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Joe Tex

JOE TEX ALBUM GUIDE

(From Roctober #37, 2003)
by James Porter
(except when credited to JB -Gentleman John Battles or WT - Waymon Timbsdayle)

Amazon.com lists a gazillion compilations in Joe Tex's name. He is obviously far from forgotten, but even so, he doesn't really get the recognition of some of his peers. Even though, like most soul singers, he was a singles artist and several of his 45's weren't comped on an album until after his death, the original LPs are still worth investigating (and still fairly easy to find).

HOLD WHAT YOU'VE GOT (Atlantic, 1965)
By the time Joe's first album was released, he'd been working the R&B highway for about a decade. After ten years of trying to get his thing together, with several flop 45's in different genres, he finally looked in the mirror and found his style - and just in time, since Rhythm & Blues was slowly changing to Soul and Joe was in on the ground floor. By this time, he had already learned to play the fool, and it paid off. Producer Buddy Killen must have had enormous faith in Joe, since the average Soul singer back then didn't fill an entire album with songs he or she wrote. Joe penned every song on his album, and reaped all the benefits. He knew he was on to something with the preachy title track, so he did it again with "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" and the "Hold On" clone "You Better Get It." He's also telling noisy neighbors ("You Can Stay") and even noisier kids ("I'm Not Going To Work Today"), and really shucks the corn on "Are We Ready," a country number that's apparently about the Civil War. As an aside, the Atlantic label had some of the coolest cover designs of the fifties and sixties, and they went all out for Joe's debut. It was enough that they used a photo of my man in a too-tight sharkskin suit, crouching down like he's going under a limbo stick...but in quadruple exposure??? Hey, this should be a poster.

HOLD ON! IT'S JOE TEX (Checker, 1965)
So now Joe's finally starting to hit the big time, and all the labels he used to record for suddenly remember that they let a future star get away. Chess/Checker rushed this one out pretty quickly, as you can tell from the title. They even had the cheek to add a subtitle to "Baby You're Right" ("I'm Gonna Keep What I Got") just so Joe's new fans thought this was the followup. Hey, even this early he liked to "answer" his own records, so who'd know the difference, right? Even though this material was slightly old, it wasn't musty. Unlike most of his records, this sounds like it was cut in a closet with his road band rather than in the studio with seasoned session musicians. He'd already started using spoken-word sermonettes on his records, but he doesn't quite sound comfortable with it yet - he's overacting like he's trying out for the school play. But as far as general songwriting, he's on top of it. The shadow of James Brown appears twice - "Baby You're Right" (written by Joe) was recorded by James, and "You Keep Her" is the shoutout to JB after he supposedly "stole" Joe's wife. "Sit Yourself Down" has a funky New Orleans syncopation; "Ain't I A Mess" is a bit of showbiz autobiography; and "I'll Never Break Your Heart" is a direct response to Jerry Butler's "He Will Break Your Heart." Classic stuff, even if the Chess brothers seriously expected listeners to think this was a new album.

THE BEST OF JOE TEX (King, 1965)
More early recordings from the vaults, from Joe's time on the King label, who recorded him as a serious blues belter in the Little Willie John tradition. He sounds good, yet even then he liked to cut up once in a while. The whole situation regarding "Fever" (see intro) must have stung him bad, since he's coming back with a nasty answer record called "Pneumonia" ("If you put your cotton-pickin' hands around me, I'm gonna hit you with this rocking chair"). Otherwise, he's coming in on the tail end of the jump-blues craze and he's nailing it on songs like "Another Woman's Man," "Come On In This House," and "Get Way Back."

JOE TEX (Pickwick, 1965)
More early sides. So early that some songs barely sound like Joe at all - very brittle and harsh, not the Joe most know. Most of this must have remained unissued, since few of these songs are listed in any discographies (although "Wicked Woman" was a 7" release on the Jalynne label). Stylistically, this is all over the place - jump blues on "My Babe" (not the Little Walter hit), doo-wop ("The Love I Found"), novelties ("Talkin' Dog"), teen dance tunes ("Switching In The Kitchen," "Monkey's Uncle"), and most as good as his better-known songs. Of special note: "Turn Back The Hands Of Time" (his voice is REALLY unrecognizable here, but I still think it's him), the rocking "I Just Can't Take It," and the almost Countryish "Wicked Woman." (Note: reader Greg Burgess writes: Most of the tracks on the Pickwick album are not Joe Tex. The record company Jalynn had three maybe four tracks Ęby Tex and passed the others off as him. 'Could This Be Love and 'Switchin' in The Kitchen' had appeared earlier on a 45 by New York based artist Sammy Taylor. Your fine writer appears suspicious but was obviously too trusting.)

THE BEST OF JOE TEX (Parrot, 1965)
Still milking those old sides, but this was the most recently recorded and actually sounds like the Joe Tex most are familiar with. These songs were waxed right before "Hold What You've Got" - no real hits to speak of, but Joe is gradually easing into his own style instead of chasing others'. Some really good deep Soul ballads, including "Meet Me In Church" (later covered by his friend Solomon Burke) and "Say Thank You." Also good: "I Wanna Be Free," which is like a more eloquent "Take This Job & Shove It." Also listen for the end of "What Should I Do," where he likes the chorus so much, he tells "Mr. Engineer" to keep the tapes rolling so he can have an excuse to repeat the title over and over.

THE NEW BOSS (Atlantic, 1965)
The title refers to a rather bragadocious claim in the liner notes that a young Joe Tex was on the verge of taking the Blues crown from Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, and even the late Sam Cooke, who, for all his greatness, was as far from The Blues as Louis Prima was from funeral dirges. Turner's style of knock-down, drag-'em-out whorehouse/gin mill Boogie Woogie was already out of favor by the time The Beatles and Motown hit, while Ray Charles was starting to lose what grip he had on the younger set his performance in "The T.A.M.I. Show," excellent though it was, had "Museum Piece" written all over it). Tex himself had long since put the Little Richard-styled Black Rock n' Roll sounds of his early days far behind him, and had set his feet firmly on the Soul Train. With four big hits under his belt (all featured on this album), he didn't really have much to prove, and this could have been yet another case of a few hits padded out with innocuous filler, but Mighty Joe Tex wasn't playing that game. Opening with a lively send-up of "C.C. Rider" (incidentally, this was the arrangement that inspired the Animals' version, if you listen closely, you can hear Eric Burdon drop Joe Tex's name), this album is being pushed as pretty much a modern Blues album, even though Joe had already staked his claim, and found his true identity, as a Soul singer. In spite of this, Joe still covers a couple of Country hits, here, Bobby Bare's "Detroit City" and Roger Miller's "King of The Road," further dispelling the myth that Blacks can't sing, or don't like, Country music. Joe handles these songs remarkably well, even though it's hard not to make Miller's happy-go-lucky signature song sound like the theme song to some forgotten Sixties sitcom. "Stop, Look, and Listen" is a lively Soul workout/advice song, one of many that Tex excelled at (typified by this album's biggest smash, "Hold What You Got"), though it lacks the comic sermon ("Say, Miss Lady! Don't act like that man ain't none of yours") that would become his stock in trade. "For Your Love" (not The Yardbirds' better-known hit of the time) shows another side of Tex, that of the Gospel-tinged, - dare I say it? - "Deep Soul" singer. "You've Got What it Takes (To Take What I Got)" (I added the sub-heading, but, man! Joe Tex had more songs with two-part titles than most Country artists!) is sweet and sly, with some great unexpected turnarounds. "Don't Make Your Children Pay" and "I Want To (Do Everything For You)," the LP's other two hits, show Tex doing what he did best. On the latter he gushes with appreciation, making a promise to keep the home fires burning, as he did in many, many later songs (did he keep those promises? I don't know, consult the book, Rock Dreams), and in the former Joe gets up on the pulpit and urges troubled couples to think before they act. There isn't a single witty diatribe to be found here, but Joe put his point across, and, whaddya know? It stuck. (JB)

THE LOVE YOU SAVE (Atlantic, 1966)
The title song is as serious as Joe's facial expression on the cover. "I've been kicked around, I been lost and found, I've been given till sundown to get out of town, I've been taken outside and I've been brutalized, and I always had to be the one to smile and apologize. But I ain't never, in my life before, seen so many love affairs go wrong as I do today..." If they had had poetry slams back in 1966 Joe would have won the cash prize hands down. Joe is on a roll with his sermonizing, with songs that preach to the lazy ("you can't keep up with Mrs. Jones sitting on your funny bone") and the lovelorn ("you've got to build your love on a solid foundation...when the storms of jealousy destroy all the rest, your love will be the one that will stand the test"). Even when he's praising his woman, it sounds like he's lecturing ("I know some men will give their right arm to have a sweet little woman like you"). Great stinging guitar on rockers like "If Sugar Was As Sweet As You" and "You Better Believe It, Baby." (I'm not just throwing that word around - these songs do rock, as Rockpile proved when they redid "Sugar" on their one and only LP in 1980.) Can't go wrong - this is Joe in his microphone-swinging prime.

I'VE GOT TO DO A LITTLE BIT BETTER (Atlantic, 1966)
A master craftsman at the top of his game. Fans of soul songs about Vietnam will probably love "I Believe I'm Gonna Make It" (where the soldier-boy narrator is so inspired by his girlfriend's love letter, he gets his gun and shoots him "a few mo' enemies"). But there's better picks to click, including "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M." (which stands for "Save Your Sweet Love Just For Me"), the title track, "What Me & My Baby Ain't Got," and "Watch The One That Brings The Bad News," which includes this puzzling line: "You run your shoes over and let me run my business (2x)/And when you get your shoes run over, take 'em to the shoe shop and get some new heels put on." (???) Great asides on the songs he didn't write, "Half A Mind" (where he imitates composer Roger Miller's scatting style) and "Got You On My Mind" ("Ivory Joe Hunter won't recognize this"). He preaches himself up to a frenzy on "The Truest Woman In The World" (either she's the truest, Joe sez, or the slickest), and answers back Lowell Fulson's "Tramp" with "Papa Was, Too."

THE BEST OF JOE TEX (Atlantic, 1967)
Joe had become a huge star in a short time, so it seemed like a good time for a best-of. "Show Me," "Hold What You've Got," "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M.," "Papa Was, Too," "I Want To Do Everything For You," no filler, no fat. Can't argue with this one, as it has all of his hits up to then. No B-sides, no album cuts. However, Atlantic should have put together a "Vol. 2," because his biggest hit of the sixties was right around the corner...

LIVE & LIVELY (Atlantic, 1968)
Not long after the release of "The Best Of Joe Tex" Joe scored a massive hit with "Skinny Legs & All." But, as was the case back in those days, the single usually came before the album. "Skinny Legs" was just starting to go down in history when he released this fake live album. Rather than use stock crowd sounds from some sound effects record, apparently they just led a bunch of people into the studio and had them applaud or laugh when necessary. The versions of "Papa Was, Too," "A Woman's Hands," and "Show Me" are the same hit versions from earlier singles with crowd noise dubbed in. "Do Right Woman - Do Right Man" and "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" were two of southern Soul's most covered tunes, but Joe Tex's are necessities - they're that good. Ditto for "That's Life," where Joe hams it up through two or three false endings for a cheering crowd that probably wasn't in the same room at the same time. It's a fiasco, but it's still worth picking up. Joe was a master showman on the stage; I can only fantasize what a REAL, GENUINE live Joe Tex album would sound like...

SOUL COUNTRY (Atlantic, 1968)
He's still on a roll, this time with a set of mostly country-pop songs plus a recent hit (for Joe) that may as well have been, the humorously literal "I'll Never Do You Wrong." If he does do his ladyfriend wrong he hopes "a fly lands on my pie...I hope a fever blister over my eye...I love my pie, I love my eye, so you know I'll never do you wrong." Think James Carr or any other heavy-duty soul balladeer would touch that one? James Carr (and others) did do "The Dark End Of The Street," and Joe was no different. Other standards he takes care of here include "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Ode To Billie Joe," "Honey" (ugh!), and a mess of other songs no singer could make it through the late sixties without doing. Overdone, but done well. Really good version of "Skip A Rope," the 1968 protest song by Henson Cargill.

