Joe South

Anthology: A Mirror of His Mind -- Hits and Highlights 1968-1975

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It's hard to call Joe South a neglected artist, since so many of his songs have become pop standards, often through covers by other artists. "Hush" was Deep Purple's breakthrough, "Down in the Boondocks" was Billy Joe Royal's big hit, Lynn Anderson is forever identified with "Rose Garden," the Tams had a hit with "Untie Me," and Elvis Presley turned "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" into a signature anthem late in his career. Plus, South himself had big hits with "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home?" and "Games People Play," the latter of which won two Grammy Awards. His lack of recognition may stem from his notoriously temperamental personality, which helped push him to the sideline and eventually had him stop performing as an active recording artist, but it could also be because his music doesn't neatly fit into any one category. It manages to be rooted in both country and soul, but its presentation is pop, completely with psychedelic overtones and singer/songwriter ambitions. As evidenced by his hits, it was hardly inaccessible and, in many ways, it summarizes the sounds of mainstream pop in the late '60s and early '70s quite well, even as it stretches far beyond mere radio material. Because it was pop music in a progressive age, it didn't get much serious attention at the time, but as Raven's superb 23-track Anthology: A Mirror of His Mind -- Hits and Highlights 1968-1975 illustrates, South's music stands as some of the finest pop music of his time -- familiar enough to be genuinely pop, yet ambitious and idiosyncratic enough to qualify as a discovery. South's 1968 debut, Introspect, is considered his best and it is heavily represented here, with seven of its 11 tracks, but his work was consistently interesting and strong. He was an excellent songwriter, to be sure, writing songs sturdy enough to be covered convincingly by artists from a number of different genres, but what makes the music on Anthology so good is that the overstuffed productions and committed performances are equally as good. This is great, consistently satisfying music that delivers on the promise of his hits and makes a case that Joe South is a bit of an overlooked treasure in American pop music.

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