There has always been a connection between Stax and Motown Records in the minds of hard-core music fans. Both labels played a pivotal role in crafting the sound of the 1960s and early 1970s. Stax and Motown became synonymous with soul and blues music. The artists of both labels went on to become household names. Still, Stax often languished in the shadow of Motown because the latter label had more of an eye on making music that could cross over. Stax’s biggest star, Otis Redding, died tragically right at the moment when he became Stax’s first crossover super star.
Of course, good music has a way of finding an audience, and the people at Stax made more than their share of good music. Other musicians were always aware of the label’s virtues, so it’s not surprising that the Stax influence can be heard in the work of artists ranging from Jamie Lidell and Anthony Hamilton to Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. The fact that Canadian soul man Slim Moore was also listening to the sound of Memphis becomes clear after one listen to Introducing Slim Moore & the Mar Kays. This record features all of the elements that earned Stax the well deserved nickname of Soulville.
The ultra-funky horns that were a Stax signature punctuate every song on Introducing. Moore’s throaty vocals move from being the prophetic social preacher on social commentary tunes such as “Cityscape,” “Just Can’t Get Ahead,” as well as the cover version of “Is It Because I’m Black.” He slips into a laid-back Virginia beach music groove on the cut “Riverside Drive,” and engages in a little begging on the Memphis meets hip-hop jam “How Long.” That number shows that Slim Moore & the Mar Kays can adapt the classic Stax sound to incorporate some contemporary production techniques. Still, Introducing Slim Moore & the Mar Kays stands as a full-throated celebration of the time and place that gave us some of the greatest music ever produced. And the tracks on this record hold their own with their lauded predecessors, both in terms of the feel and the quality. A very worthy introduction. Highly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes