Jerry Butler

The Essential Jerry Butler [Polygram]

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Jerry Butler was known as the Ice Man and his smooth voice shines on this ten-song budget collection of his late-'60s work for Mercury Records, in particular 1968's The Iceman Cometh and 1969's Ice on Ice. His two biggest hits from the era are here; "Only the Strong Survive" and "Hey Western Union Man," and the rest of the tracks are fine examples of the slickly produced Chicago/Philly sound that dominated soul music during that time. Indeed many of the songs here are produced and written by the duo that brought Philly soul to prominence, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The only problem with the collection is that it doesn't really gather up all of Butler's hits and best songs of the era. Once you get past the two hits, it seems to be almost a random selection of tracks. All good solid soul to be sure, but this disc might be the only Jerry Butler disc someone might buy, and if they are only going to buy one Butler disc it should be one that has his hits. In fact, what you really should do if you are interested in this material is pony up the extra couple of dollars and buy Mercury's The Philadelphia Sessions, which has all the tracks from The Iceman Cometh and Ice on Ice plus a couple more. Or try to track down the out of print Iceman: The Mercury Years, which has tracks from his entire 1965-1974 stay at Mercury. If you are interested in getting hits from Butler's entire career, Rhino's 1987 collection The Best of Jerry Butler is still the only place to turn. It alone deserves the title Essential that this collection has unjustly been assigned. [The Essential Jerry Butler was reissued in 2004 by Collectables with the same track list and a different cover.]

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