Various Artists

Birth of Soul: Special Chicago Edition

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The concept behind this compilation is to go beyond the more obvious, well-known landmark recordings that launched Chicago soul. So while quite a few of the performers on this 24-track CD are famous, none of these recordings were hits, though a couple of the songs are pretty renowned. That might limit this anthology's appeal to serious collectors and historians, but for the kind of people who read soul history books and want to actually hear the numerous obscure records mentioned only in passing, it's a godsend. The collection's existence is justified by the remarkable lead-off cut alone, a previously unissued, sparsely arranged 1957 demo of Jerry Butler & the Impressions' "For Your Precious Love," the song that (when re-recorded shortly afterward for a hit single) more than any other got the Chicago soul sound off the ground. Don & Bob's 1961 single "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" is another exciting inclusion, as it was the model for the cover version issued on the Yardbirds' second single in 1964 (although Sonny Boy Williamson's different song of the same name is usually, and incorrectly, cited as the original). Those might be the highlights, but there's plenty of interest to be found in obscure early singles -- sometimes pre-dating the performers' first hits and more familiar bodies of work for other labels -- by the likes of Major Lance, Betty Everett, the Impressions, and Jan Bradley. What keeps this from reaching the level of a compilation that would focus on more familiar Chicago soul from the late '50s through the mid-'60s is the material, which is often pretty derivative of other trends being blazed by Motown and the Drifters (or even cross-town trends like the ones being innovated by Butler and Curtis Mayfield). Still, a few of the songs are first-rate, like Etta James' 1962 orchestrated pop arrangement of the obscure Bacharach-David song "Waiting for Charlie to Come Home." Also excellent is the Drew-Vels' 1963 doo wop-dipped girl group single "Tell Him," reworked by the group's Patti Drew into a bigger hit in 1967. And almost all of the selections hold some historical interest, including several little-known Mayfield compositions: Rosco Gordon's "Let 'Em Try," of which Alton Ellis did a popular reggae cover; the Chanteurs' "You've Got a Great Love," a 1963 single featuring a young Eugene Record (who wrote the Ben E. King soundalike), and Sugar Pie DeSanto's "My Baby's Got Soul," a previously unissued 1964 recording with soaring orchestration and her customarily gritty vocal. Noted Chicago soul historian Bill Dahl's detailed liner notes ably fill in the back story behind these rarities.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:33
2 2:33
3 2:52
4 2:33
5 2:26
6 2:34
7 2:08
8 2:59
9 2:01
10 2:41
11 2:31
12 2:46
13 2:18
14 2:13
15 2:06
16 2:24
17 2:31
18 2:01
19 2:21
20 2:22
21 2:14
22 2:33
23 3:02
24 2:43
blue highlight denotes track pick