Melissa Etheridge – “MEmphis Rock and Soul” (2016)

Label: Stax Records/Concord Music Group

Review by Warren Mayocchi

Once upon a time in Memphis, Tennessee, Satellite Records was founded. In 1961 the name was changed to Stax Records and the label attracted a number of classic 60s artists only to then fade away during the seventies. Otis Redding, Albert King, Sam and Dave, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Barbara Stephens and Johnnie Taylor all recorded with Stax, and regularly with the studio band – Booker T and MG’s. The Stax label was reactivated for new artists in 2006 and “MEmphis Rock and Soul” has been released under the Stax label. Melissa Etheridge recorded songs by those artists in a demonstration of admiration for the output of Stax. She possesses a suitable blues and soul stained voice, and grew up listening to the material. “Memphis Train” begins the album with a good rendition showing off the vocal strengths and enthusiasm of Melissa Etheridge. The rest of the album follows and original song arrangements are generally respected with a decrease in tempo being the most noticeable alteration. This works reasonably well, with a noticeable exception in “Who’s Making Love” – the rendering of this classic turns the funky song into a blues style relatively bland filler. There are several well known songs on the playlist, including “Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Respect Yourself”. The latter being my favourite track on the album – the backing and vocals are given a slightly menacing nudge which works well. The Otis Redding covers are performed with heart, and “Wait a Minute” is also worthy of a mention. Perhaps because it less well known, more probably because Melissa Etheridge keeps the tempo up and rips into the song to create a version to rival the original. Overall, if you have never heard the music featured here, a Stax compilation album would be a better introduction. Otherwise, there is little to attract more than dedicated Melissa Etheridge fans as the original tracks shine too brilliantly relative to the straightforward covers on “MEmphis Rock and Soul”.

Rating – 72/100

 

Tracklist

  1. Memphis Train
  2. Respect Yourself (People Stand Up)
  3. Who’s Making Love
  4. Hold On, I’m Coming
  5. I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
  6. Any Other Way
  7. I’m a Lover
  8. Rock Me Baby
  9. I Forgot to Be Your Lover
  10. Wait a Minute
  11. Born Under a Bad Sign
  12. Dreams to Remember

 

Line Up

  • Melissa Etheridge – Vocals, Guitars
  • Sharisse Norman, Candice Rayburn-Marshall and Stefanie Bolton – Background Vocals
  • Michael Toles – Guitar
  • LeRoy Hodges Jr. − Bass
  • James “JRob” Robertson – Drums
  • Rev. Charles Hodges Sr. – Organ
  • Archie “Hubbie” Turner – Keyboards
  • Lannie McMillan Jr. – Saxophone
  • Kirk Smothers – Baritone Saxophone
  • Jim Spake – Tenor Saxophone
  • Marc Franklin – Trumpet
  • Jessie Munson – Violin
  • Yennifer Correia – Violin
  • Beth Luscombe – Viola
  • Jonathan Kirkscey – Cello
  • Lester Snell – String and horn arrangements on “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”; string arrangements on “These Arms of Mine” and “I Forgot to Be Your Lover”

 

Links

facebook.com/MelissaEtheridge

twitter.com/metheridge

melissaetheridge.com