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Kent (CDKEND370)

Mable John, Jimmy Hughes, Bettye Crutcher, William Bell, Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, Inez Foxx, Willie Singleton, Eddie Floyd, Johnny Daye, The Charmells, Calvin Scott and more.

If you read through the detailed 24 page booklet that accompanies this magnificent collection, a continuing theme is that these years were marked by a label struggling to cope with bad luck and dubious business decisions. The loss in 1967 of a distribution deal with Atlantic hit hard, as did the realisation that their own masters of previous recordings were contractually now owned in perpetuity by Atlantic. The tragic plane crash that took the lives of Otis Redding and most of The Bar Kays, and the loss of other key artists such as Sam & Dave, also ensured that the label needed to re-think its whole operation to survive.

Thankfully, we have here a 21 track testament to the superb job they did. The label may have ended in bankruptcy in 1975 but, by extending the reach of its search for new artists away from solely its Memphis base, they were able to unearth and record for posterity a whole host of new southern soul artists.

This CD has been curated by the same team that brought you the magnificent and best-selling Kentbox releases and it likewise succeeds splendidly in mixing a few notable classics in with plenty of unearthed rarities and previously unreleased numbers. From the first few bars of the opener, Stay Baby Stay by Johnny Daye to the last few seconds of the closing track, Little Milton's take on Woman Across The River (a live favourite of Freddie King in the early ‘70s), there is not a single weak moment or wasted note. All the singers have a masterful control of their material, the songs are uniformly strong and the musical support is, as always with Stax, tastefully understated and unobtrusive on the slow numbers and punchy and rocky on the uptempo sides.

Favourites? Am I allowed favourites? On first listen I was mostly taken by Sylvia & The Blue Jays emotional The Fault Is Not In Me and The Charmell's I've Done It Again. From the latest listen it was Eddie Floyd's Stealing Love and Sir Mack Rice's Nobody Wins ‘Til The Game Is Over. In between times (and there have been plenty of these, this CD is seriously more-ish), all 21 tracks have drawn breath, tapped toes or taken me back to remembrances of past times - and what else do you really want from a top class southern soul CD like this?


Review Date: April 2012

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