Given that digital music has been popular for about 30 years now, it’s surprising how much first-rate material remains available only to those willing to wade through dusty stacks of vinyl in collectors’ shops. Witness this box, which packages 112 soul tracks from 1963 through 1973 on four CDs. Few if any of these performances have ever previously appeared on compact disc, most of them are as rare as the album title claims, and the lion’s share are good enough to make you wonder why they haven’t been unearthed until now. You’ll find only a handful of big-name artists here, and you won’t find many hits, but you will discover lots of songs that should have been hits.
The collection—which comes with an illustrated 128-page hardcover book that includes detailed notes about every track—is divided into four parts. Disc one shines a spotlight on urban soul from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, L.A., and Detroit while disc two focuses on vocal harmony groups. Southern soul is front and center on disc three, and disc four heads into funky territory.
Here are just 10 of the many highlights:
- “Please Consider Me,” in which a pre-fame Tyrone
Davis (recording as Tyrone Wonder Boy) sounds at times like Wilson Pickett.
- “Get Right,” a soul/blues excursion by John
Lennon favorite Bobby Parker that features terrific horn charts.
- “The Grass Is Always Greener (On the Opposite
Side of the Fence),” wherein the obscure Ella Washington delivers a fine vocal
redolent of Motown’s Mary Wells.
- “Riccasha,”” which sounds like a great lost Otis
Redding track but is actually a 1969 single from singer/guitarist Rickie
Charles—a Mississippi tugboat captain—and his group, the Lavonics.
- “You Can’t Miss Nothing That You Never Had,” an
early (1963) single from Ike and Tina Turner, with a hot vocal by Tina.
- “I’m in a World of Trouble,” a Van McCoy
composition performed by the Sweet Things, who sound like a funked-up version
of the early Supremes.
- “I’m Hip to You,” by the Jelly Beans, the “girl group” (with
one male member) that hit earlier with “I Wanna Love Him So Bad.”
- “Walkin’ and Thinkin’” the self-penned, well-sung
first single from King Floyd
- “Hurry Up Little Girl,” by the obscure Jerry
& Eddie & the Tornados, which features scorching James Brown-influenced
- “A Broken Hearted Clown,” a gorgeous soul ballad
by the Washington, D.C.-based Nat Hall with the Mellow 3.
Add more than a hundred additional tracks of similar quality and you have one of the best soul anthologies since The Complete Stax-Volt Singles.