Review: Groove and Grind: Rare Soul '63 to '73

by Roger Wink, VVN Music

There are numerous collections of less popular and obscure tracks released every year, but nothing that rivals the quality of Groove and Grind: Rare Soul '63 to '73.

James Austin, in association with Rock Beat Records, has assembled four CDs of high quality, relatively unknown soul music from between 1963 and 1973, most of which has never been released on CD but, unlike so many other releases of this kind, the music is uniformly of high quality. As a matter of fact, after virtually every song I was left to wonder how such a great release didn't make the charts.

The 112 tracks are spread over four CDs divided into styles, Urban Soul, Group Soul, Southern Soul and Funky Soul and, while the majority of artists will be unknown to the casual soul fan, there are still a decent number from popular acts like Betty LaVette, King Floyd, Ike & Tina Turner, Candi Station, Betty Wright, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas, Bobby Rush and even a young Kenny Gamble. What you get, though, is early tracks from before each of these hitmakers' careers took off.

For every well known artist, there are five or six unknown but don't let that scare you away. Each was meticulously chosen and, to prove that this wasn't just a "Hey, look what we found! Let's use it" project, the set comes with a 126-page hardbound booklet with notes on every one of the 112 tracks from music historian Bill Dahl. Dahl consulted dozens of sources to glean facts about the artists and the records. Never heard of L.J. Waiters? Dahl has three paragraphs of information about the artist and his record I'm a Lonely Man. Are you new to the Exsaveyons? Find out how producer George Blackwell and arrange Eddie Morris came together to make their Smoke Records single I Don't Love You No More.

If over a hundred pages of info on these obscure gems wasn't enough, Austin has also assembled numerous publicity photos of the artists along with concert posters and, my favorites, numerous pictures of the original 45 labels mostly from obscure, regional imprints.

Speaking of the 45's, people looking for the latest digital hi-res sound may be a bit disappointed. These records were so obscure that, while original studio tapes were available for some, many were only able to be included by recording from an original 45 and cleaning up the sound in mastering. It really is no big deal. This is how this music originally sounded and, while a few may be a bit sub-standard sonically, the chance to hear such great music that hasn't been available for years far outweighs any sound issues.

The whole set is housed in a hardback book that includes the 126-page booklet along with four sturdy CD sleeves to house the discs.

Groove and Grind: Rare Soul '63 to '73 is one of the true gems of 2015 and shouldn't be missed by any fans of soul music of the 60's and 70's.

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