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Holiday Gift Guide Review: “Brunswick Lost Soul Vols. 1 and 2”

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Welcome back to our Second Disc Holiday Gift Guide, in which we review some titles we might have missed over the past few weeks!  The titles we’re spotlighting in this occasional series just might be candidates on your own holiday shopping list!

The annals of popular music are littered with lost souls, which isn’t surprising for a business that can turn the street of dreams into the boulevard of broken dreams.  But thanks to two recent releases from Brunswick Records, we can appreciate 30 slices of prime Lost Soul.  On Volume 1 (BRC 33020-2) and Volume 2 (BRC 33021-2), executive producer Paul Tarnopol and annotator Bill Dahl offer up a journey through an alternate sixties where Billy Butler was as big as his brother Jerry, Sidney Joe Qualls had the career of his sonic counterpart Al Green, and Major Lance’s “Tighten Up” was as beloved as Archie Bell and the Drells’ different tune of the same name.  Though many of the names on these two discs are unknown to all but the most diehard soul connoisseurs, some major hitmakers are peppered throughout, including Isaac Hayes (on Volume 2) and Little Richard (on both discs)

Lost Soul makes a potent case for the vibrancy of both the Chicago soul scene circa the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, and for the venerable Brunswick label and its subsidiary, Dakar, under the direction of Carl Davis, formerly of OKeh Records.  The fifteen tracks on each disc range from the wholly original to the wholly derivative, but the tracks are rarely uninteresting.

Ace Records has already anthologized Sugar Pie DeSanto’s Chess recordings (1961-1966) but on Lost Soul Volume 1 we’re treated to “Do the Whoopie” from her later Brunswick period, in which the sassy powerhouse funkifies Joe Simon’s Vee-Jay original.  Yet another artist with prominent releases on the Ace label, Van McCoy, contributed the pleading “Hold On,” as performed here by Marvin Smith.  It’s just one in a long line of remarkably unknown McCoy compositions; it’s a cruel irony that this man of such deep soul is best-known only for “The Hustle.”

Other tracks on Volume 1 reference a number of styles.  The Brunswick/Dakar roster was clearly a diverse one, though the lack of a signature sound might have contributed to the label’s remaining in the shadows of Motown and the other great soul providers.  (Many of the artists featured went on to prominence at labels like Philadelphia International or the Holland-Dozier-Holland family.)  Johnny Williams’ “Your Love Controls My World” is an infectious stomper in the tradition of the songs coming from the Motor City, as is The Artistics’ “You Left Me” with its big production of sweeping strings and luscious harmonies.  In contrast, The Admirations’ “Lonely Street” (not the Doc Pomus song of the same name) has the Latin-esque beat and bleating brass of New York’s uptown soul.  This isn’t a surprise, as the track was produced by Morty Craft of the Melba and Warwick labels.  His deft touch makes for one of Lost Soul’s highlights.

B.W. and the Next Edition’s “Stay with Me Baby” is one of the later tracks on the set, dating from 1973, but it has the sonic signature of the 1960s in its grooves.  Otis Leavill, inspired by Curtis Mayfield, offers one track on each set, and on Volume 1, he’s serving up sweet harmonies and an insinuating beat on “You Brought Out the Good in Me.”  After his strings of OKeh smashes (such as “The Monkey Time” and “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um”), Major Lance reunited with Carl Davis for the 1968 “Do the Tighten Up.”  It’s not as hook-laden as the Archie Bell song, but its wailing saxophone leaves an impression.  Another well, major name here is Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard.  On “Baby Don’t You Tear My Clothes,” Richard is screaming like a much younger man, but the sound is current circa 1967, with funky electric guitar joining his pounding piano up front.  He was back in secular music in a big way!

Another torrid number is Floyd Smith’s “Getting Nowhere Fast.”  The tempo may be slow, but he’s getting into soul heaven with this scorcher.  One of the collection’s biggest curiosities is “Where the Lilies Grow,” as sung by Sidney Joe Qualls.  His vocal resemblance to Al Green is uncanny.   Born, like Green, in Jacknash, Arkansas, Qualls is a dead ringer for the “Let’s Stay Together” soul man.

Hit the jump as we explore Volume 2! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 23, 2011 at 10:22