In the early and mid-'60s, Jimmy Hughes made a substantial, if rather subtle and underrated, contribution to the evolution of Southern soul with bluesy soul recordings for several labels. In 1968, he signed with Stax, then eagerly looking to bolster its roster after the death of Otis Redding and the loss of Sam & Dave. Something Extra Special has all 11 tracks from his sole Stax LP, 1969's Something Special (most of which also appeared on singles), augmented by no less than 16 bonus tracks, including both tracks from a 1971 non-LP single and 14 previously unreleased cuts from the late '60s and early '70s. That makes it a great package for soul completists, but not the best Hughes compilation by any means. Relative to his best output, in fact, it might well have been better titled Something Ordinary rather than Something Extra Special. That's not to say it's bad or even subpar, but it is fairly average, period Southern soul, if a bit more blues-pop in flavor than the average soul material of the time. To be sure, some great figures were involved with the songwriting, including Booker T. Jones, Isaac Hayes, David Porter, Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper, and Al Jackson (who produced much of Hughes' Stax output). There's nothing great, however, and in common with some other notable Southern soul singers, the production sometimes veered toward the unnecessarily slick. Hughes did maintain a high vocal standard throughout, and the better cuts tend to be the ones with a bluesier base, like "Look What I Got" (also done by Boz Scaggs on his first album) and Hayes and Porter's "Let 'Em Down Baby." While Hughes is not often cited as a possible influence (or even possibly that similar to) Al Green, some of the tracks, like "Did You Forget," have a groove not that far removed from Green's early Hi years, and a half-dozen of the 1971 recordings were actually cut at Willie Mitchell's Royal Studios.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger