‘Double Dynamite’: Sam & Dave’s Explosive Stax Soul Classic

Sam & Dave’s second album, ‘Double Dynamite’, remains a classic example of the dynamic soul duo at their best, and a classic in the Stax Records catalogue.

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Cover: Courtesy of Stax Records

Their second album could not have been better titled. Double Dynamite finds Sam Moore and Dave Prater rising toward their naturally soulful, delightfully funky, unified peak. The fact that the two men didn’t like each other is neither here nor there – maybe the energy generated by their animosity helped drive them to new heights. Double Dynamite, their second album, boils with joy; they sound like they’re having the times of their lives. The terrifying thing is that this isn’t just their second album; it was their second album of 1966, issued in time for Christmas, and their debut had also been quite wonderful.

Double Dynamite hinges on a series of glorious singles: the chunky ‛You Got Me Hummin’’, the floating, strutting Sam Cooke song ‘Soothe Me’, the spanking, rocky R&B of ‘Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody’, and the deeply emotive ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’, one of the most soulful delights of the mid-60s.

An embarrassment of riches

This embarrassment of riches, enough to drive an album each for lesser acts in an era when many soul LPs amounted to a hit single and 11 fillers, is joined by a slew of strong performances. ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ rolls along on rollicking piano and superb guitar from Steve Cropper that mixes melody and rhythm in one handy package. ‘Sweet Pains’ delivers a message akin to Millie Jackson’s ‘It Hurts So Good’ – seven years ahead of schedule. There’s a version of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s ‘I’m Your Puppet’, which gently jazzes up the hit version by James & Bobby Purify. ‘Use Me’ has something of the feel of a Motown track without aping the sound; curiously, it closes the album, when the tender ballad ‘Sleep Good Tonight’ might have been better.

There’s not much that can be said about the performers that hasn’t been said. Sam Moore’s voice is affecting and vulnerable; Dave Prater’s socks you square in the soul. The writers – Isaac Hayes and David Porter, principally, along with Booker T Jones, Randle Catron, and Deanie Parker, Stax’s under-sung backroom soul queen – are on the money. And, as ever, the combo of The MGs and Bar-Kays in musical support is nothing short of impeccable. More than half a century since it was dropped on the public, Double Dynamite retains its explosive power. Evacuate the neighbourhood before you play it, because it’s a blast.

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