Sam Baker – “I Believe In You” (Soulscape SSCS 7013)
By Kev Briscoe
You Can't See The Blood; What Did Sister Do; Sometimes You Have To Cry; Something Tells Me; Don't Feel Rained On; Someone Bigger (Than You And Me); Let Me Come On Home; Safe In The Arms Of Love; Just A Glance Away; That's All I Want From You; I Can't Turn Her Loose; I Believe In You; I'm Number One; Sunny; I Can't Stand It; I Can't Beak Away; Coming To Bring You Some Soul; Sugarman; Strange Sensation; I Love You; Hold Back Girl; It's All Over.
Those familiar with Gary Cape’s great seventies record sales lists ‘Black Grape’, will remember the strap line “Coming To Bring You Some Soul”. Gary took that line from a Sam Baker record and he could have easily used it for the title of this CD.
John Richbourg issued a dozen singles on Sound Stage 7 by Baker making him one of the labels most prolific artists. A testament, no doubt, to the faith that Richbourg had in this artist’s considerable vocal ability, so perhaps “I Believe In You” is an apt title after all!
Despite the wealth of material issued by the label Baker has never had the recognition afforded to other of his stable mates. This is a great shame because at his best, and on some of these tracks he was at his very best, Baker was as good as any of his contemporaries.
Two of the tracks were duplicated on release, so this CD presents the listener with Baker’s complete twenty two track Sound Stage 7 catalogue in chronological order.
His second 45, recorded at Stax, really put down a marker as to what was to follow. The top side “Sometimes You Have To Cry” is as good as any southern ballad of that period. A deceptively simple four note intro’ before Sam’s beautiful tenor takes over. The other side, “Something Tells Me” is so good it’s difficult to choose between them. Without doubt one of the great ‘double-sides’ and you are left wondering what else he could have achieved if he had used the facilities at Stax more often!
Another good coupling was the lovely ballad “Someone Bigger (Than You And Me)”. Here Sam’s voice effortlessly handles this gospel tinged song which could have easily sounded twee sung by anyone else. While the slow blues of “Let Me Come On Home” recalls some of Sam’s early, pre Sound Stage 7 work.
This was followed up by yet another glorious 45 featuring two of his finest recordings. With “Safe In The Arms Of Love” Sam delivers an impassioned performance rivalling any of the ‘classic’ Southern Soul ballads from that period. While “Just A Glance Away” ticks every box in the Southern Soul ‘oeuvre’ and is first class performance.
Sam returned to Memphis for his next recordings, this time with Chips Moman over at AGP. “That's All I Want From You” continues the run of effortlessly sung ballads which fades out two quickly for my liking!
Sam admitted “I was never much of a dancing man, I always loved those slow songs” but like all of Richbourg’s artists he wasn’t averse to recording the up tempo songs. No doubt trying to find one elusive dance track to propel him into the charts. “I Can't Turn Her Loose” storms along nicely and Sam sounds comfortable with this type of material. Unfortunately the song lacks that certain something to distinguish it from other, more successful, dance tracks of that era. Next up is the CD’s title track, “I Believe In You”, and Sam is back in familiar territory with this just below mid paced beauty.
I’ve always loved his take on Bobby Hebb’s classic “Sunny” with Sam taking it ‘down home’ to create, in my opinion, an underrated track. “I Can't Beak Away” has the feel of the early Impressions about it with Sam joined by both female and male (Robinson? Brown?) backing singers. The aforementioned “Coming To Bring You Some Soul” finds our man in that Funky mid paced territory so beloved of Wilson Pickett. He sounds totally at home in this style and it’s a pity he didn’t explore this area more. He also co wrote the track as he did on “Strange Sensation” a brooding ballad that probably gets overlooked in favour of his more well-known recordings and is well worth checking out.
By now he was getting towards the end of his Sound Stage 7 career but still managed to issue two of my favourite tracks. Right from the horn intro of “I Love You” you know you are in for a treat and neither Sam nor the Nashville boys disappoint a great, great record.
Without any doubt “It's All Over” is his best up tempo recording. One again infectious horns leading us into a wonderful mid paced gem and it’s a track I’ve played several times when DJ’ing and it’s always been well received.
Sadly, none of his Sound Stage 7 recordings ever made the charts, something Baker shared with many of Richbourg’s artists. However, that is probably a result of the wealth of musical talent on offer during Soul’s ‘Golden Period’ than a reflection the quality of his musical output. All in all this a great and long overdue look at one of Southern Souls unsung heroes.