Check my other comments in relation to Joe South's career and musical pedigree but I will say here that Joe's music fits into a genre that emerged in the late 1960s and which subsequently was called "white southern soul" or "country soul".
This genre was popularised (mainly) by Elvis Presley, Joe South and Tony Joe White but it can be found in contemporaneous recordings by Glen Campbell, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Hartford, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bobbie Gentry, Jerry Reed, Billy Joe Royal, Charlie Rich, Jeannie C Riley, Delaney & Bonnie, Bob Dylan and others.
The music was pop, country and rock but also soulful. Occasionally (perhaps because of the times) it was slightly trippy (and gently psychedelic). Lyrically the music leaned to introspection whilst also displaying some cynicism to social mores.
Joe South was the pinnacle of that writing style within the genre. On this, his second album, the liner notes (written by an unknown person) refer to that postion: "Joe believes that today, popular music is much more than entertainment. More, even, than a mirror of our times. It has become steadily more important, until now it is probably the most profound and significant means of communication between people. The ideas it contains and communicates are the dominant force in the development of tomorrow. In fact, popular music is making history. Literally. This is his viewpoint"
Musically, Joe South was more to the pop side of the country soul equation though his music is singularly distinctive. He (perhaps as a result of being a producer and session musician) liked to try new things in the studio. Accordingly, his music is quirky and occasionally jarring especially when a country pop song is followed by a psych trip out song. It was, perhaps, a reflection of the times but I'm sure it must have thrown off some people who bought his LPs.
People want a consistency of style in what they listen to. More often than not they want the album to sound like the hit single.
Joe South was never so obliging.
And, that is part of his genius. He has his sound but he likes mixing things up so that every time, you (or rather I) hear a new Joe South album I'm not sure what I will get.
His albums capture the stew that was mid 60s pop craft and gospel, late 60s rootsy country and psychedelia. The result is a perfect blend of tuneful melodies, reflective lyrics, funky guitars, regional accents, and soulful vocal performances.
It will be frequently great, sometimes magnificent but always, even at it's worst, consistently interesting.
Without a doubt, Joe South is the most important lost artist of the late 1960s, early 1970s.
Produced, arranged and written by Joe South.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Clock Up On The Wall – A good tune with some good lyrics reflecting on a love ended. There is a (little of) the sound of the late 60s Beach Boys here. In fact if you could picture Elvis singing for the Beach Boys it wouldn't be much different to this. There are some interesting studio tricks in here also. Excellent.
- Bittersweet – a good pop tune with a melancholy (though not downbeat) point of view.
- Shelter – another good pop song with a gospel chorus backing.
- What Makes Lovers Hurt One Another? – a nice bass line with another gospel chorus. South's voice is almost drowned out as the song progresses which I think is intentional, as if, his voice and the chorus are the lovers fighting with each other.
- Before It's Too Late – very late 60s in theme, "come on everybody let's get together" is the chorus …before "before it's too late" repeats and the song gets trippier.
- Children – some good lyrics about children and the modern age. Children being both kids and adults and adults who were kids …sharp.
- Walk A Mile In My Shoes – This is the song that introduced me to Joe South. I loved the Elvis Presley version (recorded by Elvis on 19 February 1970 and released on the "On Stage" (1970) album) and decided to tack down the original. Elvis is version was Vegas (and great) so this is a little more low key but the song is catchy with some very sharp (and pointed) lyrics.
- Be A Believer – a mid tempo lush ballad with gospel overtures.
- A Million Miles Away – a funky swamp blues instrumental. This is just South and the band having fun. Picture Jerry Reed on acid and it may sound a little like this.
- Don't It Make You Want To Go Home – A magnificent song with great lyrics. The narrator of the song wants to go home (home being as much his youth as a place) and yearns for it but finds that things have changed when he does return …
But there's a six-lane highway down by the creek
Where I went skinny-dippin' as a child
And a drive-in show where the meadows used to grow
And the strawberries used to grow wild
There's a drag strip down by the riverside
Where my grandma's cow used to graze
Now the grass don't grow and the river don't flow
Like it did in my childhood days
Don't it make you wanna go home?
Don't it make you wanna go home?
All God's children get weary when they roam
Don't it make you wanna, wanna go home?
Excellent …. I'm keeping it.
1970 Walk A Mile In My Shoes The Billboard Hot 100 #12
1970 Walk A Mile In My Shoes Country Singles #56
1970 Walk A Mile In My Shoes Adult Contemporary #3
1970 Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do #118
1970 Don't It Make You Want To Go Home? Country Albums #39
1970 Don't It Make You Want To Go Home? The Billboard 200 #60
Clock Up On The Wall
Before It's Too Late
Walk A Mile In My Shoes
A Million Miles Away
Don't It Make You Want To Go Home
- Musicians: Backing Vocals – Pee Wee Parks / Backing Vocals, Piano, Keyboards and Other Keyboard Instruments – Barbara South / Bass, Backing Vocals – Eddie Farrell / Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Tommy South / Engineer, Mixed By – Bob "Tub" Langford
- Strangely, the LP was credited to Joe South alone, whereas the single showed Joe South and The Believers.
- There is an Australia compilation from 1984 (EMI Capitol SCA 260318) which has the same front and back sleeves and album title but is, actually, a compilation made up of all the tracks from the original album (minus "Shelter" and "A Million Miles Away" ) and adding another 12 songs.
- Elvis trivia: Elvis recorded four lines of the song "Don't It Make You Wanna Go Home" live in concert, on Wednesday, 29 July 1970 following a "Little Sister/Get Back" medley.