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Ace (CDCHD1424)

I Won’t Cry, Who Are You, Nowhere To Go, The Bells Are Ringing, Someone For Me, Closer To You, Wedding Day, I Solemnly Promise, A Losing Battle, Lonely Drifter, Teach Me To Forget, I Want To Do Everything For You, Showdown, Who’s Gonna Love You, No Way Out For Me,  and more...

This CD follows quickly on from You Talk Too Much (CDCHD1390) and Ain’t It The Truth (CDCHD1416), the recent two-volume series telling the story of New Orleans label, Ric & Ron Records. Ace would seem to have been sufficiently encouraged by the reception (and presumably sales) these CDs received to now issue their first single artist package from the vaults of this label.

Unsurprisingly, the first artist to receive this treatment is Johnny Adams, one of the greatest male vocalists to ever come out of the Crescent City and considered during the lifetime of Ric & Ron Records to be the label’s flagship attraction.

The 24 tracks featured here comprise all of Adams A and B side singles for the label plus a few unreleased at- the-time bonus tracks. Re-mastered from the original tapes, these sides were recorded at the studios of Cosimo Matassa and feature the cream of the crop of New Orleans R&B musicians. These include a young Mac Rebennack (or Dr John as he went on to become famed for), who also produced many of the sides here.

If you enjoyed the few tracks of Adams as featured on these recent Ric & Ron compilations, this CD affords you the opportunity to hear more of his rather special soulful vocals on a wider range of fantastic tracks. Many of the sides included are exquisite examples of classic New Orleans R&B and southern soul, with Adams vocals soaring over under-stated horn charts and pounding piano rhythms. Some examples of this winning sound include the opening pair of songs, I Won’t Cry and Who You Are along with the rolling Life Is A Struggle and anguished Lonely Drifter that pop up later in the set.  Elsewhere, such as on Come On and Ooh So Nice, Adams demonstrates his ability to carry a rocking R&B belter in the style of Little Willie John. There are also a number of superb examples of his class as a pop crossover artist, handling strong ballads ahead of strings and choirs, such as on the tender Wedding Day and on Closer To You, which also brings out the gospel training and inflection in his remarkable voice,

As with the recent Ric & Ron compilations some of the most enjoyable sides can be found among the demos and unreleased tracks that bring the set to a conclusion. These include a heartfelt and throaty, albeit low-fi, version of Walking The Floor Over You and, most notably, a terrific version of Cold, Cold Heart, the country cracker of Hank Williams, here refined and re-formatted into a soulful tear-jerker.

This is a hugely enjoyable collection of superb sides from a highly talented singer. And the good news is that Ace intend this to be just the first of a series of releases focused on the individual artists who made up the roster of Ric & Ron Records. Hopefully they will all be as stirring as this.

Review Date: March 2015

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