Friday, 7 February 2014

"Sweet Soul Music - 26 Scorching Classics From 1971" by VARIOUS ARTISTS [Volume 11 of 15] (February 2014 Bear Family CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Do You Right...Do You Good..."

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 Manns” tattooed on my frumpy Irish buttocks because these expertly crafted CD compilations are sonically sensational in every way. The best this music has ever sounded and I'm certain a shoe-in come the awards session. Here's the testifying details for Volume 11's "1971"...

UK released 14 February 2014 on Bear Family BCD 16881 AS (Barcode 5397102168819) - the CD compilation "Sweet Soul Music - 26 Scorching Classics From 1971" by VARIOUS ARTISTS is Volume 11 in a set of 15 in the "Sweet Soul Music" Series of CDs and breaks down as follows (84:30 minutes):

1. Precious, Precious - JACKIE MOORE (Atlantic 45-2681)
2. Jody's Got Your Girl And Gone - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (Stax STA-0085)
3. Do Me Right - DETROIT EMERALDS (Westbound W-172)
4. Get Your Lies Straight - BILL CODAY [William Chew, Jr.) (Crajon C-48204 and Galaxy GAL-777)
5. Proud Mary - IKE and TINA TURNER ("Workin' Together" USA LP on Liberty LST-7650)
6. Soul Power Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 - JAMES BROWN (King 45-6368)
7. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) - THE TEMPTATIONS (Gordy G 7105)
8. Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You - WILSON PICKETT (Atlantic 45-2781)
9. Want Ads - THE HONEY CONE (Hot Wax HS-7011)
10. Funky Nassau, Part 1 - THE BEGINNING OF THE END (Alston A-4595)
11. She’s Not Just Another Woman - THE 8TH DAY (Invictus IS-9087)
12. Mr. Big Stuff - JEAN KNIGHT (Stax STA-0088)
13. Treat Her Like A Lady - CORNELIUS BROTHERS & SISTER ROSE (United Artists SUA 50721)
14. Suspicious Minds - DEE DEE WARWICK (Atco 45-6810)
15. Ain’t No Sunshine - BILL WITHERS (Sussex SUX 219)
16. Smiling Faces Sometimes - THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH (Gordy G 7108)
17. Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get - THE DRAMATICS (Volt VOA-4058)
18. Trapped By A Thing Called Love - DENISE LaSALLE (Westbound W-182)
19. Thin Line Between Love And Hate - THE PERSUADERS (Atco 45-6822)
20. A Nickel And A Nail - O.V. WRIGHT (Back Beat 622)
21. Respect Yourself (7" Single Edit) - THE STAPLE SINGERS (Stax STA-0104)
22. Have You Seen Her - THE CHI-LITES (Brunswick 55462)
23. Clean Up Woman - BETTY WRIGHT (Alston 45-4601)
24. Family Affair - SLY & THE FAMILY STONE (Epic S-10805)
25. Rock Steady - ARETHA FRANKLIN (Atlantic 45-2838)
26. Let’s Stay Together - AL GREEN (Hi Records 45-2202)

The three-way foldout 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 "1971" set features SLY & THE FAMILY STONE on the front cover while the promo 7” of "Suspicious Minds" by DEE DEE WARWICK graces the inside flap with a further photo of a smiling TINA TURNER on the center lip. The detachable booklet is properly beautiful - a 76 oversized-pages wad of deep liner notes by world-renowned R'n'B and Soul expert BILL DALH with Discography info by DAVE "Daddy Cool" BOOTH. There’s black and white/colour publicity pictures of the artists, reproductions of the single labels and album covers where relevant and adverts from the US music press. Quality all the way...

As you can see from the catalogue numbers provided above all bar one are US 7" singles and it opens with a cleverly chosen triple-whammy of sound quality - Jackie Moore, Johnnie Taylor and The Detroit Emeralds. The speaker separation of brass and vocals on the divine "Precious Precious" is expertly handled as is the cool funk of "Do Me Right" (lyrics from it title this review). Genius choices go to the wonderful Wilson Pickett and O.V. Wright tracks - both slow grooving funk with powerhouse vocalists at the helm - like Al Green firing on all sixes. Even perennials as common as "Respect Yourself", "Have You Seen Her", "Family Affair" and "Let's Stay Together" sound utterly brilliant - while “Clean Up Woman” and “Rock Steady” are lifted to a plain of Funky Nirvana.

But if you want real convincing on the sound quality front - you’re hit with an irresistible threesome come the middle of the compilation - “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Smiling Faces Sometimes” and “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get”. Wow! is what comes to mind. I’ve reviewed the superlative Big Break Records (of The UK) remaster of Bill Withers "Just As I Am" (with "Ain't No Sunshine" on it) album but here the drums and rhythm section are so in your face it’s almost disconcerting. The stunning clarity continues with the gorgeous vocal soul of Denise LaSalle with her pleading “what has this man got...” and a blistering “Thin Line Between Love And Hate” by The Persuaders which threatens to start a fight with your speaker cones. Track after track hammers you with clean remasters that don’t sacrifice the original production integrity - songs now full of power and presence. I don't quite dig Dee Dee Warwick’s over-the-top cover of “Suspicious Minds” and the only hissy let down (if you could call it that) is “Just My Imagination...” by The Temptations - but again the sheer musical presence and new clarity makes you feel like you’re hearing this over-familiar song anew - and it juts blows you away. Bottom line is this - you’ve never heard any of these tracks before until now. I also had no problem with playback despite the huge playing time.

They’ve 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. If you’ve any joy for Seventies Soul then you NEED to have this and the other four compilations in your life because GLORIOUS is the word that comes to mind. I've reviewed 1972 to 1975 too.

The mighty Bear Family folks - accept no less…

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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