Na het grote artistieke en commerciële succes van de eerste
verzameling van Dan Penn’s jaren zestig werk kon een vervolg gelukkig
niet uitblijven. Ondanks zijn beperkte output nam misschien wel de beste
blanke soulzanger ooit veel op, om als demo te dienen voor de zangers
die zijn klassieke composities later tot hits zouden zingen. Op twee na
zijn alle nummers op deze CD dan ook niet eerder uitgebracht, en, zonder
ook maar één uitzondering, van uitzonderlijke kwaliteit. Het is te
hopen dat de archieven nog niet uitgeput zijn.
One of the greatest songsmiths of his generation, featured on a second
helping of vintage soul and R&B goodies from the vaults of Fame
There have been few song salesmen as remarkable as Dan Penn was during
his apprenticeship at Fame in the mid-1960s. This was the era when music
publishing houses actively solicited their wares, hopeful a hit artist
would propel one of their copyrights into the charts. Most material was
circulated via bare-boned recordings performed by faceless session
players. Only occasionally might the hired vocalist stray from a
perfunctory rundown of the lyric and melody, or the accompanying combo
stretch beyond sight-reading from the chord sheet. Sometimes the
songwriter might feature on the demo, which normally counted for a more
lively interpretation. But rarely did they ever invest their heart and
soul the way that Dan Penn did at Fame, regularly spilling his blood on
recordings that were never intended for public consumption.
Penn paid his dues punishing his vocal cords in the early 60s as
frontman for Alabama frat-rats the Mark V, Nomads and Pallbearers.
Thanks to the magnanimity of Fame’s Rick Hall, along with a procession
of equally talented and complementary musical collaborators such as
Spooner Oldham, Donnie Fritts and Marlin Greene, the studio and the song
soon became Penn’s primary focus. It was precisely because he eschewed a
recording career, and the musical diplomacy that might require, that
Dan Penn gave it his all on this material.
As with our well-received previous compendium “The Fame Recordings”, the
selections on offer here have been carefully sifted from over a hundred
items Penn cut at Fame up to the autumn of 1966. The Penn/Oldham oeuvre
in particular is now irrevocably associated with the southern soul
genre, but in his own influences and aspirations, Penn was reaching for
all the formats of the R&B music he heard and cherished. Thus we
also encounter uptown New York erudition, smooth Chicago harmony, warm
New Orleans pop styling, melodic Motown rhythm, and fatback Memphis
grooves. Southern soul classics ‘Without A Woman’ and ‘She Ain’t Gonna
Do Right’ nestle with uptown gems and a handful of previously unknown
copyrights such as ‘It Hurts’ and ‘Standing In The Way Of A Good Thing’.
He duets with Don Covay on their collaboration ‘I Can’t Stop (The
Feeling Won’t Let Me)’, and there’s a fly on wall peek at the creation
of a Penn/Oldham classic in ‘Downright Uptight Good Woman’.
The magic of Penn’s Fame recordings – accompanied by exactly the right
musicians for the job, and run to tape through the mics, amps and tubes
of the incomparable Fame facility – is no longer a music industry
secret. It’s something at which we can all marvel. And here’s 24 more
vintage diamonds from Dan Penn to enjoy.
||: Jurgen Vreugdenhil