Late Late Party 1965–67
(Light in the Attic)
recommendedrecommendedrecommendedrecommended (out of 5)

Oh, did Charles "Packy" Axton have connections. His mother, Estelle Axton, and uncle Jim Stewart founded Memphis's Stax Records, immortal font of Southern-basted soul and R&B. In the early '60s, the sax-­playing Packy formed a group with future Booker T. & the MGs legends Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn called the Mar-Keys, who had a hit with "Last Night." Packy eventually worked his way to becoming a Stax studio sessionist in 1965. Over the next three years, Packy and his ace accompanists cut loads of iconic soul jams and lip-smacking funk instrumentals. But amid the hot licks, Axton was a notorious party animal who overindulged with liquor; that plus his tendency to hang out with Memphis's black musicians ironically put him on his uncle's bad side. (Axton died in 1974 from the effects of alcoholism.) Light in the Attic has done a typically acute job of collecting 17 tracks from Packy's many groups and placing him in historical context. A few average, sentimental soul ballads appear, but most of Late Late Party sizzles. Stacy Lane's on-the-prowl soul stormer with gruff, Bobby Byrd–like vocals, "No Ender," is irrepressible, and the Packers' "Hole in the Wall" almost blows Ramsey Lewis's "Wade in the Water" out of the river. But it's the stuff by the Martinis that really kicks. They deserve to be hailed as progenitors of a special brand of proto-funk groove science. Packy's sax style reflected his hard-living ways and also betrayed a sultry, seductive side that proved he sometimes just wanted a little peace (and a little piece). recommended