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Kent (CDTOP442)

Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, Ivory Joe Hunter, Barbara & The Browns, William Bell, Eddie Jefferson, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Floyd, Sir Mack Rice, Eddie Jefferson, Johnny Jenkins, Gorgeous George, Linda Lyndell and more...

Lovers of classic southern soul have been spoilt recently with a run of fantastic re-issues, most notably of course the sensational 3CD set from Ace Records, Back To The River - More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978 (KENTBOX18). This CD adds to this impressive list of recent issues in providing  on CD for the first time a full 24 tracks that were issued on vinyl singles by either Stax or Volt as B-sides to better known A-sides between 1964 and 1968.

With such a sustained interest in this music over the years, it is surprising enough that there still exists so much high quality southern soul that has yet to be re-issued on CD. More surprising perhaps is that these recordings are not of little or barely known artists but of some of the major figures of the genre, including Johnnie Taylor, William Bell, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas and Rufus Thomas. Also featured are a few artists not normally associated with southern soul (such as  Ivory Je Hunter and Johnny Jenkins) who were sufficiently big names in their own right for it to be equally surprising that these sides here have been ignored until now.

With the credentials of the artists on show here, it would be a fair bet that the quality of recordings included would be of a very high standard. And indeed they are. 

Particular favourites are the two tracks by Barbara And The Browns, You Belong To Her and Please Be Honest With Me, both glorious two and a half minute tales of heartache and despair. And, Eddie Purnell delivers the same effect with the effective sophistication of My Pride Won't Let Me. Other special moments among the slower, ballad-like numbers include William Bell's Ain't Got No Girl and, perhaps the most charming song of all on the album, Carla Thomas' A Boy Named Tom.

Of the more up-tempo numbers, Watchdog by Dorothy Williams is a real R&B cracker, with a killer riff and enough bark and bite to draw comparison with Big Mama Thornton. Rufus Thomas also employs a gloriously funky riff on Sho' Gonna Mess Him Up and Gorgeous George works up his band into a sweat with an impressively gospel-tinged vocal performance on Sweet Thing. And Eddie Floyd is characteristically rocking, funky and soulful all at the same time throughout Hey Now

I could go on as this is a truly impressive collection of some of the finest southern soul you have (like as not) never heard before. As always with Ace, it comes with a detailed colour 16 page booklet full of pen portraits of the artists featured, rare photos and other notes.

Another fine collection and a must-have addition to the library of all southern soul fans.

Review Date: Febraury 2016

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