Sam & Dave – The Very Best of Sam & Dave

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

It’s difficult to argue with the plain directness of this act’s name. Sam Moore and Dave Prater sang in church together in their youth and were accidentally reunited some years later in Miami, when Dave took the stage during amateur night at a club where Sam was working as the emcee. After some lean times initially, they were signed to Atlantic in 1964 and sent to record with the Stax house bands (i.e., Booker T & the MGs, as well as the Mar-Keys), Atlantic and Stax having a business relationship at the time. At Stax, they hooked up with the songwriting and production team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. In their short three years at Stax, they had ten consecutive Top 20 singles and three consecutive Top Ten LPs. Their live show was reported to be explosive, such that Otis Redding refused to be on the same bill after a 1967 European tour when they repeatedly stole the show. The pair had a volatile dynamic, however, and things deteriorated to the point where they did not speak to each other off-stage. They broke up in 1970 but reunited for shows and recordings thereafter. Dave died in a car accident in 1988.

What I Think of This Album

I don’t know, man. Songs written by Isaac Hayes/David Porter, a backing band from Stax, and the spirited call-and-response vocals of Sam & Dave? How is it possible to not love this collection, which gathers all the hits and adds some deep cuts? 

“Hold On! I’m Coming” is a miles-thick slab of soul. “You Don’t Know Like I Know” has obvious gospel roots. The groove on “I Take What I Want” is unstoppable. The hard soul of “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody” (those horn accents) points to Hayes’s future work. Conversely, the supple “You Got Me Hummin’” flows like honey.

The duo try out a ballad on “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” (which sounds a bit like “Try a Little Tenderness”), augmented by organ and piano. It’s fine, but I gravitate towards the more upbeat material. The pair cover Sam Cooke with a live rendition of “Soothe Me.”

I prefer “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” as a ballad, though it apparently didn’t chart (this was a Homer Banks/Allen Jones song); Elvis Costello’s faster version doesn’t hold a candle to this. “Soul Man” is obviously a classic (I had the misfortune of sitting through a very white, glee-club like version of this at my children’s high school; I was embarrassed for everyone involved). The musicianship on this track is out of this world.

“I Thank You” may be the best track here, with a strong gospel flavor, excellent backing all around (bass, drums, guitar, organ, horns, handclaps, and the list goes on), and great vocals. Another awesome track is “You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me,” written by Eddie Floyd and MG’s guitarist Steve Cropper.

“Wrap It Up” is nice and gritty. “Can’t You Find Another Way (of Doing It)” is peppy and fun, with an anthemic horn part. “Soul Sister, Brown Sugar” is perhaps a bit retrograde, but it sounds fantastic (“to the bone, to the bone”).

Sam had the higher voice, while Dave handled the baritone parts.

The Best Thing About This Album

The songwriting of Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Release Date

February, 1995

The Cover Art

Standard record company cover art. I kind of like that you can see the touring band, but its not actually a great pic of Sam or Dave. The deep blue color scheme is cool, though.

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