HAPPY SOUL (Atlantic, 1969)
This was the first Joe Tex album I ever bought and it still ranks as his finest! The epitome of classic Joe Tex! The Country-Soul balladeer, the preacher, the quick-rocking Soul shouter and the giggling novelty act - these are the four sides of Joe Tex and they're all shown at they're best on this album! "You Need Me, Baby" is for everybody who still feels the sting of childhood envy, ten or more years later ("He was the best marble shooter that ever lived in the whole darn town/He never played a football game where he scored under five touchdowns...I know he was the one most likely to succeed/But a room full of trophies ain't what you need - naw!/You need yourself a MAN, baby...you need me.") The delivery may be humorous, but the pain is real. He's making with the comedy on "Go Home & Do It" (where he's running a restaurant and preventing tongue-kissing couples, a woman with bad bunions, and a snoring bum from turning away his business). "Chicken Crazy" (a/k/a "Skinny Legs, Part 37") also makes with the yuks. "You Can Tell" has him back on his "Hold What You've Got" preaching kick, and speaking of being possessive, there's "Keep The One You Got" ("See that woman whose going to church/All dressed up in her mini-skirt/Don't she look good?...See that man dressed in his Nehru/He's got pockets of money to give you/Don't he look good?...Keep the one you got!/I know the other one looks good to you, but they might not/Be as good as they look!"). Other subjects include deadbeat dads ("That's Your Baby"), gangly girls who grow up to be sexy ladies ("You've Come A Long Way"), and a good ole fashioned cheating song ("Take The Fifth Amendment"). You'll be a "happy soul" yourself if you track down this album.

BUYING A BOOK (Atlantic, 1969)
Okay, the golden age of Joe Tex albums ends here. Oh, the singles were still sounding good (like the title track to this album), but Joe's coming up weak this time. Matter of opinion, I guess. The great writer Peter Guralnick, in his book Sweet Soul Music, considers this LP to be Joe's finest moment. I don't know...this album begins with an extremely weak, bandwagon-jumping protest song ("We Can't Sit Down Now"), but even with that going against it, there's still some gems if you listen closely. For me, they include "Buying A Book," "The Only Way"("...I'll let him take you/He'll have to pay back the time and money I've invested in you"), "It Ain't Sanitary" (Sleepy LaBeef did a GREAT version of this on one of his Sun albums), "Get Your Lies Together," and "That's The Way." Plus "Sure Is Good," which is so dumb I like it. I know I've just named maybe half the whole album (and I supposedly dislike it), but it's still a disappointing followup to "Happy Soul."

JOE TEX SINGS WITH STRINGS & THINGS (Atlantic, 1970)
That he does, but no more than on any other album. If the title didn't tell you, you probably wouldn't have noticed. It makes no difference, as it still sounds like he's in a dry spell. Very uninspired, although I kinda like "Take My Baby A Little Love" (a lost classic which features the line: "Looked in the mirror this morning/I had bags all under my eyes/The way I've been dogging myself, y'all/You would think that I had nine lives ["shooby-doo-doo"]). There's also "You're Right, Ray Charles," where the legendary Genius gives Joe some advice for making the kids dance. (And how would Ray know? In Ray's autobiography, Brother, even he says his music is too adult for teenage tastes! Maybe Joe should have consulted his rival, James Brown?)

I GOTCHA (Dial, 1972)
"I Gotcha" was a runaway hit in the winter of 1971-72. Only "You Said A Bad Word" (the followup) and "Bad Feet" come close to the greatness of the hit. The funk influence is starting to creep in, and Joe is doing the best he can, but he'd done far better than this.

