Various Artists

Diggin' Gold: A Galaxy of West Coast Blues

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In the early to mid-'60s, the Galaxy label was probably best known for issuing Little Johnny Taylor's big 1963 hit "Part Time Love." It also cut a lot of other sides (usually in Los Angeles) at the time that satisfyingly blended R&B, blues, and soul, often with urbane brassy arrangements. Diggin' Gold: A Galaxy of West Coast Blues collects 25 such productions from 1962-1965, some of them previously unreleased. For many soul collectors, the most eye-catching items will be the eight tracks by Little Johnny Taylor: "Part Time Love" isn't among them, but they do include three previously unreleased recordings, while the other five are LP and single cuts that hadn't previously appeared on CD. But the whole disc is solid -- surprisingly so, given how often many single-label rarity anthologies offer more archival value than entertainment. Much of the material will recall Ray Charles as the most frequent reference point in its blues-R&B-jazz mix (and, much less strongly, Bobby "Blue" Bland and B.B. King), and while Los Angeles R&B had been doing that since the late '40s and early '50s, these well-produced sides have a more modern feel that makes them more akin to bluesy soul than early R&B. While the Taylor collectibles on this disc are decent (and he's the only really familiar name in the artist roster), they aren't necessarily the standouts. Bill McAfee's "I Don't Know Why" is one of the most dead-on emulations of early-'60s Ray Charles you'll hear, and Joe Johnson's "Rattlesnake, Baby, Rattlesnake" and "Gold Digging Man" push the CD closest to '60s dance soul. The interface between blues and soul is too often overlooked by both historians and collectors, and this is a recommended release for those who enjoy the hybrid and want to hear quality efforts in that tributary that they probably haven't been able to previously experience.

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