Various Artists

King's Serious Soul, Vol. 2: Counting Teardrops

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This anthology of rare soul on the King label from the '60s and early '70s might be only middle-of-the-pack as such things go. But you've gotta say this: Even if you have a wall full of these kinds of soul compilations, it's unlikely you'll recognize any of the artists behind these 24 tracks, with the exception of Oscar Toney, Jr. (himself not exactly a household name). Junior McCants, Allison, Elaine Armstrong, Pat Lundy, James Duncan, Oscar Irvin, and the other names that fill out this disc are largely confined to the pages of price guides to rare 45s. As for the music, it's diverse but only fair soul, often in the emotional bluesy ballad mode, lacking the prime material or exceptional personalities needed to get the motors into highest gear. "Fair" is not synonymous with "bad," and a few of the songs are a little above the ordinary. Toney Jr., as it happens, has that indefinable bit of extra urgency and commitment in his gospel-soaked up-tempo 1967 single "I've Found a True Love." Reuben Bell adapts the anguished, minor-key "I Hear You Knocking (It's Too Late)" to a more elaborate double-timing scenario with drawn-out spoken parts and crooning female backup vocals. LH & the Memphis Sounds do a good retro (by 1968 standards, anyway) job on the creamy slow tune "I'm a Fool in Love," with its doo wop-like vocals. And Oscar Irvin does a worthwhile cover of Bobby Bland's "Cry, Cry, Cry." One of the songs, Junior McCants' high-pitched ballad "She Wrote It I Read It," was previously unissued.

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