James & Bobby Purify - Shake A Tail Feather! (1966-1971)

Compilation
James & Bobby Purify were an American soul music duo.

James Lee Purify (b. 1944) and Robert Lee Dickey (b. 1939) came from Florida, and were not brothers but cousins. As a guitarist, Robert had been a member of R&B group The Dothan Sextet, where his cousin James also came to fill in as a singer. In 1966 they came to the attention of producer Papa Don Schroeder, who took them both to record at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Here the idea of having them sing together as a duo was conceived, and they took the stage name James & Bobby Purify. They recorded the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham song "I'm Your Puppet", which became an instant hit on Bell Records, getting not only to #5 on the R&B chart but #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 too.
Lesser hits followed in 1967, first with another Penn/Oldham song - "Wish You Didn't Have To Go" charted at #27 R&B. Production then moved from Muscle Shoals to Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, where a marathon recording session produced a cover of "Shake A Tail Feather" (originally recorded by The Five Du-Tones in 1963), which charted at #25 pop and #15 R&B. "I Take What I Want" (a Sam & Dave cover) went to #23 R&B, and "Let Love Come Between Us" went to #18 R&B and #23 pop. Two albums were also released.
By 1968 their singles were not charting as high, but they were still touring extensively. The next year the hits had dried up and they parted ways with Bell Records. By 1971 Robert Lee Dickey retired for health reasons, and the Purify name slipped away unnoticed. That was until 1974 when Ben Moore was recruited as the 'new' Bobby Purify for another album.
This compilation covers most of the recorded output of the 'original' James & Bobby Purify, during their years with Bell. Along with "I'm Your Puppet" and the other hits are a good number of b-sides, album tracks and previously unreleased numbers. Some excellent soul music, with just the right balance of pop and gritty southern R&B vibes.

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Percy Mayfield - Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield (1970)

Percy Mayfield was an American R&B singer and songwriter.

After his one-album deal with Brunswick Records in the late 60s, Percy Mayfield found himself signed to RCA Victor in 1970. His first album on his new label, Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield, was an excellent release - effortlessly cool with its smoky, lazy blues vibes. The twelve original songs were as clever and insightful lyrically as his songwriting had always been, and they were strengthened by some splendid arrangements courtesy of Joe Jones. 
By now Mayfield was 50, and any hopes of having any hit singles were long gone, but he on his albums he was sounding better than ever.
 
Walking On A Tightrope (1969) <|> Weakness Is A Thing Called Man (1970)
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The Box Tops - Non-Stop (1968)

The Box Tops were an American rock group active in the 1960s.

Non-Stop was the third album in two years to be released under the Box Tops name. Like its predecessors, it was in reality mostly a product of the staff at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis, produced by Dan Penn and featuring the studio's experienced session musicians (mostly guitarist Reggie Young, bassist Tommy Cogbill, drummer Gene Chrisman and keyboard men Spooner Oldham and Bobby Emmons). Alex Chilton was the lead singer, but the rest of the band were practically nowhere to be found as they were busy touring.
Like the other Box Tops albums, it was a brilliant showcase of the sounds and songs of the American team, mixing rock, pop, blues, soul and country. It included covers of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On", BB King's "Rock Me" and Mac Gayden's "She Shot A Hole In My Soul", along with some good new originals. Two of the tracks became minor hits - "Choo Choo Train", by Donnie Fritts and Eddie Hinton, charted at #26 and "I Met Her In Church", from Penn and Oldham, reached #37.

Cry Like A Baby (1968) <|> Dimensions (1969)
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The Impressions - Keep On Pushing (1964)

The Impressions are an American R&B vocal group originally formed in 1958.

In 1964 The Impressions released the "Keep On Pushing" single, which hit #10 on the pop chart. This song was one of the first to reflect an increasing social and political awareness in Curtis Mayfield's writing, and came to be seen as something of a black pride anthem. The album of the same name, released the same year, was their most successful to date, itself charting in the Top 10 and featuring several other hits. Indeed 1964 was a good year for The Impressions, with four singles getting into the Top 20 on the pop chart.
On the Keep On Pushing album, "Talking About My Baby" had actually been a hit the year before (#12 pop). "Amen" was their second biggest to date - a traditional black spiritual set to a marching rhythm, it charted at #7 pop. "I've Been Trying" would chart at #35 R&B the next year. The two other pop hits of the year not included on the album were "I'm So Proud" (included on their previous album) and "You Must Believe Me" (on the next album). Many of these high-charting pop songs didn't actually have a position on the R&B chart - that is because the R&B chart was discontinued at the end of 1963, but returned in 1965.

The Never Ending Impressions (1964) <|> People Get Ready (1965)
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Carla Thomas - Gee Whiz (1961)

Carla Thomas in an American soul singer.

Carla Thomas was born in Memphis in 1942, the daughter of R&B singer Rufus Thomas. Growing up in a musical family, in 1952 she became an underaged member of the Teen Town Singers, a group of high school students sponsored by the local WDIA radio station, and she sang with them all through her high school years. Her break came with some help from her father in 1960, with whom she recorded the R&B duet "Cause I Love You", which was released on a new Memphis label named Satellite Records. The song became a regional hit, and got the attention of Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records, who signed a deal with Satellite to have the single distributed through Atlantic. Before long Satellite had been renamed Stax.
Later the same year Carla recorded her first solo single, a teen-pop ditty she had written when she was 15. With Atlantic's assistance, "Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)" reached not only #5 on the national R&B chart but #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1961. It became Stax's first national hit, and launched Carla's recording career, putting her in the spotlight as she got to perform the song on American Bandstand.
An album's worth of material was quickly put together, all in the same string-laden pop style of the single. It was a far cry from the hard soul sound Stax would later be known for, and the sound of the album has not aged well, but this was just the beginning, for both Carla and Stax. The album did generate another hit, "A Love Of My Own" getting to #20 on the R&B chart.

|> Comfort Me (1966)

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The Amazing Rhythm Aces - How The Hell Do You Spell Rhythum? (1980)

The Amazing Rhythm Aces are an American country-rock band originally formed in the early 70s.

By 1980 The Amazing Rhythm Aces had finished their contract with ABC Records. They then found themselves with Warner Bros. for one more album, their second with lead guitarist Duncan Cameron (whose stunning solo on the opening track was particular notable). How The Hell Do You Spell Rhythum? saw them lean further towards R&B than their previous albums had done, though of course also featuring a few moments of pure country. It featured a higher proportion of covers than any of their previous albums, with only two originals from lead singer Russell Smith. The covers included Dan Penn's "You Left The Water Running", Van Morrison's "Wild Nights" and Taj Mahal's "Further On Down The Road".
It turned out to be the band's last album for a good few years, as they broke up shortly afterwards. Russell Smith turned to a full time solo career (having released his debut solo album in 1978), Duncan Cameron joined Sawyer Brown, and the other members went on to work with various other artists as band members and session musicians.

The Amazing Rhythm Aces (1979) <|> Full House: Aces High (1981)
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Pentangle - Basket Of Light (1969)

Pentangle are a British folk group originally active in the late 60s and early 70s.

The Pentangle's third album was without a doubt their best yet. Their inventive take on folk music reached its pinnacle with this collection of nine songs - four traditional numbers, four originals, and one surprise pop cover ("Sally Go 'Round The Roses", originally a hit for The Jaynetts in 1963). As before, it was the brilliant acoustic musicianship of Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, along with the crystal clear vocals of Jacqui McShee, that gave the band it's distinctive sound. The band's basic format of two acoustic guitars, standup bass and drums was varied on several songs, with glockenspiel from Cox, banjo from Jansch and sitar from Renbourn (the latter two giving "The House Carpenter" an eerie psychedelic feel).
The album actually gave them two minor hit singles. "Light Flight" was used as the theme tune to a forgettable BBC TV drama called Take Three Girls, and subsequently charted at #43 and became their best-known song. "Once I Had A Sweetheart" also made it to #46. The album itself got to #5 on the UK charts. As the 60s drew to a close the band were at the peak of their popularity, touring both the UK and US, performing at the Isle Of Wight Festival, recording the soundtrack to the film Tam Lin and making several TV appearances. 

