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Kent (CDKEND383)

Hank Ballard, Charles Spurling, Christine Kittrell, Bobby Wade, Lee Holland, The King Pins, Earl Gaines, Toni Williams, Marva Whitney, Lynn Davis, The Bobbettes, Thomas Bailey & more.

It is staggering to recently discover the fact that Ace has been releasing CDs of superior southern and northern soul for thirty years now. It would seem inevitable that after such a long and intensive period of regular monthly releases that, while the well may not have been completely drained dry, the quality of what was found and made available
must go down.

But no, we can happily report here that there are absolutely no sounds herein that are suggestive of barrel bottoms being scraped. Instead, here we are yet again with another top-notch collection of newly mined sides from the King vaults which are rightly described in the accompanying (and as always excellent booklet) as ‘bounteous'. Indeed,
this collection could easily stand to be tested against  any previous release and not be found wanting. It really is that good!

This collection is effectively another instalment in the superb ‘King's Serious Soul' series, following up Volume One - Too Much Pain (ask for CDKEND194) and Volume Two - Counting Teardrops (ask for CDKEND206). With a  slightly broader scope, now not being limited only to the inclusion of  southern soul, this provides 24 amazingly good soul ballads to weep along to, or at least nod along to appreciatively if not feeling particularly blue.

Every single one of these selections is, in one way or another, excellent and it seems a little churlish to select any particular highlights. As Churlish is my middle name however, here are just a few.

Christine Kittrell's Ain't Never Seen So Much Rain Before is a revelation. Not only is it such a marvellous song, but her voice is stupendous, carrying with it the fragility of Billie Holiday, the poise of Ella Fitzgerald and the spark of Etta James.  An amazing performance but, sadly, as the brief profile provided in the booklet states, this 1965 recording was to prove her last.

Bobby Wade's lung-bursting version of Blind Over You sounds fantastic over the more controlled backing singers and superb production sound, while The King Pins How Long Will It Last is one of many great songs in this set, delivered by a great gospel-soaked voice enhanced by an excellent rumbling guitar support.

The singing on Fall Into These Arms Of Mine by Johnny Soul is clearly heavily influenced by Otis Redding but is none the worse for the intended (or otherwise) homage. And similarly, Why by James Duncan has an excellent gospel-impassioned vocal delivery that even O.V. Wright would have been proud of.

We could go on indefinitely here but I will wrap up by simply stating that whether you like your soul vocalists with a creamy falsetto, a rasping growl, or something in between, this collection is just simply a must-have.

Review Date: January 2013

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