Thursday, 29 July 2010

“Sweet Soul Music – 30 Scorching Classics From 1965” by VARIOUS ARTISTS [Volume 5 of 15] (2008 Bear Family CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…You Don’t Need No Baggage…You Just Get On Board…"

Compilations like this 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 "Sweet Soul Music" wins on all counts - it really does. The entire series is gorgeous to look at and especially to listen to.

Released July 2008 in Germany, "Sweet Soul Music - 30 Scorching Classics From 1965" is on Bear Family BCD 16871 AS and is part of a 10-volume series stretching from 1961 to 1970 (I've reviewed the second five in the series which were released in September 2009 – 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970). 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 (1965 has "In The Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett), 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 a singer leaning into an audience to make a handshake - I think it's Otis Redding). This 1965 issue has 96-pages in its booklet (yes 96!), both Wilson Picket and Joe Tex in live mode grace the front sleeve and inner flap - and it runs to a generous 80:37 minutes.

I raved about Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth's sequencing on the other editions - it's the same here. Proceedings open with joyful brass and vocals of “Voice Your Choice” which sounds like it was recorded yesterday and is followed by the finger-snapping Doo Wop-Soul of “The Boy From New York City” by The Ad Libs (a clever combo of openers). The slow churchy organ on Joe Tex’s “Hold What You’ve Got” now sounds fantastic too as do the bass and drums and plucked guitars of “Ride Your Pony” by Lee Dorsey. Genius choices would include Solomon Burke’s jaunty “Got To Get You Off My Mind” (a very cool tune) and the epic build up of “Oo Wee Baby, I Love You” by Fred Hughes which feels like Phil Spector at his 'getting-the-arrangements-right' best. Roy Head’s “Treat Her Right” is a top inclusion too. But the icing on the cake goes to “Think” by Jimmy McCracklin – an uptempo crossover blues shuffle with a soul twist and an absolute joy to listen to (a discovery if you haven’t heard it before).

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. And even the way-too-familiar tracks on here like "My Girl”, "Iko Iko'" and "The Tracks Of My Tears" are sorted out by the next big plus...the beautifully clear 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. Little prepares you for the clarity on the timeless “People Get Ready” by The Impressions (lyrics above). I’ve heard Curtis Mayfield’s prophetic song sound good before because it was well recorded anyway, but I shocked the guys in the record shop by playing it as an example as to the sound on these discs – every instrument beautifully clear and warm. Faces dropped and veteran listeners were genuinely amazed.

Like all the other issues I've covered, the booklet is to die for. The text for the songs begins on Page 4 and ends on Page 89, so there's very little wasted space. Each artist is pictured using quality publicity shots, the 7" single is usually sat beside that - and even if it isn't - the album it came off is - with most of it in colour. 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. There’s no less that 4 full colour plates of Kin Weston from the same photo session at the end of the booklet – lovely stuff. 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 – not all of it is an audiophile’s wet-dream – the recorded-in-a-bucket “Twine Time” is really rough, but worse, sounds out of place, “Boot-leg” is a good Booker T. instrumental but again seems superfluous to requirements especially with the far better “Shotgun” from Jr. Walker being on here too – and the Motown-followed-by-Atlantic tracks are perhaps 'too' familiar to many of us. 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 - "1965" 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 (like the other reviewers here), I'm properly taken aback - I cannot recommend these beautiful compilations enough. Well done to all involved...

Track List for 1965
(Label & Catalogue Number For The US 7" Single Follow The Title)

1. Voice Your Choice – THE RADIANTS (Chess 1904)
2. The Boy From New York City – THE AD LIBS (Blue Cat BC-102)
3. Hold What You've Got – JOE TEX (Dial 4001)
4. Twine Time – ALVIN CASH & THE CRAWLERS (Mar-V-Lus 6002)
6. My Girl – THE TEMPTATIONS (Gordy G 7038)
7. Shotgun – JR. WALKER & THE ALL STARS (Soul S-35008)
8. People Get Ready – THE IMPRESSIONS (ABC-Paramount 10622)
[Written by and featuring Curtis Mayfield]
9. Got to Get You Off My Mind – SOLOMON BURKE (Atlantic 2276)
10. Iko Iko – THE DIXIE CUPS (Red Bird RB 10-024)
11. I'll Be Doggone – MARVIN GAYE (Tamla TM-54112)
12. The Entertainer – TONY CLARKE (Chess 1924)
13. Baby, I'm Yours – BARBARA LEWIS (Atlantic 2283)
14. Boot-Leg – BOOKER T. & THE MG’S (Stax S-169)
15. I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) – OTIS REDDING (Volt 126)
16. We're Gonna Make It – LITTLE MILTON (Checker 1105)
17. Back in My Arms Again – THE SUPREMES (Motown M 1075)
[Written by Holland-Dozier-Holland]
18. Oo Wee Baby, I Love You – FRED HUGHES (Vee Jay VJ-684)
19. I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) – THE FOUR TOPS (Motown M-1076)
[Written by Holland-Dozier-Holland]
20. Ride Your Pony – LEE DORSEY (Amy 927)
21. In The Midnight Hour – WILSON PICKETT (Atlantic 2289)
22. Sitting in the Park – BILLY STEWART (Chess 1932)
23. The "In" Crowd – RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO (Argo 5506)
24. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag Part 1 – JAMES BROWN AND THE FAMOUS FLAMES (King 5999)
25. The Tracks Of My Tears – THE MIRACLES (Tamla T-54118)
[Co-Written by and featuring Smokey Robinson]
26. Think – JIMMY McCRACKLIN (Imperial 66129)
27. Treat Her Right – ROY HEAD AND THE TRAITS (Back Beat 546)
28. Rescue Me – FONTELLA BASS (Checker 1120)
29. See Saw – DON COVAY & THE GOODTIMERS (Atlantic 2301)
30. Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) – KIM WESTON (Gordy G-7046)

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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