Various Artists

60's Soul Sessions

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Take the best half or so of this 30-track, two-CD compilation, and you'd have an anthology that, while not a collection of the absolute greatest '60s soul ever, would be a pretty darn good one. The Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving," Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle," Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl," Robert Parker's "Barefootin'," Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street," Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," the Temptations' "My Girl," Lee Dorsey's "Ride Your Pony," Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "The Tracks of My Tears," the Capitols' "Cool Jerk," the Ad Libs' "Boy from New York City" -- all are top-of-the-class soul hits. Add other hits by Marvin Gaye, Deon Jackson, the Isley Brothers, and Gladys Knight & the Pips, and you've got even more icing on the cake. But then, there's the other half of the compilation, which is neither in the same league nor even half as well known. The Ringleaders? The Sharpees? Lucky Laws? The Accents? None are names familiar even to the average soul collector. Other artists are journeymen (Otis Clay, Leon Haywood) and others (Betty Everett) not represented by either their hits or their best tracks. All that said, the non-famous selections are usually pretty good, even if they're often imitative of trends (as Haywood, the Sharpees, and Rita & Tiaras' efforts are of Motown, and the Ringleaders are of the Impressions). Still, it's an odd combination of hits and obscurities, and not always congruous. It's a pretty good listen in spite of its thrown-togetherness, but might be better appreciated as an unexpected gift that helps turn on someone to '60s soul music, than as a purchase by someone who's already into the style.

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