George Jackson

Don't Count Me Out: The Fame Recordings, Vol. 1

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George Jackson issued just two singles for Fame Records, as he worked for them primarily as a songwriter. He did, however, record more than 100 tracks for the company, building up a stockpile of material that could be considered suitable for other artists. This collection of 24 cuts, all but one previously unreleased, is the first of several projected volumes intended to gleam recordings Jackson left behind for the Kent/Ace storehouse of. Precise dates for the tracks are not given in the otherwise comprehensive annotation, but at a guess, they were almost certainly done in the late 1960s, with some perhaps leaking over into the early '70s at the latest. Viewed clinically, listening to this disc you can understand both why Fame wanted Jackson as a songwriter, and why he wasn't particularly pushed as an artist in his own right. Jackson wrote well enough to keep around in case he came up with songs that could be hits, as indeed he did for Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, and the Osmonds. At times, the tunes slightly recall the late-'60s work of soul star Tyrone Davis. But most of these songs were on the rather ordinarily decent side than the outstanding one -- perhaps things that could adequately fill out albums, in many cases. Likewise, he was a decent singer, but not a great one.

That makes this something of more interest to very serious Southern soul collectors than even the typical more-serious-than-average soul fan, but that doesn't mean it's without its strengths. Jackson takes a lighter vocal approach than many Southern soul singers, and perhaps because it was realized most of these efforts were demos of sorts, the arrangements are also a little more casual and stripped-down than the typical Fame product. The end results are less overwrought, in an interesting and pleasing way, than many late-'60s Southern soul records that try so hard to get their pleas over. To some listeners, the basic approach will have its drawbacks -- when he goes into sections that seem to call for urgent testifying, they can seem like guide vocals for a singer to draw from in preparation for really taking the song over the top. The informality of the arrangements and performances can sometimes seem imprecise compared to the slicker, official Southern soul recordings by others, particularly in the drumming department. So overall, Don't Count Me Out is one for Southern soul specialists, but of considerable interest to that crowd, including Jackson's versions of songs done by Pickett (including "Search Your Heart," the only track here previously released), Carter, Doris Duke, Candi Staton, and Willie Hightower.

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