TED TAYLOR: Okeh Uptown Soul 1962 – 1966 (Label: Shout)

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TED TAYLOR: Okeh Uptown Soul 1962 - 1966

Ted Taylor possessed one of the most unique voices of the classic soul era. His distinctive tenor could reach such dizzy heights that he took martial arts lessons to defend himself against hecklers who regularly questioned his masculinity. His musical career began in the church – singing with the Glory Bound Travellers in his native Oklahoma; when the Devil’s Music beckoned he worked with the Cadets/Jacks before going solo. Out on his own, Taylor recorded prolifically for a number of labels – starting with Ebb and finishing with his own SPG Records, formed just months before his untimely death in road accident tin 1987. Between 1962 and 1966 Taylor was pacted to the Columbia subsidiary Okeh and this reissue of a now deleted 2006 album focuses on his achievements there. Those achievements were more artistic than statistical or financial, since his stint with the legendary label yielded just one hit; yet true soul collectors venerate his work with the label and it’s easy to hear why. Taylor – like Little Willie John – attacked his songs with a total commitment and maybe that consuming passion coupled to his unusual vocal delivery was a tad too much for the general record buying public to take. Here, over a generous 25 tracks, you can make up your own mind. High spots include the Curtis Mayfield-flavoured ‘Pretending Love’, a restrained take on ‘I Love You Yes I Do’ (a song best known in its James Brown version) and the frantic ‘Love Is Like A Rambling Rose’ – a cut that found favour on the Northern scene when Okeh was the preferred label for the brotherhood. Elsewhere there are dramatic ballads, raucous rockers, blues wailers and country flavoured tunes – of which ‘I’ll Release You’ (a reply to the Esther Philips hit ‘Release Me’) is superb. Mind you, working with the best arrangers, producers and musicians in both Chicago and Nashville (including Carl Davis, Johnny Pate, Riley Hampton, Bill Justis, Floyd Cramer and Boot Randolph) you wouldn’t expect any duds… and there aren’t any. The collection is a great representation of one facet of vintage 60s soul …if a little idiosyncratic because of that remarkable voice.
(BB) 4/5