Heh Heh Heh. Although often thought as a bawdy soul comedian, Clarence Carter is actually one of the greatest pure soul singers of the 60s. Born January 14, 1936, in Montgomery, AL, Carter was blind from birth. He majored in music at Alabama State University, learning to transcribe charts and arrangements in Braille. With blind classmate Calvin Scott, Carter in 1960 formed the duo Clarence & Calvin, signing to the Fairlane label to release "I Wanna Dance But I Don't Know How" the following year. After the 1962 release of "I Don't Know (School Girl)," Clarence & Calvin left Fairlane for Duke, renaming themselves the C & C Boys for their label debut, "Hey Marvin." In all, the duo cut four Duke singles, none of them generating more than a shrug at radio — finally, in 1965 they traveled to Rick Hall's Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals, AL to record "Step by Step" and its flip side, "Rooster Knees and Rice." Atlantic Records took notice and released "Step by Step" on its Atco subsidiary but it flopped. In 1966 Clarence, Calvin and group were in an auto accident that left Scott injured. Carter continued as a solo act, signing to the Fame label for 1967's "Tell Daddy," which inspired Etta James' response record, "Tell Mama." Several more solid singles followed until Carter released one of his masterpieces, "Slip Away". The record hit #6 on the Pop Charts. "Too Weak to Fight" also hit #13. Several more great soul singles followed like "Snatching It Back", "At The Dark End of the Street," "The Feeling Is Right," "Doing Our Thing" and "Patches." "Patches", first recorded by Chairmen Of The Board, was a UK number 2 and a US number 4 in 1970, but despite further strong offerings Clarence was unable to sustain the momentum. He remained with Fame until 1973, where he also helped guide Candi Staton, who was now his wife, before moving to ABC Records. By this point his chart success tapered. Nevertheless many great songs appeared like "Sixty Minute Man" and in 1975 he ended up at ABC for a string of albums but only "I Got Got Caught Making Love" reached the singles charts. Carter then recorded for small labels like Future Stars, Ronn, and Venture that sold in the South. In 1985 when he began a successful "come back" on the fledgling Ichiban label. He also enjoyed one of his most popular songs, "Strokin': for the label. This jukebox smash ensured his cult status and a string of similar ribald songs continued. Beginning in 1996 Carter began releasing his music on his own Cee Gee Entertainment label.
"This Is Clarence Carter" (Atlantic 1968)
1 Do What You Gotta Do
****1/2 First solo set by Carter is a classic set of Deep Pop/Soul and countrified soul/blues revealing Carter to be a exceptional singer with an pleading soul voice and mischievous sense of humor to boot. The tongue-in-cheek "Looking For A Fox" (Carter is blind) hit #20 on R & B Charts, while "Thread The Needle" climbed to #38 and "Funky Fever" made #49. Of course none of these compared to his undeniable performance on the sinuous "Slip Away", an anguished song about cheating that sent Carter into the Top 10 on Pop charts (#6), not to mention striking #2 on R & B. Other fabulous cuts like "I Can't See Myself", "Do What I Gotta Do" and "I'm Qualified" should've been hits as well.
"Testifyin" (Atlantic 1969)
1 Bad News
**** Nearly equal follow up contains the hits "Back Door Santa" (#4 Pop),"The Feeling is Right" (#9 R & B #65 Pop), "Doin' Our Thing" (#9 R & B #46 Pop) and "Snatching It Back" (#4 R & B #31 Pop). But perhaps the real gem is Carter's take on James Carr's "Dark End Of The Street" (re-titled :Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street)"). It actually consists of a lengthy monologue about "making love" before climaxing with 45 seconds of soul heaven. It contains Dr. CC's dissertation on the topic and, of course, infidelity. The Dr. explains that everything that has breath in likes to "make love". Animals do it, even mosquitos! But animals don't care who's around they just take care of business right there. But humans like to "make love" in various places: airplane, back seat of car, at the dark end of the street. Other Grade A cuts here are "Can't Do Without You", "I Smell A Rat" and "You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure".
"The Dynamic Clarence Carter" (Atlantic 1969)
1 I'd Rather Go Blind
**** Third Atlantic platter offers one of CC's greatest moments. "Too Weak To Fight" comes from that insatiable place in one's soul when you're in love. Carter's delivery is passionate and captures the mood perfectly. Oh, it's also ridiculously catchy- it peaked at #3 R & B & #13 Pop. Surprisingly this was the only charting song from this set. "The Road Of Love", the gorgeous "I'd Rather Go Blind" & "That Old Time Feeling" are all keepers.
