Various Artists

More Lost Soul Gems from the Sounds of Memphis

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The "more" in the title of this 2014 Ace Records compilation refers to how often the label has mined the Sounds of Memphis vaults in the 2010s. The 22-track set -- all but three of which are unearthed for the first time here -- is the explicit sequel to the 2012 compilation Lost Soul Gems from Sounds of Memphis, but Ace also had a three-volume series called The XL & Sounds of Memphis Story, as well as individual collections on a handful of artists. All of which is a very lengthy way of saying the Sounds of Memphis well is hardly running dry and it's still yielding treasures. By definition, the music on this collection is obscure: it's not just that the music was unreleased, but even the names are by and large unrecognizable, with the notable exception of Barbara & the Browns, whom Ace had already anthologized, and George Jackson, who wound up establishing a reputation as a songwriter and having his history well-preserved by the label. Perhaps the particulars aren't familiar, but the sounds are. This is earthy Southern soul that sometimes flirts with the danceable effervescence and pop hooks drifting from up north, but sometimes has the grit of what was further South, but it's distinguished by songs as tight as its rhythms. Although some of these tracks were cut as early as 1964 and as late as 1974, the set relies primarily on music made in the back half of the '60s, which was the heyday of soul, and the strength of this music is proof of that claim. Certainly, there are some rough edges here, and some songs don't stray from a generic blueprint, but the craft in construction is as palpable as the passion and professionalism of the playing. It's a collection for those who want to dive deep, and if that's you, you won't be disappointed.

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