Various Artists

Music City Soul

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This is Nashville soul from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s, all released on labels partly or wholly owned by Ted Jarrett: Ref-O-Ree, Spar, and Poncello. It's not often acknowledged that Nashville, known almost exclusively for its country music, also had an active black music scene, which makes this 26-track compilation archivally important. The fact still remains, though, that Nashville, and certainly these labels, did not develop an outstanding or distinctive soul style. It's easy to play spot-the-influences here, whether it's the gritty Motown of the Temptations, the smooth soul of the Northeast or the mid-tempo gospel-flecked blues-soul of Stax. In fact, Jimmy Tig's "Foolish Lover" sounds like an attempt at a mathematical fusion of "Love Is Strange" and "Stay," while Herbert Hunter's "Isn't It Wonderful to Dream" is unabashedly derivative of classic Ben E. King sides, and Thomas Henry's "Is It Love" rips a page from Major Lance's book. You're not going to recognize any of the performers, with the possible exception of the well-traveled Gene Allison, whose bluesy "It's Almost Sundown" (with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Sam Cooke) is one of the best cuts. There are some nice oddities here and there, like the Jades' moving, moody ballad "My Loss, Your Gain," and Wendell Watts' super-lush "You Girl," with its bouncy strings, rhumba-ish beat, and lounge-lizard vocals.

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