Gladys Knight & the Pips

Midnight Train to Georgia [Hallmark]

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When it comes to buying R&B, England is second only to the United States. That isn't to say that a lot of R&B isn't sold in Canada, France, Ireland, Latin America, or the Scandinavian countries -- in fact, funk has influenced everything from Brazilian pop to Indian bhangra. Nonetheless, the fact is that over the years, only the U.S. has spent more money on R&B than England. Brits put a lot of money in Motown's pocket in the 1960s, and urban contemporary artists like Destiny's Child, R. Kelly, and Mary J. Blige sold a lot of CDs in England in the 1990s. For many years, Gladys Knight has commanded a loyal following in the U.K., which is why British labels have been quick to license her recordings. Released in 1980, Midnight Train to Georgia found England's Hallmark label licensing 12 tracks from Buddah. This LP (which shouldn't be confused with various 1990s collections that were also titled Midnight Train to Georgia) isn't really a greatest-hits package. The album, which spans 1973-1978, contains a few major hits, including the title song, "The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," "Try to Remember/The Way We Were" and "Baby, Don't Change Your Mind." But not everything on Midnight Train to Georgia was a hit; many of the tunes are enjoyable album tracks that fall short of essential. At the same time, some of Knight's definitive Buddah hits are missing, including "I've Got to Use My Imagination," "On and On," and "I Feel a Song (In My Heart)." So if Hallmark had called this collection "The Best of the Buddah Years," the label would have been guilty of false advertising. Midnight Train to Georgia isn't for those with only a casual interest in Knight's Buddah output, but it wasn't a bad LP to acquire if, in 1980, you were a British R&B collector who was interested in hearing more than just her most essential stuff.

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