Dave Godin is a big name, perhaps the biggest in British soul scholarship. He was a writer and critic in Blues & Soul magazine in the 1960s and 1970s, and an all-around promoter and collector who was instrumental in getting much American soul released in the U.K. This is his personal selection, accompanied by almost 10,000 words in liner notes, of 25 of his favorite "Deep Soul" tracks (a term that, according to his notes, he coined himself) from the 1960s and early 1970s. There are no songs by Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, or the like here, so presumably the cuts were also chosen with an eye toward how undeservedly unknown they are. Irma Thomas, represented by the original 1964 mono single version of "Anyone Who Know What Love Is (Will Understand)," is the sole name likely to be familiar to non-fanatics. The main qualification for inclusion is the intensity of the vocal performances, and on that grounds this disc certainly delivers; the life-dependent emotion puts this, in some senses, closer to gospel than pop. As far as this anthology representing the alpha and omega of the best rare "deep soul," it's been a little overhyped. It's certainly leagues above the average soul rarity compilation (including many done by the same Kent label), in part because it licenses from so many sources, rather than just one or two labels as such collections are apt to do. It also doesn't focus exclusively on soloists, adding group vocal performances with more of a pop and doo-wop influence here and there. The songs and singers, though, aren't as striking as they are on the records made by the best soul stars. Is it the best compilation of rare deep soul, then? Well, it's up there, although some of the tunes are more generic than Godin seems willing to admit, and the slow-to-midtempo churchy arrangements can get a bit stifling all at once. As for songs that should definitely be better known, Kenny Carter's almost apocalyptically operatic "Showdown," actually written for (and turned down by) the Moody Blues as a possible follow-up to "Go Now," is certainly a lost classic. Zerben R. Hicks' "Lights Out" features a taut drama that crosses from the simply intense to the haunting. Raw Spitt's "Songs to Sing" has a specific social consciousness missing from most of the tracks here; it is comparable to the material Swamp Dogg put on his early-1970s albums, which is no surprise as Swamp Dogg produced Mr. Spitt (aka Charlie Whitehead).
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger