Monday, July 09, 2007

An Unfair Assessment?

Sam & Dave - Knock It Out The Park

Sam & Dave had been "loaned" to Stax during their time with the label, so when Stax and Atlantic parted ways in 1968, Atlantic began to put out Sam & Dave records on its own imprint. Fortunately for the duo, Atlantic had enough unreleased Stax-recorded stuff in the vaults to continue the string of hits that had just included "I Thank You," and although the relationship of the two singers had become very strained (when they were offstage, they didn't speak to each other, which started when Dave shot his wife in the face in a quarrel), hits like "Soul Sister Brown Sugar" (featured on the new podcast) and "You Don't Know What You Mean To Me" kept their career rolling along for awhile. When the Stax material ran out, however, the group's fortunes went into sharp decline. Jerry Wexler took the group to Miami and let Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro produce them, but the magic the producers and the Dixie Flyers brought to a lot of Atlantic and affiliated productions at the time just wasn't there. (Wexler has interviewed that the Atlantic crew just couldn't capture the duo's style the way that Isaac Hayes and David Porter did at Stax.)

Generally, the latter Atlantic sides by the duo are considered, to quote Wexler himself, to be "shit ass records" that are a sad footnote to the group's dynamic career. I think that assessment is a bit unfair, because quite a few tunes, like today's selection and a great version of Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds' "Don't Pull Your Love" are very good recordings that just didn't "click" with the public. To be fair, the songwriting and production wasn't as strong on these tunes as it was on the classic Stax sides, but Sam & Dave at their worst is better than quite a few singers at their best! "Knock It Out The Park" finds the duo taking on the "love is like a baseball game" lyrics and trying to redeem them with their singing. There's a nice early-'70s funky groove going on here that is pretty attractive, and the duo make the most of it.

Despite a couple of minor chart records on Atlantic and a few subsequent comeback attempts (including a 1974 album produced by Steve Cropper), that was "it" for Sam & Dave as record artists, although the estranged singers would join forces a few more times for appearances and the like. Dave Prater was killed in a car accident in 1988, but Sam Moore has gone on to be an elder statesman of soul, making a star appearance in Only The Strong Survive, joining Conway Twitty on "Rainy Night In Georgia" from Rhythm, Country & Blues, releasing Plenty Good Lovin', a 1970 solo set that he had recorded for Atlantic with King Curtis producing that was shelved after Curtis' death in 1971, and recently releasing a duets album, Overnight Sensational, produced by "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson.

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