In Rotation: Wendy Rene's 'After Laughter Comes Tears'
In Rotation: Wendy Rene's "After Laughter Comes Tears: Complete Stax & Volt Singles and Rarities, 1964-1965." A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers & contributors are listening to right now...
Listen to Adele and you can hear the sound of Memphis and Muscle Shoals reinvigorated, but those interested in going back to the source -- Stax Records in Memphis -- would be well advised to check out Wendy Rene.
If you've heard a Wendy Rene song, it's probably "After Laughter Comes Tears," which was a minor hit for the Stax subsidiary Volt in 1964 and later resurrected via a classic Wu-Tang Clan sample on the song "Tearz." Rene was a young Memphis singer when Stax was starting to fly high in the early 1960s with Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs, Sam & Dave and Rufus & Carla Thomas, and it released a string of underappreciated Rene gems over a two-year period, all of them collected on the new "After Laughter Comes Tears."
Much of Rene's work was recorded when she was in high school (and after she quit), and you can hear it in her voice, which is breathtakingly clean and pure, filled with the sense that she's singing with every ounce of her body. Part of the collection's urgency too is because of the backing band: The tracks feature the Stax session players -- Charles "Packy" Axton and the members of Booker T. and the MGs at the peak of its powers, including Steve Cropper on guitar and Booker T. Jones on organ. The 22 songs on "After Laughter" are as sturdy as Shaker chairs: tight, compact, to the point -- and simply striking. Of particular note is the previously unreleased "Deep in My Heart," a woozy, funky, absolutely vibrant song -- a hit that never was.
After Laughter Comes Tears: Complete Stax & Volt Singles and Rarities, 1964-1965
(Light in the Attic)
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Wendy Rene had a minor hit in 1964 with "After Laughter Comes Tears," which was sampled for Wu-Tang Clan's"Tearz." Credit: Wendy Rene.