Avid collectors of Southern Soul will probably be familiar with Sam Baker, a church-raised singer whose trademark was a plaintive, pleading, high tenor voice. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Baker was in his early twenties when he came to the attention of the influential Nashville-based R&B DJ, John Richbourg, who was also an A&R man and producer for the Sound Stage 7 label. In 1965, Richbourg signed Baker to his label, where the singer cut a dozen 45s in a fertile four-year period. For the first time ever, all Baker’s collectable Sound Stage 7 sides (22 in all) are brought together on CD. Although Baker was unable to penetrate Billboard’s R&B charts, he issued some fabulous soul records, like the cathartic ballads, ‘Sometimes You Have To Cry,’ ‘Safe In The Arms Of Love’ and ‘Let Me Come On Home.’ With punchy horns, churchy organ and bluesy guitars figuring in the arrangements, there’s a definite Stax feel to Baker’s repertoire of recordings – interestingly, it turns out that some of the songs were recorded in Memphis, at Chip Moman’s studio. Also, the passion and intensity that Baker injects into his vocal performances is reminiscent of Stax signee, Otis Redding. Sadly, SS7 didn’t’ have the financial clout of Stax and Baker wasn’t able to achieve even a modicum of commercial success. Over the years, though, his SS7 records have become highly prized by collectors and exchange hands for a sizable wad of cash. Of course, a CD – even as good as this one – can never be a substitute for the precious vinyl that collectors cherish so much, but there’s no doubt that this superb collection represents an affordable way to become acquainted with this cult singer’s excellent music.