Saturday, 8 February 2014

"Sweet Soul Music - 23 Scorching Classics From 1973" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS [Volume 13 of 15] (February 2014 Bear Family CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






"...Remember You've Been Told..."

I reviewed the preceding 10 volumes in this incredible series from 1961 to 1970 (probably the best 
Bear has ever done) and loved them to distraction. Jurgen Crasser was the remaster engineer for those. This time around (1971 to 1975) the sound hero on all five volumes bears the unlikely moniker of WOLFGANG MANNS. And I swear I may have to get “Wolfgang Is My Main Mann” tattooed on my frumpy Irish buttocks - because these expertly crafted CD compilations are sonically sensational 
in every way. They’re going to blow the minds of Seventies Soul fans everywhere. Here’s the necessary for “1973”...

Released 14 February 2014 on Bear Family BCD 16883 AS (Barcode 5397102168833) - the CD compilation “Sweet Soul Music - 23 Scorching Classics From 1973” breaks down as follows (83:21 minutes):
  1. Could It Be I’m Falling in Love - THE SPINNERS (Atlantic 45-2904)
  2. Why Can’t We Live Together - TIMMY THOMAS (Glades 1703)
  3. The Message - CYMANDE (Janus J 203)
  4. Love Train - THE O’JAYS (Philadelphia International ZS7 3524)
  5. Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I Got) - THE FOUR TOPS (Dunhill D-4339)
  6. I Can Understand It - THE NEW BIRTH (RCA Victor 74-0912)
  7. Leaving Me - THE INDEPENDENTS (Wand WND 11252)
  8. Pillow Talk - SYLVIA (Vibration VI-521)
  9. I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby - BARRY WHITE (20th Century TC-2018)
  10. There’s No Me Without You - THE MANHATTANS (Columbia 4-45838)
  11. Doing It To Death - FRED WESLEY and THE JB’s (People PE 621) 
  12. Armed And Extremely Dangerous - FIRST CHOICE (Philly Groove PG-175)
  13. I Was Checkin’ Out She Was Checkin’ Out - DON COVAY (Mercury 73385)
  14. Yes We Can Can - THE POINTER SISTERS (Blue Thumb BTA 229)
  15. Let’s Get It On - MARVIN GAYE (Tamla T 54234F) 
  16. I Can’t Stand The Rain - ANN PEEBLES (Hi 45-2248)
  17. Keep On Truckin’, Part 1 - EDDIE KENDRICKS (Tamla T 54238F)
  18. Hurts So Good - MILLIE JACKSON (Spring SPR 139)
  19. Cheaper To Keep Her - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (Stax STA-0176)
  20. The Love I Lost, Part 1 - HAROLD MELVIN and THE BLUE NOTES (Philadelphia International ZS7 3533)
  21. I’ve Got To Use My Imagination - GLADYS KNIGHT and THE PIPS (Buddah BDA 393)
  22. Back For A Taste Of Your Love - SYL JOHNSON (Hi 45-2250) 
  23. What Is Hip? (Single Edit) - TOWER OF POWER (Warner Brothers WB 7748)
The three-way fold-out card digipak of the preceding 10 volumes has been kept as has the  live-on-stage Jackie Wilson photo on the spine that is now extended (when you line all 15 spines they make one photograph). This “1973” set features THE SPINNERS on the front cover while the stock 7” of 
“I Can’t Stand The Rain” by ANN PEEBLES graces the inside flap with a further photo of a guitar-playing DON COVAY on the center lip. The detachable booklet is properly beautiful - a 74 oversized-pages wad of deep liner notes by world-renowned R&B and Soul expert BILL DALH with Discography info by DAVE “Daddy Cool” BOOTH. There’s black & white/colour publicity pictures of the artists, the single labels/album covers and adverts from the US press. Quality all the way...

As you can see from the catalogue numbers provided above all tracks are US 7” singles and like “1971” it opens with a cleverly chosen triple-whammy of crystal clear sound quality - the lush 
“Could It Be I’m Falling In Love With You” by The Spinners - the beat-box homemade brilliance 
of Timmy Thomas ”Why Can’t We Live Together” and the cool-as-fuck groovy funk of Cymande’s “The Message” (lyrics from it title this review). The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that both The Spinners and Timmy Thomas are originally released December 1972 and November 1972 respectively - but it's nice to have them here anyway (charted in early 1973). Even perennials as common as The O’Jays “Love Train” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” sound utterly brilliant. 

Clever compiler choices go to the lesser-heard prettiness of The Four Tops on Dunhill rather than Motown on “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I Got)” (written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Porter) and the fabulous floor-filling funk of The New Birth on “I Can Understand It” (written by Bobby Womack with Leslie Wilson’s vocals emulating his raspy-vocal style to a tee). More prettiness follows in a truly lovely cover of Chuck Jackson’s “Leaving Me” by The Independents. “Pillow Talk” is a weak choice for me with a fey vocal - but things go up a loverman notch when the Walrus Of Love kicks in with his seductively slinky groove “I’m Just Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby” - great stuff. 

Prince Phillip Mitchell provides a duet vocal with Don Covay on the talking love song “I Was Checkin’ Out She Was Checkin’ In” (mistakenly credited as Mercury 13385 when its 73385) while the cult dancefloor filler of The Pointer Sisters “Yes We Can Can” has graced many of my Funky Funky home play compilations. Written by the mighty Allen Toussaint - “Yes We Can Can” has its bass and drums punching with real power on this fab transfer. The same aural wallop applies to the low-fi genius of Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand The Rain” and the barnstorming vide funk of Eddie Kendricks' “Keep On Truckin’” sounding stunning. Then you’re hit with probably the best audio on here - a truly unbelievable remaster of Millie Jackson’s “Hurts So Good”. I’ve probably heard this track too many times - but now it’s newly alive. And on it goes to three grooving finishers from Gladys Knight (goes all Ann Peebles), Syl Johnson (sounding like Al Green) and a blistering remaster of Tower Of Power’s frantic “What Is Hip?”. 

Niggles - like "1972" there's those irritating exclusions (probably due to licensing rights). There’s nothing from Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking “Innervisions” album and a little of Donny Hathaway’s Atlantic masterpiece “Extension Of A Man” LP would have replaced some of the more schmaltzy slowies like “There’s No Me Without You” with real soulfulness. But other than that I love this CD - nice mixture of the common and the obscure (all sounding as truthful as a Tory politician in Somerset). I also had no problems with playback despite the jam-packed value-for-money playing time of 84 minutes. 

These sets have been a long time coming but man have they been worth the wait. I know long-term Soul fans will look at the track list and price and perhaps baulk at duplicity and cost - DON’T. You’ve not heard these classics until now. And if you’ve any joy for Seventies Soul - then you need to have this volume and the other four compilations in your life -because GLORIOUS is the word that comes to mind. These are already my reissues of the year for 2014. 

The mighty Bear Family folks - accept no less.

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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