In early 1967 Rick Hall’s Fame set-up was missing a vital ingredient. Despite all the success he had achieved as a producer, studio-owner, publisher and record label boss, he had yet to sign an enduring artist. That was about to change. The previous year a duo who recorded as Clarence & Calvin hired the studio to cut a self-financed single. They had been working together for five years and had just left a deal with Houston-based Duke Records. As he watched them, Hall thought he had found his stars and urged them to come back and sign with him. When the day came, only Clarence Carter appeared. At first, Hall was dismissive of the singer’s pleas to be signed as a solo act but eventually relented and gave him a go.
When Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown walked into the studio in the early '80s to record Alright Again!, he had already had an illustrious career by most standards. Yet, much of Gate's best output had been behind him by more than two decades; with Alright Again!, he set out to prove he was still a relevant artist. The album won Brown a Grammy, and its follow-up, One More Mile, was a Grammy-nominated record as well. Texas Swing combines the two records, culling 17 tracks from the sessions…..
Before Gate was able to rebuild a following stateside, he frequently toured Europe. He recorded the contents of this inexorably swinging set in France in 1973 with all-star backing by keyboardists Milt Buckner and Jay McShann, saxists Arnett Cobb and Hal Singer, among others…..
Though not one of the best known of the modern Texas blues guitarists, Clarence Green is regarded by his peers as one of the best. Green (not to be confused with the late Clarence "Candy" Green, a Texas blues pianist) did session work for Duke Records in the '60s with Junior Parker, Bobby Bland, and others, and performed with stars from Fats Domino to Johnny Nash. His own recordings have mostly been for small Houston labels. As Marcel Vos from Double Trouble Records wrote, "The Clarence Green of today plays a brand of Texas blues that is mixed with soul, jazz, and funk, not unlike the music of fellow Texans such as Roy Gaines, Cornell Dupree, and of course, his brother Cal Green."
The music on Among Friends was actually performed at San Francisco's Keystone Korner during a recorded engagement by the Bobby Hutcherson sextet. Pianist Cedar Walton opened each set with a few numbers and he was playing so well that in 1990 Evidence decided to release his material as a separate CD. Walton performs three songs ("Ruby My Dear," "My Old Flame" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face") solo, interprets four other pieces (three standards plus his own "Midnight Waltz"), in a trio with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Higgins, and Hutcherson himself makes the group a quartet on "My Foolish Heart." Excellent hard bop-based music from the talented pianist.
As compilations go this is up there with the best. 28 tracks of the Beach Boys at the top of their form (or close to the top, anyway). And at the price this is great value. It's easy to forget just how important the Beach Boys were to the progression of popular music in the 1960s. Brian Wilson used to watch what the Beatles were doing and try to match them on the artistic level. The Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' was born of this rivalry and Paul McCartney regarded it as one of the greatest popular-music albums ever made. It spurred the Beatles to complete 'Revolver' and then make 'Sgt Pepper'. Brian Wilson was the Beach Boys' creative genius and when he broke down they lost their leadership position. However they left a huge repertoire of major hits, many of which are captured on this compilation. Some of the most finely crafted pop-music recordings ever made are here. Pete Doggett has written a paragraph in the accompanying booklet giving a little background to each of the tracks, which makes for interesting reading.