Big John Hamilton
Justly celebrated outfits like Stax Records were not the only game in town, as this set demonstrates. A classic soulful R&B feel is there right from the beginning with Big John Hamilton’s “The Train” and “Big Bad John.” Just listen to that drum and bass intro on the latter. South Side could be easily boiled down to a Big John Hamilton set, in fact. Hamilton was Minaret’s flagship artist and 20 of these tunes are credited to him (including a set of four duets with Doris Allen).
Though he only cut one 45 for Minaret, Johnny Dynamite’s “The Night the Angels Cried” and “Everybody’s Clown” are two of the best tracks here. The former, especially, comes on like a lost Otis Redding classic with a driving beat and blaring horns. Another startlingly good one-off is Gable Reed’s pleading ballad “I’m Your Man” and percolating groove, “Who’s Been Warming My Oven.” Willie Gable’s “Row, Row, Row” funks out on a variation of the old children’s song of nearly the same name (add “You Boat” to the title’s end and you’ll recognize it immediately).
Big John’s duet partner Doris Allen steps forth for a pair of attractive numbers, the tortured “A Shell of a Woman” and the prettier “Kiss Yourself for Me.” Among the four killer duets between her and Hamilton, perhaps the best is a rocking take on Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes.”
A well-researched and extremely informative new essay by Bill Dahl tells the story of Minaret Records and its various artists. The song-by-song annotation is more than a little incomplete. Beyond writer and producer credits, there’s not a whole lot here. A little more musicians’ credits would’ve been nice, if that info has in fact survived the demise of the label. That’s certainly a minor caveat, hardly worth putting anyone off from investing in this collection.