Barbara & the Browns

Can't Find Happiness: The Sounds of Memphis Recordings

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From the mid-'60s through the early '70s, Barbara & the Browns issued a few singles on various labels without making a significant commercial breakthrough, though their 1964 Stax 45 "Big Party" tickled the very bottom of the Top 100. Neither that nor their other two Stax singles are on this compilation, but it does have two tracks they subsequently recorded for other labels (including Atco, Cadet, Sounds of Memphis, and Tower), eight of them previously unreleased. How does it rate against the other soul pouring out of Memphis during this very fertile period? Well, it's decent, but you can hear why they didn't go any further than they did. Lead singer Barbara Brown was strong-voiced, and the material was average to good. But there was only room for so many other performers once more talented heavyweights like the Staple Singers, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and non-Memphis singers purveying gospel-grounded soul like Aretha Franklin had grabbed their shares of the audience. Some of these songs are really good, especially the sadder and more serious ones that use some unexpectedly dramatic and creative melodies and chord progressions, like "It Hurts Me So Much (To Be Able to Look and to Know I Can't Touch)" (a previously unissued song issued here in two different versions) and the 1968 single "Can't Find No Happiness." Those cuts would find a good home on a best-of-non-hit-'60s Memphis soul box set, if anyone ever compiles such a thing; their yearning, arching passion and willingness to insert popcraft into deep soul tunes are reminders of what made the best Memphis soul so special. Other tracks, though, are just ordinary period fare, and rather forgettable, making you feel that Barbara & the Browns (who certainly were better at stern ballads than more amiable uptempo numbers) never made the album's worth of solid material of which they seemed capable. The best of the songs here -- and "If I Can't Run to You I'll Crawl" and "I Don't Want to Have to Wait" are almost as good as the aforementioned highlights -- are still good enough to make the CD worthwhile for '60s deep soul specialists, but others might find it too much to sift through for the special moments.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:17 Spotify
2 2:22 Spotify
2:40 Spotify
2:47 Spotify
2:52 Spotify
2:42 Spotify
2:28 Spotify
8 2:23 Spotify
9 2:37 Spotify
2:22 Spotify
2:51 Spotify
2:24 Spotify
13 4:09 Spotify
14 1:56 Spotify
15 2:46 Spotify
16 2:49 Spotify
17 2:31 Spotify
2:36 Spotify
19 4:14 Spotify
20 2:27 Spotify
blue highlight denotes track pick