Roscoe Shelton

Deep in My Soul

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The Australian AIM Trading Group put together this essential collection of Roscoe Shelton tracks, which they've titled Deep in My Soul. The two pages of liner notes are somewhat revealing, though a 12-page booklet could have easily been written to shine a light on this tremendous artist and his output. The Allen Orange tune, "Strain on My Heart," is one of Shelton's best-known songs, the notes saying it reached number 25 on Billboard's R&B charts. The liners also claim that the tune was retitled "Pain in My Heart" and released by the Rolling Stones, but the Stones' version comes from what was thought to be an Otis Redding original (which is now credited to Naomi Neville, who is actually Allen Toussaint -- because of the songs alleged similarity to "Ruler of My Heart," a Toussaint original). The fact that Shelton performed with Otis Redding at the Apollo, and that material by Toussaint -- along with his nom de plume Naomi Neville -- and Allen Orange appear on an album entitled It Will Stand 1960-1963 is no doubt a source of some of the confusion. The 27 tracks here all have a groove, with girl group backing vocals on "I Can't Help Myself" (one of two titles recorded at Stax studios with the Mar-Keys) adding some pop to Shelton's gut-wrenching vocals and Little Richard-style outbursts. Of the 27 songs, 12 are directly from his classic album Soul in His Music, Music in His Soul, including the composition "My Best Friend" from one of his original guitar players, Bobby Hebb of "Sunny" fame. The lyrics are slightly modified from Hebb's, the uptempo tale a good stylistic switch from the bulk of Shelton's work here. DJ John Richbourg's production, possibly assisted by songwriter Allen Orange, is crystal clear and certainly helped build the rhythms, with each instrument placed perfectly in the mix. "Soon as Darkness Falls" is as wicked as anything Wilson Pickett put to vinyl, Shelton being exactly ten years older than Pickett and most likely influencing the eventual pop star. A track like "My Laura" feels almost out of place and more in line with the repertoires of Paul & Paula or Bobby Vee. While "Sunny" was high on the pop charts in 1966 for his former guitarist, Shelton was busy himself, "Easy Going Fellow" scoring on the R&B charts that same year. For the most part, the tape transfer on Deep in My Soul is good and the material quite enjoyable. Still, there's plenty of room to reissue these important sounds from Richbourg's Sound Stage 7 label with better packaging and more extensive liner note information. Reissue imprint AIM goes out of its way to put this album -- rightfully -- in the category of Northern soul.

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