Memphis music didn’t stop in 1975 – it adapted to the changes in the national scene. Sounds Of Memphis was one of the studios that documented those changes. 19 tracks, mostly previously unissued, tell the story.
In the mid-1970s the American music scene was changing. Buoyed by the sales of rock albums, the major labels began to consolidate their position of strength, and regionality became a thing of the past. As the independent distribution network began to fade, so did independent labels. In Memphis, the tipping point occurred in 1975 when the once mighty Stax Records closed its doors. The city which had been a major recording centre and talent hub for nearly two decades was suddenly no longer central to the music business.
The tracks on this compilation are drawn from this time and the period leading up to it. In the earlier selections there is an attempt to continue with regionally distinctive soul music, sometimes tempered by the new sounds of the day. This funk and soul was aimed at the charts but could only have been recorded in Memphis. The later tracks, from the post-disco period, show an acceptance of the new reality, with the Sounds Of Memphis studio and the artists who recorded there creating the type of boogie funk that was popular throughout the country. National radio may no longer have been interested in regional sounds but local studios still had the talent to make music with national appeal.
The music here serves as a reminder of the talent that existed in Memphis beyond the days of big international hits. Most of the tracks have never been heard before and offer an insight into what the decline of the city’s recording industry was about - and more importantly, what it wasn’t about. It certainly had nothing to do with a shortage of quality recordings, or lack of talent in the studios. These are the sounds of black America in the late 70s and early 80s, not specific to location, but essential to an understanding of the soul music of the time. It turns out that although Memphis music might have had a hard time, it didn’t completely die.