Thursday, 13 August 2015

"...Into A Real Thing...And More" by DAVID PORTER (2015 Ace/Stax Expanded CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...The Sock-It-To-Me Man..."

With his mentor ISAAC HAYES (and later with his piano-playing and writing partner RONNIE WILLIAMS) – Memphis Grocery Boy DAVID PORTER joined Stax Records in 1961 at the ripe old age of 20. He did so after months of post-shift pestering – constantly showcasing his songs and singing to the staff of the then fledging Soul label. It eventually paid off landing Porter a salaried job as Hit Maker/A&R Man/Chief Bottle Washer. Pairing up initially with Isaac throughout the 60ts until Hayes exploded on the World Soul Stage in 1969 with his groundbreaking Solo LP "Hot Buttered Soul" – they wrote hit after hit ("Soul Man", "Hold On! I'm Coming" and "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby") to a point where the duo of Hayes-Porter were to Stax what Holland-Dozier-Holland was to Motown.

But Porter's Solo career didn't start until late. His debut album "Gritty, Groovy & Gettin' It" hit the US shops in March 1970 on Enterprise ENS 1009 rising all the way up to an impressive No. 4 on the American R&B LP charts (reissued on Expanded CD by Ace Records of the UK on Ace/Stax SDX 142 in July 2013 - Barcode 029667055628). And that’s where this 2015 Expanded CD comes in...

Continuing their digital exploration of his Solo output - this timely and clever reissue focuses on his 2nd Solo album "David Porter...Into A Real Thing" first issued on vinyl LP in the USA on Enterprise Records ENS 1012 in November 1970 (it's 1971 UK equivalent simply called "Into A Real Thing" was on Stax Records 2362006 on the famous and sought-after Yellow Label). It went Top 10 Stateside (peaked at No. 9) - but did precious little business in the UK (vinyl copies have always been elusive). Here are the finite details...

UK released August 2015 – "David Porter...Into A Real Thing...And More" by DAVID PORTER on Ace/Stax CDSXD 146 (Barcode 029667072724) is an Expanded CD featuring 3 Bonus Tracks and breaks down as follows (46:27 minutes):

1. Hang On Sloopy [Full Album version at 11:07 minutes]
2. Ooo-Wee Girl
3. Too Real To Live A Lie [Side 2]
4. Grocery Man
5. I Don't Wanna Cry
6. Thirty Days

7. Come Get From Me (Parts 1 & 2) – originally unissued track on the January 1998 UK Various Artists CD compilation "5000 Volts Of Stax" on Ace/Stax CDSXD 116
8. Gotta Get Over The Hump – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED 2015
9. Somebody's Trying To Ride Piggy Back – originally unissued track on the October 1999 UK Various Artists CD compilation "Let's Crossover Again" on Ace/Kent Soul CDKEND 174

The 8-page booklet has detailed and classy liner notes from long-time writer and genre expert TONY ROUNCE alongside several foreign picture sleeves for an edited "Hang On Sloopy" - while NICK ROBBINS did the transfers and Remastering at Sound Performance in London. The Audio is glorious – really warm and full of presence – reflecting the expertise and Production values of both Porter and Ronnie Williams. Tracks 2, 3,4 and 6 are Porter/Williams originals while "I Don't Wanna Cry" is a Chuck Jackson cover version. The other cover is of course the album's centrepiece "Hang On Sloopy" which dominates Side 1 at a whopping 11:07 minutes. It was initially a hit for The Vibrations in 1964 but is more famously associated with The McCoys who took it to No.1 in the USA (and many other territories) in September 1965 on Bang Records. There are no writing credits for the three bonus tracks – two of which have turned up as Previously Unreleased Stax outtakes on 1998 and 1999 UK CD compilations – but Tony Rounce (who compiled the CD) quite rightly surmises that they bear all the hallmarks of Porter-Williams penmanship.

Putting my hand on my heart – and as a true lover of all things Stax (check out my painstaking review of Stax Singles Volume 2) – this is one of those albums that should be great but in some parts simply refuses to fly. His side-long "Hang On Sloopy" may have seemed like the height of cool in late 1970 – nowadays it’s talking verses and street hipness seem forced and drag out a groove that would have been better on something else. "Ooo-Wee Baby" is a classic Soulful ballad with backing vocals from The Precious People who turn out to be a trio of Detroit Ladies - Joyce and Pam Vincent and their friend Telma Hopkins.

The Side 2 opener is "Too Real To Live A Lie" goes into more talking Bobby Womack territory – but much better is the piano-funky "Grocery Man" used as a B-side to "Hang On Sloopy" in many European countries ("...fellas used to call me the Sock-It-To-Me man..."). Brass gives "Thirty Days" a cool groove too. The three bonus tracks actually lift the proceedings considerably even if they sound more 1974 than 1970. All three are upbeat funky and far better than they had any divine right to be – especially the 6:27 minutes of "Come Get From Me (Parts 1 & 2)" which feels like a randy Marvin Gaye searching for his inner James Brown. The backing singers are from the Isaac Hayes Movement crew – a trio he not surprisingly called Hot, Buttered and Soul – Pat and Diane Lewis with Rose Williams. 

Porter did two further albums on Stax's Enterprise Records in the USA - "Victim Of A Joke?" (October 1971 on Enterprise ENS 1019) and "Sweat And Love" (December 1973 on Enterprise ENS 1026) - both will undoubtedly surface on CD in the next few years...

"Into A Real Thing" is a Stax Records vinyl album I've seen maybe twice in my life – so its Expanded UK reissue by Ace on CD in 2015 is welcome and especially in this stunning sound quality...

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