Rod Stewart experienced great success with two albums in succession becoming best-sellers with the help of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and with the legendary Atlantic Records sound engineer Tom Dowd in charge of production. The men at Muscle Shoals Studios collaborated with Rod Stewart on the album “Atlantic Crossing” which was gold-certified in America after it was released on August 15th 1975. Several members of The Memphis Horns and Booker T & The MGs added their creative touch to the overall sound of the album, helping it go to number one on the UK Official Pop Albums Chart on two occasions, starting week-ending August 30th 1975 (4 weeks) and finally October 11th 1975 (1 week).
During the same period in 1975, the album received platinum certification in the UK from the BPI for over three hundred thousand copies sold and also gold certification from the RIAA in America for over half a million copies sold.
The follow-up album “A Night On The Town” was another success for Stewart, out-selling the previous release by an extra half a million copies in the United States, going to platinum status with over one million copies sold according to the RIAA. The album became another number one for Rod Stewart on the UK Official Pop Albums Chart week-ending July 10th 1976 (1 week). The album was also number one in four other countries around the world. It went on to achieve multi-platinum status in America for over two million copies sold according to the RIAA and was also awarded platinum certification in the UK by the BPI for over three hundred thousand copies sold. “A Night On The Town” features an excellent version of an old Cat Stevens song “The First Cut Is The Deepest”, which was a hit in 1967 for P P Arnold and has become a real favourite amongst Rod’s fans.
The UK female solo artist Lulu recorded a now-classic album in Muscle Shoals which was not a major hit record but had some outstanding tracks, according to many music historians and music industry critics. The album “New Routes” was recorded between September 10th and October 2nd 1969 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. It was one of that facility’s earliest recordings, the album being released on January 16th 1970 in America. The album was the debut release for Lulu on the Atco Records label, a music division of Atlantic Records. The album was co-produced by the legendary Atlantic Records team of Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler.
Only one single was released from the album, called “Oh Me Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby)”, which gradually accrued enough popularity to reach the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1970.
The same month “New Routes” debuted on Billboard 200 Albums Chart on its way to number eighty-eight. The album produced no further A-sides. But in May 1970 the track “Where’s Eddie” was utilized to back “Hum a Song (From Your Heart)”, the advance single from her next studio album “Melody Fair”.
Many performances by Lulu on United States television channels helped to break the single “Oh Me Oh My…” into the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart in December 1969 and then buoy the track, as it gradually gained momentum to become Lulu’s first Top 30 hit since “To Sir With Love” at the end of February 1970. “Oh Me Oh My…” would peak at number twenty-two in March 1970 on the Cash Box Pop Singles chart listing.
The Rolling Stones arrived at Muscle Shoals on December 2nd 1969 for a short recording session to see if they could, assisted by Jimmy Johnson the chief sound engineer at the studio, create a sound that had a Rolling Stones feel mixed with a Muscle Shoals signature sound.
Photo: Jim Pietryga https://www.iorr.org/tour15/
Keith Richards has remarked on the effect it had on them: ““I thought it was one of the easiest and rockin’-est sessions that we’d ever done. I don’t think we’ve been quite so prolific ever. I mean, we cut three or four tracks in two days.” The results were dynamic and powerful with the lead single “Brown Sugar” going to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart week-ending May 29th 1971 (2 weeks). The track was taken from the album “Sticky Fingers” which peaked at number one on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart in May 1971 (4 weeks). The album also did extremely in the UK by reaching the number one position on the UK Official Pop Albums Chart week-ending May 8th 1971 (5 weeks). The single “Brown Sugar” sold in excess of a quarter of a million copies in the UK and was awarded a silver disc by the BPI on November 1st 1975.
The Muscle Shoals Studio band had further success with another UK Pop artist by the name of Cat Stevens (before he converted to Islam and adopted the name Yusuf Islam). The studio album they worked on was entitled “Izitso”. It was released on May 28th 1977 on A&M Records. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section only played on two tracks on the album, “Killin’ Time” and “Child for a Day”. On the session were David Hood on double bass, bass and bass synthesizer, Barry Beckett on piano, electric piano, organ and keyboards, Roger Hawkins played drums and percussion and Jimmy Johnson played guitar on “Killin’ Time”. The rest of the album tracks were recorded at several different studios across America and overseas.
Photo: A&M Records 1972 (Wikimedia Commons)
The studio album did very well for Cat Stevens on both sides of the Atlantic, going gold in both the USA and Canada. The album also obtained a silver plaque in England for over sixty thousand copies sold according to the BPI.
These four UK acts are very varied, yet the team of people at Muscle Shoals were easily able to adapt to their individual needs and help them produce high quality recordings.
“Brown Sugar” is probably the best of all. It has been featured in almost every live performance of the Rolling Stones since the release of “Sticky Fingers” in 1971. Good music goes on for ever!