FROM THE ROOTS CAME THE RAPPER (Atlantic, 1972)
Not an "early years" cash-in album...more like a contractual obligation elpee; Joe had already left Atlantic for good by the time this was released. This is material that had been sitting ion the shelves for good rason. It's obvious the label had Joe experimenting with new approaches that didn't really come off. The sound is decidedly more urban - the country flavor is gone, and he's interpreting other people's songs, including Swamp Dogg's "The Baby Is Mine." Interesting...but no more than that. (WT)

THE HISTORY OF...JOE TEX (Pride, 1972)
This is one of those quickie releases done of an established star's earlier, cheaper to license work that bears no disclaimer saying, "These songs weren't even recent during The Bay of Pigs Invasion!" It might have actually sold better if they had tried playing up the "Rock n' Roll Revival" aspect (imagine if Joe Tex had made a commercial like the one Chubby Checker did at the time…no, on second thought, that's too weird to even think about). These tracks were largely recorded during Joe's "Little Richard" phase, which wielded some wild, unruly rockers, of which some of the best are included here (though, sadly, not "Switchin' in The Kitchen" or "Davey, You Upset My Home"). "Yum, Yum," the opener, is one of the best food songs ever, reeling off a borgashmord of Soul Food delicacies. It also warranted an equally great cover version by Ronnie Dawson, who's probably trading off verses with Tex at this moment. "You Little Baby Faced Thing" is one of Joe's best takes on The Georgia Peach, at least, until you get to the out of control rocker, "Open Up The Door," which attains the peaks of wildness purveyed by The Beauty on Duty (And that's no doody!) . All that screamin' and beamin' and steamin' makes me wanna wreck a room, just like Richard's most frantic sides (i.e. "Keep a' Knockin'" or "Bama Lama Bama Loo," which hadn't been recorded yet). "Charlie Brown Got Expelled" is a letter perfect "answer song" done directly in The Coasters' "Fun Uber Alles" style, while songs like "Blessed Are These Tears" and "More Than Just a Friend" evoke the slower, more Gospel-oriented early King/Federal James Brown sides. But, make no mistake, Tex wasn't just copying pre-established artists, he was getting his own thing together, and learning from the best. That said, Tex was already a highly respected performer without a hit when he was doing opening spots for Brown and Richard in the late Fifties. Little Richard himself went so far as to say that James Brown got much of his stage act from watching Joe Tex on stage. All in all, this is a cool compilation, but there's enough material from this period for a nice CD (Or maybe even a double CD) retrospective. (JB)

JOE TEX SPILLS THE BEANS (Dial, 1973)
Portrait of a soul artist in decline, trying to keep up with the changing trends. Not totally awful, but you can understand why this album always used to pop up dirt cheap. On the one hand, he's still cashing in on "I Gotcha" (this time it's "Cat's Got Her Tongue"), but the few goodies include "Papa's Dream," a monologue about a dirt farmer who died poor without a single crop to his name. This was later covered by Johnny Cash as "Look At Them Beans."

THE BEST OF JOE TEX (Citation, 1973)
Straight reissue of the Parrot album on the Citation label. This was a Scepter Records subsidiary/series that featured a fake gold record on every cover, advertising the "best of" Tex, Flip Wilson, Deep Purple, Wilson Pickett, the Isley Brothers, and anything else they could lease (or own the rights to). Same good music, but try to get the London/Parrot edition - they had snazzier cover art.

BUMPS & BRUISES (Epic, 1977)
Joe came back hard and heavy with this one...the hit was "Ain't Gonna Bump No More With No Big Fat Woman," and you get the long version here (the band keeps vamping on that mysterious minor chord while Joe gets away with some outlandish ad-libs). Hey, if an old R&B veteran like Johnnie Taylor could get over on the disco floor (with the #1 "Disco Lady"), Joe oughta be able to do the same! While he hadn't been totally absent from the scene (he had a minor soul hit in 1975 with "Under Your Powerful Love"), his public profile was totally on the down-low. He came back fresh with this one; this is a lot better than anyone would have the right to expect. Strangely enough, his sense of humor got nastier during his layoff. It's almost as if the sex-starved pervert from "I Gotcha" just got weirder and wilder. Besides the big hit, for laffs we had "I Mess Up Everything I Get My Hands On" ("Bump No More"'s flip side), sweet ballads like "I Almost Got To Heaven Once," and the lost classic "We Held On," which is so catchy that it should have been the next single. And there is no way I can do justice to "Be Cool (Willie Is Dancing With A Sissy)." This starts with Joe bullshitting with his buddies about this newfangled Women's Liberation thang ("what's theirs is theirs and what's yours is yours"). Then the music kicks in, and Joe starts singing about his buddy Willie and what he saw him do the night before. This gay tolerance song is actually sorta progressive for its time, but Joe is giggling so much you can't tell whether he's for, against, or just out for a cheap laff. I think the song itself is definitely on the "live-and-let-live" tip - as with "Skinny Legs," he probably had to add the humor so he didn't come off as preachy. Also out there: "Jump Bad," where Joe, excited and nearly out of breath, tells a hilarious tale about an elderly lady who beats up some mugger named Run Down ("hands smooth as silk...never worked hard a day in his life"). And then he switches to his "old lady" voice and talks that way for about half the song. How come no one ever gave Joe his own TV show?

