Tuesday, 1 March 2016

"Swamp Music: The Complete Monument Recordings" by TONY JOE WHITE (September 2006 Rhino Handmade 4CD Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

“…Funky Fingers…”

Features the album "Tony Joe" from 1970

Born in 1943 Louisiana as the seventh son (literally) in the White Family and reared on a weekly diet of Gospel and Church music – one fateful day Daddy White brought home a Lightnin’ Hopkins album and the young Tony Joe was solid gone. Cut to the Union Chapel in Islington, London in 2014 and that young boy now walks on stage with an electric guitar and a voice that rattles a church to its core as he simply says - “Evening y’all!” Minutes later as he launches into his one-man Soul Francisco vibe – his loud boogie feels like the beginning of JJ Cale morphing into a one-man ZZ Top. The effect as you can imagine is quite awesome… But then amongst certain circles (especially within the industry) – Tony Joe White has always been a little bit special in the Mojo stakes…

“Swamp Music: The Complete Monument Recordings” was put out Stateside in September 2006 by Rhino Handmade on RHM2 7731 (Barcode 603497773121) and across 4 CDs and 83 tracks - offers three full albums, the A&B’s of 10 x US 7” singles (many non-album) and a whopping 41 Previously Unreleased. There are a lot of details to get through - so here are the dangerously well endowed Sheriff’s Daughters and Dusty Marshmallows…

Disc 1 (75:37 minutes):
1. Willie And Laura Mae Jones
2. Soul Francisco
3. Aspen Colorado
4. Whompt Out On You
5. Don’t Steal My Love
6. Pork Salad Annie
7. Who’s Making Love [Side 2]
8. Scratch My Back
9. Little Green Apples
10. Wichita Lineman
11. The Look Of Love
Tracks 1 to 11 are his debut album “Black And White” released 1969 in the USA on Monument Records SLP 18114 (Stereo) and Monument LMO 5027 (Mono) and SMO 5027 (Stereo) – Stereo Mix Used

12. Willie And Laura Mae Jones (Alternate Version)
13. I Protest
14. A Man Can Only Stand Just So Much Pain (13 and 14 are the A&B-sides of a 1969 US 7” single on Monument 1070)
15. Toil & Trouble (Early Version)
16. Georgia Pines (A-side of his 1968 debut USA 7” single on Monument 1003, Produced by Ray Stevens)
17. It’s Not What You Got
18. Prison Song
19. Hung up On You
20. Ten More Miles To Louisiana (B-side to “Georgia Pines”, see 16)
21. Let The Party Roll On
22. Watching The Trains Go By (Alternate Version)
23. Georgia Pines (Alternate Version)
24. Baby Please Don’t Go
Tracks 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23 and 24 are Previously Unreleased

Disc 2 (78:30 minutes):
1. Elements And Things
2. Roosevelt And Ira Lee (Night Of The Mossacin)
3. Woodpecker
4. Rainy Night In Georgia
5. For Le Ann
6. Old Man Willis [Side 2]
7. Woman With Soul
8. I Want You
9. I Thought I Knew You Well
10. The Migrant
Tracks 1 to 9 are his 2nd LP “…Continued” – released 1969 in the USA on Monument SLP-18133 (Stereo) and in the UK on Monument LMO 5035 (Mono) and SMO 5035 (Stereo) – Stereo Mix Used

11. Watching The Trains Go By (Single Version)
12. Old Man Willis (Single Version) (11 and 12 are the A&B-sides of a 1968 USA 7” single on Monument MN45-1053
13. Funky Fingers
14. Soul Britches
15. Dusty Marshmallow
16. Toil & Trouble
17. What Does It Take
18. This Guy’s In Love With You
19. Woodpecker (Alternate Version)
20. Laying Out All Night
21. I Want Your Sweet Love
22. Keep A Movin’ Train
Tracks 13 to 22 inclusive are Previously Unreleased

Disc 3 (73:30 minutes)
1. Stud Spider
2. High Sheriff Of Calhoun Parrish
3. Widow Wimberly
4. Conjure Woman
5. Save Your Sugar For Me
6. Hard To Handle [Side 2]
7. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)
8. My Friend
9. Stockholm Blues
10. Boom Boom
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 3rd album “Tony Joe” released 1970 in the USA on Monument SLP-18142 and in the UK on Monument SMO 5043

11. Groupy Girl (B-side of the 1970 USA 7” single “High Sheriff” on Monument MN-45-1193
12. Prisoner
13. Do You Want My Love
14. Gospel Singer
15. I Hate To See You Cry
16. Dusty Marshmallow
17. I Can’t Stand It
18. Mississippi River
Tracks 12 to 18 are all Previously Unreleased

Disc 4 (76:30 minutes):
1. Mississippi Delta
2. Chain Of Fools
3. Woodpecker
4. The Ballad Of Hollis Brown
5. Blue Monday
6. Tobacco Road/Dead End Street
7. Caress Me Babe?
8. Dusty Marshmallow
9. Just Look At You
10. Skinny Legs And All
Tracks 1 to 10 recorded at Barclay Studios March 1969 – all Previously Unreleased
11. Boom Boom (Live)
12. Roosevelt And Ira Lee (Night Of The Mossacin) (Live)
13. I Want You (Live)
14. Groupy Girl (Live)
15. Stud Spider (Live)
16. Pork Salad Annie (Live)
17. Save Your Sugar For Me (Live)
Tracks 11 to 17 recorded live at the Isle of Wight Festival 28 August 1970

