Various Artists

Can't Be Satisfied: XL and the Sounds of Memphis Story

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As much soul music as was made by Memphis labels Stax, Goldwax, and Hi in the 1960s and 1970s, there was yet more produced by companies elsewhere in the city. This compilation gathers 22 such recordings, the common ingredient being the involvement of record businessman Gene Lucchesi. Most often, these particular cuts came out on the Sounds of Memphis label, though some found release on the XL, Roman, ERR Music, Chess, and MGM imprints, and seven appear here for the first time anywhere. While in a way this is a testament to just how much soul music was being made in the region at the time, you certainly couldn't put it on the same level as the best (or even typical) output of Stax, Goldwax, or Hi. Instead, it's simply representative, average-quality Southern soul of the period by an assortment of performers most soul fans haven't heard of, though some will recognize the names of the Ovations (who recorded quite a bit of material for Goldwax) and Barbara & the Browns (if only because they'd been previously honored with a CD compilation of their own on Kent). That's nothing to be ashamed of, and there are competent efforts in various styles here, the echoes of Stax ringing loudest in the earliest cuts (from 1967); Rudolph Taylor's "Tell Him Tonight," for example, is very much in the pleading style of numerous Stax ballads, though Taylor's not too similar to Otis Redding as a vocalist. Several of the early-'70s cuts show the influence of the sweeter, glossier production overrunning soul music everywhere in the U.S. at the time, and traces of Motown, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and others can be heard elsewhere, though it's usually a Southern soul sound at its heart. The micro-styles on display here are so disparate as to render it impossible to make any overall generalizations about what you'll hear on the disc, but the Jacksonians' funk-ballad cover of "California Dreamin'" is a standout, if only for the novelty factor.

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