With all the early 2009 Motown fuss, it would be easy to think that Berry Gordy’s stable of labels was the only black music champion back in the day. Real soul folk know different of course. They know there were countless other labels (big and small) that carried the soul flag and one of the most important was Atlantic. As if in a kind of riposte to the Motown 50th anniversary machine, Rhino have just released this magnificent four CD Atlantic set that really does live up to its “classic” billing. I mean – what’s more classic in the soul world than Aretha’s ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’? Then there’s Sam and Dave’s ‘Soul Man’, The Drifters’ ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’, Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’, Percy Sledge’s ‘When A Man Loves a Woman’, and Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock On Wood’. We could go on, but that would be to labour the point… they’re all included here along with many, many other familiar soul greats. But what makes this particular collection really, really good is that the compliers have also dug out some lesser known gems… lesser known, yes – but still classic. So included here are wonderful cuts like Darrell Bank’s ‘The Love Of My Woman’, Deon Jackson’s ‘Ooh Baby’, Howard Tate’s ‘She’s A Burglar’, The Charmels’ ‘As Long As I’ve Got You’ and Richie Barrett’s ‘Some Other Guy’ – a one time staple of the beat group circuit. Add to all that, astute and informative sleeve notes from this website’s very own Charles Waring and you have a wonderful soul treasure chest. So good in fact, that if ever anyone poses the rhetorical question ‘What Is Soul?’ – then just play this straight through for your answer… and by the way, the Ben E King song of that name is included in the compilation too.