This Box set will allow fans to sequence all of the following American singles:

US 7” SINGLES Discography:
1. Georgia Pines b/w Ten More Miles To Louisiana, 1967 on Monument MN 45 1003
2. Willie And Laura Mae Jones b/w Scratch My Back, 1968 on Monument MN45-1036
3. Watching The Trains Go By b/w Old Man Willis, 1968 on Monument MN45-1053
4. I Protest b/w A Man Can Only Stand Just So Much Pain, 1968 on Monument MN45-1070
5. Soul Francisco b/w Whompt Out On You, 1968 on Monument MN 45-1086
6. Pork Salad Annie b/w Aspen Colorado, 1968 on Monument MN45-1104
7. Roosevelt And Ira Lee (Night Of The Mossacin) b/w The Migrant, 1969 on Monument MN45-1169
8. High Sheriff b/w Groupy Girl, 1970 on Monument MN 45-1193
9. Save Your Sugar For Me b/w My Friend, 1970 on Monument MN45-1206
10. Old Man Willis b/w Scratch My Back, 1970 on Monument MN-45 1227

Compiled by BILL INGLOT and MASON WILLIAMS with Tape Research and Mastering done by BILL INGLOT and DAN HERSCH – the mini box set features a flip-back lid with 4 repro sleeves and a booklet contained within. The quality of the oversized card sleeves is superb with most of the rear liner notes and credits perfectly readable (even on the hard-to-read rear sleeve of the “Tony Joe album). The sepia-feel 36-page booklet is numbered on the rear page to 5000 and features detailed liner notes by BEN EDMONDS and interviews with Tony Joe White, Friend and Musical Advisor Bob Beckham and Producer Billy Swan. Interspersed between the dense texts are full-page shots of several Monument 7” singles (some demos) and comprehensive reissue details at the rear. The remasters are fantastic – bringing out that deeply funky groove and far better than what I had before.

His debut has huge fan craves like “Soul Francisco” (“some of those children got something to say…”) and the equally cool “Pork Salad Annie”. The realistic “Willie And Laura Mae Jones” proved just too gritty for US radio. The tail end of three covers is the album’s undoing though – saccharine versions of “Little Green Apples” where you can feel his Soul wincing. Far better is his “right there!” cover of Slim Harpo’s “Scratch My Back” and amongst the previously unreleased are great discoveries like “Prison Song” (“breaking up rocks in the hot, hot sun…”).

Produced by Billy Swan (who would later have huge hits of his own on Monument Records in the mid Seventies) – the “…Continued” album did what it said on the tin – more Swamp Music tales of strange families (“Roosevelt And Ira Lee (Night of The Mossacin)”, leery moonshiners (“Old Man Willis”) and perplexing ladies “(I Thought I Knew You Well”). Another nuggets include “I Want You” - a fantastic groove with chugging guitar and Mike Utley putting in some funky organ. But it’s strange now from the distance of 2014 to think that one of his most famous songs “Rainy Night in Georgia” never made it onto a US or UK 7” single. Both Brook Benton and Eddie Floyd did fabulously soulful versions of it in 1970 while Randy Crawford would make it a worldwide hit in 1981 (and probably paid a few TJW bills in the meantime). Fans of that ‘groove’ are gonna die for the double-whammy of “Funky Fingers” and “Soul Britches” amongst the previously unreleased tunes – cool groovers with fabulous brass and organ backing. And as they play you can just see nattily dressed go-go dancers giving it some serious hip swivelling in some hip 6T’s nightclub. Yeah baby…

Amongst its ten tracks the 3rd album “Tony Joe” harbours six originals and four superbly chosen covers – Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle”, Jr. Walker & The All Stars “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)”, John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” and a new one from Donnie Fritts and Dewey Oldham called “My Friend”. Like Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and Eddie Hinton - Alabama-born white soul boy Donnie Fritts has been an underground hero for over 40 years – he would in fact record his own version of “My Friend” on the “Prone To Lean” album on Atlantic Records in 1974.

For fans Disc 4 is a total treat – the studio tracks are basically him playing funky solo renditions of songs he likes in his own inimitable way – Bobby Gentry’s “Mississippi Delta”, Don Covay’s “Chain Of Fools”, a jagged “Ballad Of Hollis Brown” by Dylan and Joe Tex’s “Skinny Legs And All”. But best for me are TJW originals called “Blue Monday” and “Caress Me babe?” where he gets closest to his slyly sexy Lightnin’ Hopkins roots. The “Isle Of Wight” stuff is live and rough but you can hear the crowd grooving to his passionate Swamp Funk on “I Want You” where he goes at with bravado. And with his Fogerty growls and Harmonica on “Stud Spider” - he sounds like a funked-up Dylan determined to shock his audience.

I’ve long been of the reasoning that J.J. Cale nicked it from Tony Joe, Clapton nicked it from Cale and Mark Knopfler nicked it from all three for his Dire Straits debut. Tina Turner would take his “Steamy Windows” and make another worldwide hit too. Whatever way you look at it – this is a fabulous (if not illusive) box set. If only Rhino Handmade would do the same for his fabulous Warners Brothers albums that quickly followed his termination with Monument Records.

In the meantime “Swamp Music” is the very best of starting points and a cool way to sample why so many followed/half-inched Tony Joe White's Crocodile shoes…

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 250 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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