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TAKE ME TO THE RIVER - A SOUTHERN SOUL STORY 1961 - 1977 (3 CD PACK)

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KENT (KENTBOX10)

William Bell, Arthur Alexander, Otis Redding, Jimmy Hughes, OV Wright, Joe Simon, Percy Sledge, Eddy Giles, Jarvis Jackson, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Charlie Rich, James Carr, Toussaint McCall, Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, June Edwards, Masqueraders, James & Bobby Purify, Al Johnson, Laura Lee, Eddie Hinton, Rueben Bell & The Belltones, Etta James, Oscar Toney Jr, Maurice & Mac, Don Bryant, Bill  Brandon, Shirley Walton, William Bollinger, Ollie & The Nightingales, Spencer Wiggins, Clay Hammond, Clarence Carter, Tony Borders, Candi Staton, Joe Tex, Doris Duke, Paul Kelly, ZZ Hill, Chuck Brooks, Kip Anderson, Barbara & The Browns, Paul Thompson, Johnnie Taylor, Thomas Bailey, Jimmy Braswell, Gwen McRae, Marcell Strong, Denise LaSalle, Al Green, King Floyd, Freddie North, Bobby Newsome, Mel & Tim, Sam Dees, Frederick Knight, Luther Ingram, Ann Peebles, Bobby Womack, Millie Jackson, Quiet Elegance, Bobby Patterson, Tommie Young, George Jackson, The Soul Children, Chet Davenport, Tommy Tate, Geater Davis.

Southern soul music first appeared on radio and in our record shops in the early sixties and started fading toward the end of the seventies. But during those fifteen years or so, we heard some of the greatest music ever to come from this planet. Every new 45 that came out on Stax, Atlantic, Fame or Goldwax meant a breathless trip down to the record shop to get another fix of Aretha, Otis, Wilson Pickett or James Carr and they were never ever just good, they were always magnificent - each new release seeming impossibly better than the last. 30 odd years on, that music is still as exciting as it was then and this 3 CD box set proves it!

Kent licensed recordings from the big boys Atlantic, Stax, Volt, Fame, the large independents Chess, Checker, Cadet, King, Federal, Excello and Hi - and the small but highly influential companies like South Camp, Quinvy, GeeBee, Sims, Goldwax, Dot, KoKo, Wand and Canyon etc. The music comes from Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia. No New Orleans soul in this box - they're probably keeping that for another time...

This is big stuff. These seminal labels enlisted producers and arrangers like Jim Stewart, Steve Cropper, Rick Hall, Al Bell, Jerry Wexler, Chips Moman, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, Don Schroeder, Willie Mitchell, Quinton Claunch, Quin Ivy, Marvin Greene and Tommy Couch who turned blues and gospel into the music that defined this golden era.

Of course, there are some well-loved blasts from the past here. How could you leave out a Wilson Picket, Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding classic? No anthology of this sort could be complete without Otis singing  "Try A Little Tenderness" (although in this case Kent has treated us to an alternate take) and it would be a sin to exclude James Carr's "Dark End Of The Street" or Sam & Dave's "Can't Stand Up For Falling Down".

This set will remind you just how wonderful real southern soul music is. It had been a while since I'd played James Carr's "That's The Way Love Turned Out For Me" but once he got going so did the goose bumps! This is one of the best soul songs ever composed and James Carr poured his heart and soul into it. Spencer Wiggins did it too. His "I Can't Be Satisfied" is a solid piece of work; a great song with a superb arrangement and eloquently pleading and begging vocals that roar and soar. But if you want to hear real heart felt pain, OV Wright wrings every ounce of emotion out of "You're Gonna Make Me Cry" in a voice that writer Peter Guralnick described as "intense, whippet-thin and emotionally wracked".

Song writer Dan Penn was the secret hero of Peter Guralinick's book "Sweet Soul Music" and he's the hero of this set too! He could write a classic every day. Penn and Spooner Oldham collaborated on Spencer Wiggin's "Uptight Good Woman", James and Bobby Purify's "She Ain't Gonna Do Right". He wrote ZZ Hill's "Faithful And True" with Marlin Greene, Bill Brandon's "Rainbow Road" with Donnie Fritts and Maurice & Mac's blaster "You Left The Water Running" with Rick Hall. Then just to slap the top hat on it all,  Dan and Chips Moman penned Aretha Franklin's monster hit "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" and the song that is possibly the greatest soul song ever - James Carr's "Dark End Of The Street".

I'd never noticed some tracks before but now, thanks to Kent, I have new songs destined to become as well loved as those I first heard in the 60s. I'm talking about the weirdly poignant piece of mysteriousness that is Chuck Brooks "Love's Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down" with vocals almost as controlled as the guitar player's "wobbling" technique. I believe Sly Stone must have studied this song! On the evidence of Clay Hammond's soaring Sam Cooke style vocals on "I'll Make It Up To You", I'll be checking out his other stuff on Kent too. Marcell Strong has a mighty individual style with his croaky vibrato vocals building into a throaty roar on "Mumble In My Ear". This one also throbs with the rich guitar sound they developed at Fame Studios. Then there's Thomas Bailey's lung busting vocals on his tortured Federal recording "Wish I Was Back", the lush arrangements and spine chilling vocals on The Masquerades "Let's Face Facts" and the strutting lusty beat that develops on Eddy Giles "Losing Boy".

All in all, this is a fabulous package - probably one of the finest soul anthologies ever. The presentation is very neat too in high quality CD sized hardback booklet format with seventy two pages bursting with track details, information on the recordings, brilliant photographs, label shots and bubbling enthusiasm from the compilers Tony Rounce, Dean Rudland, Martin Goggin and Colin Dilnot.

Buy one for yourself and give your friends a copy as a special gift! Only £25.00 for this glorious 3CD set plus p&p.

 

 

Review Date: November 2008

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