Various Artists

Can You Dig It? The '70s Soul Experience

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AllMusic Review by

Like other super-ambitious genre overviews on Rhino, this six-CD box set is documenting a style so large and diverse that the track selection is not going to completely satisfy everybody, even with 136 songs. There are many good things to say about this release, though. To start with the positive, most of the major soul stars of the '70s are represented with at least one track, and sometimes with a couple cuts. In addition, there are lots of fine hits by dozens of artists who only had a few (or only one) big records, from the Winstons' "Color Him Father" and Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" to Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose's "Too Late to Turn Back Now" and Sylvia's "Pillow Talk." Rather than be strict about the chronological boundaries of the project, there are a half-dozen 1969 singles in the '70s soul vein to lead off disc one, as well as a solitary cut from the early '80s (Rose Royce's "Golden Touch," which could have been left off without any tears shed). Room is made for some non-African-American soul by whites and Latinos, and plenty of big-but-not-huge hits. Sensibly, the first half of the '70s is heavily represented, all but one of the post-1975 cuts getting shunted onto disc six. On the other hand, there is no way to boil down, say, the output of Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Sly & the Family Stone, and other superstars to just one or two representative songs, and some might quibble with the ones selected, though generally the compilers wisely played it safe by targeting big hits. In addition, some superstars are not present at all -- the Jackson 5, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder, for instance. There's nothing that might be considered rare, with nearly every one of the tracks having been a substantial hit single, even if some of those -- the Fuzz's "I Love You for All Seasons," the 8th Day's "She's Not Just Another Woman," and Brighter Side of Darkness' "Love Jones," for instance -- aren't exactly over-represented on compilations. The final disc might round out the chronology of the decade, but also is far inferior to the rest of the set, often illustrating soul's decline into pop slickness. But you know what? It's still a very good, intelligent overview of '70s soul, guaranteed to please someone who doesn't collect this stuff obsessively, but wants a lot of it around, sequenced in a manner that ensures variety and quality. The packaging is, as is always the case with major Rhino box sets, quite imaginative, with a 78-page information booklet and an outer cover that simulates a rack of eight-track tapes.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:57
2 3:07
3 3:21
4 2:40
5 3:39
6 3:03
7 2:42
8 3:28
9 2:56
10 2:40
11 3:33
12 2:56
13 3:19
14 2:53
15 4:09
16 3:09
17
3:28
18 2:47
19 3:51
20 3:26
21 3:13
22 3:02
23 3:08
24 2:47
25 2:41

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:12
2 3:14
3 3:04
4 3:08
5 2:31
6 3:14
7 3:34
8 2:52
9 3:22
10 3:26
11 5:11
12 3:19
13 3:34
14 3:07
15 3:20
16 2:50
17 3:45
18 3:29
19 4:22
20 3:22
21 3:28
22 3:37
23 3:04

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:17
2 5:09
3 3:18
4 3:14
5 3:48
6 2:29
7 3:20
8 3:12
9 3:23
10 3:28
11 3:56
12 3:08
13 3:38
14 3:21
15 3:19
16 2:50
17 3:29
18 3:21
19 4:47
20 6:58
21 4:09

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:14
2 3:46
3 3:00
4 3:26
5 3:07
6 2:44
7 3:55
8 3:40
9 4:01
10 3:59
11 3:12
12 3:30
13 3:04
14 3:57
15 2:32
16
War
4:02
17 3:03
18 3:41
19 3:28
20 3:29
21 2:38
22 3:27
23 3:39

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:31
2 4:30
3 4:11
4 3:09
5 3:06
6 3:15
7 3:33
8 3:54
9 3:22
10 3:11
11 2:49
12 3:23
13 3:55
14 2:35
15 2:59
16
AWB
3:02
17 3:23
18 2:55
19 3:24
20 4:58
21 3:18
22 3:30
23 3:46

Track Listing - Disc 6

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:52
2 3:32
3
AWB
3:39
4
War
3:50
5 2:49
6 2:54
7 3:15
8 3:58
9 3:33
10 3:33
11 5:38
12 3:42
13 3:37
14 4:15
15 3:42
16 3:42
17 3:11
18 3:32
19 4:01
20 4:29
21 3:49
blue highlight denotes track pick