Southern soul really was natural as rain, a mixture of blues, R&B, gospel and country that somehow managed to sound exactly like, well, soul, no matter how many ways it was spun, and from its first stirrings in the early 1960s until disco and synthesizers officially killed it off in the mid-'70s, a case could be made that there was no more exciting music coming out of America. This wonderful three-disc, 75-track set traces that very arc in mostly chronological order, beginning with William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water" from 1961 and ending with Geater Davis' last-gasp "I'll Play the Blues for You " from 1977. In between is some very exciting music indeed, including Otis Redding's stunning "These Arms of Mine," Charlie Rich's "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" (who says soul and country aren't two sides of the same coin?), James Carr's stark and desperate "The Dark End of the Street," Etta James' powerful "I'd Rather Go Blind," Chuck Brooks' brilliant and dangerous-sounding "Love's Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down," and a pair of Al Green classics, "Tired of Being Alone" and the title tune, "Take Me to the River," and that's just a quick list of the gems found in this delightful set. Released by labels like Stax, Goldwax, Excello, Fame,
and Dial, southern soul was all about emotion and groove and always sounded rougher, sexier, and more dangerous than what northern labels like Motown were doing in the same time period. Truthfully, southern soul was what it was because of the high mixture of passionate gospel in its DNA, as if these artists hoped to sing their way out of hell and into heaven. The subject was love, in all of its guises, and much like country, soul carried every bit as much sadness as it did joy. Love doesn't always work out right, whether you make it to heaven or not. That's the bottom line, and no genre has ever celebrated a more adult approach to such matters, or filled the world with so much passion for it, than southern soul. The story is here.