Carla Thomas – 1969 – Memphis Queen

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Rip and research by Mr.Moo Review  by Soulmakossa

Posting and adittional info’s by Nikos

Here’s a record that really takes its title seriously – as Memphis Queen features Carla Thomas working in a proud, bold mode that really inherits the crown of the scene she helped usher in during the 60s! The record’s got a deeper soul feel than previous work, yet still also uses some full orchestrations – making for a classed-up approach to southern soul that’s perfect for the growing vocal range of Carla’s talents – a style that really reached its pinnacle on this classic set. Don Davis produced, with that wonderful mix of smooth and rough he was using at the time.

Half recorded in Memphis with the usual stellar Stax crew and half recorded in New York with local session musicians (all overdubbed in Detroit), Memphis Queen finds Thomas and the Stax label in transition. Motown alumnus Don Davis handled production, draping many cuts in large, lush orchestral settings. “I Like What You’re Doing (To Me)” was a Top Ten R&B hit, and three other tracks had brief chart runs.

Tracks
A1
I Like What You’re Doing To Me 2.58
A2
I Play For Keeps 2.45
A3
Don’t Say No More 2.20
A4
More Man Than I Ever Had 2.46
A5
I’ve Fallen In Love With You 2.44
A6
He’s Beating Your Time 3.01
B1
Unyielding 2.47
B2
Strung Out 2.37
B3
How Can You Throw My Love Away 2.33
B4
Guide Me Well 4.16
B5
Precious Memories 2.40
B6
Where Do I Go 2.21

 

Reviewing Carla Thomas’ penultimate album ‘Memphis Queen’ is something of a fix… Detroit guitarist/producer Don Davis had pretty much taken over come 1969 and added a – in my opinion usually tasty – chunk of Detroit/Chicago-styled  gloss to the Southern Soul coming from Stax in Memphis.
Carla Thomas, for one, didn’t like the new working method. It’s unclear whether she disliked the aformentioned gloss, what IS known is that she resented having to overdub her vocals to ready-made musical backing tracks, usually recorded in Detroit or Muscle Shoals. She was used to singing and improvising with Booker T. & the M.G.’s, live, in the studio. According to Rob Bowman’s essential tome on Stax, Carla in fact dubbed Don Davis’ new approach as something decidedly ‘NOT Stax’.
This record here, however, isn’t terrible at all. It does miss the ‘open mic’, raw energy of her previous records, but in return, it offers twelve richly orchestrated, beautifully executed soul gems that retain the essence of Southern Soul.

Don Davis added quite a bit of mean, funky guitar licks of his own on this LP, most notably on the opener – and hit – “I Like What You’re Doing to Me”, where Carla shares the chorus with Stax writer Homer Banks. (“THAT”… she later testified, “is what made it soulful… Homer.”)

But there’s plenty of sweat inducing funk here: the incredible, tight jamming “More Man Than I Ever Had” mightily struts along and features a superbly infectious horn riff. “Unyielding” is menacing, dangerous… a dark, lurching groove fest smothered in wah wah guitars and dense layers of bass. Also, “Where Do I Go“, from the ‘Hair‘ musical, adds plenty of funky rock to the mix.

Nonetheless, it’s the ballads that take centre stage. Carla’s self-written “I’ve Fallen in Love With You” is gorgeous, beautifully sung and tastefully arranged with swirling strings. “Strung Out” is equally heavy on the violins, and features Carla in her most pleading bag. The swooping, swelling strings of “Precious Memories“, a delightful mid tempo jam, are pure ear candy as well.

It would be the very bluesy, downhome and super gritty “Guide Me Well“, however, that gave Thomas another hit single.

‘Memphis Queen’ is a great album; divinely orchestrated and still deeply rooted in the Memphis sound. Perhaps a little too glossy for some, and certainly nowhere near as gutsy and raw as her previous albums, it surely does belong in this list.

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24 Comments
  • Christopher
    Posted at 09:51h, 11 January 2013 Reply

    Superb, i still have this vinyl 🙂

  • Rose
    Posted at 09:54h, 11 January 2013 Reply

    Still incredible!

  • rich
    Posted at 21:30h, 11 January 2013 Reply

    gratzi for this album

  • Vero9
    Posted at 23:09h, 11 January 2013 Reply

    WoW! Really, Really, Impressed!

  • Louis
    Posted at 12:33h, 12 January 2013 Reply

    A Stax classic. thanks.

  • Adam Davie
    Posted at 18:00h, 12 January 2013 Reply

    Thanks for the record. Carla Thomas is awesome.

  • Pietri
    Posted at 14:28h, 13 January 2013 Reply

    Wonderful!

  • Zoao
    Posted at 09:54h, 14 January 2013 Reply

    thanks a million Mr.Moo! you always come with that heat. Much appreciation to you & Nikos.

  • Rodney
    Posted at 10:26h, 14 January 2013 Reply

    thx 4 this treasure.

  • LUGISOUL
    Posted at 19:38h, 14 January 2013 Reply

    Music is Life!

  • Gregory
    Posted at 10:42h, 15 January 2013 Reply

    Hail to the Memphis Queen!

  • Amelia
    Posted at 10:59h, 15 January 2013 Reply

    “She is incomparable”. This is what music used to be not today’s garbage.

  • Joba
    Posted at 20:55h, 15 January 2013 Reply

    i still have this vinyl 🙂

  • Mary-Anne
    Posted at 21:03h, 15 January 2013 Reply

    love all the old time tunes….. brings a lovely smile to my face 🙂

  • Michael
    Posted at 02:02h, 16 January 2013 Reply

    Great! Thank you! Anyone have (1966) Carla?

  • Raphy
    Posted at 05:51h, 16 January 2013 Reply

    She’s the original “Queen Of Soul”
    No apology!!!!!!!!

    Thanks MR. Moo

    Raphy
    Big Up!@!

  • Hamilton
    Posted at 21:39h, 16 January 2013 Reply

    Great great Singer indeed.

  • Opera2
    Posted at 21:58h, 16 January 2013 Reply

    oh my childhood memories… My father had that vinyl back in the 60’s.

  • URSam
    Posted at 10:55h, 17 January 2013 Reply

    Oh yes Memphis Queen. Thanks

  • Andres
    Posted at 10:24h, 29 January 2013 Reply

    Perfect Stax Album.

  • Kenny
    Posted at 10:33h, 05 February 2013 Reply

    Such a great one. Thank you.

  • Evan Wentz
    Posted at 02:34h, 29 March 2013 Reply

    Fantastic, thank you

  • Jan
    Posted at 22:37h, 29 March 2013 Reply

    She’s really a Queen. Thank you.

  • Brotherpete
    Posted at 18:50h, 10 May 2013 Reply

    big thanks !

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