Jerry Butler

The Best of Jerry Butler [Rhino]

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One of the first and best compilations to range through Jerry Butler's entire career on the pop charts, Rhino's The Best of Jerry Butler offered a lot of tracks -- especially considering its release date, the mid-'80s -- and remains the best place to hear the full scope of Chicago's smoothest soul singer. The 18-tracker begins fittingly with his first hit, the sweet ballad "For Your Precious Love," recorded during the brief time in 1958 when he led the Impressions -- later to find even more pop success on their own than Butler would. During the early '60s, though, Jerry Butler was one of the most popular artists in Chicago soul, paced by his big Vee-Jay singles: "He Will Break Your Heart," "I'm a Telling You," the sublime Burt Bacharach production "Make It Easy on Yourself," and his biggest hit of the era, the Betty Everett duet "Let It Be Me." The compilation then skips ahead to close out with three hits from his years in Philadelphia with Mercury, the Gamble-Huff hits "Never Give You Up," "Hey, Western Union Man," and "Only the Strong Survive." Anyone with more than a passing interest in Chicago soul would do better with separate sets for his Vee-Jay and Mercury years (The Sweetest Soul and Iceman: The Mercury Years, respectively), but The Best of Jerry Butler is a great choice for listeners wanting only the best.

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