Everybody knows that classic soul died a lingering death three to four decades ago. It was killed by the bullet that hit Sam Cooke, the plane that failed to keep Otis flying, the problems that beset Ray Charles, James Carr and Etta James, and Aretha’s loss of direction.
That’s an oversimplification, but if I said the ‘60s and maybe a few of the ‘70s were halcyon days for soul music would you argue?
We have here 72 minutes that suggest that, without wishing to sound like a preacher, soul lives on. In fact, some of the performers (Irma Thomas, Solomon Burke, Ann Peebles, Johnny Adams, Otis Clay) and some of the material (“La La Means I Love You”, “I Stand Accused”, “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”) date back to that golden age, and in many cases the sound could be from a Stax or Atlantic record from the late ‘60s, high praise coming from me.
Thomas, Burke and the (secular on this occasion) Holmes Brothers each get two tracks, and one of Burke’s is the only track unreleased elsewhere. You also get one each from Clay, Peebles, Adams, Dalton Reed, Preston Shannon, Laura Nyro, Walter Washington and Little Buster and the Soul Brothers. Being a white introspective singer-songwriter, Nyro tends to look like the odd one out, but she doesn’t sound at all out of place. Again she testifies to a youth spent listening to soul and doo-wop, as she did on her “Gonna Take A Miracle” album. Shannon’s “The Clock” is the longest track at nearly eight minutes, the last four or five of which I could have done without, but there’s not much else here that should have been omitted.
The packaging is okay but unimaginative. There are details of originating albums and composers, too often overlooked, but given that this is, after all, a sampler of tracks mostly released elsewhere, Rounder could have told us a little about the artists, songs, recording dates and personnel. If you’d like to know who’s playing the fine harmonica solo on Irma Thomas’ “Old Records”, it’s none of your business. If you don’t know who first had a hit with “La La Means I Love You”, tough. Most of the recordings are recent, although Rounder don’t tell us that and of course not all the artists are still with us. Bearing in mind again that it’s a sampler, I suspect it may be overpriced. At the time of writing Amazon sell this for $17.98, but they have links to several sellers with used copies for under $2, which suggests that market forces agree with me.
The music is consistently good though, and well worth your two dollars.