Tuesday, 3 August 2010

“Sweet Soul Music – 30 Scorching Classics From 1963” by VARIOUS ARTISTS [Volume 3 of 15] (2008 Bear Family CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Put Your Hand On Hips…Baby Workout…"

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 1963" by VARIOUS ARTISTS is on Bear Family BCD 16869 AS (Barcode 4000127168696) and is part of a 15-volume series stretching from 1961 to 1975 (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 (1963 has "He’s So Fine" by The Chiffons), 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 this compilation). This 1963 issue has 80-pages in its booklet (yes 80!) with Jackie Wilson on the front sleeve and Marvin Gaye being interviewed by a New York DJ on the inner flap - and it runs to a generous 80:41 minutes.

I raved about Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth's sequencing on the other editions - it's the same here. Proceedings open with the crystal clear brass and bass of Bobby Bland’s “That’s The Way Love Is” which is followed nicely by Motown’s Mary Wells giving it some aching on “Two Lovers”. Genius choices include the powerhouse vocals of the unlikely sounding Theola Kilgore which impacts like Lorraine Ellison giving it her all on “Stay With Me”. Then there’s the lovely soft shoe shuffle and castanets of Baby Washington’s “That How Heartaches Are Made” and Mongo Santamaria’s Latin gem “Watermelon Man” – a track that’s graced many Sixties Fest compilations because it’s as cool an instrumental as Booker T. & The MG’s “Green Onions” or The Mar-Kays’ “Last Night”. 
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 "Harlem Shuffle", "On Broadway" and "These Arms Of Mine" 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. The clarity of the brass and guitars on Jackie Wilson’s “Baby Workout” is incredible (lyrics above) and the lesser-heard New Orleans feel to “Got You On My Mind” by Cookie And The Cupcakes is huge too. “It’s All Right” by The Impressions is beautiful. And even when the production values given to Jimmy Holiday’s “How Can I Forget” leave more than a little bit to be desired, the remaster is so clear that it makes you focus on his impassioned deep soul vocal work instead. So many tracks on here are impressive this way... 

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 76, 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 (usually in colour, a clever contrast with the black and white publicity shots). 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 – the Etta James track “Pushover” is not great, an odd clunker - while “Shake A Tail Feather” should be on some frantic Frat Party CD rather than here. On that tip, purists will complain that as many as a third of the tracks on here have little to do with "Soul" and more to do with Pop and even Lounge (Ruby And The Romantics). But personally I 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 - "1963" 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 1963
(Label & Catalogue Number For The US 7" Single Follow The Title)
1. That's The Way Love Is – BOBBY BLAND (Duke 360)
2. Two Lovers – MARY WELLS (Motown M-1035)
3. Our Day Will Come – RUBY AND THE ROMANTICS (Kapp K-501X)
4. These Arms Of Mine – OTIS REDDING (Volt 103)
5. You've Really Got A Hold On Me – THE MIRACLES (Tamla T-54073)
[Written & Produced by Smokey Robinson]
6. Mama Didn't Lie – JAN BRADLEY (Formal 1044)
[Re-issued in the same year on Chess 1845]
7. Tell Him I'm Not Home – CHUCK JACKSON (Wand 132)
8. Got You On My Mind – COOKIE AND HIS CUPCAKES (Lyric 1004)
[Re-issued the same year on Chess 1848]
9. The Love Of My Man – THEOLA KILGORE (Serock 2004)
[Re-issued the same year on Scepter 12170]
10. He's So Fine – THE CHIFFONS (Laurie 3152)
11. Baby Workout – JACKIE WILSON (Brunswick 55239)
12. How Can I Forget – JIMMY HOLIDAY (Everest 2022)
13. That's How Heartaches Are Made – BABY WASHINGTON (Sue 783)
14. Watermelon Man – MONGO SANTAMARIA BAND (Battle BF-45909)
15. On Broadway – THE DRIFTERS (Atlantic 2182)
16. Hello Stranger – BARBARA LEWIS (Atlantic 2184)
[Backing Vocals by The Dells]
17. Pride And Joy – MARVIN GAYE (Tamla 54079)
18. If You Need Me – SOLOMON BURKE (Atlantic 2185)
19. Pushover – ETTA JAMES (Argo 5437)
20. Shake A Tail Feather – THE FIVE DU-TONES (One-derful! 4815)
21. Just One Look – DORIS TROY (Atlantic 2188)
22. Easier Said Than Done – THE ESSEX (Roulette R-4494)
23. Cry Baby – GARNET MIMMS & THE ENCHANTERS (United Artists UA 629)
24. Mockingbird – INEX FOXX (Symbol 919) 
25. Monkey Time – MAJOR LANCE (Okeh 4-7175)
26. Heat Wave – MARTHA & THE VANDELLAS (Gordy G-7022)
27. Part Time Love – LITTLE JOHNNY TAYLOR (Galaxy 722)
28. Harlem Shuffle – BOB AND EARL (Marc 104)
29. It's All Right – THE IMPRESSIONS (ABC-Paramount 10487) [Written by And Featuring Curtis Mayfield]
30. Walking The Dog – RUFUS THOMAS (Stax S-140)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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