Freda Payne was one of the great female soul singers of the early '70s -- her voice was powerful enough to rank highly among her contemporaries, but what set her apart was her daring material, its consistency, and the wonderful, ambitious production given her by the Invictus label. All of this is apparent on a mere single-disc collection, but for the best appreciation of the full scope of her achievements, the 41-track collection Unhooked Generation: The Complete Invictus Recordings is necessary for any serious soul collection. Though this is a lot to ingest at once, part of the reason for that is that it's dense, layered music; there's a lot going on in the lyrics and music is busy, filled with glorious details that help elevate this music ahead of much of the soul music of the time. As her biggest hits suggest, Payne pushed the subject material of soul further: "Band of Gold" dealt with a marriage falling apart because of male impotence; "Bring the Boys Home" was an anti-Vietnam protest song. This hints at what's covered on the rest of her albums for Invictus, all available here. What's remarkable is how Payne and her team of writers sound fearless throughout these recordings, pushing the boundaries of contemporary soul forward -- even if the songs don't cover new thematic ground, or are merely good generic pieces, there's something in the arrangement, production, or performance that elevates it above its peers. So, while this is a lot of music, it's worth exploring -- music this rich deserves such an exhaustive, loving presentation and any serious soul fan will be well-served by acquiring this.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2