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Music Review: Three New Stax Remasters – The Dramatics, Shirley Brown, and Rufus Thomas

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Continuing their Stax Remasters series, Concord Music Group offers up three lost classics by The Dramatics, Shirley Brown, and Rufus Thomas. Each album has received 24-bit remastering, newly written liner notes, and bonus tracks.

The Dramatics – Watcha See is Whatcha Get

The Dramatics were a soul group from Detroit who recorded singles throughout the latter half of the 1960s. They didn’t have extraordinary success, however, until Watcha See is Whatcha Get, their hit debut album released in 1971. Reaching the top twenty on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart (and top five on the R&B chart), it makes perfect sense that Concord has reissued this release. The album spawned two smash hit singles, the biggest being the ultra-slow jam “In the Rain,” which hit the top five on Billboard’s Hot 100 and number one on the R&B chart. The title track gave the group another Billboard top ten hit.

The album is augmented by no less than ten bonus tracks, most of them recorded in 1972. Not merely leftovers, some of these bonus cuts were minor hits. The delicate ballad “Fell for You” climbed to number 12 on the R&B chart in 1973. “Hey You! Get Off My Mountain,” an epic mid-tempo ballad featuring a winning combination of growling tenor and sweet falsetto vocals, nearly scraped into the top 40 the same year.

Shirley Brown – Woman To Woman

Shirley Brown’s 1974 debut Woman To Woman has also been treated to an expanded reissue. Brown’s soulful voice has been compared favorably to Aretha Franklin, and her searing vocals is the album’s key asset. The title track was a major hit, selling over one million copies and reaching number one on Billboard’s R&B chart (twenty-two on Billboard’s Hot 100). “Woman To Woman” isn’t the only reason to listen to the album, however. “Long As You Love Me” bounces along on a reggae-inflected groove. Lead-off track “It Ain’t No Fun” boasts arguably the album’s most impassioned vocal.

Of the five bonus tracks, three are seeing their first official U.S. release. Underlining the Aretha influence, Brown offers her versions of “Respect” and “Rock Steady.” The former is tepid while the latter manages to work up a pretty good head of steam. Her previously unreleased take on Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” treats the tune as a ballad during its extended intro. Clocking in at seven minutes, the pace picks up to a low-intensity simmer for a satisfying disc closer.

Rufus Thomas – Do the Funky Chicken

For pure feel-good fun, it’s hard to beat Rufus Thomas’ 1970 Do the Funky Chicken. The title track was one of his biggest, best known hit singles. Some of these tracks might initially seem like novelty songs, but the playing and singing is so funky they can’t simply be written off as such. It doesn’t get any better on this album than the bluesy stomper “Sixty Minute Man,” a minor hit on the R&B chart. The album also includes Thomas’ cover of his own ‘50s hit, “Bear Cat,” a rewrite of Leiber and Stoller’s “Hound Dog.” And again managing to skirt novelty, he devotes not just one but two tracks to “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” Delivered with a straight face, they are some of the most joyously funky tunes on Do the Funky Chicken.

Eight previously released bonus tracks are included, all irresistibly jovial R&B grooves. Tracks 12 through 15 feature the backing of Booker T. & the MGs. One of the best, “Funky Way,” also includes an appearance by Isaac Hayes on organ. Speaking of Hayes, his “Itch and Scratch” parts one and two are here as well. The drummer is not credited, but whoever it is sure can groove. The reissue ends with parts one and two of Thomas’ own “Boogie Ain’t Nuttin’ (But Getting’ Down),” another minor R&B hit in 1974.

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About The Other Chad

Hi, I'm Chaz Lipp. An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."