Saturday, 14 August 2010

“Sweet Soul Music – 28 Scorching Classics From 1962” by VARIOUS ARTISTS [Volume 2 of 15] (2008 Bear Family CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"…All Aboard The Night Train…" 

Soul compilations live or die based on a few key ingredients - great track choices, properly remastered sound and all of it wrapped up in knowledgeable and (if you're lucky) sumptuous presentation. Well, Bear Family’s magnificent “Sweet Soul Music" CD series slays them in the aisles on all counts - it really does. There are 15 volumes now and the entire series is gorgeous to look at and especially to listen to. 

Originally released July 2008 in Germany - "Sweet Soul Music - 28 Scorching Classics From 1962" by VARIOUS ARTISTS is on Bear Family BCD 16868 AS (Barcode 4000127168689) and is part of a 15-volume series stretching from 1961 to 1975 - one volume to each year (I’ve reviewed them all in depth). 

Each US-based yearly compilation comes in a 3-way foldout card digipak sleeve. The left flap pictures a 7" single in its label bag relevant to the year (1962 has "You Better Move On" by Arthur Alexander) - the centre flap holds a 60 to 90 page oversized booklet that slips out so you can read it separately and the right flap a colour-themed CD that matches the outer packaging. As with the 16 titles in Bear Family's award-winning "Blowing The Fuse" CDs from 1945 to 1960 - each spine in the "Sweet Soul Music" series also makes up a whole photo when placed alongside each other (a live shot of Jackie Wilson leaning into an audience to make a handshake - it's in the 1963 compilation). This 1962 issue has an impressive 72-page booklet with The Isley Brothers on the front sleeve and Barbara George on the inner flap - and runs to a format-busting 79:58 minutes playing time.

TRACK CHOICES: 
I raved about Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth's sequencing on the other editions - it's the same here. Proceedings open with the crystal clear piano intro to Barbara George and her 'All For One' New Orleans soul shuffle "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" (covered later by Ike & Tina Turner and Fats Domino among others) which is then cleverly followed by Gladys Knight's "Letter Full Of Tears" - a tune full of girl-group melodrama. Genius choices include "Snap Your Fingers" by Joe Henderson sounding not unlike Brook Benton at his slinkiest best (stunning production values) and the name-that-city funk of James Brown's "Night Train" which is crystal clear and an absolute joy to listen to (lyrics above). And although "Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker and "Stormy Monday Blues" by Bobby Bland are really Blues and not Soul, I'm loving them on here for the same reason that I played "Green Onions" to the boys in the shop - the awesome clarity of sound - especially in the rhythm sections...

Booth took his time with this - actually playing the set through - mixing in the famous with the obscure but in a new order - and the result is a truly satisfying listen rather than a patchy one. The compilation begins in January and in rough chronological order ends in December. Also, because of the extended playing time, there's usually only a one second space between each track, so it feels like you're listening to a jukebox of the time - or a good DJ cueing up song after song - seamlessly segueing one cool tune after another. 

THE SOUND: 
Bear Family have gotten all the ORIGINAL master tapes from each record company (good Stereo preferred over Mono) and their resident expert JURGEN CRASSER has mastered them with care - the sound is GLORIOUS. The clarity of every instrument on Chuck Jackson's "Any Day Now..." is incredible and the lesser-heard Jazz Instrumental of Jimmy McGriff's Ray Charles cover "I've Got A Woman..." is huge too. 

THE BOOKLET:
Like all the other issues I've covered, the booklet is to die for. The text for the songs begins on Page 5 and ends on Page 69, so there's very little wasted space. Each artist is pictured using a quality publicity shot which is then sided by the album cover the track came off (the LP sleeve is usually in colour and a clever contrast against the black and white record company photographs). Each song then has a 2 to 3 page essay on its history with its title centred like a paper nametag inside a jukebox - a nice touch. Noted writer and soul lover BILL DAHL handles the liner notes with knowledgeable contributions from Colin Escott, Rudigar Ladwig & Bill Millar. And because the booklet allows Dahl to spread out on each song, the details come thick and fast - it's a fabulously entertaining and informative read. 

Niggles - in terms of "Soul" music as many would define it, I'd say that doesn't actually arrive until track 5 which is Solomon Burke's wonderful "Cry To Me". Gene Chandler's "Duke Of Earl" is really Doo Wop and Little Eva's overplayed "Loco-motion" is more Pop than anything else. Esther Phillips' "Release Me" has forever been poisoned for me by the man who tears up telephone books and kept The Beatles off Number 1 in the UK. 

But while the compilation does feel a little all over the place at times, I personally like the way Booth blurs the lines and as a straight-through listen, it works. The Motown-followed-by-Atlantic tracks are 'overplayed' for many of us too, but again - and I can't emphasize this enough - 95% of these heard-too-often tracks are at least countered by their great sound - and if that's a complaint, I'll take it any day of the week.  

To sum up - even though they're expensive as imports, I think once long-time collectors actually get their hands on even one of these compilations (no matter what the date) - they'll be irresistibly hooked. For the casual buyer just looking for a great one-stop account of Soul Music for a given year - "1962" is 'the' place to start.

After 35 years reissuing Blues, Doo Wop, Fifties Rhythm 'n' Blues, Sixties Pop and huge swathes of Country Music - this is Bear Family's first real foray into Soul Music - and personally I'm weak at the knees thinking about what they'll tackle next. 

As you can tell, I'm properly taken aback - I cannot recommend these beautiful compilations enough.  Well done to all involved...

Track List for 1962
(Label & Catalogue Number For The US 7" Single Follow The Title)

1. I Know (You Don't Love Me No More) - BARBARA GEORGE with the A.F.O. STUDIO COMBO (A.F.O. 302)
2. Letter Full Of Tears - GLADYS KNIGHT and THE PIPS (Fury 1054) 
3. Let Me In - THE SENSATIONS (Argo 5405) 
4. Duke Of Earl - GENE CHANDLER (Vee Jay VJ 416)
5. Cry To Me - SOLOMON BURKE (Atlantic 2131)
6. Something's Got A Hold On Me - ETTA JAMES with the RILEY HAMPTON ORCHESTRA (Argo 5409)
7. I Found A Love - THE FALCONS & BAND (Ohio Untouchables) (Lu Pine Productions L-1003) [Features Wilson Pickett on Lead Vocals]
8. You Better Move On - ARTHUR ALEXANDER (Dot 16309)
9. Soul Twist - KING CURTIS & THE NOBLE KNIGHTS (Enjoy 1000)
10. Lover Please - CLYDE McPHATTER (Mercury 71941)
11. Soldier Boy - THE SHIRELLES ((Scepter 1228)
12. Any Day Now (My Beautiful Wild Bird) - CHUCK JACKSON (Wand 122)
13. Night Train - JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES (King 5614)
14. Snap Your Fingers - JOE HENDERSON (Todd 1072)
15. Playboy - THE MARVELETTES (Tamla T 54060)
16. I Need Your Loving - DON GARDINER and DEE DEE FORD (Fire 508)
17. Twist And Shout - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (Wand 124) 
18. Boom Boom - JOHN LEE HOOKER (Vee Jay VJ 438)
19. The Loco-Motion - LITTLE EVA (Dimension 1000)
20. Green Onions - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'s (Volt 102 - Reissued on Stax 127)
21. You Beat Me to the Punch - MARY WELLS with Vocal Accompaniment THE LOVE-TONES
22. Do You Love Me - THE CONTOURS (Gordy G-7005) 
23. Stormy Monday Blues - BOBBY BLAND (Duke 355)
24. Up On The Roof - THE DRIFTERS (Atlantic 2162)
25. Stubborn Kind Of Fellow - MARVIN GAYE Vocal Accompaniment The Vandellas (Tamla T-54068)
26. Release Me - ESTHER PHILLIPS ("Little Esther") (Lenox NX-5555)
27. Chains - THE COOKIES (Dimension 1002)
28. I've Got A Woman, Part 1 - JIMMY McGRIFF (Jell 190/Sue 770) [a Ray Charles cover]

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exceptional CD Remasters - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 


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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc