Various Artists

Holding the Losing Hand: Hotlanta Soul, Vol. 3

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It's only been in recent years that Atlanta, GA, has been given the credit it deserves as a major center in R&B record making, and Birmingham, AL, is still waiting for its day in the hipster sun, but great music has flowed from both cities for years. This collection of rare and unreleased material from the General Recording Corporation archives, an outfit that controlled the Moonsong, Aware, and Clintone labels (and at one time was owned by notorious porn kingpin Mike Thevis) shows that even the lesser R&B markets in the 1960s and '70s were cranking out some brilliant music. The 23 selections run the gamut from the polished sensuality of "A Woman's Way" by Roszetta Johnson to King Hannibal's wild (and previously unheard) "Good Times," with the passionate, preaching soul of Bill Brandon, the tough-talking bark of Sam Dees, and the Motown-flavored groove of Deep Velvet resting somewhere in between. Holding the Losing Hand digs deeper into 1970s R&B than most of Kent's soul compilations, dipping its toes into early funk and even disco grooves, but the material included is uniformly passionate and compelling, with superb vocal work and tight, well-executed arrangements on every cut. It's hard to believe that there are still top-shelf R&B sides waiting to be rediscovered at this late date, but Holding the Losing Hand demonstrates that really is the case, and those with a taste for vintage soul will be happy to expand their collections with this set.

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