Song Of The Day 6/13/2014: Carla Thomas - "I Take It To My Baby"

Black Music Month/Memphis Week: Carla Thomas' "Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)," which she composed herself at then age of 15, was the song that more or launched Stax Records as a nationally recognizable brand in 1960. She hadn't hit 20 years old at the time. I think you'll agree "Gee Whiz" is pretty unassailable as a malt-shop masterpiece, and not too shabby as a bait-and-tackle-shop masterpiece either, if you broaden your standards. While Carla had more than a hand in a couple of other '60s soul standards like "B-A-B-Y" and "Tramp" with Otis, nothing ever again really came close to the success of "Gee Whiz."

Carla's 1969 album The Queen Alone is a great, unassuming record that goes in a lot of different directions than the usual hard-and-fast Stax groove, even though it was largely written by Stax's in-house conclave of songwriters including Isaac Hayes, David Porter, Homer Banks, Allen Jones and Deanie Parker, all of which are names I've typed frequently this week. The Queen Alone is kind of Stax's single-album vision of the broader R&B landscape of the time, as heard through the ears of McLemore Avenue. Man, there's so many good songs on it. "I Take It To My Baby" is the one that I usually can't dislodge for a good fortnight after hearing it. Written by Hayes, Porter and Steve Cropper, it's got this snappy rhythm click that sort of acts as a chisel chipping away at my cerebrum. I should probably get that looked at.

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