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Monday, 8 January 2018

Remembering The Music of James Carr (13th June 1942 - 7th January 2001)

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary since the passing of one of the best soul voices ever. James Carr was a troubled man who struggled most of his days with drugs, drink, manic depression and bipolar, which of course made him very unstable alongside the pressures of recording and touring. He eventually left this world after a long fight with Lung Cancer in 2001 aged 58.

Stax Records had passed on him (obviously thinking that he was too similar to the voice they already had with Mr Otis Redding) and he ended up on Goldwax Records (a label set up by Doc Russell and Quinton Claunch in 1964) - a label that specialised in Southern Soul and Gospel Music.

There's loads of links down below so click on them to listen to more music from James Carr and for information regarding his life.

Prior to his first hit single, You've Got My Mind Messed Up/That's What I Want To Know (February 1966: R&B #7, Pop #63), James had released three singles also on Goldwax that set out his stall despite not gaining any major attention: Only Fools Run Away/You Don't Want Me (October 1964), I Can't Make It/Lover's Competition (February 1965) and She's Better Than You/ Talk Talk (September 1965).

Other minor hits followed on both the R&B Chart and the Pop Chart: Love Attack/Coming Back To My Baby (June 1966: R&B #21, Pop #99), Pouring Water On A Drowning Man/Forgetting You (September 1966: R&B #23, Pop #85), The Dark End of the Street/Lovable Girl (December 1966: R&B #10, Pop #77), Let It Happen/A Losing Game (May 1967: R&B #30, Pop #106), I'm A Fool For You/Gonna Send You Back To Georgia (August 1967: R&B #42, Pop #97), A Man Needs A Woman/Stronger Than Love (December 1967: R&B #16, Pop #63), Life Turned Her That Way/A Message To Young Lovers (July 1968: Pop #112), Freedom Train/That's The Way Love Turned Out For Me (October 1968: R&B #39), To Love Somebody/ These Ain't Raindrops (March 1969: R&B #44).

Ace Records and Kent Records have done a great job in keeping his music alive and last year Kent released a brand new Best of compilation which I have included below along with his 1967 Debut Album.

The song for which James Carr is most readily acquainted is of course The Dark End of the Street written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman. Whilst not his biggest hit of all his singles it has certainly been the most enduring of his rather short career. 

The song was written by Penn and Moman during a break from playing cards whilst at a DJ Convention in Memphis. Goldwax founder Quinton Claunch allowed the pair use of his hotel room with the stipulation that the song that they wrote would be given to James Carr to record. The song was written in about 30 minutes and the writers kept their word and James Carr was the first one to record the song. It has been covered by many folks down through the years but the James Carr version is by far the best version of it (in my thinking at least).

In 1991 Carr made a return to recording with the album Take Me To The Limit(ACE). He toured and played various festivals even around Europe during this time and then released his final album in 1993 with Soul Survivor (ACE). By the mid-1990's he was diagnosed with Lung Cancer and passed away in 2001 at a Memphis nursing home.

I still regard him as right up there with Otis Redding (and maybe just a notch above) as one of the greatest Soul Singers that we have ever had the pleasure of listening  to. I hope this post today gives you just a sense of the absolute wonder of his voice and the quality of some of those songs he bestowed upon us.

The Best of James Carr - James Carr
Kent Records
Released November 2017

The Vinyl version of the album has only 12 tracks whilst the CD version has 20, Your Love Made A U-Turn is missing off the Playlist as I couldn't find it on You Tube.

The Debut Album

You Got My Mind Messed Up - James Carr
Goldwax Records
Released 1967

Further Reading:
James Carr Way Out On A Voyage by Robert Gordon (1992).
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