You couldn't ask for a better compilation of James & Bobby Purify than this one, which fits no less than 28 songs onto a single disc, all from their prime 1966-1969 Bell era. In addition to a wealth of singles, B-sides, and LP tracks, there are five previously unissued cuts, the whole deal expertly annotated. The duo was harder to fit into a niche than many soul acts of the era; although there have been some comparisons to Sam & Dave, at times their sides were more pop-oriented than what Sam & Dave cut at Memphis, particularly on songs with sophisticated production touches like vibes. At other times, though, they were indeed in the late-'60s Southern deep soul bag; sometimes some doo wop and older R&B influences surfaced; and there's even a reading of the blues classic "You Don't Love Me." It makes for a varied and nice set, though there really isn't anything as instantly memorable as the song that will be always be their calling card, "I'm Your Puppet." If you do like "I'm Your Puppet" in particular, you'll probably go for the half a dozen or so other tracks in which Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham were also involved in the songwriting, like "So Many Reasons" and a version of "You Left the Water Running" that stands up to the better-known one by Otis Redding. For more up-tempo numbers, their interpretation of "I Take What I Want," with fuzzy guitar to the forefront, is at least as good as the more famed version by Sam & Dave.
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