Various Artists

One in a Million: The Songs of Sam Dee

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Sam Dees is a beloved name of soul aficionados but he isn't a household name the way other subjects of Ace's ongoing songwriters/producer series are. Dees had some success as an artist -- his 1975 album, The Show Must Go On, is a cult favorite and gained a boost upon its 2012 reissue, and he did some independent recordings in the late '80s and early '90s -- but he was primarily known as a songwriter who penned hits for Gladys Knight & the Pips ("Save the Overtime (For Me)") and Larry Graham ("One in a Million You"). Those two singles are on Ace's 2014 set One in a Million: The Songs of Sam Dees, but other hits and oft-covered songs, such as "Just the Lonely Talking Again," which Whitney Houston recorded in 1987, are absent as compiler Tony Rounce concentrates on songs recorded between 1971 and 1983, spending most of his time in the latter half of the '70s and dawn of the '80s. These are the glory days of disco and also mark the emergence of quiet storm, and if there are occasionally echoes of the former here, Dees was, at heart, a balladeer writing songs of seduction and heartbreak. Sometimes things get bright and celebratory -- despite its title, the Chi-Lites' "Vanishing Love" is exuberant, Sidney Joe Qualls' "Run to Me" is open-hearted and insistent, the Temptations' "Where Did We Go Wrong" almost gets down and dirty, and the Gladys Knight hit is splashy and stellar -- but the one thing every one of these 22 tracks has in common is that they're smooth and clean, the epitome of an era where soul traded grit for polish. Over and over again, One in a Million proves this is merely a shift in aesthetics and that the music was still deeply felt, from both the performer and composer level; if anything, this excellent compilation might function as a gateway drug for listeners who love deep southern soul -- the kind Dees made on The Show Must Go On -- but have previously been wary of disco, smooth soul, and quiet storm, because Dees' collected work is indeed that powerful.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 5:09
2 2:53
3 3:31
4 3:25
5 3:32
6 3:09
7 3:57
8 2:43
9 3:12
10 2:56
11 3:05
12 3:10
13 3:06
14 3:29
15 4:14
16 3:50
17 4:55
18 3:44
19 4:29
20 3:46
21 3:19
22 4:12
blue highlight denotes track pick