For decades, Memphis and Muscle Shoals have been praised as the premier Southern soul recording capitals, and rightly so. But any comprehensive list of important R&B studio destinations should also include Valparaiso, located on Florida’s Panhandle, not far from the Alabama state line. That’s where Finley Duncan established the Playground Recording Studio in 1969, producing a series of stunning singles for his Minaret Records label (distributed by Shelby Singleton’s SSS International Records) that inexplicably avoided the charts but stand tall with legions of R&B aficionados.
Having explored the California East Bay’s vibrant soul/funk scene with its three-volume Music City Sessions, and solo outings by Darondo (Listen to My Song: The Music City Sessions) and The Two Things in One (Together Forever: The Music City Sessions), Omnivore Recordings now celebrates Southern R&B with The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976. Street date is August 13, 2013.
This two-CD, 40-track collection gathers all of the A’s and B’s of Minaret’s soulful sides for the very first time. Many of these tracks have been out of print for decades, commanding top dollar on the collector’s market. While the music is enticing enough, the package features a full-color booklet with extensive liner notes by music historian Bill Dahl detailing the history of the label and studio, as well as the stories of the artists whose work is showcased on these 20 singles.
Minaret boasted a stable of soul and blues artists who were rich in talent, even if not in hits. Big John Hamilton was one of Minaret’s anchoring artists, represented here with 18 tracks (including four duets with Doris Allen). Among his backing musicians were Muscle Shoals stalwart Spooner Oldham and the Memphis Horns. Hamilton was managed by fellow Minaret artist and guitarist Leroy Lloyd, whose instrumental “Sewanee Strut” is featured here. No Minaret artist boasted the track record of harpist Willie Cobbs, best known for the widely covered blues classic “You Don’t Love Me.” His 1968 session (“I’ll Love Only You” “Don’t Worry About Me”) is included in this collection.
Featuring photographs and commentary from Playground staff past and present, The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 adds to Omnivore’s reputation as “the Smithsonian of record labels, finding, preserving and championing some of the greatest (and most endangered) music of the past 50 years,” according to Popshifter’s Cait Brennan.
If you’re wondering which side of the street has the best music, it’s South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976.
Big John Hamilton: “The Train,” “Big Bad John,” “I Have No One,” “I Just Want To Thank You” (1967)
Genie Brooks: “Fine Time,” “Juanita” (1967)
The Double Soul: “Blue Diamonds,” “I Can’t Use You” (1968)
Big John Hamilton: “Big Fanny,” “How Much Can a Man Take” (1969)
Big John Hamilton: “Pretty Girls,” “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” (1969)
Johnny Dynamite: “The Night the Angels Cried,” “Everybody’s Clown” (1969)
Genie Brooks: “Helping Hand,” “South Side of Soul Street” (1969)
Big John Hamilton: “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” “Love Comes and It Goes.” (1969)
Leroy Lloyd and The Dukes: “Sewanee Strut,” “A Taste of the Blues (1969)
Willie Cobbs: “I’ll Love Only You,” “Don’t Worry About Me” (1969)
Big John Hamilton: “If You’re Looking for a Fool,” “Take This Hurt Off Me Fool” (1969)
Doris Allen: “A Shell of a Woman,” “Kiss Yourself for Me” (1969)
Gable Reed: “I’m Your Man,” “Who’s Been Warming My Oven” (1969)
Big John Hamilton & Doris Allen: “A Place in My Heart,” “Let a Little Love In” (1969)
Willie Gable: “Row Row Row,” “Eternally” (1969)
John Hamilton & Doris Allen: “Them Changes,” “Bright Star” (1970)
Big John Hamilton: “Lift Me Up,” “Just Seeing You Again” (1970)
Count Willie with LRL and The Dukes: “I’ve Got To Tell You” (1975)
LRL and The Dukes: “Double Funk” (1975)
Big John Hamilton: “I Got To Get Myself Somebody,” “Free Me” (1976)
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