Clarence Carter – 1968 – This Is Clarence Carter
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A seminal debut from the great Clarence Carter – proof that there was still a lot of genius to be heard in southern soul at the time! The 60s were just about over when Clarence appeared on the recording scene – and it seemed that most of the big names in soul had already grabbed most of the thrones in the kingdom. Clarence was a real comer, though – and his sweet style of southern soul was immediately popular, filling a void promptly after the death of Otis Redding, and setting a bit more fire than some of the other Atlantic male singers, who were waning a bit at the time. Of course, it certainly helps that that lil’ ol’ genius Rick Hall was behind Clarence’s move – arranging and producing this album with some of the strongest, least cliched Muscle Shoals backings of the time.
A1 Do What You Gotta Do 2:30
A2 Looking for a Fox 2:15
A3 Slippin’ Around 2:30
A4 I’m Qualified 2:20
A5 I Can’t See Myself 2:25
A6 Wind It Up 2:34
B1 Part Time Love 2:37
B2 Thread the Needle 2:30
B3 Slip Away 2:30
B4 Funky Fever 2:45
B5 She Ain’t Gonna Do Right 2:27
B6 Set Me Free 3:04
Review by Soulmakossa
Clarence Carter, the Blues Man with the gutbucket chuckle, talented guitarist, tongue-in-cheek lyricist and purveyor of downhome soulful grooves, waxed his first solo album in ’68, recording most of it at the fabled FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, which became something of a home base during his Atlantic years.
‘This Is Clarence Carter’ opens on a brooding, low key note – not quite in sync with the carefree, humorous image of the big, blind soul belter. “Do What You Gotta Do“, written by Jim Webb, is a wonderful, melancholic mid tempo ballad, soaked in Barry Beckett’s keyboard and smothered in rich, wailing brass.
Together with FAME owner Rick Hall Clarence co-wrote the blazing soul opus “Looking for a Fox“, riding a relentless groove and featuring a hilarious spoken interlude. Chanking guitars, fatback drums, pounding bass and screaming horns… Soul heaven right here…
Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “Slippin’ Around” sports an unorthodox bossa nove-like beat, reminiscent of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say“, while Carter’s signature chuckle is heard the first time on the romping funk rocker “I’m Qualified“, sharing the same unique, infectious groove that was first explored on Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour“.
Poignant is the only word that suitably describes Clarence’s original “I Can’t See Myself“… aside the wry title, the track itself is beautifully sad, showing everyone that Carter was a more than apt balladeer.
But the man gets FUNKY here above all… as is proven with three dance oriented fingersnappin’ tracks; “Wind It Up“, featuring more funny adlibs and a fierce organ solo, the highly syncopated, teasing “Thread the Needle” and the smokin’, irresistible “Funky Fever” – all written by Carter himself.
Then there’s a truly overwhelming rendition of Clay Hammond’s “Part Time Love” – immortalized by such acts as Little Johnny Taylor – that opens with a greasy, nitty gritty guitar lick and climaxes in a funky stew of thumping drums and bass, slithering brass and Carter’s full-throttled pipes.
Naturally, “Slip Away” was the big hit and the record that kick started Carter’s career. And rightfully so; a delicious mid-tempo soul waxing carried by a catchy, scratching guitar pattern, subdued horns and Clarence’s massive voice. A gem.
“She Ain’t Gonna Do Right“, courtesy of the Oldham/Penn partnership, brings more Alabama country to the mix, with Beckett filling in a catchy, persistent organ riff on the chorus.
But the LP ends as it began: melancholic, introspective and somewhat moody. “Set Me Free” is a beautiful mid paced ballad, sporting another one of Carter’s passionate vocal deliveries, while backup singers add some mourning wails.
A giant of an album from a giant of the genre. And much more was to come.
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