Darlene Love is arguably the least well-known of the great female soul singers. “Least well-known”, however, is probably not the best description. You see, though Darlene has scored only a few hits in her own name, her voice has fronted countless successes for all kinds of groups; she’s been backing vocalist on numerous hits; and she’s also voiced dozens of well-known commercials. In many ways, her musical CV is similar to the great Cissy Houston’s and like that sweetest inspiration, Darlene’s vocal prowess puts her right up there with Aretha, Gladys, Dionne and Patti. Doubt that grandiose claim? Well, for more than ample proof, just dig into this wonderful 24 tracker from Ace. For complicated legal reasons some of Ms. Love’s best known recordings (with Phil Spector) aren’t included but what we have here is enough to assure her reputation. The earliest recording – ‘No Other Love’ – dates from 1958 when Darlene was a member of the Blossoms and that was the group with which, off and on, she remained for many years. Indeed it was with the Blossoms that Darlene cut some of her very best work during a stay with Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label. Amongst the Reprise goodies are a breezy Van McCoy-penned ‘That’s When The Tears Start’ and a beautiful version of ‘Good Good Lovin”. Other Blossoms’ outings include a Bill Medley produced version of the Goffin-King chestnut ‘So Much Love’ – one of three previously unreleased cuts. The others are a Scepter track, ‘The Gospel Truth,’ and a 1963 solo recording of Jackie DeShannon’s ‘Let Him Walk Away’. Other Darlene solo sides include a catchy ‘Too Late To Say You’re Sorry’, a 1998 version of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ and ‘All Alone On Christmas’ – a song originally featured in the ‘Home Alone 2’ movie. Though owing a lot to Darlene’s Spector-produced ‘Christmas – Baby Please Come Home’, it’s still a great seasonal song. Elsewhere there’s evidence of Darlene’s value as a session singer (witness the tracks with Dick Dale, Hal Blaine and Duane Eddy) – all adding to the album’s tremendous variety. Through that variety, though, Darlene Love’s wonderful voice brings a huge unity.