One of the true underrated heroes of the 1960s soul, Eddie Floyd's contribution to the Memphis sound is often overlooked. Born in Montgomery, Alabama Floyd grew up in Detroit, forming early soul group the Falcons in the late-1950s with singer Joe Stubbs. When Stubbs left to form the Contours, Floyd filled in on lead vocals with the band until Wilson Pickett joined.
The Falcons enjoyed a couple of hit singles with Pickett, but when he left to pursue a solo career, the band broke up in 1963. Floyd recorded a few solo numbers while remaining in Detroit, but would subsequently move to Washington DC and hook up with a DJ friend named Al Bell. The pair launched their own record label, Safice Records, producing songs by Floyd and other soul singers, like Grover Mitchell.
The Stax Sound
When Bell was hired by Stax Records to head up the label's promotional efforts, Floyd was signed as a staff songwriter. Collaborating with Stax house band guitarist Steve Cropper, the pair delivered such hits as Wilson Pickett's "634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A.)" and Sam & Dave's "You Don't Know What You Mean To Me." Floyd's songwriting collaboration with Stax's Booker T Jones was also successful, yielding hits for Otis Redding, among others. As a solo songwriter, Floyd's work has been recorded by artists like Solomon Burke, Carla Thomas, Percy Sledge, and even bluesman Albert King.
Floyd recorded his first song for Stax as an artist, "Things Get Better," which did little when first released in 1966, though it subsequently became a hit in England. Floyd's second single for Stax, which began as little more than a demo, was "Knock On Wood." Label founder Jim Stewart didn't originally hear a hit in the song, but when Bell, Cropper and Atlantic Records, Stax's distributor, thought the song had promise, it was released despite Stewart's misgivings and would become Floyd's first - and perhaps his most memorable - hit.
Floyd's association with Stax Records would continue until the label went bankrupt in the mid-70s, Floyd enjoying significant success as a songwriter and scoring a few chart hits as a singer. Floyd would continue to record and perform throughout the 1980s and '90s, and had a memorable cameo in the Blues Brothers 2000 film alongside his former Falcons' bandmate Wilson Pickett.
Eddie Floyd's Eddie Love You So
Eddie Loves You So is Floyd's first album in six years, a collection of songs written by the soul legend that would become hits for other artists. Many of the tracks here were never recorded by Floyd, and if they were, they were never released as a single. Floyd's "Consider Me," for instance, was an album track that never had the chance to shine, and all the more the shame. A classic Stax soul weeper, the lyrics pleading with the object of the singer's affection to "consider me," Floyd's powerful vocals reaching deep into some spot that modern singers can't find (or don't have), wreaking emotional havoc on the song.
The gospel-tinged "I Will Always Have Faith In You" was a hit for Carla Thomas, and Floyd does a wonderful job with the song here. Backed by a few lonely strings and the occasional horn riff, Floyd pours his heart into the words, conveying emotion real enough that your speakers might shed a tear.
Co-written with Stax guitarist Steve Cropper, the upbeat "You Don't Know What You Mean To Me" was a Top Twenty hit for Sam & Dave. Floyd rocks the song just as hard as the famed duo, the song's swinging soundtrack creating a party-time atmosphere; I can imagine that this one would get the audience worked up in a live setting.
Remembering The Falcons
Originally written in 1957, when Floyd was with the Falcons, "Since You Been Gone" never made it past demo recording status. It's a wonder that the song hasn't been rediscovered until now. A gentle soul ballad with delicate backing harmonies, filigree guitar work, and a calypso-style beat similar to some of the Drifters' classic hits, Floyd wraps his voice around the lyrics with passion and commitment.
Floyd also revisits "You're So Fine," the Falcons' breakthrough hit from 1959 and the sort of strutting, boastful love song that the singer is known for, mixing 1950s-styled twang-bangin' rock guitar and manic horn blasts atop a pure swaggering R&B bass-n-drums foundation. "Never Get Enough Of Your Love," an early-60s Floyd song that dates from the years between the Falcons and his Stax work, is a mesmerizing tearjerker in the Sam Cooke/Otis Redding torch style, with delicious backing harmonies and a rock-solid vocal performance by the soul legend.
The Reverend's Bottom Line
Eddie Loves You So allows Floyd's talents to truly shine, showcasing both his songwriting skills and his powerful performance abilities. After 50 years in the biz, Floyd's voice is a little more torn-and-frayed than it was in his prime, but he is still capable of using the instrument to convey great emotion and heartache. The production is a welcome throwback to the 1960's Stax sound, and the backing band captures the heart of Memphis soul with solid, informed instrumentation.
The songs and performances don't get better than on Eddie Loves You So, the album cementing Eddie Floyd's legacy as one of the greatest talents in rhythm & blues, an artist that has influenced everybody from rockers like David Bowie and Bruce Springteen, to blues artists like Albert King and Buddy Guy, to an entire world of soul singers.
In fact, Floyd's influence on all forms of music is so pervasive that The Blues Heritage Society honored Floyd with its prestigious Pioneer Award in 1996. Floyd is the guy that wrote the rules for the soul-blues genre that has been growing in popularity over the past few years, and Eddie Loves You So is the textbook, a triumphant late-career effort from Eddie Floyd. (Stax Records, released July 29, 2008)