Various Artists

Uptown Soul & Funk from the Nashville Indies

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Though the title of this 20-track compilation might lead you to anticipate a more wide-ranging sampling of soul and funk produced in Nashville (which was responsible for more such music than many listeners realize), all of it's taken from recordings done for the small Ref-O-Ree label. Since no original release dates and label information is included in the liner notes (although a few of the original 45s are reproduced), it's hard to say exactly when they were made. An educated guess would put the span between the late '60s (when Ref-O-Ree started) and sometime in the mid- to late '70s, with some of the sides boasting a production style that obviously postdates the '60s. Even for intense soul collectors, this has to be considered a marginal compilation due to the quality of both the packaging and the music. None of these artists made a name for themselves other than Gene Allison, most famous for his early soul hit "You Can Make It If You Try" (covered by the Rolling Stones on their first album), though the two Allison tracks here postdate that hit by quite a few years. Obscure soul can be good, of course, but there's little of note to these particular cuts, which are so-so or worse slices of soul as it moved from the late '60s toward slicker urban contemporary and funk directions in the following decade. The songwriting is often mediocre, and though the production is sometimes fairly full and accomplished, the transfer to this CD is sometimes inadequate, with some varispeed afflicting a few tracks. Also, Freddie Waters' mid-'70s remake of "You Can Make It If You Try" is ghastly in comparison with the original classic by Allison, who's represented by a couple average tracks with a late-'60s/early-'70s sound.

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