J.J. Barnes and Steve Mancha

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- J,J. Barnes (aka James Jay Barnes) -- vocals

- Steve Mancha (aka Clyde Darnell Wilson) (RIP 2011) -- vocals






- The 8th Day (Steve Mancha)

100 Proof Aged In Soul (Steve Macha)

- J.J. Barnes (solo efforts)

- J.J. Barnes and the Del Fis

- The Halo Gospel Singers (J.J. Barnes)

- The Hollidays (J.J. Barnes and Steve Mancha)

- Two Friends (Steve Mancha)

- Clyde Wilson (solo efforts)




Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Rare Stamps

Company: Volt

Catalog:  VOS 6001

Country/State: Detroit Michigan and Walhall, South Carolina

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small punch hole lower right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3342

Price: $80.00

I found a copy of this album at a Northern Virginia yard sale and spent months trying to find  an in-depth review of it prior to giving it a spin.  No luck.  It's also one of those rare compilation albums that I feel deserves high praise.  It's deeply flawed - both Barnes and Mancha deserved to have album's of their own, but then you've got to start somewhere !!!

From what I've been able to pull together, "Rare Stamps" was part of a 1969 Stax effort to churn out a massive amount of new product to spur sales.  It was one of three in a series of "Rare Stamps" compilations released by the company.  The other two albums featured vintage material from Eddie Floyd and Johnnie Taylor. Split across the two artists, the Barnes / Mancha album featured  material producer Don Davis had recorded during the 1966-68 timeframe for his Detroit-based Groovesville and Groove City labels.


As much as I love every one of the five J.J. Barnes songs on side one, I can't help but feel a bit of sadness every time I listen to this album.  Again, it had nothing to do with the material, rather was a reflection on the tracks that were missing.  By my count, during his recording career stretching from 1960 to the mid-'70s, Barnes recorded material for fifteen US labels.  By the same count, he released at least 24 singles.  As such, these tunes reflect just a sliver of his recording catalog.  And though it just reflected mid-'60s tunes recorded for Don Davis' Groovesville and Groove City imprints, what a sliver it was. Still, given the amount of Barnes material available, you had to wonder why Stax didn't release a full album of Barnes tracks.  Shame ...


"Rare Stamps" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Baby, Please Come Home  (Don Davis - J.J. Barnes) - 2:52  rating: **** stars

'Baby, Please Come Back Home' had previously seen daylight as a single on Davis' Groovesville label.  Perhaps nothing more than urban legend, but Stevie Wonder supposedly had a hand in writing the song, but "gave" it to Barnes when he left Motown.  With Barnes turning in a heart searing vocal that sounded a bit like a cross between Marvin Gaye and David Ruffin with a head cold it was simply a killer tune, dripping with Motown influences.

- 1967's 'Baby, Come Back Home' b/w 'Chains of Love' (Groovesville catalog GV 1006) # 9 R&B

2.) Chains of Love   (Melvin Davis - Don Davis) - 2:27  rating: **** stars

The "B" side to "Baby, Come Back Home", 'Chains of Love' retained a distinctive Motown flavor, but had a far tougher, less commercial soul feel.  That's not to diminish the tune in anyway.  Barnes again turned in a killer performance on this one.

3.) Now That I Got You Back   (Don David - K. Barker - F. Bridges - J.J. Barnes) - 2:31  rating: **** stars


'Now That I Got You Back' found producer Don Davis out-doing Motown at their own game.  With Barnes turning in his best Marvin Gaye impression, this one had everything that you looked for in a good Motown song - fantastic melody, killer vocal, and a hook that would not let go of your ears.  It had also previously been released as a single:


1967's 'Now That I Got You Back' b/w 'Forgive Me' (Groovesville catalog number GV-1008)





4.) Easy Living   (J. Ashford - B. Croft) - 2:54    rating: **** stars

'Easy Living' was originally recorded by the Detroit-based The Hollidays (you'll also seem them listed as The Holidays).  Both Barnes and Steve Mancha were members of the group.  Thesong was originally released as a 1967 single on Groove City.  To my ears, the Hollidays version sounded like it featured Mancha on lead vocals, but I wouldn't swear to it.  Regardless, the Barnes solo rendition speeded the song up a tad and gave it a more Motown-ish feel.   The result was a stunning ballad that showcased Barnes true voice.  Berry Gordy Jr. would have killed to have a Motown songwriter come up with a hook as devastating as this one.  For the UK market, Stax tapped the song as the "B: side to the 'Baby, Please Come Home' single:

- 1967's 'Easy Living' b/w 'I Lost You' (Groove City catalog number G.C. 206 A/B)

- 1969's 'Baby, Please Come Home' b/w 'Easy Loving' (Stax catalog number 130)

5.) Sweet Sherry  (Don Davis - J.J. Barnes) - 2:41    rating: **** stars

Another tune with an early Marvin Gaye vibe to it.  Perhaps the best Barnes tune on the compilation.  Simply awesome !!!  It had also previously been released as a Groovesville single.   Eight years later it was released as a single on the British Contempo label.

- 1967's 'Sweet Sherry b/w 'Let's Have a Little Love' (Groovesville catalog number G-505 A/B)

- 1975's 'Sweet Sherry b/w 'Chains of Love; (Contempo catalog number SC 2048)



Everything I said about Barnes' talents; well double it with respect to the late Steve Mancha.  Not only a wonderful singer, unlike many soul artists, Mancha  wrote much of his material.  And like Barnes, he had an extensive recording career, including tons of solo material and a stint with Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus label where he was a member of 100 Proof Aged In Soul and The 8th Day.  Sadly, only a fraction of his work was represented on this set.   It was also interesting to compare Barnes Motown-influenced sides with Mancha's Southern soul-influenced catalog.   The two artists are quite different in their approaches.  Both are fantastic singers, making it impossible for me to pick one over the other.  Sadly, suffering from liver and lung issues, Mancha died in a Detroit hospital in January 2011.


(side 2)

1.) Don't Make Me a Story Teller  (Clyde Wilson) - 2:41   rating: **** stars

An original composition penned under his given name (Clyde Wilson), Mancha's third single for Davis' Groovesville label was everything you'd want to hear in a good soul tune - great melody; great set of lyrics, and a wonderful vocal. 

1967's 'Don't Make Me a Story Teller' b/w 'Just Keep On Loving Me' (Groovesville catalog umber GV 1005) # 34 R&B

2.) A Love Like Yours   (Clyde Wilson - H. Koss) - 2:08   rating: **** stars

'A Love Like Yours' has always reminded me of a top-notch Smokey Robinson performance.  At least on this one Mancha's delivery evoked Robinson's sophisticated arrangements.  Always loved the little guitar figure that opened and played through this one.  The song also served as the "B" side to Mancha's 1968 'Hate Yourself In the Morning' single.

3.) Keep the Faith  (Clyde Wilson - Don Davis) - 3:15   rating: **** stars

With the ballad 'Keep the Faith' Mancha dipped his toes into a more Motown-oriented sound.  Nice platform to show Mancha hitting the "urgent" throttle on his voice.   Awesome performance and hard to believe this one wasn't released as a single. 

4.) I Don't Wanna Lose You  (Melvin Davis) - 2:42   rating: **** stars

A beautiful old school ballad, 'I Don't Wanna Lose You' was another track that strikes me as having Smokey Robinson echoes. Mancha's second single for Davis' Groovesville, it proved his biggest chart success..





1966's 'I Don't Wanna Lose You' b/w 'I Need To Be Needed' (Groovesville catalog number GV 1002) # 34 R&B









5.) Hate Yourself In the Morning   (CLyde Wilson - Don Davis) - 2:37    rating: **** stars

'Hate Yourself In the Morning' was another track that managed to out-Motown Motown.  This time around I hear echoes of Marvin Gaye and the refrain was so catchy, you had to wonder if it was legal.  The song also served as Mancha's debut on Don Davis' Groove City label

- 1968's 'Hate Yourself In the Morning' b/w 'A Love Like Yours' (Groove City catalog number G.C. 204)

6.) Just Keep On Loving Me   (Clyde Wilson) - 2:36

With Mancha displaying an atypical raw vocal delivery, 'Just Keep On Loving Me' was an upbeat, bouncy, dance ready track.   Easily one of the best things he every recorded .... The song served as the "B" side to his 1967 'Sweet Baby, Don't Ever Be Untrue' (which may have been even stronger and was mysteriously absent from the collection).


About all I can say is Mancha was truly one of soul's overlooked and forgotten superstars.   Someone needs to do a comprehensive retrospective on his catalog.


SRB 01/2018