Various Artists

Free Soul River

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Free Soul River ranks among the most eclectic entries in a series virtually defined by its diversity and unpredictability. Handed the keys to the vast WEA vaults, compiler Toru Hashimoto makes room for both America ("Ventura Highway") and the Esso Trinidad Steel Band ("I Want You Back"), deftly bobbing and weaving his way through a collection of tracks that reads like a multi-car pileup but plays like a dream. Hashimoto defies genre expectations at every turn, embracing everything from West Coast folk-rock (Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With") to New Orleans swamp pop (Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time") to sinuous jazz-funk (Eugene McDaniels' brilliant "Cherrystones"). It's fascinating to hear songs of such far-ranging vintage and approach blend together so seamlessly, creating a unified sound that's deeply soulful.