TED TAYLOR, REUBEN BELL & EDDIE GILES: ‘Sound City Soul Brothers’ (Label: Soulscape)

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For some listeners, Ted Taylor’s distinctive high-pitched tenor voice with its dramatic, keening quality might be something of an acquired taste but that didn’t stop the man from Okmulgee in Oklahoma cracking Billboard’s R&B Top 30 on three occasions in the ’60s and ’70s. Taylor’s biggest smash was ‘Stay Away From My Baby’ for Okeh in 1965 and although the going got tougher chart-wise in the ’70s, he scored a minor chart-entry with ‘Steal Away,’ one of several strong cuts recorded at a Shreveport company called Alarm run out of Sound City Studios by music entrepreneur, Jim Lewis (incidentally, Alarm rose out of the ashes of the Soul Power label, which gave the world the marvellous Tommie Young). Taylor’s ‘Steal Away’ from 1976 is one of several fine and largely forgotten tunes on this superb 24-track compilation (subtitled ‘The Untold Story Of Shreveport Soul’) that also showcases recordings by label mates Reuben Bell and Eddie Giles. There are eight songs in all by Taylor, including the funky ‘Everybody’s Stealin” and the wonderful ballad, ‘I’m Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning,’ one of three fine numbers co-penned by the redoubtable Sam Dees. Unlike Taylor, Texas singer Reuben Giles (whose easy-on-the-ear vocal style sounds like an amalgam of Bill Withers and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson) was unable to score a chart hit while at Alarm in the mid-’70s (he did, however, make the R&B lists in 1972 with ‘I Hear You Knocking’ for DeLuxe). There are seven of Giles’ recordings here, including the gospel-infused ‘Asking For The Truth,’ and an excellent orchestrated ballad, ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.’ Concluding the collection is Eddie Giles, a Shreveport native, who was born Elbert Wiggins Giles. After recording for the indie labels Murco and Silver Fox, he joined Alarm in 1973. Nine of his songs are featured here, including the strident ‘Are You Living With The One You’re Loving With’ and gutsy, uptempo ‘How Many Times,’ where Giles’ energetic, soulful vocal is punctuated by Stax-style horns. The pleading, Sam Cooke-esque slow ballad, ‘How Many Times’ is also strong and illustrates that Giles was much more than a Wilson Pickett-style soul shouter. Paul Mooney’s informative liner notes fill in the necessary background detail, rounding out what is a vivid and rewarding snapshot of a small Southern soul label and its three principal male artists.
(CW) 4/5