Various Artists

South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976

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If the name Minaret doesn't ring any bells for you, there's a reason for that: the '60s/'70s independent label -- formed in Nashville but based in the Florida panhandle throughout its run -- didn't have any hits. As always, hits are not necessarily a reflection of musical quality, and Minaret did release plenty of fine sides, many of them collected on South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles, a double-disc 2013 set by Omnivore Records. Minaret was firmly within the deep southern soul tradition of the '60s and '70s, quite clearly following the path blazed by Stax/Volt Records and Muscle Shoals' studios. Although the label's acts didn't take this path to any surprising places -- based on this, which is billed to run all the way til 1976 but effectively stops around 1970, the label was slow to dip into funk -- but this is an enjoyable journey anyway because this is solid, unflashy, workingman (and workingwoman) soul. Big John Hamilton, the closest thing Minaret had to a star and a guy who is on nearly half of this 40-track collection, stands for all the label's attributes and weaknesses. He is a strong singer in the vein of Otis Redding, James Carr, and Wilson Pickett, but he doesn't have a signature that separates him from his peers. Instead, he just delivers the goods without fuss, and the same can be said of Genie Brooks, Johnny Dynamite, and Willie Gable, among all the others here. There may not be a song that could've crossed over into the pop charts -- this is deep soul at its proudest -- and there may not have been anything hooky or distinctive enough to be heard outside of the south, but all 40 tracks here are good, generic soul, the kind of things that hardcore R&B collectors love and the kind that deserve to be heard by an audience beyond crate-diggers. Fortunately, this collection will now give plenty of exposure to a label that has only be known to those in the know, and will likely please nearly any southern soul fan.

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