Sweet Child (1968) <|> Cruel Sister (1970)
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Eddie Floyd - I've Never Found A Girl (1968)

Eddie Floyd is an American soul singer and songwriter.

1966 had seen Eddie Floyd's solo career launched by the massive hit "Knock On Wood". His next few singles charted more modestly - "Raise Your Hand", "Love Is A Doggone Thing" and "On A Saturday Night" reached #16, #30 and #22 respectively on the R&B chart. His next big hit came in 1968 - "I've Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)" was a #2 R&B hit, and was followed by a great cover of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" which was a #4 R&B but also got to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 (his highest charting single on the pop chart).
His second solo album came out in 1968, featuring both "I've Never Found A Girl" and "Bring It On Home To Me", plus a cover of Clarence Carter's "Slip Away". Some excellent soul music typical of the Stax sound.

Knock On Wood (1967) <|> You've Got To Have Eddie (1969)
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B.J. Thomas - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (1966)

B.J. Thomas is an American singer best known for his hits of the 60s and 70s.

Billy Joe Thomas was born in Oklahoma in 1942, but grew up in Texas. As a teenager he joined a band called The Triumphs, and through his success with them manged to get his solo career started. In 1966 his soulful cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" became a hit on Scepter Records, getting to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. A follow-up single, "Mama", charted at #22. His first solo album, featuring both hits, was released the same year, presenting a mix of pop, soul and country styles. It included covers of Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" and Wilson Pickett's "The Midnight Hour".

|> Tomorrow Never Comes (1966)

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Mickey Newbury - Live At Montezuma Hall (1973)

Mickey Newbury was a critically-acclaimed American singer-songwriter.

Mickey Newbury's first live album saw release in 1973, an unedited recording of a solo concert performance at Montezuma Hall at San Diego State Universty from the same year. It was a powerful, intimate performace, mostly of songs from his past three albums (his famous trilogy of masterpieces), plus one which had yet to be released, a couple of obscurities exclusive to this concert, and a surprise cover of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone To Love".
The history behind the album's release is quite interesting. Of his recent trilogy (Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy and Heaven Help The Child), the first had been released on Mercury Records, whilst for the other two he had moved to Elektra. He took the rights for Looks Like Rain with him to Elektra, and so it was re-issued on his new label combined with Live At Montezuma Hall as a double LP. For many years this was the only place Montezuma Hall could be found, until it was included on the eight-disc The Mickey Newbury Collection in 1998. The album has therefore never been released by itself.

Heaven Help The Child (1973) <|> I Came To Hear The Music (1974)
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Various Artists - Rare Gems From Fame Studios (1962-1973)

Compilation

FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) first came into being in the late 50s as a music publishing company founded by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford, its first location being a tiny studio above a drug store owned by Stafford's family in Florence, Alabama. In this obscure corner of Alabama, local musicians and songwriters were used to put together demos for songs which ended up being recorded by established artists in Nashville. In the early 60s a split occured, and Rick Hall was left with the name, with which he founded a new studio in the nearby city of Muscle Shoals.
In 1962 a recording was made which laid the foundation (both stylistically and financially) for the Fame recording empire. Hall recorded R&B artist Arthur Alexander singing his own composition "You Better Move On", and when released on Dot Records it became a national pop hit. The financial rewards allowed Hall to build a new, better studio, where he gathered together the musicians from the Florence days and began recorded local acts. It wasn't long before artists were being brought in from further afield to record at Fame, as its reputation grew. Fame's real breakthrough was in 1964 with Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away", a Southern soul classic which charted as a #17 national pop hit. Fame became known for its high quality R&B output, and produced hits for Joe Simon, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, James & Bobby Purify, Arthur Conley, Clarence Carter, Laura Lee, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. Most recordings from this period featured the house rhythm section of keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist Junior Lowe and drummer Roger Hawkins. A vast proportion of the songs recorded there were written by in-house songwriters, the most prolific of them being Dan Penn.
Penn and then Spooner Oldham both left Fame for Memphis in '66 and '67 respectively to work at Chips Moman's American Sound studio. In 1969 the whole rhythm section (then featuring keyboardist Barry Beckett and bassist David Hood) left to form a rival studio which they named Muscle Shoals Sound. As the 70s dawned Rick Hall began branching out into more pop and country directions, and though he saw much success in subsequent decades, the studio will always be most closely associated with the R&B and soul music of the 60s.

