SPENCER WIGGINS; Feed The Flame (Kent)


Spencer Wiggins was … indeed, is the consummate Southern soul man. Born and raised in and around Memphis he served his musical apprenticeship in the Church before trying to eke out a living on the Memphis club scene. A residency at the legendary Flamingo Club landed him a recording deal with the equally legendary Goldwax label and a few years back Ace/Kent issued a most excellent CD of Spencer’s Goldwax best. At the time the Kent crew knew that a smattering of Wiggins’ Goldwax cuts had been sold on to Fame – the label he eventually signed with in 1969. There he recorded a further nine tracks, but lack of success saw him finally move across town to Sounds Of Memphis/XL, where – again – despite some excellent recordings he failed to break though. The lack of commercial success, however, doesn’t, of course, mean that the music he crafted was sub-standard in any way. Far from it. This 22 track collection of all the aforementioned Fame and XL recordings proves that vocally Spencer Wiggins was the equal of any of the great southern soul men. At one moment he could sing as sweetly as say William Bell, the next he could come on as fiercely as Wilson Picket. No, Wiggins’ problems were the usual lack of promotion and less-than-dynamic management. Still – thanks to Kent we can now enjoy the music and, incredibly a good half of the cuts here are seeing the light of the day for the very first time. Of the previously unreleased cuts – the opener, ‘I’m At The Breaking Point’ is absolutely superb – big, bright and brassy it typifies the very best of up-tempo southern soul. .Stuff like ‘Water’, ”Love Me Tonight’ and ‘Love Works That Way’ represent the other end of the spectrum – lugubrious ballads with that odd mix of the Church and country music about them. Add to that superb covers of Bettye Swan’s ‘Make Me Yours’ , Solomon Burke’s ‘Cry To Me’ and Etta James’ ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ and you have a wonderful Southern soul set, which – taken with the earlier Kent collection on Wiggins will give you all the man’s secular recordings. Yes, as you might have guessed a disillusioned Spencer went back to singing in the church (in Florida –where he’d relocated in 1973) but the news is that Kent’s Dean Rudland has coaxed him to play at a 6T’s weekender – and who knows where that might lead.

(BB) 4/5