Various Artists

Black Top Blues Vocal Dynamite!

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This is a great sampler of Black Top's underrated vault of blues, soul, and R&B, and it's hardly limited to vocalists as the cheesy title (and cover art) might suggest. (In fact, behind all the singing is a stack of instrumental dynamite, courtesy of the Tri-Sax-ual Soul Champs, harp blowers James Harman and Sam Myers, and guitarists Earl King, Phillip Walker, Robert Ward, and Mike Morgan.) With the exception of Kim Wilson's overwrought cover of "So Many Roads," everything on this compilation delivers, from straight-ahead blues to soul ballads to funky New Orleans grooves. Fans looking for warhorse blues standards won't find them here; most of these songs are relatively new originals that go well beyond the boundaries of 12-bar blues. Be patient with this one: it clocks in at a whopping 73 minutes, and three of the best performances come at the very end: The Crawl's "I Should've Done Better," Carol Fran's "I'll Never Be Free," and Snooks Eaglin's "Nine Pound Steel."

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