Monday, August 5, 2013

The South Side Of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 (2013) CD Review

The South Side Of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 is a two-disc compilation of fantastic R&B tracks from the Minaret label. Most of these tracks are tunes I hadn’t heard before. It’s ridiculous that these songs aren’t in the popular consciousness, for a lot of these tracks can completely hold their own next to the most well-known R&B acts. This compilation features twenty singles, including the flip sides, organized in chronological order. Most of the tracks are from 1969. It is a true pleasure to listen to this collection, which includes such artists as Big John Hamilton, Doris Allen and Genie Brooks.

Big John Hamilton

Big John Hamilton is the artist most represented in this collection. The first disc kicks off with “The Train,” a good, slow blues number with nice touches on piano and guitar. For me, it’s Big John’s vocals that really sell this tune. The flip side, “Big Bad John,” is a cool R&B tune with some well-placed silences in the vocals. Like, “They call me Big Bad John. I don’t give a (silence) if they do.” Both of these tracks were written by John Lee Hamilton and Leroy Lloyd.

“I Have No One” is one of those great slow R&B tracks full of glorious yearning. “I need somebody to tell me everything is all right.” Its flip side is “I Just Want To Thank You.” I love what he does vocally on this one, although the phrase “feeling that I feel” is rather lame.

He gets funkier with the somewhat humorous “Big Fanny” (which features some great stuff on horns). The flip side, “How Much Can A Man Take,” is one of my favorite tracks in this collection. He sings, “When I finally make up my mind to leave you, you don’t let me go,” and then says he stays on just for memory’s sake. It was written by Becki Bluefield, Robert James Benninghoff and Finley Duncan.

“Pretty Girls” is a fun tune with some joyous bursts on horn, and some catchy work on guitar over a great groove. It was written by John Lee Hamilton and Leroy Lloyd. That single’s flip side is a gorgeous rendition of “Before The Next Teardrop Falls.”

I dig the instrumental section of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” with that great piano lead. That song has a cool groove. And you can’t beat an opening line like “If you’re looking for a fool, here I am” (from “If You’re Looking For A Fool”). Has anyone ever sounded so happy at the prospect of being used? “If you need somebody you can cheat on/A heart you can break every day.”

Big John Hamilton opens this collection, and also closes it. I really love what he does vocally on the closing track, “Free Me” (one of the few tracks from the 1970s). You can really hear the need in his voice, and some of the weariness. It’s a very effective song written by John Hamilton and Finley Duncan.

Genie Brooks

The collection includes two singles from Genie Brooks. The first is “Fine Time.” A good groove and some wonderful backing vocals repeating the title line make this track totally delightful. The flip side, “Juanita,” is a very cool track about a man who believes his woman has another man. Genie Brooks is great at expressing worry. This one too makes good use of backing vocals.

The other is “Helping Hand,” a slow number about tough breaks and the story of one man’s journey through life without a helping hand. You know he means it when he sings, “I wish I could start all over.” That single’s flip side, a funky dance number, gives this compilation its title.

The Double Soul

The Double Soul released just one single, and “Blue Diamonds” features very impressive vocal performances by both men in this duo. On “I Can’t Use You,” they blend their voices well. It’s an excellent tune.

Leroy Lloyd And The Dukes

Leroy Lloyd, who co-wrote several of the Big John Hamilton numbers, contributes a few singles of his own. “Sewanee Strut” is an insanely fun R&B dance instrumental track. “A Taste Of The Blues” is a seriously cool track with a great, mean vibe. All of the musicians really get a chance to shine on this instrumental track, which is one of the album’s highlights and was written by Leroy Lloyd.

Leroy Lloyd And The Dukes teamed up with Count Willie for the grew slow groove of “I’ve Got To Tell You.” The flip side, “Double Funk,” is a funky instrumental track that gets a bit repetitive.

Willie Cobbs

“I’ll Love Only You” opens with some delightful work on horns. This song finds a man promising he’ll be true, and begging the woman not to hurt him. This track is one of the many highlights of this collection. There is a cool lead guitar section, with some nice backing by the horns. “Don’t Worry About Me” is a very nice blues tune, with harmonica at the start. That harmonica tells you right away someone’s been hurt. And then Willie Cobbs sings, “You know I love you/I’m your slave/You know that I need you/Night and day.” But of course she leaves him. Later in the song there is some seriously wonderful work on harmonica, backed by horns. Both of these tracks were written by Willie Cobbs.

Doris Allen

Doris Allen has a tremendous voice. “A Shell Of A Woman” has a good groove, with her excellent vocals over it, first delivered almost like spoken word, then given with a serious power. There is a scream and a cry in her voice. This is one of my favorite tracks, mostly because of her vocal performance. Its flip side, “Kiss Yourself For Me,” a sweet love tune, has a much straighter delivery, until the end when she belts it out.

This compilation also includes two singles she did with Big John Hamilton. The first, “A Place In My Heart,” is a nice, slow love song. The second is a great, energetic, funky cover of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes.”

Gable Reed

Gable Reed’s “I’m Your Man” is a good, slow soul number coming from a place of pain and promise. Quite different is its flip side, which made my friend and I laugh the first time we put this disc on. “Who’s Been Warming My Oven” is a great, fun tune full of none-too-subtle euphemisms. “Who’s been warming my oven since I’ve been gone?” Of course he then sings, “While I was out cooking in another man’s pot, somebody’s been keeping my oven hot.” So you can’t take his complaints too seriously.

This compilation also includes singles from Johnny Dynamite and Willie Gable.

CD Track List

Disc One

  1. The Train
  2. Big Bad John
  3. I Have No One
  4. I Just Want To Thank You
  5. Fine Time
  6. Juanita
  7. Blue Diamonds
  8. I Can’t Use You
  9. Big Fanny
  10. How Much Can A Man Take
  11. Pretty Girls
  12. Before The Next Teardrop Falls
  13. The Night The Angels Cried
  14. Everybody’s Clown
  15. Helping Hand
  16. South Side Of Soul Street
  17. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
  18. Love Comes And It Goes
  19. Sewanee Strut
  20. A Taste Of The Blues

Disc Two

  1. I’ll Love Only You
  2. Don’t Worry About Me
  3. If You’re Looking For A Fool
  4. Take This Hurt Off Me Fool
  5. A Shell Of A Woman
  6. Kiss Yourself For Me
  7. I’m Your Man
  8. Who’s Been Warming My Oven
  9. A Place In My Heart
  10. Let A Little Love In
  11. Row, Row, Row
  12. Eternally
  13. Them Changes
  14. Bright Star
  15. Lift Me Up
  16. Just Seeing You Again
  17. I’ve Got To Tell You
  18. Double Funk
  19. I Got To Get Myself Somebody
  20. Free Me

The South Side Of Soul Street is scheduled to be released on August 13, 2013 through Omnivore Recordings.

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