Thursday, October 25, 2012

The late Joe South

I meant to write something in my blog when I saw Joe South had passed on last month.   Probably the most fitting thing I could do would be to review one of his album ...  Ironically I'd purchased this one a week before he died.

With Joe South having scored a string of late-1969s and early-1970s radio hits, it was only natural that record labels would jump at the opportunity to latch on to his sudden popularity.  MGM's Mine subsidiary was one of the labels willing to cash-in on South, releasing 1971's "The Joe South Story".  As far as I can tell, the majority of these ten tracks were early-to-mid-1960s numbers performed by South and the Believers.  The limited liner notes were of little help, but the track listing seemingly included a smattering of previously released singles ('Masquerade' and 'Deep Inside Me'), and unreleased tracks.  Showcasing a mixture of South originals and a couple of covers, most of the songs had a dated '60s feel that may limit their appeal to some folks, but at least to my ears, quite a few of these were enjoyable, with 'Deep Inside Me' serving as a nice taste of the sound that would turn South (at least briefly) into a major star.  

- Built on a catchy fuzz guitar riff, 'So Fine' wasn't the most sophisticated song you've every heard (about 90% of the lyric was the title repeated time after time), but it had one of those incideous melodies that drilled its way into your head and simply wouldn't leave.   rating: *** stars
- 'Silly Little Girl ' was even more commercial (in a1965 sense of the word). An up tempo pop-rocker, it had another catchy riff that you were liable to find yourself humming when least expected.  It would have made a great television commercial soundtrack.   rating: *** stars
- Judging by the sound, I'm guessing ' Will the Real You Pease Stand Up' was an early-'60s track.  The song sounded like it was trying to set some sort of land speed record with South literally flying through the track.  Not sure what the story was with the background singers - they sounded like they'd just taken whippet hits.  rating: *** stars
- A pretty, Roy Orbison-styled ballad, I know that 'Masquerade' was released as a 1962 UK single ('Masquerade' b/w 'I'm Sorry for You I'm Sorry for You' (Oriole catalog number CB 1752).  With a distinctive Mexican flavor, the song's highlights came in the form of the killer acoustic guitars.   rating: *** stars
- Released on the small Apt label, 'Deep Inside Me' was a 1965 US single ('Deep Inside Me' b/w 'I Gotta To Be Somebody' (Apt catalog number 25083).   Starting out as a bland ballad, the track actually got better when the title track chorus kicked in.  Musically this one was a nice precursor to the updated sound that would earn South major sales in a couple of years.  Always loved the funky percussion sounds on this one.   rating: *** stars
- The first outright disappointment, 'I Gotta Be Somebody' was a touch too sentimental for my tastes ...  coupled with the fact it didn't have much in the way of a melody .  rating: ** stars
- Released in 1961, South's cover of Bobby Edwards 'You're the Reason' provided him with his first radio success (# 16 country and # 87 pop).  The vocal sounds nothing like South's subsequent work - hard to believe it's the same guy.   The 'smoke cigarettes, drink coffee too' lyric makes me laugh every time I hear it.   rating: ** stars
- It was easy to see why ' I'm Sorry For You' had been relegated to the flip side of 1962's 'Masquerade'.  Very white-bread, MOR tune.   rating: ** stars- 'Hiding Place' was another tune with a mid-60s flavor, but had a couple of interesting things going for it - a tasty fuzz guitar solo and some super strange background percussion ...    rating: *** stars
- My pick for standout performance, 'Let the Party Roll On' had a wonderful Motown-inspired feel.  With a great, dance ready melody and beat, the only problem with this one was that it faded out way too early.  Should have been South's first massive hit.   rating: **** stars 

Certainly a niche release, but anyone who appreciates the late Joe South (he died of a heart attack in September 2012), will be interested in hearing these performances.  

For hardcore fans, the Jay Boy label released the album in the UK with the same track listing, but different cover art (Jay Boy catalog number JSX2006).  

"The Joe South Story" track listing:

(side 1) 
1.) So Fine   (J. Gribble) 
2.) Silly Little Girl   (Joe South) -  
3.) Will the Real You Pease Stand Up   (Joe South) -  
4.) Masquerade   (Joe South) -  
5.) Deep Inside Me   (Joe South) -    

(side 2)
1.) I Gotta Be Somebody   (Joe South) -
1.) I Gotta Be Somebody   (Joe South) - 

2.) You're the Reason   (Bobby Edwards) - 
3.) I'm Sorry For You   (Joe South) - 
4.) Hiding Place   (Joe South) - 
5.) Let the Party Roll On   (Joe South) -

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