ANOTHER WOMAN'S MAN (Power Pak, 1977)
Thank God "Ain't Gonna Bump..." brought Joe back into circulation - it gave Power Pak an excuse to reissue Joe's old jump-blues sides on the King label.

RUB DOWN (Epic, 1978)
HE WHO IS WITHOUT THE FUNK CAST THE FIRST STONE (Dial, 1978)
Not as essential as "Bumps & Bruises" or any of the Atlantic albums (up through 1969's "Happy Soul"), but still worth finding on the cheap. "Rub Down" sounds like leftovers from "Bumps" (not a bad thing). The Dial album is a little closer to disco and includes a remake of "Hold What You've Got" and some of his more inspired song titles ("Finger Popped Myself Into The Poor House," "You Might Be Digging The Garden But Somebody's Picking Your Plums"). The Dial album also has "Music Ain't Got No Color," which mentions the Bee Gees and Rolling Stone magazine and indicts rock critics for labelling music as "black" and "white." (WT)

SUPER SOUL (London, 1979)
The Parrot/London album, restored to its rightful owners as part of the London Collectors' Series, which also released albums by Thin Lizzy, Genesis, David Bowie, and others from London's back catalog. Question: this was the third time around for this reissue of Joe's London sides...how come they still haven't included the lost 45, "Looking For My Pig?"

J.T.'s FUNK (Accord, 1982)
Funk??? This is Joe's old jump-blues and Black rock 'n' roll sides from the fifties, under a glammed-up eighties cover. So if you're a hip-hop DJ and you're reading this, don't go seeking out this album for a dope breakbeat to sample! They programmed it so that his teenage rockers alternate with his hard blues 45's, but whaddya expect from an album that probably retailed for $2-3? Can't argue with the music itself, however.

AIN'T I A MESS (Chess, 1984, though this appears to be a reissue of an earlier album, and it is mostly the same tracks from "Hold On! It's Joe Tex")
Chess Records played around with Soul quite a bit when their neighbors Vee Jay were going great guns ("Rescue Me," Fontella Bass's monster hit on Chess, is frequently mistaken for a Motown side), and Joe Tex released several singles in the early Sixties, eventually compiled on this album, with liner notes by legendary Deejay, Bill "Hoss" Allen, one of the first Southern White Disc Jockeys to break the color bar by playing Rhythm n' Blues records in the Fifties. Opening with a distinctive rendition of labelmate Etta James' "All I Could Do Was Cry"(Parts 1 and 2 ...It took two sides to get all of poor Joe's emotional disrepair down on vinyl). "You Keep Her" is built on a James Brown riff and directly addresses him by his first name. It's just a song about a guy telling a buddy (in this case, James Brown, that he's welcome to his ex, though he doesn't want her anymore. "Ain't I a Mess" is a fast paced account of Tex's rise to fame, and as such, it's a little more "Rock n' Roll" than most of the other tracks. "Sit Yourself Down" is another advice song, "Sit yourself down and give yourself a talking to," but we never really get to find out what the other person's deficiencies are (which appears to be the intention. That way, the song can be applied to any problems the listener may be having). The song rarely gets past a medium tempo, but there's some hot "on the one" drums and boss call-and-response backing vocals. "Don't Play "is ANOTHER advice song, directed at any woman who thinks she can play Mr. Joe. Emphatic is not the word for it! "I've laughed at some jokes by some funny folks, but let me tell you, baby, I don't play." Getting an early start, Joe recalls, "When I was a baby, I wasn't like the other boys, I hated playing so doggone much, I told my Daddy, 'Don't you buy me no toys!'" Closing things out "I'll Never Break Your Heart" is, you guessed it, an answer song to "He Will Break Your Heart " (and, you guessed it again - "Parts 1 and 2!"). He basically rebuts everything the original claimed (And in the same order!), throwing a "Now dig this!" here, a snippet of "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" there, the great ad-lib, "I've been all around the world, and I've met everybody twice!," and capping it all off he boldly proclaims, Jerry Lee style, "IT'S A HIT!" You see, kids, before they had samplers, people used to borrow stuff from their neighbor's kitchen, but they still had to make their own damned cake. (JB)

THE BEST OF JOE TEX (Atlantic, 1985; it says 1984 on the back cover and label, but it didn't hit the streets until the next year)
Almost the same as the 1967 Atlantic album with the same title (baby-blue cover), except they replaced "I Want To Do Everything For You" (#1 on Billboard's R&B charts in '66!) with "Build Your Love On A Solid Foundation" (great song, but never a single, much less a hit). And still no "Skinny Legs"!!! As many hits as Joe scored for the company, Atlantic never treated him right in retrospect. For years, the original 1967 best-of was out of print and the only way you could score Joe's classic sixties sides was on 45's (in Atlantic's "Oldies Series") or on various-artists compilations. After semi-ignoring his back catalog for a decade or so, Atlantic finally restores Joe to the album racks as part of a new "best-of" series. Some of the great soul performers from Atlantic's sixties stable (Tex, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, etc.), all with generic, arty covers. Liner notes? No such animal. Hell, we were lucky to get the artist's photo on the back cover. Shoddy packaging, but I still have faith in the music. When this album was released, I was a college first-year who was on a serious bender for 50's & 60's R&B. I had just found a used copy of "Happy Soul" for a dollar. Coming off of that, this best-of seemed like a godsend then.

I BELIEVE I'M GONNA MAKE IT: THE BEST OF JOE TEX, 1964-1972 (Rhino, 1988)
THE VERY BEST OF JOE TEX (Charly, 1988)
Now this is more like it. All the hits from all the labels, plus comprehensive liner notes that tell you what's what. At the time, Rhino (US) and Charly (UK) were setting the standard for reissue labels, and they gave Joe's legacy the royal treatment it deserved.

DIFFERENT STROKES (Charly, 1989)
Rare and unissued Joe, which is just as prime as the stuff most people have heard. Classic moment: "I Can See Everybody's Baby But Mine" ("I went to England, saw Tom Jones' woman...went to Chicago, saw Jerry Butler's woman..." and on and on till he gets to the punchline - that he came back home and found his own woman missing).

STONE SOUL COUNTRY (Charly, 1989)
Straight reissue of the 1968 "SOUL COUNTRY" elpee with bonus cuts.

GREATEST HITS (Curb, 1991)
Somewhere around this time, producer Buddy Killen must have regained the rights to the Dial Records masters, because in the nineties Joe Tex comps started showing up all over the place. The Curb album was no surprise, since this label had a rep of releasing chintzy compilations on people who were already comped to death. But, over the next ten years, we got...

