Papa True Love: The Amy Sessions

Mighty Sam McClain

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Papa True Love: The Amy Sessions Review

by Richie Unterberger

This compilation of the singer's prime 1960s work has both sides of his eight 1966-1968 Amy singles, as well as "Nothing but the Truth" from Bell's LP Bell's Cellar of Soul Vol. 2 and a previously unreleased 1966 cover of Don Gibson's "A Stranger to Me." Mighty Sam was a good 1960s Southern soul singer, but not a great one; the kinds of people who collect this sort of stuff can go back and forth as to whether he was a top-of-the-second-division artist or the best of a journeyman class. Often he sounded like a somewhat bluesier Otis Redding, more apt to break into growly rasps, though not as inclined in that direction as, say, James Brown was. "Sweet Dreams (Of You)" in particular seems like a conscious emulation of the kind of success Otis Redding was having in 1965-1966 with wrenching ballads like "I've Been Loving You Too Long." He did benefit from a few Spooner Oldham-Dan Penn compositions but didn't get the sort of classic material that might have made him more than a cult favorite. All that taken into consideration, this remains a fairly solid platter of little-known soul music, the vocalist shining brightest on mid-tempo tunes that have him pleading a case without getting too sentimental. The production's pretty good as well, with frequent stinging blues-soul guitar licks and eerie organ of the kind made famous on Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman."

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