Like many compilations of this nature, there's the feeling that these two dozen sweet soul harmony rarities (five of them previously unreleased) were picked as much for their rarity as their quality. Most of the groups are male, and very few of them will be familiar to all but collector soul specialists, though the Insiders (represented by the 1966 Red Bird single "Chapel Bells Are Calling," produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) evolved into the Main Ingredient. It's nothing to make you forget the great Philadelphia and Chicago soul groups of this sort, but the tracks are uniformly well produced and decently sung, though they're largely lacking in the kind of hooks needed to implant them in either the memory banks or radio play lists. "Never My Love" might be a kind of wimpy song, for instance, but when you hear the Magictones' version, it really does leap out as something catchier than its immediate surroundings on this CD. With the okay-but-unremarkable vibe so pervasive, you're left looking for oddities and points of interest, and there are a few. There couldn't have been many late-'60s soul songs that referenced baseball great Willie Mays and claimed he hung out "Under the Street Lamp" before reaching the major leagues, as Joe Bataan with Group did on their 1969 single of the same name. The Climates' "No You for Me," with a far more Southern (and specifically Memphis) feel than most of this comp, was one of the final 45s issues on Sun Records, and according to the liner notes was a number one hit on a local (and white!) radio station. Lee Williams & the Cymbals' "A Girl from a Country Town" would fit in just fine on an anthology of Impressions imitations. And the Superbs' "So Glad You're Home," one of the few cuts on the disc to feature female vocals, makes a nice change of pace, and is an above-average romantic ballad to boot.
More Perfect Harmony: Sweet Soul Groups 1967-1975 Review
by Richie Unterberger
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