SHOW ME: THE HITS...AND MORE (Ichiban, 1992)
GOLDEN CLASSICS (Collectables, 1993)
SHOW ME (New Rose, 1993)
SKINNY LEGS & ALL: THE CLASSIC EARLY DIAL SIDES (Kent, 1994)
YOU'RE RIGHT, JOE TEX! (Kent, 1995)
BUMP TO THE FUNK (Charly, 1995)
GREATEST HITS (Sony Special Products, 1995)
THE VERY BEST OF JOE TEX (Rhino, 1996)
GREATEST HITS (Masters Incontinine, 1996)
HIS BEST (K-Tel, 1997)
JOE TEX (Double Play, 1998)
I GOTCHA (BMG Special Products, 1998)
HIS GREATEST HITS (Charly, 1999)
25 ALL-TIME GREATEST HITS (Varese Sarabande, 2000)
GOLDEN LEGENDS (Direct Source, 2000)
GREATEST HITS (7-N Music, 2000)
HOLD WHAT YOU'VE GOT/THE NEW BOSS (Sequel, 2001)
THE LOVE YOU SAVE/I'VE GOT TO DO A LITTLE BIT BETTER (Sequel, 2001)
OH BOY CLASSICS PRESENTS JOE TEX (Oh Boy, 2001)
SHOW ME THE HITS (601, 2001)
LIVE & LIVELY/SOUL COUNTRY (Sequel, 2002)
HAPPY SOUL/BUYING A BOOK (Sequel, 2002)
AIN'T GONNA BUMP NO MORE (Southbound, 2002)
TWELVE HITS (Varese Sarabande, 2002)
FROM THE ROOTS CAME THE RAPPER (Sequel, 2002)
THE EARLY YEARS (R 'n' B, released God knows when)
As you can see, it was either feast or famine with Joe Tex's back catalog. One minute you're lucky to get "Skinny Legs & All" on a reissue single. Wait a few years and just about everything he did was rejiggered for the CD market. What's surprising is that these comps don't begin and end with his prime Atlantic years...they extend well into 1979, when he was already bordering on being an oldies act. The Sequel albums are all reissues of his Atlantic albums. "I Gotcha" duplicates the original same-name album from '72. "His Greatest Hits" is the most complete of all the discs here, a two-CD set. "The Early Years" is a bootleg disc that takes care of the early 45's on Chess, King and Ace. And then just last summer, we got one of the strangest comps of all...

DAVID ALLAN COE PRESENTS JOE TEX (Coe Pop, 2003)
???? The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy presents the Dapper Rapper? Of course, this album has nothing these other comps don't have, but...David Allan Coe? The outlaw country eccentric profiled in these pages a few years back? Apparently, just like folkie singer-songwriter John Prine with his Oh Boy label, Coe formed his own label, Coe Pop, to release a series devoted to the greatest hits of different performers. So far, Joe is the only artist in the series who isn't country (although he came damn close). May as well point out that John Prine's Oh Boy also has a Joe Tex album...but he doesn't have the hubris to put his face on the front cover like David Allan Coe did.

TEX-ARCANA: MISCELANEOUS JOE TEX

MURRAY THE K LIVE FROM THE BROOKLYN FOX (Brook-Lyn, 1967)
Well, half live, anyway...one side is studio recordings but the other side has a sterling live performance from Joe Tex doing "Hold What You've Got." (BTW: you know the mod-looking guys on the front cover in the striped suits, impressing the chicks? Those guys were Mandala, by the way...they don't appear on the album, but this Canadian soul-rock band did work a Murray the K revue that year.)

MISS COUNTRY SOUL - Diana Trask (Dot, 1968 - reissued on Pickwick, 1979)
Joe's producer, Buddy Killen, hit upon the novel idea of having Joe's songs covered country style by a white female singer. Joe was impressed enough to write the liner notes, but for me this album doesn't really go past being "interesting." Good to hear once, but...

SOUL CHRISTMAS (Atco, 1968)
Contains Joe's single-only "I'll Make Everyday Christmas For My Woman."

SOUL CLAN (Atco, 1969)
In '68, Tex, Solomon Burke, Arthur Conley, Ben E. King and Don Covay recorded one classic single as the Soul Clan - "Soul Meeting" b/w "That's How It Feels." The vocals weren't all recorded simultaneously, so you can hear Don Covay giving everybody their cues ("tell 'em, Solomon!" etc). Top side is uptempo, "That's How It Feels" is a ballad, and not surprisingly, Joe gets the wittiest lines. The album that followed later just had both sides of the 45 plus two songs each from Joe, Solomon, Arthur, Ben & Don. Joe is represented by two obvious hits that even a neophyte would own, "Hold What You've Got" and "Skinny Legs & All."