Various Artists

Rare Blues & Soul from Nashville: The 1960s, Vol. 2

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The 24 tracks on this CD are certainly rare, and Nashville was a more active producer of blues, soul, and R&B in the 1960s than many people realize. However, this grab bag of tracks from the Rich, Spar, and Sur-Speed labels is by no means the cream of the city's '60s R&B-oriented output, and not even the cream of Nashville's '60s rarities in the style, though it has some items of interest to serious collectors. Foremost among these are the five cuts by Cornell Blakely that open the compilation, as these were, according to the liner notes, produced by Berry Gordy, and certainly bear songwriting credits of several prominent composers associated with Motown. Why these appeared on the Rich label and not Motown is not explained, and they do have the sound of early Motown productions that were too slight to make the grade. So does J.J. Barnes' "My Love Came Tumbling Down," another Gordy production, although at least Barnes is a better and grittier singer than Blakely. Other Rich rarities are Bobby Hebb's early single "Cherry" (its first appearance on CD in the version that has an orchestral overdub) and, far more oddly, both sides of the second 45 by Rich chief John Richbourg (better known as legendary Nashville DJ John R.), in which he does "Night Train" and "Stagger Lee" as spoken narrations. The rest of the anthology lacks even such novelty interest, though it has listenable period soul that sometimes has a bluesier edge than most soul of the era, as well as debts to Motown, girl groups, and Twist music. Completist collectors might find this worth a shot, but will be displeased by the absence of original recording and release dates.

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