Various Artists

Living in the Streets, Vol. 2

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According to the back cover, this compilation is designed as "another dip into the melting pot of early-'70s black music -- a time where Latin, jazz, soul, and funk mixed together and would eventually beget disco." It's a fair description of the contents, which are a real quilt of obscure soul-funk from the late '60s to the late '70s, concentrating most heavily on the earlier years of that span. A quick scan of the track list reveals just two names that might be known to even the reasonably knowledgeable R&B enthusiast, and those two artists, Joe Houston and Preston Epps, are far more identified with 1950s sounds than these much later (and surprisingly worthwhile) efforts. Anyway, it's an impressive compilation, not just for the high quality and wide diversity of the music, but also because this genre of music has been far less subject to obscurity anthologies than styles like 1960s Northern soul or 1950s rockabilly have. Katie Love's "Don't Let It Go to Your Head" is an uncanny Jackson 5 imitation; Brenda George's "I Can't Stand It" also has a Jackson 5 influence, but more of an earthy soul feel; Joe Houston's "Kicking Back" has cool "Shaft"-style guitars and snake-charming sax; Byrdie Green's "Return of the Prodigal Son" is ear-catching sullen soul, with compelling blues-soul riffs; Spanky Wilson's "Kissing My Love" puts good female vocals on top of percolating organ soul-jazz; and Preston Epps' previously unreleased "Africa" is invigorating Afro-percussive soul. Not every track is up to the level of these highlights, but they usually offer worthy combinations of straight soul with jazz, African music, and hard rock guitar (though not often all at once).

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