twang; Knight sings the lead melody entirely in falsetto but also did all the overdubs including bass vocal parts. He tries to replicate the vibe of this song on the album’s second single, “Trouble”, with a similar structure built around kit-less drums, falsetto and bass harmonies, and a rap in the middle of the tune. But the single was a flop, as lightning rarely strikes twice. Still a good song though. The formula is also used on “Now That I’ve Found You.” The first few times I spun this record, this formulaic approach irritated me, but eventually I came to think that they are all quality songs regardless of the repetition and/or attempt to cash in on a successful single. And one of the things that stands out about all of the them is the blend of old-skool doo-wop vocal harmonies with early seventies Stax and Hi Records textures.

There is plenty of really strong material here. Requisite nods to Philadelphia and Motown are scattered about, but everything is done in a funky southern soul approach that makes the album sound original. Probably more original than it actually is in truth. Other highlights are the mellow “This Is My Song of Love To You,” the rolling midtempo “Friend” which has a truly breathtaking arrangement of Wurlitzer electric piano and acoustic guitar balanced against strings and horns. A lot going on here but never overbearing, and the minimal lyric is interesting in a weirdly cinematic and cathartic way, like it ought to be playing loudly at the end of a bittersweet, deep, coming-of-age buddy film. It’s one of my favorite tunes here and if I ruled the world it would have been a hit single. Some heavy funk comes in with “Your Love’s All Over Me,” which features an unfortunate Jimmy Castor impression in the middle of it (which, fortunately, only lasts for a few seconds), and the party continues with “Pick ‘Em Up and Put ‘Em Down.” The closer of this record is an interpretation of The Supremes hit, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, which falls only a few inches short of totally transcendent. It really gives an original reading to the tune, and if you aren’t paying close attention you might not even catch it until the first chorus. By the time the bridge of the song comes along you will want to get out of your seat and yell “Amen!” it soars so much. This song and the title track make the warm bread (perhaps a croissant, perhaps baguette) that sandwiches the meat of the album. And the result is oh so tasty. The one clunker here is “Lean On Me”… I am not sure what Stax was thinking when they produced this tune only one year after Bill Wither’s had a huge hit with a better song with the same name. The money, perhaps?

It’s a damn shame that this record wasn’t the smash it could have been. Particular as Frederick couldn’t make the payments on the coat he wore for the cover photo and eventually had to mail it back to Sears and Roebuck.

Frederick Knight – I’ve Been Lonely For So Long (1973) in 320kbs em pee tree

Frederick Knight – I’ve Been Lonely For So Long (1973) in FLAC LOSSLESS AWDIO

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Isaac Hayes – At Wattstax (1972)

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Isaac Hayes
At Wattstax
Recorded August 20, 1972 in Los Angeles
Released 2003 on STAX (SCD-88042-2)

1. Theme From “Shaft” 4:38
2. Soulsville 4:37
3. Never Can Say Goodbye 5:16
4. Part-Time Love 5:55
5. Your Love Is So Doggone Good 8:18
6. Ain’t No Sunshine/Lonely Avenue 17:06
7. I Stand Accused 6:24
8. If I Had A Hammer 9:23

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Today is two years to the day that Isaac Hayes was killed by Scientologists and left us on earth without his benign presence. Even though he had not recorded much music for quite some time, the world just felt like a warmer, groovier place by having him in it, and the news of his death shook me up more than I would have expected. In the world of musical celebrities I have never actually met, there are musicians who when they pass away we can say “their time had come” with some acceptance. Isaac Hayes was not one of these, at 66 years old it seemed too young.

I had planned to post this last night in the hopes of having a 2-part tribute to Mr. Hayes, but my car was totaled by an asshole truck driver in the wrong lane who didn’t feel like slowing down for a stop light. This was an unexpected interruption in my blogging habits… We will see, I just might post the second half today as I have resolved to celebrate the fact that I walked away without a scratch by doing as little serious work as possible today. It is quite likely Part 2 will be up before midnight.

Let`s move on to talking about this album

isaac hayes

I was really excited to find out that this album had even been released — issued a few years back by the resuscitated Fantasy/Stax franchise, it documents Isaac Hayes at the landmark festival that he headlined, Wattstax, which spawned the famous and award-winning documentary. Promoted as “the black Woodstock”, the iconic Hayes stalked the stage draped in gold chains and thrilled the expectant crowd that had waited all day for him. I had always thought that the film contained precious little of Hayes’ performance, as did the soundtrack, and wondered if a live album had been planned by Hayes and his management. Well, now that the previously-unreleased material from the rest of the set (or most of it, I am not entirely sure) has been issued, I rather suspect that it was kept “in the can” for other reasons. I won’t call it a mediocre performance, because it is still quite good, but it pales in comparison to his live album to be released the following year, Live at the Sahara Tahoe. But this is still an essential document for any fan of Isaac Hayes.

As the album booklet and tray state, the track “Part Time Love” is missing the lead vocal during to the master tapes being damaged, which make the tune sound like a weird demo. The backing vocals come in at the end, making the whole thing kind of odd. The extended take on Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” is amazing, but still once again just not as good as the version on the Sahara Tahoe album. The CD closes with Jesse Jackson’s famous speech, a high point of the film, and a rendering of “If I Had A Hammer.” This release may not be the place to start for new Isaac Hayes fans, but for those already converted it is pretty essential listening.

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Isaac Hayes – At Wattstax (1972) in 320kbs em pee tree

Isaac Hayes – At Wattstax (1972) in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO

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