The folks at Motown's British offices have done it again, giving us this handsomely remastered two-LPs-on-one-CD reissue of Edwin Starr's first two albums; and as much of that first album, and a big chunk of that second, were comprised of single sides going back to 1965; this is a pretty full account of Starr's career over a period of four years. The audio on Soul Master -- an album assembled principally from earlier Starr sides done for Ed Wingate's Ric-Tic Records, before Wingate was bought out by Berry Gordy, interspersed with new Motown recordings -- has been rejuvenated so that it's sharper and brighter than it's been since September 1968, when it was issued (and maybe not even then). You can practically hear the action on the drum kit on the pounding, driving "Agent Double-0 Soul," the gentle doubling of the electric guitar over the lyric on the first and last verses of the soaring ballad "I Am the Man for You Baby," the chiming, choppy rhythm guitars on "Oh How Happy," the driving percussion on producer Norman Whitfield's unique updating of Smokey Robinson's "Way Over There," and the driving rhythm section and doubling on the organ, guitar, and horns on "I Want My Baby Back." The material off of Starr's second album, 25 Miles, actually sounds slightly better, closer and more vivid, which means that this CD gets better as it goes along, and peaks with its coda, a trio of non-LP singles that are as good as anything before them. "Harlem" -- which has an achingly beautiful chorus and bridge -- "Girls Are Getting' Prettier," and "It's My Turn Now" were all retrieved from the vaults of Ric-Tic Records, and are true rarities. There is no significant annotation, but the discography information is worthwhile, and the sound quality makes this an obvious purchase for any fans of '60s or '70s soul.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder