Memphis 70

Various Artists

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Memphis 70 Review

by John Bush

There's no disputing that Memphis was the mecca for soul music in the late '60s and early '70s. Stax had taken over where Motown began to leave off, with giant hits from Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, the Staple Singers, and dozens more. Then, when Stax itself began to slow down, Willie Mitchell and his Hi Records stable (Al Green, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright) picked up the baton. And, as with most other hot musical cities, there was a plethora of other labels, simply bubbling with moderate hits or great songs that would have succeeded with more promotion. Memphis 70 expands the game from Stax and Hi to such worthy subjects as Sounds of Memphis and Select-O-Hits. The disc has 20 nuggets of deep soul and funk, all recorded during the ten years after Otis Redding's death in 1968. Stax and its subsidiaries are represented, all with deep or previously unreleased cuts, and although Hi doesn't appear, Sounds of Memphis, has several tracks here. Although few of the artists are well-known, the fraternal Memphian underground creates dozens of connections: a single by Stacy Lane was produced by Packy Axton (a member of the family who owned Stax), and the track was recorded at Jim Dickinson's Ardent Studios, home to much of the great Memphis music that wasn't recorded at Stax or Hi. David Porter, one of the brightest songwriters at Stax, appears with a track of his own performance, "I Can't Tell No Difference." Most of the tracks here feature the same deep grooves and funk backbone that made Hi such a special place during the '70s, and there's definitely something funky about the subject matter too -- just get a load of titles like "Tip Toeing" by Alvin Cash, "Who's Been Warming My Oven?" by Sir Walter, and "Papa Killed a Chicken" by Willie Toliver.

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