Swamp Dogg

It's All Good: Singles Collection 1963-1989

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Jerry Williams, Jr., aka Swamp Dogg's discography, particularly in its earlier part, is so large and complicated that it's hard for most people to even get a sense of what records he's put out. It's yet harder to track down many of them considering their rarity, especially his 45s. This 24-track collection doesn't assemble everything a Swamp Dogg fan might want to hear in that category, but in the absence of an unwieldy box set that might contain more, it does a good job of compiling a lot of his desirable singles in one place. It's probably more consistent and listenable than a Swamp Dogg box set would be, too, leaning heavily on his pre-1980 material and especially his '60s work, though as the title notes there's a track from as late as 1989. Collectors will be most interested in the half of this CD that originates from the '60s (including a couple unreleased 1967 cuts), when he was billed as Jerry Williams. In one sense, they can be fairly assessed as the work of a journeyman soul singer flailing about for an identity, trying on hats for size including sweet soul-pop balladeer; New Orleans-meets-early-Motown; novelty dance tunes ("Let's Do the Wobble (Before Chubby Gets It)"); a Jackie Wilson soundalike ("The 1965 King Size Nicotine Blues"); moving lush orchestration ("Oh Lord, What Are You Doing to Me"); and, rather unbelievably, a frenetic Jerry Lee Lewis imitation ("Hum Baby"). On the other hand, as journeyman soul artists in search of an identity go, Williams was at this point one of the most interesting such adventurers, throwing himself into the attempts with commitment and vocals that were never anything less than richly textured. It was when Williams reached the '70s and adopted the pseudonym Swamp Dogg that he really found his own voice, however, both quite literally (with a delivery that sometimes recalled Van Morrison) and as a songwriter, addressing unpredictable subjects both social and romantic with wit and passion. The 1970 track "Synthetic World" remains a highlight in that respect, though most of his '70s work offers such rewards. This anthology -- a triumph in cross-licensing, collating tracks originally released on more than a dozen labels -- could have been yet better had it been sequenced chronologically, even roughly so, as it jumps back and forth in time in a way that obscures his artistic progression. But there's a lot of music here which is good, or at the very least interesting when it's flawed, packaged with Kent/Ace's usual illuminating liner notes.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:49
2 3:24
3 2:59
4 2:35
5 3:02
6 3:37
7 2:10
8 2:46
9 2:51
10 2:38
11 2:35
12 2:34
13 3:00
14 2:55
15 3:03
16 2:42
17 3:11
18 2:47
19 2:46
20 2:38
21 4:19
22 3:45
23 4:08
24 4:16
blue highlight denotes track pick