Lou Pride

The Memphis/El Paso Sessions 1970-73

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Kudos to the Severn label for not only reviving the career and releasing new music from this under-the-radar '70s soulman, but for compiling this 13-track set of his earliest singles. These sides, recorded in the titular cities and time span, were only available as 45s and have become sought after collector's items for good reason: they smoke. Although Chicago bred Lou Pride didn't have much studio experience when he waxed these tunes, he sounds like an established pro. Seven songs were recorded for the tiny Suemi label out of El Paso with the rest originating from Memphis' famed Hi Studios featuring the legendary Willie Mitchell acting as producer. While the latter set of songs is strong enough with Hi studio hotshots such as the Hodges brothers (Teenie, Leroy, and Charles) and the Memphis Horns doing their patented thing, it's the Texas material that best exemplifies Pride's talent. He hedges his bets by recording "Your Love Is Fading" in both studios, but unfortunately neither was a hit despite it having a hook every bit as powerful as anything in Clarence Carter's catalog. Pride sings in the style of Tyrone Davis, smooth and yearning but capable of expressing sorrow and longing in the joyous context of terrific R&B. There is a strong James Brown undercurrent, not just in the funky cover of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World," but in his own supercharged "Message to the People." All the selections but Brown's are Pride originals and most are terrific slices of steamy soul simmered with funky spices that will be treasured by any fan of classic American R&B. The running order is jumbled with the oldest cut, the crisp funk of "There's Got to Be Someone for Me," closing out the disc. The lack of track-specific recording dates is a major omission for a historical set such as this, but it remains a treasure trove of previously obscure soul music that spotlights one of the many great singers almost lost to history.

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