Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday's Twosome # 2+3

Every Jill Has Her Jack ...

Speaking so much of The Staples lately and pondering which duets to chose for today's post left me, really, no choice but to take the marvelous Stax 2-LP album »Boy Meets Girl« from the shelf. In the second half of the '60s, mixed duets were high on the agenda of record producers. Motown's Marvin Gaye was paired up with three female artists, and Stax climbed the charts with Otis & Carla. After Otis's tragic death, Stax joined Judy Clay and William Bell (while Atlantic had Judy out together with Billy Vera). But in 1969, Stax produced what is, arguably, the ultimate duet experience on vinyl, viz. the above-mentioned double album »Boy Meets Girl«.

We have 22 songs here and 7 artists, 4 male and 3 female. One song, the opener of the first LP, is sung by all, the remaining 21 are mixed duets. We have 10 different combinations, one of these 4 times, two of them 3 times, four of them 2 times and three duets just once. Two female artists (Mavis & Carla) are present in 10 duets, one (Cleotha) in only 1, whereas among the males we find the first (William Bell) doing 9 duets, the second (Eddie Floyd) 6 duets, the third (Johnnie Taylor) 4 duets and the fourth (Pervis Staples) 2 duets. Only one of the male artists (Pervis) has only one female duet partner (Carla), while Cleotha has but one song and thus is easy to calculate. Mavis and Carla are present with the same number of duets (10), but Carla has one more partner (Pervis) while Mavis has more duets than Carla with the same partner (William Bell). Eddie Floyd is the only one among the male artists to sing with all three female artists. I guess some mathematically minded and mechan- ically gifted geek could construct a nice Rubik's Cube from that. I, who am neither so minded nor gifted, have to do with the music.

Stax STS 2-2024 front cover
Robert Christgau wrote a critical appreciation of this album (and by so doing also spoke about the role of duets in late '60s black music in general), read it here (a review orig. publ. in the NYT, June 22, 1969). I do not agree with everything he says, but he's certainly right in assuming that Stax was looking for a new duet to repeat the success of the Otis & Carla formula: »Somewhere among the permutations there's just gotta be another Otis & Carla.« He then concludes that there wasn't. A look at the chart success and the sales figures for this album seem to confirm Christgau's view: The album, released in July '69, stayed for some weeks in the lower 40s of the 50 Top r&b LPs charts; of course, being a two-record package it was a costly item and I don't know whether Stax possibly sold it at the price of one LP. However, five singles were released from this album and none did chart.

I personally find that this LPs offer many a remarkable song. And there is the additional advantage that you can hear many different voices in different combinations, making the two LPs sort of a vocal lab. Below, you can hear Mavis Staples & Johnnie Taylor with »That's The Way Love Is« (never released on 45). Mavis has just one duet with Johnnie on this album and I somehow feel that they should have done more. And their voices are mixed not only much up-front (in contrast to several other pieces on this album) but also into different channels. Second duet is Cleotha Staples & Eddie Floyd with »It's Too Late«. I have to admit that this tune is not up my alley, nor is the arrangement. But, hey, there are so few recordings of Cleotha singing a prominent part so I just thought I'd owe her that for all what she did with the Staple Singers. But it's not only that: she really got a beautiful, almost lyrical voice. You kind of feel, though, that she's not used to sing »on her own«, as it were, and she seems to hold back a lot, shyly, giving her vocal performance too little force and ... confidence? behind it (especially if contrasted with Eddie's professional and self secure performance). And she's more at home in the higher registers, but still. Was I being unjust? Listen for yourself:

Mavis Staples & Johnnie Taylor: »That's The Way Love Is« (from STS 2-2024A, 1969) /
Cleotha Staples & Eddie Floyd: »It's Too Late« (from STS 2-2024B, 1969):

This Stax 2-LP album was never re-issued on CD in its original form. Several songs are contained on a 2009 compilation entitled »Boy Meets Girl: Classic Soul Duets«. Mavis & Johnnie's duet »That's The Way Love Is« is added as bonus track on the 1993 CD re-issue of Mavis Staples's first two Stax albums »Only For The Lonely« (CD # STA 88012).
     On a CD review page, I found the following quote from Mavis Staples:
»Man, that was a looong time ago«, Mavis laughed. »'Boy Meets Girl' was an album compiled of all of the female and the male Stax people. I don't recall much of it, but I do remember singing with William Bell, because they played the song we did, 'Strung Out', quite a bit on the radio.«
* * * 
Tracklist of the original 2-LP album (songs marked with (*)asterisks were released as Stax 45s at the time):

LP 1 (STS 2-2024A)
A1 Staples, Carla Thomas, William Bell, Eddie Floyd: Soul-A-Lujah  (*)
A2 Mavis Staples & William Bell: I Ain't Particular 
A3 Carla Thomas & Johnnie Taylor: Just Keep On Loving Me 
A4 Mavis Staples & Eddie Floyd: Ain't That Good 
A5 Carla Thomas & William Bell: I Can't Stop 
A6 Mavis Staples & William Bell: I Thank You 
B1 Mavis Staples & William Bell: Love's Sweet Sensation 
B2 Carla Thomas & William Bell: I Need You Woman 
B3 Mavis Staples & Eddie Floyd: Never, Never Let You Go 
B4 Mavis Staples & William Bell: Hold On This Time 
B5 Mavis Staples & Johnnie Taylor: That's The Way Love Is 

LP 2 (STS 2-2024B)
A1 Carla Thomas & Eddie Floyd: It's Our Time 
A2 Carla Thomas & Pervis Staples: It's Unbelievable (How You Control My Soul) 
A3 Mavis Staples & Eddie Floyd: Piece Of My Heart 
A4 Mavis Staples & William Bell: Leave The Girl Alone 
A5 Carla Thomas & Pervis Staples: I'm Trying 
A6 Carla Thomas & Eddie Floyd: Don't Make Me A Storyteller 
B1 Mavis Staples & William Bell: Strung Out 
B2 Carla Thomas & Johnnie Taylor: My Life 
B3 Cleotha Staples & Eddie Floyd: It's Too Late 
B4 Carla Thomas & Johnnie Taylor: I've Just Been Feeling Bad 
B5 Carla Thomas & William Bell: All I Have To Do Is Dream 

POSTSCRIPT 26th February 2013

Today, I received the following sad notice:
Cleotha »Cleedi« Staples has passed away at the age of 78 in her Chicago home on the morning of February 21, 2013. God rest her soul.


  1. Why have I never heard of this album? Are these rips from vinyl or has it been re-issued?


  2. uh, yes, the above songs are ripped from the original vinyl (all tunes posted in this blog are, except in very rare cases where noted otherwise; I got a nice NM promo copy of the above Stax album, see label scan). You are right, this 2LP album doesn't seem to be widely known. It was, to my knowledge, never re-issued on CD in its complete form (see also the compilation info at the end of this page: http://hem.bredband.net/funkyflyy/mavis/staples.html). There has been a 2009 CD issue of 18 tracks entitled "Boy Meets Girl: Classic Soul Duets" (CD STX31666) (see here: http://www.soultracks.com/story-boy-meets-girl) which, however, doesn't contain all the songs of STS 2-2024 (it does contain Cleotha's duet but not Mavis & Johnnie's "That's The Way Love Is"). What is more this CD features several songs that weren't actually on the album, so it's one of those phoney CDs that by their title pretend to be re-issues of former vinyl pressings but in reality aren't. Hope this helps! Thanks for looking over here. I dig your blog!