Various Artists

Heavy Soul: Old Town & Barry's Deep Down & Dirty Sides

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Run by brothers Hy Weiss and Sam Weiss, New York City's Old Town Records label and its subsidiary imprint Barry Records specialized in deep soul and R&B sounds during their run in the 1950s and '60s. While they were based on the East Coast, Old Town's best material was very much in the vein of Southern soul, and Heavy Soul: Old Town & Barry's Deep Down & Dirty Sides collects two dozen of the stronger recordings they released between 1962 and 1969. The Weiss brothers were not above lifting arrangement and production styles from other popular artists of the day, and "Sugar" by Bobby & Betty Lou sounds like a lost classic from Stax's glory days, while Lester Young (no relation to "Pres") is a dead ringer for Otis Redding on a couple of cuts, both in his performance and the work of his backing band. But what these tunes might sometimes lack in originality, they more than make up for in pure passion, and Bobby Long's driving "Heartbreak Avenue," the anguished "Nobody Knows" (Bobby Byrd recording undercover as "the Flambeaus"), John Standberry, Jr.'s slinky "Marie," and the wild and funky "Dirty Old Man" from Irene Reid are superb examples of '60s soul obscurities that deserve wider circulation. While a few cuts sound as if they were rescued from old vinyl pressings, for the most part the remastering on this set sounds quite good, and John Ridley's liner notes are informative and well researched. If you're looking for hits, they're in short supply on Heavy Soul: Old Town & Barry's Deep Down & Dirty Sides, but fans of classic soul will find plenty to savor here.

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