Tag Archives: Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn

Rocks In The Attic #503: Otis Redding – ‘Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul’ (1965)

RITA#503Probably Redding’s most famous of the studio albums he recorded during his short life, this is album number three of six. It earned a little more attention than its predecessors due to its frantic cover of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction which adorns the second side. It therefore finds its way into most rock-centric record collections. It’s usually the only Otis Redding record that appears in top albums of all times lists; and more often than not, it’s one of only a handful of soul albums to appear. In Rolling Stone’s Top 500, the record places at a respectable 75.

The record is mainly a bunch of covers, with only three songs penned by Redding himself. Also covered are songs by BB King, the Temptations, Solomon Burke, William Bell and three Sam Cooke songs.

The album was recorded within a 24-hour period in July, which is a great example of how quickly Stax could produce white hot material in the mid-‘60s. As per Redding’s previous albums, he was backed by Booker T.  & The M.G.s, with horns supplied by a mixture of the Mar-Keys and the Memphis Horns.

Donald “Duck” Dunn’s bass line on Respect has always interested me. It sounds very similar to McCartney’s bass line on the Beatles’ Drive My Car. Almost too similar, if you know what I mean. A cursory look at the dates shows that Redding’s song had been released as a single in August 1965, a full two months before the Beatles recorded Drive My Car.

Ian McDonald in Revolution In The Head, his seminal analysis on the Beatles’ recording career, points out that George Harrison had been listening to Redding’s Respect when they recorded Drive My Car. It sounds like it was Harrison’s urging that they record the song with a heavy bottom-ended, dual bass and guitar riff.

So there was definitely some musical thievery going on with Drive My Car, but it’s impossible to say whether McCartney or Harrison was the chief magpie.

Hit: I’ve Been Loving You Too Long

Hidden Gem: What A Wonderful World

Rocks In The Attic #365: Various Artists – ‘The Blues Brothers (O.S.T.)’ (1980)

RITA#365On a family holiday when I was around 14, we drove down to Newquay in Cornwall, and stayed in a Bed & Breakfast on the seafront. On our first day, in fact only twenty minutes after we had arrived, we walked around to the parade of shops next to the B&B. In one of the shops was a wall of second-hand cassettes. I bought this album on tape, together with Toys In The Attic by Aerosmith. Both cassettes became not only the soundtrack to that holiday, but they became first favourites that have never left me.

I love the music of The Blues Brothers just as much as I love the film itself. There’s an unfortunate pigeon-holing that seems to go on though, that resigns both the film and the soundtrack to the camp depths of party entertainment; cheesy music for poor people to sing karaoke to. It isn’t seen as the cultural landmark it should be regarded as, which is a shame. The film did so much for African American music, giving it a much needed shot in the arm. Who knows what would have happened had the film not been released – fewer James Brown records on the streets might have meant there wouldn’t have been as much sampling of Funky Drummer when hip-hop hit. That Clyde Stubblefield groove might have been taken up by the drum patterns of some non-funky white drummers instead. What a horrible thing to imagine.

What a rhythm section – Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass, Steve Cropper on guitar (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper as he’s referred to in the film, although I’ve never seen that nickname anywhere else) – both from Booker T. & The M.G.s – and Willie Hall, from the Bar-Kays, on drums. The brass section, from TV’s Saturday Night Live, are also fantastic although it’s a shame the Memphis Horns weren’t part of the band. I guess it might have been a little too Memphis, had that been the case, and while I would have loved it, the SNL horns were an integral part of the band from its earliest days as a John Belushi / Dan Aykroyd skit on Saturday Night Live.

Where else can you hear Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and James Brown singing on the same record? Even if you take these guys out, the songs performed by just the Blues Brothers band are worth the price of admission alone. I could listen to a song like She Caught The Katy all day, preferably while driving around in an old police cruiser. Just fix the cigarette lighter.

Hit: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

Hidden Gem: She Caught The Katy

Rocks In The Attic #29: The Bar-Kays – ‘Soul Finger’ (1967)

Rocks In The Attic #29: The Bar-Kays - ‘Soul Finger’ (1967)Thanks to my Dad, I have this in my collection – an original version of The Bar-Kays’ debut on Volt Records – Stax’s sister label – with the cover held together with a couple of strategically placed pieces of sellotape.

Soul Finger is a great soul record, drawing comparisons to label-mates Booker T. & The M.G.’s, mainly as they’re both organ-driven instrumental groups. The Bar-Keys are a little less organ-heavy compared to the earlier group, but with a brassier sound due to their compliment of saxophone and trumpet.

The band was cut down in its prime as a result of being picked up by Otis Redding as his backing band. Four of the six original members died in the same 1967 plane crash that took his life (only the trumpeter survived the crash, and the bass player was on another flight). The Bar-Kays were then repopulated with replacements, and went on to back many other Stax artists – most notably playing on Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul album – and released records all the way into the 1980s.

The Blues Brothers play a great version of the song Soul Finger, as the opening to their Made In America live LP. It’s fitting that Cropper and Dunn play that version, as the M.G.’s were instrumental (no pun intended) in cultivating The Bar-Kays through the ranks at Stax / Volt.

Soul Finger and one of The Bar-Kays’ later songs, Too Hot To Stop, also feature on the soundtrack to 2007’s Superbad.

Hit: Soul Finger

Hidden Gem: Pearl High

Rocks In The Attic #16: Booker T. & The M.G.’s – ‘McLemore Avenue’ (1970)

I bought this only last Sunday, from Real Groovy in Auckland. Got it home, put in on the turntable and while it’s on its first listen I turn on the internet and find out that Duck Dunn has passed away.

The music world has lost a lot of good people in the last couple of weeks – Levon Helm, The Beastie Boys’ MCA, Duck Dunn, and as of the day before yesterday, Donna Summer. That’s be a nice little band right there – an odd band, but something worth listening to.

McElmore Avenue, as the front cover might suggest, is Booker T. & The M.G.’s doing Abbey Road. Released only a few months as The Beatles’ swansong, it’s missing a few songs (my favourite, Oh! Darling is noticeably absent), but this gives the M.G.’s a bit of room to improvise on the songs chosen.

It’s a great little album, with the band on top form, working their way through a largely instrumental and heavily re-ordered version of Abbey Road.

Hit: Come Together

Hidden Gem: I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Rocks In The Attic #12: Sam & Dave – ‘Star-Collection’ (1974)

Stax, without a doubt, has to be my favourite record label. And Sam & Dave are my favourite Stax artists – although depending on what mood I’m in, it could be Otis or Booker T & The MGs.

This album, a collection of their singles, is a German release – and from what I can see on the internet, it has the tracklisting as 1969’s The Best Of Sam & Dave, although the songs are presented in order.

I think that that album – the 1969 collection – is what Jake and Elwood are listening to in the Bluesmobile, on an 8-track cartridge, when they first get pulled over by the police in The Blues Brothers (1982). It’s a shame Sam & Dave didn’t feature in that film – it would have been fitting for them to have been backed by Cropper and Dunn, from the Stax backing band – but they had just given up touring the previous year on New Year’s Eve, 1981 and never spoke to each other again.

The vast majority of the songs here are written by Isaac Hayes, and his Stax writing partner David Porter – just a few years before Hayes became a household name in his own right. I have the DVD of them performing on the Stax / Volt tour of Europe back in 1967, and it’s clear that they were the hardest-working act on the label, leaving a puddle of sweat on the stage, only for Otis to add to it during his headlining slot.

Hit: Soul Man

Hidden Gem: You Don’t Know Like I Know