Legendary producer and auteur David Axelrod began working with Capitol Records as an A&R man in 1963. He began working with equally legendary singer Lou Rawls in 1964 on the album For You My Love, but the pair didn't score together until 1966 when Axe produced Rawls' Live! set. Like Cannonball Adderley's Live at the It Club, (which Axelrod also produced) this was a live in the studio date, where Rawls and band played to an invited studio audience. That combination of crackling energy and intimacy put the set over the top. And the pair worked together through 1970 when Rawls left Capitol for MGM. This monster 25-track collection shows off in singles and album cuts the incredible partnership this pair established from the mid-'60s through 1970. Axe and Rawls were responsible for reframing many of the pop hits of the day into stellar big-band soul workouts including Donovan's "Season of the Witch," Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright," Berry Gordy's "You've Made Me So Very Happy," Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "I Can't Make It Alone," Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth," a funky version of John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind," and transforming spare soul tunes such as Otis Redding's "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)," and Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" into sophisticated big-band rave-ups without sacrificing an ounce of emotion or authenticity. In fact, this music is some of the first uptown L.A. soul, and defined an era in Hollywood. This set compiled by Stateside has all of these cuts and many more, showcasing the kinetic symbiosis of this pairing at Capitol, and then some. The only thing the package lacks is context. While discographical information is here, there is no serious liner essay to tie the set together since the material is not arranged chronologically. That small complaint aside, this is as solid a Rawls set from the '60s as one needs -- even if it doesn't include his stellar version of "Tobacco Road." This one is all killer, no filler.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek