Coming to Stax with producer Al Bell in 1965, Eddie Floyd was destined to record in the shadows of the label's major artists like Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. This fact shouldn't overshadow Floyd's gifts as a singer and songwriter who penned a number of hits for himself and other Stax artists. This 1995 reissue brings together Floyd's California Girl (1969) and Down to Earth (1970). The former is dated by the pervasive use of syrupy string overdubs and musical backings full of precisely placed, studio-constructed detail. While the best recordings manage to ascend their arrangements, songs like the soul standard "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "(Hey There) Lonely Girl" are marred by overly sentimental production. It's surprising the difference a year can make, however. By 1970, the rock & roll influence had found its way into the music of some Stax artists. The Bar-Kays recorded the darker funk grooves of Black Rock while, a year earlier, Booker T. & the MG's had released their tribute to the Beatles' Abbey Road with 1969's McLemore Avenue. Floyd responded by opting for a more intimate rock/soul combo on Down to Earth. While some songs remained in the Stax tradition, the shift is toward a heavier sound. The singer converts Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" into an escalating gospel-rock number announced with a rush of fretwork. "Linda Sue Dixon" is fueled by barroom-style piano and raw fiddling. Elsewhere, Floyd makes attempts at blues-rock ("When the Sun Goes Down") and blues-soul ("Salvation"), to varying degrees of success. At the time of these recordings, Stax was already two-thirds of the way through its career. While Floyd would never again achieve the success he experienced with his 1967 hit "Knock on Wood," he remained a fine (and underacknowledged) performer, producing four charting singles with these two albums.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush