Various Artists “Lost Deep Soul Treasures Vol 4” (SOS 1004)
By Pete Nickols
Sam Dees ~ My World ~ Polydor 14455; George Freeman ~ I’m Like A Fish ~ Shout 201; Al Gardner ~ Just The Touch Of Your Hand ~ Sir-Rah 504; Bobby Harris ~ Lonely Intruder ~ Turntable 716; Charles Lattimore ~ We Try Harder ~ Shout 219; Wilson Williams ~ I Have A Whole Lot To Be Thankful For ~ How Big 202767 ~ Ada Ray ~ I No Longer Believe In Miracles ~ Zell’s 253; Bobby Williams ~ Try Love ~ Sure Shot 5003; Blues Brothers # 1 ~ Letter Of Regret ~ Eclipse 104 & Quadrant 406; Eddie Billups ~ Hard Headed Woman ~ Helpp 002 & Brume 2154; Freddie Watson & The Restorators ~ It’s All Over Now ~ Eloys 812; Barbara & Gwen ~ I Love My Man ~ New Chicago Sound Records 6921; Lee Mitchell with The Boston Rhythm Section ~ I Come A Long Way ~ Hersey 4539; Jimmy Ponder ~ Sometimes You Win ~ Karate 528; Ike Lovely ~ You’re My Bad Habit ~ Capitol 2380; Lavorn Smith ~ Without Your Love I’ll Be Nothing ~ K.M.C. 102; Sloan Bey ~ Tenderness ~ Jonah 100 & White Whale 3900; Leonard Lee ~ Since You’ve Been Gone ~ Broadmoor 102; Tommy Dodson III ~ You Don’t Know (How Much I Love You) ~ Main Sound 501; King Louie ~ I’ve Been Down So Long ~ Mockingbird 1007; Lord Luther ~ Two Of A Kind ~ Lusan 101; Ronnie North ~ Try Me ~ Holly 306; Tommy Ridgley ~ Did You Tell Him ~ White Cliffs 260.
So we arrive at the fourth in this series from SOS of (usually) genuinely deep offerings. This Volume kicks off with Sam Dees’ 1978 Malaco-recorded Polydor side “My World”, a re-cut of his “In My World”, originally a two-parter which he put down some three years earlier for Birmingham’s New London International label (# 1003). This kind of southern-soul is pure ‘storyline’ with the emotively-sung lyrics being what is truly ‘deep’ about the song, they being probably even more important here than the overall musical effect, which itself is more semi-sweet rather than ultra-deep. This track can also be found on the fine various-artists Grapevine CD of rare Malaco sides “Troubled Waters” (#GVCD 3010).
George Freeman’s excellent slow-paced Rene Hall-arranged West Coast slab of deep soul (which you can hear here) saw release on far-flung New York-based Shout; while Detroiter Al Gardner’s Willie Mitchell, Memphis-produced Sir-Rah track is quite simply one of deep-soul’s great moments. You can revel in it and read more about it here.
Bobby Harris’ terrific, top-drawer, genuinely deep Turntable side can also be heard on this web-site, here, as can the somewhat faster–paced Charles Lattimore Shout side “We Try Harder”. Charles’ vocal is gruff and powerful and this is a good example of that fairly rare sub-genre, mid-paced deep-soul.
A lay-back but full brass sound introduces us to Wilson Williams’ otherwise fairly ‘spare’ slab of very slow-paced, emotive Virginia soul, cut for Noah Biggs’ ‘How Big’ label. Let it ‘cocoon’ you in its soulfulness.
Ada Ray was known as ‘Cry Baby’ and this early echo-vocal-led deepie for Zell Sanders’ Harlem-based Zell’s label shows why when, in mid-track, it momentarily breaks up while Ada has a good cry! It’s a truly great track of its time though. I simply love it.
Bobby Williams’ Sure Shot 45 from 1964 is a slow-to-mid-paced item, well-enough sung for sure, but hardly ‘full-on deep’ in its format. Next, we move forward 12 years for a Fort Lauderdale recording by the Blues Brothers #1, a beautifully sung melodic piece of lay-back storyline soul which you can catch here and which proved that meaningful soul could still be found even in the dreaded Disco era.
Eddie Billups’ self co-penned and co-produced New York side lyrically is perhaps the ‘ultimate’ in remorsefulness over a lost love as Eddie is actually wailing and moaning literally as he overlooks the dead body of his ex-hard-headed woman, whose head nonetheless clearly wasn’t hard enough to stop the bullet fired by her other beau from entering it with ‘terminal’ results! This is Certificate ‘X’ deep-soul – and why not? Eddie’s vocal is right up-front in the mix and there’s even a tearful vocal breakdown near the track-end where another bass voice (the funeral pastor perhaps?) joins in with Eddie’s torture as the vocal ‘pain’ finally dominates totally over any further meaningful musical content. An amazing record, which, for sure, would never appeal to regular commercial soul fans, but, if your stomach can take it (and mine can) it’s a deep-soul giant alright!
I could live without the Freddie Watson track, which is lightweight and, despite the singer’s obvious vocal ability, is much too coy to be deep. However, it’s back to the real deal with Barbara & Gwen’s terrific gospel-deep-soul item “I Love My Man”, which you can sample here. Barbara (Livsey) would become better known as Barbara Blake when she later fronted Barbara & the Uniques.
I believe it’s into the early 80’s for Lee Mitchell’s very-well-sung and appealing deep-gospel Hersey side. You can read about how he returned from ‘soul’ to this gospel ‘mode’ in our feature on the singer here.
Jimmy Ponder’s excellent Karate side returns us, not just to soul, but to some superb genuinely deep, dramatic soul at that, complete with a bit of good mid-track ‘rapping’. Again this is almost a mid-tempo deepie, the rhythm being fast-waltz-paced.
Yet again you can hear our next track here, and what a track it is! The little-known Ike Lovely somehow got a release on Hollywood’s Capitol label for this very Otis-influenced super-deep gem (even the brass is very ala Memphis Horns) – but it’s a real stunner.
Lavorn Smith’s much more modern-sounding smooth-soul approach to his 4 minute-plus KMC track is very different to the previous one but its storyline lyric is handled with a soulful beauty that is irresistible. Not deep in the traditional sense perhaps but very involving – and you can catch it here.
Sloan Bey is one of those names that doesn’t even tell the sex of its owner but Sloan is male alright and sings beautifully about wanting “Tenderness” from his girl. The organ-led backdrop is very tasty too as the track builds beautifully. If you’ve never heard it before I swear it’ll grow on you very quickly after a few spins. How does a singer with a voice this good remain a ‘great unknown’?
Leonard Lee has a strange semi-spoken way of phrasing his vocals, yet, when this song builds, he shows he can sing the big dramatic passages well enough. The piece as a whole comes across as a bit messy and not greatly to my own taste.
Again you can listen to our next track here. It’s a Tommy Dodson West Coast soul outing, once again arranged by the great Rene Hall and certainly develops into a genuinely deep opus, with some potent singing from Tommy as well as from a good, gospelly femme back-up group. Lovely record.
Washington D.C’s King Louie’s monologue-introduced superb deep winner appeared on Mockingbird before His Majesty headed off to North Carolina to cut for Reflection. Give it a listen here.
Staying, if not with royalty, then with the nobility, We Brits never did find Lord Lucan but meanwhile a few in-the-know Yanks were discovering Lord Luther, who cut this pleasing piece of well-interpreted bluesoul for the Lusan label, apparently as early as 1964, although, aurally, it sounds a tad later. What’s more, the ‘aristocratic’ Luther really cuts loose near the end and proves he can scream and shout with the best of the proletariat!
Ronnie North is all tears and emotion on his amazing version of James Brown’s “Try Me”, which seems to seek to ‘out-soul’ even the Godfather’s live version at the Apollo. However, the emotion sadly comes across as rather forced and contrived here which spoils the desired deep effect.
Tommy Ridgley was an amazing vocalist for a Crescent City R&B bandleader and cut some really great deep soul sides in his time – this White Cliffs one rates about 7 out of 10 for me – it’s just really getting going dramatically by the time it prematurely fades, which is a shame – but it’s still well worth a listen.
Overall, I think this is one of the strongest deep SOS sets yet reviewed and it comes highly recommended.