Bill Yates, along with his frequent bandmate Billy Adams (who had a companion compilation called Rock Me Baby released simultaneously with this 2013 disc), embodied the sound of Memphis in the years after Elvis and Sun, when rock & roll and R&B began to fuse inseparably. As a nightclub act in the early '60s, Yates and Adams mashed up all these Southern sounds, demonstrating a clear debt to such titans as Elvis, Jerry Lee, and, especially, Charlie Rich, with whom Yates often seemed like a kindred spirit. At the time, Yates was occasionally called "the white Ray Charles," an appreciation that also could've been said of Rich and, truth be told, much of Blues Like Midnight: The Sun Years, Plus -- a 33-track Bear Family CD of sessions Yates recorded between 1961 and 1969 that is the first ever compilation of Yates' work -- does bring to mind Rich, but a looser, rowdier Rich, one who was a bit more rough and tumble. That earthiness is part of the reason why Yates' stab at a teenage novelty, "I Dropped My M&Ms," is so riotous; it never sounds conceivable that Yates spent any time in high school or that he'd lose his candy over some sweet little girl. With his insouciant drawl, Yates seemed destined for adult activities, as there always was a knowing element to his delivery. Naturally, this slyness meant he excelled on wildly swinging takes on blues and R&B, but he also was a fine balladeer, as there wasn't much grain to his voice, so he could croon without mucking the song up with grit. Yates had the skills but, as Martin Hawkins' liner notes illustrate, he didn't have the temperament (he'd often go missing, leaving the Adams band to carry on without him) and he also didn't really have the material: apart from "I Dropped My M&Ms" and "Blues Like Midnight," or maybe the "Lucille" rip-off "Carleen," these songs didn't quite have the kind of hook that would reel in a crossover audience, leaving this music as a prime example of soulful, grooving '60s rock & roll. At the time, it was perhaps a bit generic or just a shade out of time, but decades later it's a blast to hear as it captures the roadhouse sound of its time.
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