Sunday, September 10, 2006

Boy Meets Girl: Just Keep On Loving Me

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Carla Thomas featured prominently on the Boy Meets Girl album, at a time when she was beginning to feel that she was being sidelined as an artist at Stax. After performing in London at the Bag O'Nails club in front of an impressed Paul McCartney, she was actually asked to drop out of the Stax/Volt tour of England in 1967 to perform at a civil-rights benefit in Chicago that Al Bell had double-booked! Having recorded the successful King & Queen of Soul album and Tramp with Otis Redding, she was hoping to capitalise on this. Jim Stewart promised another duet album with Otis for December 1967; yet Phil Walden remembers talking with Al Bell about an album featuring Otis with Aretha Franklin.

Al Bell found a place for Carla on Boy Meets Girl, although she is billed last, under Stax's newest female singing sensation, Mavis Staples. Nonetheless, Carla Thomas makes the most of her chance. She performs three songs in her trademark ballad style, All I Have To Do Is Dream with William Bell, with Eddie Floyd on Don't Make Me A Storyteller, and I'm Trying with Purvis Staples. She streches out into more impassioned territory with William Bell again on I Can't Stop and I Need You Woman, It's Our Time with Eddie, and particularly forcefully on It's Unbelievable with Purvis Staples. But it is perhaps with Johnnie Taylor that she reaches her best rapport, first on the ballad I've Just Been Feeling Bad, and then on today's song.

Carla Thomas matches and outdoes Johnnie Taylor on every plea to Just Keep On Loving Me. It's clear to me that she is in fact the power driving this song, with more confidence that she expresses on some of her other duets here. Ironically, in September 1975, in the dying days of Stax as a real record company, this song was released with Carla's vocals removed, in an attempt to cash in on Johnnie Taylor's renewed popularity with the disco crowd and drum up some much needed cash while the vultures swooped (this version recently featured on Stepfather of Soul, I think, but I can't remember now). It is good, but does it feel like someone is missing when he cries out for Carla halfway through? If you have that version, compare it to the original here, and decide for yourself.

Carla Thomas & Johnnie Taylor - Just Keep On Loving Me (Stax 0042) 1969

Information for this post taken from Rob Bowman's Soulsville: USA, and the Stax Site. You can buy the CD Boy Meets Girl here.


The Stepfather of Soul said...

Great posts re "Boy Meets Girl" and Carla Thomas. I think of all the "old guard" Stax acts, most of whom didn't get the best treatment from the label as the '70s came along, Carla was treated the shabbiest. It's a wonder she was given as much room on "Boy Meets Girl" as she got!

PS: I didn't post the Johnnie Taylor/Carla Thomas or the Johnnie Taylor "solo" version fo the song, but mentioned it in my post about Bobby Bland's version.

Red Kelly said...

Al bell definitely had his own agenda, man...

and you're doin' a GREAT job over here, Rob... keep it up!