If Rare Soul is what you're looking for, PopMarket has an exclusive release just for you. The online shop has recently released A Crate Digger's Collection of Rare Soul, a 3-LP set pressed on heavyweight180-gram vinyl presenting 35 tracks culled from the Warner Music Group family of labels including Atlantic, Cotillion, Loma, Atco and Warner Bros. itself. This handsome package, a limited edition of 1,000 units, features 35 tracks from some of the labels' heaviest hitters as well as names that only soul connoisseurs would recognize. But once you hear these artists, you won't forget them. All of the tracks here were originally issued on singles and released between 1964 and 1975, and though there are exceptions, the track list emphasizes deep southern soul.
The set kicks off with a track from Otis Redding, appropriate since the late artist still sets the bar for searing R&B. His lusty, swaggering "Hard to Handle," with its explosive brass arrangement, starts off the collection on a high note. There are other bona fide legends among the great men of soul here. Percy Sledge offers up a 1967 deep cut, "Hard to Believe." The ever-wicked Wilson Pickett goes low-key - well, at least by his standards - on fellow soul great Bobby Womack's ballad "I'm Sorry About That," while The King of Rock and Soul, Solomon Burke, is heard on "Meet Me in Church." That title could describe many of the fiery, passionate tracks included here.
A few of the artists here had greater success as songwriters than as performers. Don Covay's career successfully traversed both sides of the footlights with his hit songs including "Chain of Fools," best associated with Atlantic artist Aretha Franklin. His "You Put Something on Me," from 1966, all but epitomizes deep soul. Like Covay, Sam Dees scored mightily as a songwriter with such credits as "One in a Million You" and "Love All the Hurt Away." His 1975 "Save the Love at Any Cost" updated southern soul for the dawn of the disco generation. Jimmy Holiday, the co-writer with Jackie DeShannon and Randy Myers of DeShannon's smash "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," wrote and arranged one selection here. "It Takes a Whole Lot of Woman" was the A-side of the only single by Jerry Combs and The Mannix, and it likely will leave you wondering why Combs and co. didn't leave more behind.
Clarence Carter's career has been justly anthologized on numerous releases over the years. The Alabama soul man's "Scratch My Back (And Mumble in My Ear)" is appropriately lusty, even including a spoken-word rap. Carter produced another track here, Margie Alexander's gospel-soul workout "Can I Be Your Main Thing." Bobby Sheen is still best-known for his association with Phil Spector; he was Bob B. in Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans - but he, too, recorded plenty of superlative material both pre- and post-Spector, including the effortlessly cool "I May Not Be What You Want," from 1972.
Darrell Banks' Stax/Volt period was recently revisited on CD by the Ace label. Rare Soul has selected for inclusion "The Love of My Woman," from his final Cotillion single before his move to Stax. Banks left behind just seven singles and two LPs before he was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer in 1970; his is a small but vital legacy. Ace has also anthologized Ted Taylor's work for the small Ronn label. But Taylor left behind a few tremendous singles for Atco, including this set's "Feed the Flame" penned by the great team of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. James Carr is best remembered for his rendition of Penn's "The Dark End of the Street." Here, he's heard on a lesser-known gem of southern soul, "I'll Put it to You," rendered with high drama. Carl Hall, a favorite of producer Jerry Ragovoy, was recently the subject of Omnivore's You Don't Know Nothing About Love, collecting his complete Loma/Atlantic recordings. You can sample his high-octane, intense brand of soul on "Mean It Baby."
There aren't too many "covers" on Rare Soul, but "Sweet Soul Music" man Arthur Conley's swinging treatment of "Shake, Rattle and Roll," produced by Otis Redding, is a choice cut. Walter Brown, longtime associate of James Brown, enlisted The Godfather of Soul to produce his Loma single "Your Search is Over," written by Rudy Clark of "Good Lovin'" fame.
J.J. Jackson ("It's Alright") is more than "alright" on the boisterous "Sho' Nuff" with its Motown-esque sax break, and there's more Motor City inspiration on Alvin Robinson's scorching "Baby Don't You Do It" arranged and produced by the legendary team of Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd, respectively. Mighty Sam (McClain) and Paul Kelly both recorded for numerous labels, including stints in the Warner Bros./Atlantic family. McClain's "I've Got Enough Heartaches," recorded at Muscle Shoals, has a strong gospel flavor; Kelly's "Love Me Now" is a lush, string-laden ballad that showcases a more romantic R&B approach.
Though Atlantic queens of soul Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield are absent, there's no shortage of high-voltage female performances on Rare Soul. Lorraine Ellison's torrid "Stay with Me," co-written and produced by Jerry Ragovoy, is one of the most famous tracks here. Dee Dee Sharp's upbeat, rhythmic "Bye Bye Baby" is an early composition co-written by Leon Huff; the A-side (the shimmering "My Best Friend's Man," not included here) was written by Huff's Philadelphia International Records partner and Sharp's future husband, Kenny Gamble! Sharp recurs on a duet with premier soul man Ben E. King, the B-side "We Got a Good Thing Goin' On" co-produced by Tom Dowd and arranged by Bert Keyes.
Of the other familiar names, none may be better-known than Motown legend Mary Wells. Her 1966 Atco single "Me and My Baby" was produced by Carl Davis and arranged and conducted by Sonny Sanders of Motown's The Satintones; it shows that Mary was still capable of turning out exciting R&B even after ill-advisedly leaving Berry Gordy's labels. Alice Clark's "You Hit Me," arranged and conducted by session veteran Richard Tee, melds Clark's brash, confident vocals to a Detroit style - appropriate since the track was actually a Motown copyright.
With 16 R&B hits, Baby Washington ("That's How Heartaches are Made") is hardly a forgotten artist, yet she never reached the top echelon of soul stars. On "I Don't Know," written and produced by Dave Crawford - she exudes truth and conviction in a no-nonsense manner. It's clear to see why she was a favorite singer of Dusty Springfield, who had that same gift. Bettye LaVette has had her share of ups and downs, and she's recently experienced a well-deserved late-career renaissance. The slow-burning (emphasis on burning!) 1973 track "Your Time to Cry," recorded with producer Brad Shapiro, shows that she's long had the goods. (You can hear her complete Atco/Atlantic recordings on Child of the Seventies from Real Gone Music.) Another Bettye, Swann, is heard with the sizzling Philly groove of "Kiss My Love Goodbye." It's one of many B-sides here strong enough to be an A-side. Jackie Moore also cut a number of storming tracks in Philadelphia, but she's represented here with "Wonderful, Marvelous." The song lives up to its name; it's a smoking, sultry track cut with the Dixie Flyers in Miami under the auspices of Shapiro and Dave Crawford.
The treats here are many. Barbara Brown offers two and a half minutes of heartbreak on "Can't Find No Happiness." Stax's versatile soul queen Carla Thomas appears with "I've Got No Time to Lose," one of the earliest tracks here, from 1964. Background vocalist supreme - and frequent duet partner of Billy Vera - Judy Clay keeps the surprisingly uptempo "Sister Pitiful" from ever approaching maudlin territory.
A Crate Digger's Collection of Rare Soul is housed in a gatefold jacket, and each LP side is emblazoned with a different image of a featured artist. Each LP is housed in its own protective sleeve, and the package includes brief liner notes by compiler Matt Block. (One wishes that full credits for each track and discographical annotation had also been included in this collector-oriented set.) Sound quality is uniformly top-notch on the three LPs.
With its satisfying blend of familiar and obscure artists, Rare Soul adds up to six sides' worth of powerful and passionate vintage R&B. You can order this exclusive set from PopMarket at the link below!
Various Artists, A Crate Digger's Collection of Rare Soul (Rhino Custom Products OPLP-8863, 2015)
- Hard to Handle - Otis Redding (Atco 45-6592, 1968)
- Bye Bye Baby - Dee Dee Sharp (Atco 45-6445, 1966)
- The Love of My Woman - Darrell Banks (Cotillion 45-44006, 1968)
- Don't Come A-Knockin' - Mary Lee Whitney (Loma 2044, 1966)
- Leave You in the Arms of Your Other Man - Roscoe Robinson (Atlantic 45-2637, 1969)
- You Put Something on Me - Don Covay and the Goodtimers (Atlantic 45-2340, 1966)
- Meet Me in Church - Solomon Burke (Atlantic 45-2527, 1968)
- I Don't Know - Baby Washington (Cotillion 45-44047, 1969)
- Your Search is Over - Walter Foster (Loma 2018, 1965)
- You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurts Me) - Alice Clark (Warner Bros. 7270, 1968)
- Scratch My Back (And Mumble in My Ear) - Clarence Carter (Atlantic 45-2842, 1971)
- Can't Find No Happiness - Barbara Brown (Atco 45-6549, 1968)
- I'm Sorry About That - Wilson Pickett (Atlantic 45-2430, 1967)
- Wonderful, Marvelous - Jackie Moore (Atlantic 45-2798, 1971)
- Save the Love at Any Cost - Sam Dees (Atlantic 45-3287, 1975)
- Your Time to Cry - Bettye LaVette (Atco 45-6913, 1973)
- Sho' Nuff (Got a Good Thing Going) - J.J. Jackson (Loma 2082, 1967)
- Hard to Believe - Percy Sledge (Atlantic 45-2434, 1967)
- Kiss My Love Goodbye - Bettye Swann (Atlantic 45-3019, 1974)
- Mean It Baby - Carl Hall (Loma 2086, 1967)
- We Got a Good Thing Goin' On - Ben E. King and Dee Dee Sharp (Atlantic 45-6557, 1968)
- I've Got No Time to Lose - Carla Thomas (Atlantic 45-2238, 1964)
- Feed the Flame - Ted Taylor (Atco 45-6481, 1967)
- Shake, Rattle and Roll - Arthur Conley (Atco 45-6494, 1967)
- Sister Pitiful - Judy Clay (Atlantic 45-2669, 1969)
- Stay with Me - Lorraine Ellison (Warner Bros. 5850, 1966)
- I May Not Be What You Want - Bobby Sheen (Warner Bros. WB 7662, 1972)
- Can I Be Your Main Thing - Margie Alexander (Atlantic 45-2828, 1971)
- Baby Don't You Do It - Alvin Robinson (Atco 45-6581, 1968)
- I'll Put It to You - James Carr (Atlantic 45-2803, 1971)
- Me and My Baby - Mary Wells (Atco 45-6436, 1966)
- I've Got Enough Heartaches - Mighty Sam (Atlantic 45-2707, 1970)
- It Takes a Whole Lot of Woman - Jerry Combs and the Mannix (Warner Bros. 7217, 1968)
- Don't Take My Sunshine - J.P. Robinson (Atco 45-6845, 1971)
- Love Me Now - Paul Kelly (Warner Bros. WB 7657, 1972)