VARIOUS ARTISTS: ‘Atlantic Soul 1959-1975’ (Label: Rhino Handmade)

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: 'Atlantic Soul 1959-1975'

This new, utterly fantastic, 82-track 4-CD box set (which is housed in an eye-catching sepia-tone 12-inch LP-style package) is a must-have for soul collectors. It’s imaginatively compiled by singer-turned-soul historian, Billy Vera, whose insightful liner notes give an insider’s perspective as to how arguably the greatest R&B label functioned during its heyday back in the 1960s. Interestingly, Vera hasn’t gone for any easy options in relation to the tracks he’s selected – rather, in the main, he’s avoided the label’s over-familiar big hits (there’s no ‘Respect,’ ‘Soul Man,’ and ‘Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay’ for example) and picked songs that singers like Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin recorded that have been overlooked by all but the devoted collector. Book-ended by Ray Charles’s plaintive ballad, ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’ from 1959 and The Trammps’ disco-fuelled ‘Hooked For Life’ from 1975, this collection chronologically traces the evolution of Atlantic soul, charting its progress from rough-hewn, gut-bucket R&B in the ’60s to sleek ’70s disco-soul. All the Atlantic big hitters are featured, of course – Aretha, Otis, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Ben E. King, Carla Thomas, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, The Spinners and Donny Hathaway – but there are plenty of great performances by the label’s less-heralded acts: namely Doris Troy, Esther Phillips, Mary Wells, The Vibrations, The Falcons, Tami Lynn, Don Covay, Willie Tee, Soul Brothers Six, The Sweet Inspirations, Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds, C & The Shells, The Dynamics, Walter Jackson, Betty LaVett, James Carr, Garland Greene, Judy Clay, King Floyd, Jackie Moore, Bettye Swann, and Howard Tate plus many more. A particular favourite of Vera’s seems to be singer Baby Washington, who recorded a few sides for Cotillion in the late-’60s – Vera, in fact, includes three rare Washington tracks here, including the chanteuse’s marvellous interpretation of the Dusty Springfield-favourite, ‘Breakfast In Bed.’ There are a few surprising omissions – for example, some soul fans might lament the absence of artists like Laura Lee, Dee Dee Warwick, Margie Joseph, Black Heat, Archie Bell & The Drells, Blue Magic and Roberta Flack – but overall, this is a stupendous collection that reveals the depth of talent on the Atlantic roster in the ’60s and ’70s. This box set is available exclusively from Rhino’s new website,

(CW) 4/5