As soul music moved into the early '70s, it became dominated by smoother sounds and polished productions, picking up its cues from Motown, Chicago soul, and uptown soul. By the beginning of the decade, soul was fracturing in a manner similar to pop/rock, as pop-soul, funk, vocal groups, string-laden Philly soul, and sexy Memphis soul became just a few of the many different subgenres to surface. Often the productions on these records were much more polished than '60s production, boasting sound effects, synthesizers, electric keyboards, echoes, horn sections, acoustic guitars, and strings. It was one of the most ambitious eras in the history of soul, but it was often overlooked because only a handful of superstars -- Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, the Spinners, Sly Stone, the O'Jays, and James Brown -- emerged, and they didn't dominate the charts like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinson did just a few years back. However, there was an astonishing string of one-hit wonders and artists, like the Chi-Lites, who had a handful of hits. Those are the artists who are spotlighted on Rhino's Soul Hits of the '70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind, a wonderful 20-disc series that contains many of the greatest singles and forgotten hits from the early '70s. The first 15 volumes are the heart of the series, capturing the golden age of '70s soul, filled with smooth soul, items from Philly, proto-disco, and gorgeous, lush masterpieces of production, performance, and song. Though there are few of the above-mentioned superstars here, there is no shortage of great singles, and part of the joy of the series is discovering little-heard gems. The last five volumes aren't as interesting since they capture the post-disco, funk, and quiet storm; they do their job as well as the previous 15, but the music itself isn't as good. Still, that's hardly an embarrassment and overall Soul Hits of the '70s is perhaps the finest soul series ever assembled.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine