Hi Records, the label on which this release originally appeared in 1972, along with its more illustrious neighbour Stax established the blueprint for the southern soul sound of the 1960s and 1970s. Steeped in the traditions of the blues, gospel and R&B music of the black south the Memphis Sound was characterised by a heavy kick drum and driving bass, underpinned by guitar and organ, all topped off with a full horn section. Check out King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Stew for the full recipe.
In common with many a soul singer Ann began singing as a child in the choir of her father’s church and it was while singing in a Memphis club in 1968 that she came to the attention of Hi Records’ producer Willie Mitchell who quickly offered her a recording contract.
As with all her early Hi releases Willie Mitchell was in the producer’s chair for Straight To The Heart, Ann’s third release on the label, with backing provided by the Hi Rhythm Section and the Memphis Horns. This album won’t win any awards for longevity clocking in at a shade over 26 minutes in total but as Ann herself sings on 99 Pounds “good things come in small packages”.
The themes of this LP are summed up by track 2 Trouble, Heartaches and Sadness and whilst Ann undoubtedly has a fine voice she displays none of the vocal pyrotechnics of contemporaries such as Tina Turner or Aretha Franklin. The one track where she really cuts loose though is the excellent slow burner I Pity The Fool where the stabbing horn lines underscore the rawness of Ann’s delivery. My personal favourite is the distinctly funky Somebody’s On Your Case with bongo drums high up in the mix and a bassline reminiscent of Ike and Tina Turner’s Bold Soul Sister.
This album is a fine example of the Memphis Sound but suffered the misfortune of being overshadowed by Al Green’s sublime Let’s Stay Together recorded with the same musicians and released the same year.