“…Hey Mama…Let Me Fix It For You…”
Having had a massive male vocal career with Mercury Records throughout the Fifties & Sixties, Brook Benton's stay at the wonderful Atlantic label for the late Sixties and early Seventies produced a run of good albums that achieved only moderate chart positions and are all but forgotten now - and criminally so. Possessed of the most fantastically deep and expressive voice, he could sing anything from Sinatra's "My Way" to Elton John's "Country Comforts" in a soul/funky/gospel kind of way - and this cool little UK compilation is a great way into that.
Celebrating 60 years of Atlantic (stickered as such on the jewel case and printed on the black & red label), this 20-track June 2007 Rhino set is part of a large series of budget-priced compilations offering generous amounts of classic music for peanuts money. The 4-page inlay is only adequate as you can imagine, and offers no real discography or history - so here's a detailed breakdown of what's on offer (75:14 minutes)...
Brook Benton's 5 US Atlantic/Cotillion albums were:
"Do Your Own Thing", USA July 1969 LP on Cotillion SD-9002
"Brook Benton Today", USA February 1970 LP on Cotillion SD-9018
(CD Tracks 1, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16)
"Home Style", USA August 1970 LP on Cotillion SD-9028
(Tracks 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11)
"The Gospel Truth", USA June 1971 LP on Cotillion SD-058
"Story Teller", USA 1972 LP on Atlantic SD-9050
(Tracks 2, 4, 17, 18, 19 and 20)
As you can see from the track allocation above, having no songs at all from "Do Your Own Thing" or "The Gospel Truth" is a huge disappointment. But the 14 tracks we do get from the other 3 are welcome - especially the six from "Story Teller" which are new to CD. In 2004 a small US label DBK Works put out "...Today/Home Style" as 2LPs on 1CD but that's now hard to find and pricey - so for both the die-hard fan and the casual buyer, "Platinum" is an extremely inexpensive way of accessing rare music from a lesser-documented period of Benton's amazing career.
Having had a chart hit with his superbly soulful version of Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night In Georgia", it's not surprising that he covered three more of his tunes - "For Lee Ann", "Aspen Colorado" and "Willie And Laura Mae Jones". The "Rainy Night..." soundalike "For Lee Ann" features CISSY HOUSTON on almost operatic vocals while the mellow and languid style of "Aspen Colorado" suited Benton's style so well.
A real gem here, however, is the wonderful self-penned "Let Me Fix It", a slinky and sexy soul song, which features THE DIXIE FLYERS on Horns and Keyboards and Cissy Houston on witty Duet vocals. It turned up in 2001 on the Atlantic compilation "Right On! Vol.3" (aimed directly at those who like break beats and grooves) and sent many soul fans back into second-hand record shops in London trying to find his LPs!
Most of the sessions were produced by ace arranger ARIF MARDIN and many of the tracks also feature THE SWEET INSPIRATIONS on Backing Vocals.
Although it doesn't state `remastered' anywhere - it's presumed being Rhino that they are because the sound is wonderful throughout - a little hissy in a few places - but nothing that would detract.
What's needed of course is a Brook Benton Rhino Handmade Limited Edition BOX SET covering all 5 of his albums, the 7" singles and hopefully even some tasty unreleased stuff (there's bound to be some and I'll bet it's good too). Whether that's commercially viable or not is another matter.
In the meantime, this budget-priced remastered compilation is stunning value for money and makes available music that is increasingly hard to find now on original vinyl.
A voice and a talent you need to rediscover - highly recommended.
PS: the other Atlantic artists in "The Platinum Collection" series are: LaVern Baker, Archie Bell & The Drells, Booker T & The M.G.'s, Ruth Brown, Solomon Burke, Clarence Carter, The Clovers, Arthur Conley (see REVIEW), Don Covay, The Detroit Spinners, Eddie Floyd, King Curtis, Barbara Lewis (see REVIEW), The Mar-Keys, The Persuasions, Sam & Dave, Percy Sledge (see REVIEW), Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, (Big) Joe Turner and Betty Wright
.....Brook Benton Atlantic/Cotillion LP Discography.....
“Do Your Own Thing”
USA July 1969, Cotillion SD-9002 (Stereo)
Side 1: Touch 'Em With Love/Nothing Can Take The Place Of You/Destination Heartbreak/Woman Without Love/Break Out/She Knows What To Do For Me
Side 2: Set Me Free/With Pen In Hand/Hiding Behind The Shadow Of A Dream/I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself/Oh Lord, Why Lord/Do Your Own Thing
“Brook Benton Today”
USA February 1970, Cotillion SD-9018
UK 1970, Atlantic 2465 004 (Plum Label)
Side 1: Rainy Night In Georgia/My Way/Life Has Its Little Ups And Downs/Can't Take My Eyes Off You/We're Gonna Make It
Side 2: A Little Bit Of Soap/Baby/Where Do I Go From Here? /Desertion/I've Gotta Be Me/
USA August 1970, Cotillion SD-9028
UK 1970 Atlantic 2400 024 (Plum Label)
Side 1: Whoever Finds This I Love You/For Lee Ann/Willie And Laura Mae Jones/It's All In The Game/Don't It Make You Wanta Go Home
Side 2: Aspen Colorado/Don't Think Twice It's All Right/Born Under A Bad Sign/Are You Sincere/Let Me Fix It
“The Gospel Truth”
USA June 1971, Cotillion SD-058
UK 1971 Atlantic 2400 202 (Plum Label) - Reissued 1972 on Atlantic K 40224
Side 1: Let Us All Get Together With The Lord/Oh Happy Day/Heaven Help Us All/Going Home In His Name
Side 2: Take A Look At Your Hands/If You Think God Is Dead/I Dreamed Of A City Called Heaven/Doing The Best I Can/Precious Lord
USA 1972, Atlantic SD-9050
UK 1972, Atlantic K 40314
Side 1: Movin' Day/Willoughby Grove/Shoes/Poor Make Believer/Please Send Me Someone To Love
Side 2: Big Mabel Murphy/She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye/Save The Last Dance For Me/Sidewalks Of Chicago/Country Comfort