Various Artists

Basement Tracks: Soul Ballads from the Heart of Black America

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The publishers of the U.K. underground soul fanzine In the Basement assembled Basement Tracks: Soul Ballads From the Heart of Black America, a rock-solid collection of confectionary soul gems from the 1970s -- the sheer scope of material on display is impressive enough, bringing together tracks from a host of small independent labels, but the consistency of the performances is even stronger, especially given the relative obscurity of many of the artists in question. Basement Tracks wisely focuses much of its energy on the Philly scene, without question the epicenter of sweet soul balladry during the era under the microscope -- the less-heralded New Jersey scene represents as well, and all 20 cuts interlock like the pieces of a puzzle, creating a uniformly romantic mood and ambience. Highlights include Candi Staton's "Hurry Sundown," Linda Jones' "For Your Precious Love," Wanda Robinson's "The Meeting Place," and Bobby Sheen's "Love Stealing."

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