Walter Jackson

Welcome Home: The OKeh Recordings, Vol. 2

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The second of three volumes surveying Walter Jackson's entire catalog of Columbia Records masters is essentially an expanded version of his 1965 LP, Welcome Home. In addition to including all 12 of the songs from that album, it adds seven other tracks, four of them taken from 1965-1967 singles, three of them previously unreleased. The Welcome Home album, like a lot of other soul and pop LPs from the era, was a somewhat schizophrenic affair. On the one (and better) hand, it had some of the smooth, lushly arranged soul-pop for which Jackson was most renowned, including the Top Twenty R&B hits "Welcome Home" (written by a young Chip Taylor) and "Suddenly I'm All Alone" (penned by a young Van McCoy). Another McCoy song, the yearning, majestically melodic "The Magic's Gone," is as strong as anything Jackson recorded, and "Still at the Mercy of Your Love" (co-written by McCoy) is a good if less striking orchestrated ballad. Yet on the rest of the Welcome Home album, Jackson seemed to be trying to prove he was an all-around entertainer, tackling standards like "My Funny Valentine," "Moon River," and "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)," as well as more ill-advised covers of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." The standards -- on which Jackson sounds like a cross between Johnny Mathis and Billy Paul (who seems like he could quite possibly have been influenced by Jackson) -- actually do have their good points, but it's the soul stuff with which Jackson seems most comfortable. Fortunately, with the exception of a previously unissued cover of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," the seven non-LP tracks avoided pop standards. Those additional cuts, however, are still often pretty elaborately arranged even by sweet soul-pop standards, including a previously unreleased version of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today." More satisfying is the 1965 B-side "Special Love," which is much more in the mainstream of sub-Curtis Mayfield Chicago soul, and the 1966 single "One Heart Lonely," which is brassier and more uptempo (to good effect) than Jackson's usual style. So while it's an uneven collection, it's worthwhile listening, though it's at the very most pop-oriented edge of '60s soul. The liner notes include a detailed sessionography of his 1962-1965 Columbia work, though it's odd that they don't discuss the post-1965 tracks that appear on the CD.

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