Various Artists

The Soul of R & B [Video Late Show]

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This hour-long tape, formerly available as Soul Experience from USA Home Video, is better than it lets on. There are 22 great songs listed, represented by television performance clips dating between the mid-'60s and the end of the 1970s: the Friends of Distinction doing "Love Me or Let Me Be Lonely," the interracial rock/soul ensemble Pacific Gas & Electric performing "Are You Ready" and "Wade in the Water," the Staple Singers in a television performance of "Respect Yourself"/"I'll Take You There" and a conceptual video performance of "We the People," Billy Preston stretching out on "Outta Space," and Curtis Mayfield singing "If There's a Hell Down Below." Joe Tex is pure energy performing "I Gotcha," and Rufus Thomas is a commanding presence on "Push and Pull," while Dionne Warwick is an ethereal vision miming to "Valley of the Dolls" seated on a swing. And some of them -- Smokey Robinson & the Miracles doing "Tears of a Clown" and the Four Tops performing "Shake Me Wake Me" -- will tug at the most nostalgic heartstrings. The best clip of all, oddly enough, isn't even listed on the box: Jerry Butler performing "Only the Strong Survive." None of the clips are less than satisfying, all are uncut, and although it's not made clear in the packaging, all of these acts are caught in their respective primes. The transfers and sound are all from the mid-'80s, which hardly makes them state-of-the-art; it's highly likely that this program is not only out of print but not even under license anymore, but if there were any rights remaining, this un-narrated, uncut, 60-minute program is a natural for DVD.