WILLIAM BELL: The Man In The Street (Kent)

Over the years the team at Ace Record’s Kent imprint have carefully and respectfully curated the venerable Stax back catalogue. They’ve released a slew of memorable compilations and reissued plenty of single artist sets alongside retrospectives on some of the label’s big names. Amongst those “names” is William Bell – an artist who was with the Memphis label for virtually its entire 15-year existence. He was only away when Uncle Sam called – but he was still signed up to the label even then!

Last year Kent issued a 28 track set on Bell that chronologically offered all of the singer’s single  releases between 1961 and 1968 – what “those in the trade” call “Stax’s Blue Period”.

We  think everyone knows the sad Stax/Atlantic saga, so we won’t bore you with it again. Suffice to say the end of Stax’s distribution  deal with Atlantic forced Stax to regroup and relaunch and they came up with a whole new label design to replace the familiar pale blue. They went with the equally iconic finger clicking logo on a yellow background and now with ‘’The Man In The Street’, Kent deliver all of Bell’s Stax “yellow period” singles (A and B sides). The tracks were released between 1968 and 1974 and they don’t include his duets with label mates  like Judy Clay.

To many, William Bell is the quintessential southern soul man and there’s plenty here to back up that assertion, like the two big hits, ‘I Forgot To Be Your Lover’ and ‘My Whole World Is  Falling Down’, And  there are plenty more in the same sombre melancholic mould… ‘A Smile Can’t Hide A Broken Heart’, ‘Lonely Soldier’, ‘If You Really Love Him’ and ‘Lovin’ On Borrowed Time’ for starters. But Bell fans also know that he could deliver in a more uptown fashion too. Here you can enjoy the brightness of fan favourites like ‘Happy’ and the lovely ‘The Man in the Street’ for which this collection is named.

As with all Kent albums, extensive sleeve notes and a label shot for literally every recording featured makes this a wonderful tribute to a real soul hero

(BB) 4/5