This 15-track single CD gathers highlights from the Rhythm, Love and Soul (2004) live television special that aired on PBS stations during on-air fundraisers. It was produced by Pittsburgh, PA, affiliate WQED -- whose American Soundtrack series has become a staple of PBS pledge drives. The broadcast is co-hosted by a trio of luminaries: Aretha Franklin, Mary Wilson, and Lou Rawls. The concert, from which both this lineup and package are excerpted, is a star-studded soul affair reminiscent of the multi-artist R&B revues that toured throughout America in the 1950s and 1960s. While each performer could easily be a respective headliner, in the tradition of these "old-school" acts, legends as prominent as the aforementioned Franklin ("Respect"), Rawls ("Lady Love"), and Wilson ("Someday We'll Be Together") are joined by the likes of the Spinners ("It's a Shame") and Edwin Starr ("25 Miles") -- whose final live appearance is captured here. In addition, there is a sampling of one-hit wonders whose contributions could also be considered definitive. Among the most notable are Carl Carlton ("Everlasting Love"), Freda Payne ("Band of Gold"), Gloria Gaynor ("I Will Survive"), and Billy Paul ("Me and Mrs. Jones"). It bears repeating that this disc consists of re-recordings from the musicians who put these hits on the charts. The audio quality is superb throughout and the entire collection not only flows well -- which is not always true of after-the-fact compilations -- but also presents the material as living history rather than simply nostalgia.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer