BROOKS O’DELL: I’m Your Man (Label: Kent)

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Brooks O’Dell is one of those very peculiar UK soul heroes … and by “peculiar” I don’t mean “strange” or “quirky”. I simply mean that despite a handful of hits and only a smattering of releases over a long period, he enjoys a kind of cult status with the British soul cognoscenti. Said cognoscenti will be delighted then with this 26 track collection of almost everything he recorded between 1963 and 1972. O’Dell’s best-known cut, ‘You Better Make Up Your Mind’ takes pride of place here and as an example of mid-sixties big city soul it still sounds pretty perfect. The good news though is that there’s plenty here to rival it. Every bit as good, for instance, is the catchy ‘Watch Your Step’. Recorded in ’63, the writers on that one are the then-youthful Kenny Gamble and Thom Bell – and, yes, therein you’ll hear the seeds of what they were later to achieve. Chicago was the recording venue for another trio of goodies – the bright ‘Standing Tall’, the Gerald Sims-penned ‘The Lively Ones’ and the previously unissued ‘The Heartless One’. That latter is issued here for the very first time along with a clutch of songs that Brooks worked on with Swamp Dogg down south, and it’s no surprise to note that songs like ‘I Don’t Want To Cry’ and ‘Everybody’s Friend, Nobody’s Lover’ have a very different feel to those uptown floaters. That, though, seems to be the appeal of O’Dell’s music. He could turn a professional hand to almost any flavour of soul and produce memorable results. Why lasting fame passed him by is probably due to all kinds of factors outside the man’s control. The Kent sleuths tried to track down O’Dell to get his take on the story, but sadly they couldn’t locate him. Still, we have his music to enjoy and what we have here will only cement that peculiar cult status we mentioned up top.
(BB) 3/5