LUTHER INGRAM: ‘I Don’t Want To Be Right: The Ko Ko Singles Volume 2’ (Label: Kent)

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LUTHER INGRAM: 'I Don't Want To Be Right: The Ko Ko Singles Volume 2'

It’s quite feasible that Luther Ingram – the honey-voiced soul singer from Jackson, Tennessee, who died in March 2007 – could have been a household name in the mould of Al Green. He certainly had the vocal talent but it’s probable that a somewhat dubious management and record deal prevented him from becoming a bigger star. Sure, Ingram did achieve a fair degree of commercial success – the memorable title track of this collection was a big crossover smash in 1972, topping the Stateside R&B charts and making number three in the pop lists – but he was certainly unable to capitalise and build on his early triumphs. Soul historians point the finger at entrepreneur/producer Johnny Baylor as the figure responsible for Ingram’s chronic underachievement. Baylor owned the Stax-distributed Ko Ko label and it’s widely believed that his ruthless, gangster-like management tactics – he reportedly once pulled a gun out to get money from Stax – stymied Ingram’s career prospects. Even so, Baylor seemed deeply supportive of his chief acquisition and released a slew of 45s on him between 1967 and 1978. Compiled and annotated by former B&S scribe, Tony Rounce, this second and concluding volume of Ingram’s Ko Ko 45s is a real humdinger. Of course, the collection’s undoubted highpoint is the classic cheating ballad from 1972, ‘(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right’ – even today, 36 years on from the date of its original release, this tasty slice of Southern Soul still sounds superb. And although the likes of Millie Jackson, Isaac Hayes, Barbara Mason and even Tom Jones have recorded it, Luther Ingram’s indelible, intensely-soulful reading of the song remains the definitive version. But this is patently no one track album – spanning the years 1971-1978, this 19-song compilation includes other gems like ‘I’ll Be Your Shelter (In Time Of Storm),’ ‘Let’s Steal Away To The Hideaway,’ ‘I’m Gonna Be The Best Thing,’ ‘Do You Love Somebody’ and the Marvin Gaye-style groover, ‘Get To Me.’ To my mind, and on this evidence, Ingram belongs in the pantheon of great ’70s soul singers alongside Al Green, Barry White, Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass. Superb.
(CW) 4/5