Various Artists

The Incredible Soul Collection

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It's possible that there's a pop record collection of 50 to 100 CDs or more that doesn't have at least half the songs on Rhino's double-disc 32-track compilation The Incredible Soul Collection, but it's unlikely. These are not only the songs that everybody knows, they're the songs everybody buys again and again, recycled on any number of soul compilations from the top of the line to the bottom of the heap. There's little questioning the greatness of every one of these tracks -- they've stood the test of time and they're still played on the radio. And it doesn't matter that the sequencing of the songs follows no chronological or thematic path; it plays like a favorite jukebox or oldies radio station as it bounces from Motown to Stax to Hi or from Chicago to Memphis to Philly. It's enjoyable; it's great music -- the only thing holding it back from a rave review is that every single one of these tracks is overly familiar. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Respect," "In the Midnight Hour," "Soul Man," "Try a Little Tenderness," "Knock on Wood," "Mustang Sally," "What'd I Say," "Stand By Me," "Let's Stay Together," "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" -- all are great songs, as are their companions, but they're common and will already be sitting on the shelves of most record collections. If you happen not to have these songs on disc, this is a great one-stop way of getting 32 timeless soul singles at once. Otherwise, it'll be fine to pass on The Incredible Soul Collection, since you can assemble it from what you already own.

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