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Daily Record 1/15/11: The Stax 50th Anniversary Collection (disc 1)-various artists (2007)

In 1970s, 1974, compilations, funk, Memphis music, rhythm and blues, Rich's House of Vinyl, soul, Stax on January 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

My friend Matt gave me a CD box set a few years ago, probably never expecting that it would lead to a new Saturday morning tradition around the Wilhelm house. But I would imagine that there are many family traditions that start without a whole lot of premeditation.

Here’s the story: Matt had ordered a three-CD collection called The Stax 50th Anniversary Collection from eBay or Half.com or some other website. The collection is housed in a metal box (go to www.musictins.com, but only after you’ve read this!).

Matt was pretty lucky in his selection because, while many of the “metal box” collections have a pretty skimpy song selection and the graphics are notoriously cheesy, the Stax box is actually quite a find. It contains 42 songs, the vast majority of which were released after Atlantic ended its distribution deal with Stax in early 1968. That fact makes this mini-box set an excellent annex to the nine-disc Complete Stax Singles Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968  that I wrote about earlier this week. (There were two nine-disc sets that followed up on the ’59-’68 set, but they are prohibitively expensive  and not as essential as the original set).

After Matt got the songs he needed, he passed the collection onto me, and I was very grateful, particularly after I heard “Woman to Woman” by Shirley Brown.

“Woman to Woman” was a moderate pop hit (#22 on the Top 40) but a big soul hit (#1 on the R&B chart for two weeks) in 1974. Lyrically, the song presents a phone call that Shirley makes to “Barbara” after Shirley finds Barbara’s phone number in her man’s pocket.

“Hello. May I speak to Barbara? Barbara this is Shirley. You might not know who I am…”

From there Shirley lays it out in no uncertain terms that she basically calls the shots in her man’s life and she’s willing to go to great lengths to keep him.

After hearing the song a few times, I played it for Donna and thus began our Saturday morning “Woman to Woman” tradition, in which we listen to the song (and most of the rest of the great disc one of the Stax 50th Anniversary Collection on which it appears)  and discuss the various ramifications of Shirley’s side of the conversation (which is all we hear). The song has become a talking point. Another song on the collection, “I’ll Be The Other Woman” by Soul Children, also figures into our discussion of sexual politics, etc., as it is the tale of an “other woman” in a relationship who doesn’t mind being the other woman as long as there are no other “other women.”

While “Woman to Woman” isn’t generally remembered today (though I’m sure serious R&B fans and students of Stax Records know the song), it was influential enough in 1974 that a singer whose name was conveniently Barbara–Barbara Mason–recorded an answer song, “From His Woman To You,” that peaked at #28 on the pop charts in late ’74 (not sure how it fared on the R&B charts, though it would appear it didn’t make #1). I downloaded “From His Woman To You,” but for whatever reason, Donna and I haven’t taken to listening to it as a follow-up to “Woman to Woman.” I’m not sure if that means we have a bias towards Shirley’s side of the story or not.

In addition, I believe that a song was recorded and released from the husband’s point of view, but that song didn’t leave much of an impression on anybody. Good luck trying to find it to download.

“Woman to Woman” isn’t the only great song on the first disc of this collection. Those who come to it to hear Shirley Brown’s moment of glory would clearly want to stay for “Time Is Tight” by Booker T. and the MG’s; “Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight; “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” by the Dramatics; “What a Man” by Linda Lyndell; and “Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes; among other classics. Can’t forget Rufus Thomas’ “Do The Funky Chicken,” for example.

Thanks Matt, for enhancing the Saturday morning breakfast conversations around the Wilhelm house!

For the curious, here is a YouTube link to “Woman to Woman.” You can find “From His Woman to You” on YouTube as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZssL3nr6JZg

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