Guy Stevens, the noted British producer, record collector, and all-around mad genius, ran the U.K. branch of Sue Records between 1963 and 1967, and used it as a soapbox for championing classic R&B obscurities and U.S. soul hits that had somehow failed to cross the Atlantic. During Stevens' tenure with Sue, three UK Sue Label Story LPs were issued, collecting some of his fave rave sides released by the label, and a fourth album had been promised before Stevens parted ways with the firm and John E. Abbey took over. Mike Atherton and Tony Rounce of Kent/Ace Records, a company very much in the mold of the British Sue imprint, are R&B mavens who'd long wondered what that phantom Sue Label Story album would have been like, and with that in mind they compiled this disc, featuring a whopping 26 songs that were either issued by Sue in its salad days or were recorded by artists known to be high in the Stevens pantheon. The UK Sue Label Story, Vol. 4 offers a beautiful crazy quilt of blues, soul, and R&B sounds, from the gutbucket guitar of Elmore James to the smooth, passionate vocals of Jerry Butler and on to the jazzy accents of the Naturals, with plenty of other stops along the way. While a few tunes here will be familiar to folks with a passing interest in vintage R&B (most notably Screamin' Jay Hawkins' epochal "I Put a Spell on You"; Ike & Tina Turner's first hit, "A Fool in Love"; and the joyous "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" by Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns), this set is dominated by rare tunes and less-known releases from important artists, such as the good and greasy "Pork Chops" by the Dorsets, Claudine Clark's pleading "The Strength to Be Strong," the rockin' "Dance What You Wanna" from Little Richard, the smart and sensual "Doodlin'" by Baby Washington, and Jimmy McGriff's groovelicious cover of "'Round Midnight." It's anyone's guess how close The UK Sue Label Story, Vol. 4 comes to what Guy Stevens himself would have compiled, but it's a sure bet he would have enjoyed listening to this disc -- it's a fine collection of classic R&B that should make any soul collector smile.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming