The Box Tops

The Best of the Box Tops: Soul Deep

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Who would be interested in a compilation devoted to a two-hit wonder, albeit a very good two-hit wonder? In the case of the Box Tops, there are actually several answers: oldies fans, blue-eyed soul devotees, and Big Star fans interested in the early development of bandleader Alex Chilton. At 18 tracks, The Best of the Box Tops: Soul Deep is the most extensive compilation of the blue-eyed soul group's output, featuring all of their singles and pretty much all of their best album cuts. Their LPs were erratic at best, since producer Dan Penn didn't always expend A-list material on the group; plus, up until the end, he refused to allow budding songwriter Chilton to record original contributions. Soul Deep is a vastly preferable way to hear the Box Tops' best moments, and it proves that when they were handed the right songs, they were an excellent pop-oriented blue-eyed soul group, easily ranking with the more renowned Righteous Brothers or Rascals. Like the latter group, they flirted with psychedelia on some of their poppier numbers (most notably "Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March"), which contrasts sharply with the occasional return to down-home, rootsy soul. Chilton fanatics are treated to some of his earliest originals -- the gritty blues "I Must Be the Devil," the straightforward period pop of "The Happy Song," and a couple more. Even if nothing is quite as striking as the group's two big hits, "The Letter" and "Cry Like a Baby," there's enough here to make The Best of the Box Tops: Soul Deep worth the time of fans with a serious interest.

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