Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vocal Muscle

Margie Joseph's earliest recordings were done at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 1967 and resulted in two OKeh 45s, out in December 1967 and in May 1968. They didn't chart but made enough noise to earn passing mention in Billboard. Later, after she had been picked up by Stax in 1969, she returned to Muscle Shoals in 1970 for another four songs which then found their way unto her first LP (Volt LP # 6012, 01/1971). And although her Muscle Shoals output was limited (and actually ended with her 1970 session), her name remained bound up with the »Muscle Shoals Sound Story«. This is attested, curiously, by an ad from September 1970 where Margie's name appears in the flattering company of the Rolling Stones, Sam & Dave, Solomon Burke, Mavis Staples, Odetta, Joe Tex, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and many others (see ad below). This ad was placed months before her first Volt LP was released.

Now, I never lost any sleep about why Margie's second LP was called Phase II, being her second LP and all. What I have never grasped so far is the pun or message, if there is any, of why her very first LP was entitled ... Makes A New Impression (for a pic of the cover, see yesterday's post). In any case, it seems that the LP was either at first (or alternatively as an afterthought) destined to be called Meet Margie Joseph, which apart from the nice initial alliteration would make some good sense for an artist's premiere album. However, only the labels show Meet Margie Joseph, while the sleeve has Makes A New Impression. So we are left to guess whether sleeve or labels were printed first (and, depending on this, whether Meet Margie Joseph was the original title or not; I guess it was).

Stax/Volt ad from Billboard, Jan 30, 1971
Not that it really matters, because she does make a pretty solid impression in any case. Andrew Hamilton called this first LP Margie's »most successful and aesthetically pleasing album« (AMG to Soul, p. 379). It famously contains the 10-minute monster track of »Stop! In The Name Of Love« preceded by a »Monologue: Women Talk«. It soon proved to be the LP's stand-out song, was quickly used for a Stax-Volt ad and finally released as a 45. I have to confess, it is not my kind of bag. And to the probable bewilderment of some among you, several other songs on this LP aren't my bag either. Basically all those which were recorded in the Memphis Stax Studios, with the exception of »Sweeter Tomor- row« (as heard on yesterday's post). Andrew Hamilton described the LP as being »a mixture of Stax and city slick R&B sounds«, but frankly, I would object that the Stax songs on this LP are the very epitome of everything I would call »city slick« ... and just about too slick for my modest taste at that.

Which leaves us, or me at least, with the tracks Margie Joseph recorded at Muscle Shoals. They are quite a contrast to the rest of the album. One of those, »Punish Me«, was released as a 45 (Volt # 4046) by Stax-Volt in September '70 in order to wax the floor for the coming album but it didn't succeed in doing so. (The result was that Margie's LP was then released without any hit single attached to it. The more astonishing that the album reached the Top Ten of Soul LPs and made it to #67 in the general Top LPs listing. But no, not astonishing; it's called quality. However, minds have been divided over this album.) Two other of the Muscle Shoals tracks are the songs I like most about this album. Dig them here:

Margie Joseph: »Same Thing« / »I'm Fed Up« from the Volt LP # 6012 (01/1971):

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From Billboard, Sept 26, 1970, p. 72

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