"Patches" (Atlantic 1970)
1 Willie And Laura Mae
***1/2 Final record for Atlantic spawned Carter's biggest hit with the unforgettable "Patches" (#2 R & B #4 Pop). Despite the maudlin narrative, Carter's earnest vocal is typically soulful and the Atlantic studio band is flawless. Overall, this LP is a slight step down in comparison to the previous trio. Superfluous covers of "Let It Be" and "It's All In Your Mind" feel like filler compared to the gritty Muscle Shoals R & B we've come to expect.
"That's What Your Love Means To Me" (MCA 1971)
Info needed on this LP
"The Best Of" (Atlantic 1971)
1 Slip Away 2:29
"Sixty Minutes With Clarence Carter" (Fame 1973)
1 I'm The Midnight Special
*** Carter returns to Rick Hall's Fame Records for this one-off LP that included the classic "Sixty Minute Man", which could have fit snugly on "This Is Clarence Carter". The funky "I'm The Midnight Special" mines similar lascivious ground.
"Real" (ABC 1974)
"Loneliness & Temptation" (ABC 1975)
1. Love Ain't Here No
*** Don't count Clarence out yet as this LP put him back on the charts on the strength of another classic cheating song, "I Got Caught Making Love" (#49 R & B). Normally Dr. CC is giving the advice but on "Dear Abby" he's seeking some from the famous newspaper columnist. Other cuts that have stood the test of time were the typically hedonistic "Take It All Off", "(Let's Start Doing) What We Came Here To Do" & "Let's Live For Ourselves".
"Heart Full Of Song" (ABC 1976)
1. All Messed Up
**1/2 Once again Carter couldn't keep the momentum going on this third ABC outing. It's pleasant country-soul and R & B but nothing really qualifies as extraordinary except perhaps "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained". The lone single from the record, "A Heart Full Of Song" & B-Side "All Messed Up" flopped and the LP did not chart.
"Let's Burn" (Venture 1977)
1 Jimmy's Disco
*** Disco fever was spreading and had nearly sent Carter into bankruptcy he claims. "Just about the time I was about ready to give up, I happened to go to Los Angles and played a tape for Curtis Shaw...and he contacted the president of Venture Records". Although affected by the sound of the times ("Jimmy's Disco") the album still delivered some funky Southern soul humor and rhythm. The singles stiffed ("Jimmy's Disco", "Let's Burn") but "Working On A Love Building" became an underground hit and the prototype to one of his biggies some years later ("Strokin'"). The album managed a #28 placing on R & B Album charts (#189 Pop), his highest charter in ten years.
"Mr. Clarence Carter In Person" (Venture 1981)
1. Can We Slip Away
** Clarence is treading water on this one as the desperate "Can We Slip Away Again" and superfluous remake of "Tell Daddy" suggest. It does contain the swell "Those Were The Good Old Days" and the disco happy "It's A Monster Thing" did manage a #81 placing on R & B charts but the album didn't chart.
"Livin' The Life" (Brylen 1982)
1 Living In The Life
"Patches" (Brylen 1982)
"Love Me With A Feeling" (Big C 1982)
1. Wrong too Long
"Live In Johannesburg" (Bullet 1982)
"Singing For My Supper" (Big C 1984)
1. Messin With My
"Messin' With My Mind" (Ichiban 1985)
Messin' With My Mind
***First for Ichiban suffered the same neglect as his two independent Big C albums. Nevertheless, the set opens with a sprite take on the Memphis roller "Messin' With My Mind" (George Jackson) and the strong Carter original "I Was In The Neighborhood". Several of the tracks were carried over from the "Love Me With A Feeling" album including the cheeky title cut
"Dr. CC" (Ichiban 1986)
1. Dr. C.C.
**1/2 Heh heh heh. You can't count Clarence out. Just when you think he's fading into also-ran status he makes a comeback. "Dr. CC" is not a particularly good album, as it contains plenty of trifling melodies and plastic pop/R & B ("Let's Funk", "You Been Cheating On Me") but it does contain his colossal hit "Strokin'". Here Carter revamped "Working On A Love Building" by turning it into a notoriously dirty number that struck a chord with many; pushing the album to an impressive #20 spot on Billboard's R & B Albums chart. The "Strokin'" single didn't chart but went gold on the strength of jukebox action, word-of-mouth and Southern airplay. The catchy title cut was also a moderate hit.
