"Dan Penn is recognised as one of the great songsmiths of the past 50
years. Music historian Peter Guralnick once described him as the “secret
hero” of 60s R&B. For many, Penn’s material defines the essence of
southern soul writing, but his catalogue also retains the ability to
transcend musical barriers; classics such as ‘I’m Your Puppet’ and ‘Do
Right Woman’ have scaled the pop and country charts in equal measure.
With his principal collaborator Spooner Oldham, Penn lent R&B
songwriting a class and eloquence that has rarely been bettered.
This much-anticipated collection, however, reveals the flowering of
Dan Penn as an artist in his own right. It’s collated from the hard
evidence of three amazing and educational years spent at FAME Studios in
Muscle Shoals as a staff writer – an apprenticeship that was as
important in helping him find a voice as it was in forging the songcraft
that made his name. Studio honcho Rick Hall issued a quartet of singles
on Penn during the time the singer was in his employ but, while decent,
these did not play to the strengths he displayed in the multitude of
relaxed late-night sessions undertaken in this remarkably prolific
period. The best moments are brought together on “The Fame Recordings”.
With the enviable ambiance of the golden era FAME studio throughout, the
combined performances approximate a great lost 60s soul album.
Penn was the real deal, an R&B-obsessed white teenager from rural
Alabama who readily identified with the raw emotion of the black
musical experience. Over several years of raucous fraternity gigs with
the Nomads, Mark V and Pallbearers, Penn had sandblasted his vocal cords
into an approximation of idols Ray Charles and Bobby Bland. He
continued the treatment at FAME with a strict regimen of Kools and
Marlboros, but the raspy, frosty cigarette touch in itself did not
guarantee authenticity. Rather, it added a remarkable melisma to Penn’s
developing technique, which perfectly matched the earnestness of
delivery and performance. Soulful expression was easily and undeniably
within his grasp.
For connoisseurs of southern soul, the finely tuned tracklisting will
be a revelation, in that several future standards of the genre are
presented in their original incarnation – often cut just hours after
each song’s composition. ‘Uptight Good Woman’, ‘It Tears Me Up’ and
‘Feed The Flame’, along with tunes recorded by Fame stablemates such as
Jimmy Hughes and James Barnett, all bear the agreeable glow of a
familiar arrangement combined with an exciting, alternative
interpretation. On the other hand, Penn’s templates for ‘Rainbow Road’
and ‘You Left The Water Running’ are considerably different from
better-known versions by other artists. The personal brand of soul he
delivers on cuts such ‘Long Ago’ and ‘Don’t Lose Your Good Thing’ is
Most tracks date from 1964 and 1965 and all feature one or other of
the renowned session crews Rick Hall employed at FAME during that
time.Oldham, Hall and their associates Marlin Greene, Junior Lowe and
Donnie Fritts all wax lyrical in the liner notes about Penn’s artistry
and the man himself provides a lengthy and revelatory reminiscence of a
signal time in his life and career. “The Fame Recordings” offers a
fascinating peek at the emergence of a popular music great."
By Alec Palao/Ace Records
This product was added to our catalog on Friday 15 March, 2013.