Song Of The Day 5/29/2016: The Tonettes – “Teardrop Sea”

Wax of Stax – As a vintage R&B aficionado people often ask me if I'm a Stax person or a Motown person.

That's a lie. Nobody ever asks me that. I'm the only person who's ever asked myself that. In private consultation with my gabbier self I've posed that question, imagining there's such a broad aesthetic line to be drawn between Stax and Motown, then forcing myself to answer under the hot glare of a spotlight that doesn't even exist except in my own fantasies of a deep interview. In the real world the question never ever comes up. Welcome to my inner thoughts, people. You must be able to beat Herve Villechaize in a hypothetical arm wrestling match to ride.

Anyway. If the question was ever asked I'd say, "Well, I love them both, but if you put a stapler gun to my head and forced me to answer which label I'd rather be stuck with on a desert island -- which is yet another conjectural construct -- I'd probably go with Stax." Again I stress I would rather not decide between the two. But were society to be so hostile that I'd be forced into that harsh dichotomy, it'd be Stax. The decision is a by-product of my mutative aesthetics which have developed as I've grown older, in which I reluctantly lean towards the more stripped-down, back-to-basics, direct form of soul music delivery without too much in the way of external trappings. Stax is more about the singer than the song. And while I'd put anything Levi Stubbs sang up against most selections from Stax, there's more Levi Stubbs comparisons on Stax than there are on Motown. And there's also an Otis Redding, which nobody can really compare anything to.

This week I'm throwing out some of my favorite but lesser-known Stax singles. All of them can be found on one of the three massive Stax/Volt Singles box sets that were issued between 1991 and 1994, three of the cornerstones of my bulging soul box set collection. Today's song comes from the first. It's from the Tonettes, a group that's gone by three different names. I've featured them here before when they were a novelty-esque group called The Dixie Belles. When that odd little group ran its course they turned into the Charmels, which all things considered was probably their most successful incarnation. The Tonettes' "Teardrop Sea," a Volt release from 1962, is a haunting number that I hope will keep you up late, but not unreasonably so.

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