"Hooked On Love" (Ichiban 1987)
1. Trying to Sleep
** Only 8 cuts this time and two of them are updates of Atlantic hits ("Slip Away", "I Can't Help Myself"). Trying to capitalize on the response to "Strokin'" Carter pens an equally suggestive number with the low brow "Grandpa Can't Fly His Kite". No, Viagra won't help 'cuz "grandma won't give him no tail". Meanwhile "Trying To Sleep Tonight" borrows heavily from Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and "What'd I Say" is a tepid take on the Ray Charles classic.
"Touch Of The Blues" (Ichiban 1989)
1. I'm Not Just Good,
I'm the Best
**1/2 More lighthearted soul, good natured humor and risqué lyrics from the charismatic Dr. CC but this time he adds a large portion of blues to the stew and it helps. Don't worry, fans of his sexually suggestive routines are granted "I'm Not Just Good, I'm The Best" and the blithe "Kiss You All Over" (not the Exile song). But three 12-bar blues covers, "Rock Me Baby", "Stormy Monday Blues" and "It's A Man Down There" are more effective despite the late 80s studio sound. Carter even plays plenty of crisp blues guitar.
"Between A Rock & A Hard Place" (Ichiban 1990)
1. Things Ain't Like
They Used to Be
*** One of the drawbacks to Carter's Ichiban records is the synthetic sound. Synthesizers, drum programs, et al create a sterile sound that rarely befits soul, R & B or funk music. Soul is supposed to be raw, passionate and gritty and Carter is more than qualified for such music. His Atlantic years are examples of that unadulterated sound. Despite the production Carter can still sell a retro-soul song like "Between A Rock And A Hard Place" and his update of "Too Weak To Fight" leaves no doubt he's still got it. Like most of Carter's post Atlantic outings "Between A Rock" is uneven overall. One curious footnote: Carter adds a new version of "Love Building". Strange, considering "Strokin'" was already an update of the original "Building".
"Dr. CC's Greatest Prescriptions: The Best Of" (Ichiban 1991; Koch Int. 2001)
**** Smart song choices make this a tidy compilation of Carter's Ichiban years. 12 songs (plus an extended version of "Strokin'") salvaged from mostly hit-or-miss CDs. In addition to the immortal "Strokin'", there's Southern soul ("Messin' With My Mind", "Slip Away", "Between A Rock And A Hard Place"), contemporary R & B ("Trying To Sleep Tonight"), nasty blues/R & B ("Love Me With A Feeling", "I'm Not Just Good I'm The Best", "Grandpa Can't Fly His Kite"), pop/soul ("Kiss You All Over") & more. A good companion to Rhino's "Snatching It Back" which concentrates on his late 60s material.
"Have You Met Clarence Carter Yet?" (Ichiban 1992)
1. I Can't Stand It
** Last Ichiban CD serves up the usual Dr. CC shtick. But by now the blatant, bawdy songs like "G Spot", "Hot Dog" & "Let's Get A Quickie" are devoid of the slightest trace of wit. There's some serviceable bluesy R & B like " I Can't Stand It" & "Hand Me Down Love" so the album is not a total loss. But it just ain't soul music
"Snatching It Back: The Best Of" (Rhino 1992)
1. Step by Step
***** Superlative 21-song collection of the best gritty soul sides from Carter's fruitful 1967-71 Atlantic period. All the hits like "Tell Daddy", "Back Door Santa", "Slip Away", "Too Weak To Fight", "The Feeling Is Right", "Snatching It Back", "I Can't Leave Your Love Alone", "Patches", etc... Essential for any soul collection.
"Live With The Dr." (Peachtown 1994)
1. I Like to Screw
** This 11-song set opens with four weak studio cuts before the live set begins. I mean "I Like To Screw"?!? Plain silliness. Anyway the live material is quite good. Excellent takes on "Too Weak To Fight", "Slip Away" and nearly 9-minite "Strokin'" plus some humorous stage banter from the good doctor.
"I Couldn't Refuse" (Ronn 1995)
1. What Was I
Supposed to Do?
** Confusing budget collection adds some Venture tracks ("Slip Away Again", "Another Night With You") with some 1977 Ronn singles ("What Was I Supposed To Do?, "I Couldn't Refuse") & more.
"The Legendary Clarence Carter" (MCA 1995)
Reissue of the 1975 "Loneliness & Temptation" album.
"I Got Caught Making Love: The Best Of The ABC Years" (MCA 1996)
1. Love Ain't
Here No More
"Carter's Corner" (Cee Gee Ent. 1996)
1. Sugar Daddy
** First release on Carter's new label is slickly produced and anemic on memorable songs. The best being the blues "Hen House Ways" and the poppy "Sugar Daddy". Carter's songs are starting to sound more and more like advertising jingles.
"Patches: Best Of" (Aim 1997)
"Bring It To Me" (Cee Gee Ent. 1999)
1. You Got to Grunt
**1/2 An improvement over the first Cee Gee release, this betters four previous Ichiban songs ("Hand Me Down Love", "G Spot", "Grandpa Can't Fly His Kite" & "Between A Rock & A Hard Place") and new tracks like the bluesy "Further On Up The Road" & "Don't Make A Fool Out Of Me"). The funky soul "You Got To Grunt" was a regional hit.
"The Best & The Rest" (Fuel 2001)
1. Slip Away
"All Y'all Feeling All Right?" (Cee Gee Ent. 2003)
1. Good Time Tonight, A
***This is now the third independently-released all studio CD by the legendary soul singer behind such classics as "Slip Away", "Too Weak Too Fight", "Back Door Santa", "Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street)", "Strokin'" & more. Clarence gets credit for not relying on strictly programmed music here. There's actual horns and actual humans playing guitar on these tracks. It's the usual mix of party blues and southern soul like the typically ribald "Let's Do It Before We Get Sleepy" & "I Like Your Touch". Fortunately Dr. CC has toned down the superfluous risqué material. Most of the CD is competent but Clarence may want to employ some songwriters (like Travis Haddix) to improve the quality of material. He still sings well, still has his sense of humor and trademark guffaw, but there's no knockout punches here. Overall it won't disappoint his fans but Clarence could still put out some truly great music if he surrounds himself with the right people. Why not contact Roy Roberts, Johnny Rawls or maybe Jon Tiven to produce the next one?
"One More Hit" (Cee Gee Ent.2005)
1. Lust in My Mind
"On Your Feet" (Cee Gee Ent. 2009)
1. Ain't Gonna Do
It No Mo
**1/2 Another self-produced set of keyboard-based tracks from Dr. CC. Not the most prodigious writer, it took him four years to release his follow-up to the modestly successful "One More Hit", Carter only offers seven new songs (and one is a cover of Jerry Butler's "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)") out of ten. "Did I Do The Right Thing" is a re-recording of a tune that appeared on the album "All Y'all Feeling Alright?" while "Lust In My Mind" and "You Got To Grunt" are simply repeats.
Naturally there's a couple charmers to be found on every Carter project. The mildly funky "I Ain't Ready To Retire" has him singing lyrics like: "They got some nice rocking chairs but they just weren't made for me/I got places to go and people to see/It's gonna be a long time before I hang up my rock n' roll shoes/So you can tell everybody I plan to keep singing the Blues 'cuz I ain't ready to retire". That's great news! Hopefully he will step into the studio and let someone produce him with a real band. Later in the song he lets us know he "still like to make love twice a day". TMI!
My pick for Southern Soul radio is "The Soup Song", a midtempo bump with a strong hook: "I can make you sing the Campbell soup song. You'll say, 'Mm-mm good. Mm-mm good'". Heh-heh-heh.
"A Christmas Party" (Cee Gee Ent. 2010)
digital only release
1. A Christmas Party
"Sing Along With Clarence Carter" (Cee Gee Ent 2011)
1. A New Love
"I Got Rhythm" (Cee Gee Ent 2012)
Man Down There
"The Fame Singles Volume 1: 1968-1970" (Kent 2012)
1. I Stayed Too Long
"The Fame Singles Volume 2: 1970-1973" (Kent 2013)
"Slip Away: Ultimate: 1966-1971" (2014)
"Dance To The Blues" (Cee Gee Ent. 2015)
1. A Warm Hug