Tag Archives: Rufus Thomas

Rocks In The Attic #474: Various Artists – ‘Stax – Number Ones’ (2010)

RITA#474Stax Records: my favourite record label, hands down. Grittier than Motown, a talent pool for Atlantic, and a tale of a rags to riches underdog in a socially conscious and racially integrated framework, Stax has got it all. The 2007 documentary (Respect Yourself: The Stax Record Story) is essential viewing, but I’m waiting for the big budget Hollywood film to tell the story. Idris Elba as Otis Redding, anyone?

Brother and Sister Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton started a country label, called Satellite Records, out of their garage in the late 1950s, but it was when they started recording R&B and changed their name to Stax that they got the attention of Atlantic Records, who picked them up with a distribution deal.

Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, Eddie Floyd, The Staple Singers, and of course, the Stax house band Booker T. & The M.G.s.; the label’s roll-call read like a who’s who of ‘60s and ‘70s soul acts. There’s something there for everyone, and a bunch of great number one hit singles, as this collection attests.

The Atlantic partnership proved to be the best and worst thing to happen to Stax though, and this is why it would be great subject material for a film. By distributing their records, and sometimes using the Stax studios to record artists on their own label, Atlantic acted as a protective big brother to Stax; but not for long.

In 1967, Atlantic was sold to Warners, and Stax fell by the wayside. Jim Stewart asked for the return of the Stax masters, but found out that Atlantic’s cuntish lawyers had included a clause in the 1965 distribution contract that gave away the rights to the Stax material to Atantic. Betrayed by his more savvy business partners and by his own naivety, Stewart eventually drove Stax into bankruptcy after a few short years as an independent. Such a shame.

I can’t remember the first time I heard about Stax. It was probably through my Dad, who has a great compilation – Atlantic Soul Classics – which captures (exploits?) a couple of acts from the Stax roster. I’ve since picked up that album on vinyl. After that, it was probably going back and discovering Booker T. & The M.G.s via the Blues Brothers. Good times.

Hit: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding

Hidden Gem: Who’s Making Love – Johnnie Taylor

Rocks In The Attic #183: The Rolling Stones – ‘The Rolling Stones’ (1964)

RITA#183When I first started to listen to Aerosmith – about twenty years before I would actually get chance to listen to this debut by the Stones – I could never quite figure out the severity of the comparisons of the two bands. Yes, Tyler and Perry and are a carbon copy of Jagger and Richards – they even have a moniker, the Toxic Twins, to rival Jagger and Richards as the Glimmer Twins, but apart from that I couldn’t really see what else there was.

Arguably – and of course this is purely subjective – Steven Tyler is a superior vocalist to Mick Jagger; and perhaps less arguably, Perry can run rings around Richards on the guitar (which isn’t exactly that shaming on the part of Keith who is more of a rhythm guitarist anyway). The Stones frontmen are better songwriters of course (well, some of the time), so apart from looks and a general Stones-ey feeling from Aerosmith’s brand of rock n’ roll, I could never quite understand what else (like there had to be something else!) there was.

After finally getting to hear the Stones’ debut earlier this year – the answer is obvious. Rather than doing their best to avoid the Stones comparisons, Aerosmith very stupidly decided to cover the same song to close their debut album – Rufus Thomas’ Walking The Dog – that the Stones had closed their debut album just nine years earlier!

Both versions are fantastic – as is the original – and each band does the song a little differently, but you think somebody might have mentioned that this wasn’t too hot an idea when they were putting Aerosmith’s album together.

This Stones debut is fantastic – with about double the energy the Beatles had managed to pull together for their debut the previous year – and alongside the eleven covers on here (only one song is a Jagger/Richards original), I love their version of Chuck Berry’s Carol – which reminds me of this hilarious version of Keith getting to play the song with his hero.

Hit: Route 66

Hidden Gem: Carol