Many of the hits that came out of Muscle Shoals remain today well-known soul classics, such as Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" and Wilson Pickett's "Land Of 1,000 Dances". However between these massive hits there were many now-forgotten minor hits, and a myriad of recordings that never made it. Many of these were released as singles and sunk without a trace, but the back catalogue of demos and recordings that never saw release is staggering considering their quality. In recent years more and more of these songs have been resurfacing on CD compilations, most notably on the Kent and Ace re-issue labels.
What I have for you here is a compilation of rare gems from the Fame studios. All of these tracks come from the Kent and Ace CDs. I have hand picked twenty-six tracks which you will struggle to find elsewhere. Some of these artists apparently only ever released or even recorded a few songs, and so will only ever be found on various artists compilations, and in some cases information about them is scarce to non-exsistant. Some are better known, but the songs included are ones that have not been put out on any of their own albums or compilations.
I have included more detailed notes on the songs as part of the album.

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Maria Muldaur - Waitress In A Donut Shop (1974)

Maria Muldaur is an American singer.

Maria Muldaur's debut album hade given her a hit single with "Midnight At The Oasis" in 1973. Her second album was released the next year, and saw her present another delightful collection of rootsy American music, full of lots of bluesy and jazzy flavours. The songs she chose to cover included numbers by Henry Glover, Skip James, Clarence Ashley, Fats Waller and Allen Toussaint. Musicians appearing on the album included  guitarists Amos Garrett, Elvin Bishop, David Lindley and Lowell George, drummer Jim Gordon, bassist John Kahn, keyboardists Dr John, James Booker, Paul Harris and Spooner Oldham, harmonica man Paul Butterfield and mandolin virtuoso David Grisman (plus many others).
The album gave her another hit, as her cover of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "I'm A Woman" (originally a hit for Peggy Lee in 1962) got to #12 on the singles chart. This was actually the second time she had recorded this song, as she sang it whilst with Jim Kweskin's Jug Band back in the 60s.

Maria Muldaur (1973) <|> Sweet Harmony (1976)
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John Mayall - The Turning Point (1969)

John Mayall is a British blues singer and multi-instrumentalist who was a major figure in the 60s British blues scene.

At the 60s drew to a close, John Mayall's contract with Decca Records was up. He signed with Polydor, put together a new band and moved to California. With his new band he took a different direction, planning to play low volume music with no drums. The lineup was very interesting - John Almond on flute and saxes, Jon Mark on acoustic fingerstyle guitar and Stephen Thompson on electric bass guitar. Mayall himself sang and played harmonica and electric guitar. There was no drummer or percussionist. The new group debuted their new sound at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival, and released their first album shortly afterwards.
The Turning Point was recorded live at the Fillmore East, and was indeed quite a change for Mayall. It was still blues of course, but a new low-key, rootsy style of blues, with lots of room for jazzy improvisation. This was no doubt very welcome, as the template of loud electric guitar-driven blues was perhaps getting a bit stale after nearly ten years. The album was a definite success artistically, and helped make Mayall very popular in the US as he began to call California home.

Looking Back (1969) <|> Empty Rooms (1970)
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Sam & Dave - Hold On, I'm Comin' (1966)

Sam & Dave were an American soul duo, best known for their string of hits in the 1960s.

Sam Moore and Dave Prater both had backgrounds in gospel music, and this proved to be a vital ingredient of their vocal delivery when they began singing secular R&B. By the 60s they were both working the R&B circuit individually, and their paths crossed in Miami in 1961. They quickly formed a duo, and were signed to Marlin Records. Between 1962 and 1964 they released a number of singles on not just Marlin but the Roulette and Alston labels as well, and though they managed to get some regional airplay they achieved no national success.
All this changed in 1964 when they were signed by Jerry Wexler to Atlantic Records. Wexler recognised the gospel roots which drove their energetic live shows, and hoping to capture this on record he sent them to Memphis to record at the Stax studios. With the Stax staff they succeeded in capturing this energy, backed by Booker T. & The MGs and recording the songs of the songwriting team of Isaaz Hayes & David Porter. Their first two singles with Stax didn't chart, but they finally scored a hit with "You Don't Know Like I Know", which got to #7 on the R&B chart in 1965. An even bigger hit followed when "Hold On, I'm Comin'" topped the R&B chart and also broke through to the pop chart at #21. This proved to be the huge breakthrough everyone had been waiting for, not only for Sam & Dave but Hayes and Porter and everyone else at Stax. With equally successful hits from Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, 1965 and 1966 were the years that saw Stax first take the down-home sound of Memphis Soul into the pop charts.
An album was quickly put together to capitalize on the single's success, a great collection of raw, gritty Southern soul numbers, mostly written by Hayes and Porter (with a few from other members of the Stax staff such as Eddie Floyd). The album is also notable for having what is surely one of the worst covers of all time!

|> Double Dynamite (1966)

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John Fahey - Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes (1963)

John Fahey was an influential American acoustic guitarist.

John Fahey had recorded and self-released his debut album Blind Joe Death in 1959. It had been put out under his own Takoma Records label, and in the early 60s Takoma became an actual formal business when Fahey tracked down blues singer Bukka White, and with friend Ed Denson produced White's first new recordings in over 23 years. The Bukka White album became the first non-Fahey release on the Takoma label.
Fahey released his own second album in 1963, and unlike with his debut he managed to get it distributed nationally. As a result he sold many more copies and it reached a much wider audience. It actually outsold the Bukka White album. It continued what his first album had started, further refining his unique style of acoustic guitar playing with a collection of twelve mostly solo compositions (one track featured flute played by Nancy McLean).
Like with his first album, Fahey ended up re-recording much of Death Chants in 1967 (all but two of the songs on the 1967 edition were re-recordings). I have got both versions here for you.

Blind Joe Death (1959) <|> The Dance Of Death & Other Plantation Favorites (1964)
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Brian Auger & The Trinity - Definitely What! (1968)

The Trinity was band active in the 60s, led by keyboardist Brian Auger and usually featuring singer Julie Driscoll.

In 1968 Brian Auger & The Trinity scored a #5 hit in the UK with their psychedelic cover of Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's On Fire", featuring Julie Driscoll on vocals. Subsequently their debut album sold much better. The group's next album actually did not feature Driscoll, so was far removed from the sound of their one and only hit. Definitely What!, released the same year, was an almost entirely instrumental album, the band now featuring the trio lineup of Brian Auger (keyboards/vocals), Dave Ambrose (bass) and Clive Thacker (drums). Its sound was that of a jazz/R&B fusion, with occasional psychedelic overtones and Auger's jazzy organ playing as the main focus. The trio were augmented on much of the album by a large horn section.
Much of the album consisted of Auger originals, though there was also an ambitious arrangement of The Beatles' "A Day In The Life", and covers of songs by both Mose Allison and Booker T. & The MGs.

Open (1967) <|> Streetnoise (1969)
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Jim Dickinson - Dixie Fried (1972)

Jim Dickinson is an American record producer, pianist and singer.

Jim Dickinson was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1941, but grew up in Memphis, where he learned piano as a teenager. During the 60s he was part of the Memphis and Muscle Shoals music scenes, mostly working as a session pianist. One of his best-known sessions came in 1969, when he suggested to The Rolling Stones that they record at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio whilst they were on tour - he subsequently got to play the memorable piano part on "Wild Horses". In the late 60s he formed a studio group with guitarist Charlie Freeman, keyboardist Mike Utley, bassist Tommy McClure and drummer Sammy Creason. As The Dixie Flyers, they became the house band for Atlantic Records in 1970, recording at their Miami-based studio and backing a myriad of different R&B artists on the Atlantic label.
However in 1971 Dickinson tired of Miami, and returned home to Memphis as the Dixie Flyers began to fall apart. He started to focus on production work, producing and appearing on Ry Cooder's acclaimed Into The Purple Valley and Boomer's Story albums. Atlantic offered him a chance to record a solo album, and his debut Dixie Fried came out in 1972. It gave him the chance to present his own unique and off-beat take on southern roots music, resulting in a delightfully rough-hewn mix of R&B and country. Included covers of the title track by Carl Perkins, Paul Siebel's "Louise", and an obscure early Bob Dylan number "John Brown".

|> A Thousand Footprints In The Sand (1994)

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Al Kooper - Act Like Nothing's Wrong (1976)

Al Kooper is an American singer-songwriter, producer and musician.

In 1972 Al Kooper had set up his own record label based in Atlanta, Georgia - Sounds Of The South. For the next few years his solo recording career was set aside as he focused on his big discovery, southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He produced their first three studio albums, and with the Top 10 hit "Sweet Home Alabama" they were propelled to stardom. He parted ways with them in 1976 after their third album. 
Kooper then released another solo album on United Artists Records. Act Like Nothing's Wrong was recorded in Nashville, Florida and Atlanta, and co-produced by John Simon. Despite the awful choice of cover art, it turned out to be one of his finest albums, with his usual mix of rock, pop and R&B. Three definite standout tracks were the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham composition "Out Of Left Field" (originally a hit for Percy Sledge), a reworking of his own "This Diamond Ring" (which had been his first songwriting success back in 1965 when it was recorded by Gary Lewis & The Playboys), and the epic closing track "Hollywood Vampire", which featured Joe Walsh on slide guitar.

Naked Songs (1973) <|> Championship Wrestling (1982)
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George Soulé - Let Me Be A Man (1969-1972)

Compilation 
George Soulé is an American singer, songwriter and musician.

George Soulé was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1945. In the early 60s he worked as a radio DJ whilst performing in R&B bands and developing as a songwriter, and by 1966 had signed a publishing contract with Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville. He released a few singles as a solo artist on the La Louisanne and Tamm labels, and even made a TV appearence performing on Shindig, but his recording career never took off. By the late 60s he had settled into a behind-the-scenes career, finding work as a songwriter, producer, backing singer, demo singer and drummer, working at both Rick Hall's Fame Studios and the neighboring Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
He had another shot at a solo career in the early 70s, first with his own brilliant "So Glad You Happened To Me", which came out in 1972 on Bell Records but went nowhere. He then had a surprise Top 40 R&B hit with his version of George Jackson's "Get Involved" in 1973 - the recording was originally just a demo intended for another artist, but Rick Hall liked it so much he saw that it was released with Soulé's vocals. With its lyrical message and Soulé's delivery, no doubt most listeners assumed the singer was black, so it caused something of a sensation when he was asked to appear on the Soul Train TV show and turned out to be white.
Despite this his solo career still didn't take off, and by the late 70s he had left music as a full time occupation behind. This compilation was released in 2011 on Soulscape Records (after he had finally released a solo album in 2006). It consists of twenty-six recordings from his time at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, so presumeably all from the early 70s. Most of them are demos, though it does also feature his own single "So Glad You Happened To Me". They are all great songs, and his voice is truly fantastic, making this an excellent album of laid-back blue-eyed soul. Many of these demos were recorded by other singers in the 70s, including Delaney Bramlett, Mavis Staples, Dee Dee Warwick, Brook Benton and Esther Phillips. The most-covered song here is "You Can't Stop A Man In Love", which was done by Bobby Womack, Carl Carlton, Reuben Howell, Jimmy Elledge, The Supremes, The Temptations and Dobie Gray. Note - this compilation does not include "Get Involved" (go find it on youtube if you haven't heard it!).

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Neil Young - Re-ac-tor (1981)

Neil Young is a prolific Canadian singer-songwriter who has been releasing records since the 60s.

At the dawn of the 1980s Neil Young could look back on a successful solo career and a brilliant series of albums released throughout the past decade. What would the new decade have in store for him? After the low-key Hawks & Doves, his next album reunited him with backing band Crazy Horse. Re-ac-tor was a rough, loose affair, with plenty of electric guitar crunch but nothing in the way of truly great tunes. It was perhaps not the most inspiring collection of songs, but the truth was that Young had other domestic priorities in his life to see to, having two sons diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He did not tour at all during these years, actually only performing one show between the end of his 1978 tour and 1982. Seen in context, it's lucky he actually found time to record an album at all, and Re-ac-tor would be far from the strangest album he would put out in the 80s...

Hawks & Doves (1980) <|> Trans (1982)
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Solomon Burke - If You Need Me (1963)

Solomon Burke was a highly influential and successful American soul singer.

Solomon Burke's first recorded work had been on the Apollo label in the late 50s, but he had seen little success at first and subsequently left the music business to start a family. However he was enticed back in 1960 and signed to Atlantic Records, who had an impressive track record as an R&B label, and were looking for a new star after parting ways with Ray Charles.
It was with Atlantic that Solomon Burke scored his first hits - "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)" was a #7 R&B hit in 1961, and also crossed over onto the pop chart at #24. The composition dated back to 1953, when it had orginally been a country hit for Faron Young (adapting country songs into soul songs became something of a habit for Burke). 1962 saw an even bigger success with "Cry To Me" (#5 R&B). "I'm Hanging Up My Heart For You" got to #15, and it's b-side "Down In The Valley" also charted at #20. These early hits saw him developing into one of the finest soul singers of the era under Atlantic's supervision.
In 1963 he had his biggest hit to date, the ballad "If You Need Me" charting as a #2 R&B hit. The song was written by one Wilson Pickett, and eclipsed the author's own version (though Pickett soon signed with Atlantic himself and came to see the same level of success as Burke). His first album for Atlantic came out the same year, focused around "If You Need Me". Most of the rest of the album consisted of singles which hadn't charted, and it didn't actually feature any of the '61-'62 hits. The album showed him to be an excellent soul singer with a wide range of R&B styles under his command, from raw gospel shouters to tender country-soul ballads.

Solomon Burke (1962) <|> Rock 'n' Soul (1964)
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Poco - Deliverin' (1971)

Poco is an American country-rock band originally formed in 1968.

Poco's third album was a live one, recorded in the September of 1970. It featured a good number of new songs alongside some originally  from their first two studio albums (including their best-known numbers "Pickin' Up The Pieces" and "You Better Think Twice"), resulting in an album full of upbeat energy. It also featured two older Richie Furay songs that he had orginally recorded whilst with Buffalo Springfield - "A Child's Claim To Fame" and "Kind Woman" had been released on Buffalo Springfield albums but had in truth been proto-Poco solo numbers. Indeed the original recording of the latter had featured both Jim Messina and Rusty Young. Their inclusion here upgraded them to part of the official Poco repertoire.
However the lineup of Furay, Messina, Young, Schmidt and Grantham wasn't to last long. Jim Messina left the band in late 1970, and so by the time Deliverin' was released in 1971 he had been replaced by Paul Cotton.
The album actually produced a minor hit, as Furay's "C'mon" got to #69 on the pop singles chart. The album itself got to #26, their first to reach the Top 40.

Poco (1970) <|> From The Inside (1971)
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Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman (1966)

Percy Sledge is an American soul singer.

Percy Sledge was born in 1941 in Leighton, Alabama. During the 60s he sang in an R&B group called the Esquires at the weekends, whilst working as a hosptial orderly through the week. After many years of struggling to get himself a recording deal, he was finally discovered by DJ-turned-producer Quin Ivy. Ivy had recently set up Norala, a small recording studio and record label modelled after the success of Rick Hall's Fame Studios (and apparently all done with the blessing and encouragement of Hall himself, who was happy to send the work overflow at the busy Fame Studios in Ivy's direction).
At Norala, Ivy began working with Sledge on the song that has first captured his attention, and over several weeks they developed it into a finished product. The band featured on the record consisted of organist Spooner Oldham, bassist Junior Lowe and drummer Roger Hawkins, all on loan from Fame, plus guitarist Marlin Greene (who had originally been at Fame but had moved to Norala to act as Ivy's right hand man, and was a co-owner of the label). With the overdubbing of some backing vocals and horns, the song was finished, and with Rick Hall's help was leased to Atlantic Records for national distribution in 1966.
"When A Man Loves A Woman" became a huge surprise hit, even more impressive considering it was Percy Sledge's first release. It got to #1 not only on the R&B singles chart but also on the Billboard Hot 100, making it a true cross-over success. It also charted at #4 in the UK. Percy Sledge's career was launched, and he was quickly signed to Atlantic. A follow-up album was quickly put together to capitalize on the single's success, featuring a fine selection of southern soul numbers with which Sledge was able to introduce himself.

|> Warm & Tender Soul (1966)

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Crosby, Stills & Nash - CSN (1977)

Crosby, Stills & Nash are a folk-rock 'supergroup', made up of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. They are sometimes joined by occasional fourth member Neil Young.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had been massively successful in the late 60s as one of rock's first supergroups, being musical figureheads of sort for the hippie movement. However they had only ever actually released two studio albums, and had broken up in 1971. All four of them had gone on to various levels of solo success in the 1970s. Neil Young had been the most successful, managing to follow his own path with no need for the others. Stephen Stills had released some good solo albums, and also for a while led the excellent band Manassas. David Crosby and Graham Nash had both released solo albums, but had seen more success working together as a duo. There was always hope that the four of them would reunite to record another album, and it was attempted in 1973 but the sessions got nowhere as personality conflicts got in the way. They did mange to get back together in 1974 for a reunion tour, but again there was no recorded output. As the 1970s progressed a new CSNY album seemed more and more unlikely.
Eventually the original three of them did get back together. Neil Young was busy with his own exciting solo career, but in 1976 Crosby, Stills & Nash reformed and started recording new material. The long awaited album came out in 1977. However by this time the musical climate around them had drastically changed, and the 60s hippie dream had become a distant memory. How would they fit in with the sounds of 1977? CSN was indeed very different to their original records, with a modern sheen to the production which let it fit in with the soft-rock aesthetics of the day. Though it was different, the songs were still excellent, and the vocal harmonies were as glorious as they had ever been.
It did turn out to be very commercial successful. It reached #2 on the album chart, and Nash's "Just A Song Before I Go" got to #7 when released as a single, actually being their highest charting single ever. It proved that they could still produce worthwhile music beyond the 60s when they did actually succeed in getting together and recording.

Deja Vu (1970) <|> Daylight Again (1982) 
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Joan Baez - Blessed Are (1971)

Joan Baez is an American folk singer who was an important part of the early 60s folk music revival.

In 1971 Joan Baez parted ways with Vanguard Records, the label she had been signed with since the beginning of her career. Her last release with them was a sprawling double album, Blessed Are. It was produced in Nashville by Norbert Putman, and like her last couple had very strong country leanings. It was notable for featuring a high number of original songs, as she was beginning to develop as a songwriter and no longer rely on the work of others. Nevertheless it still had a large number of cover songs, numbers by Mickey Newbury, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller, Jesse Winchester, The Band and both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
It turned out to be a very successful album, as it generated a surprise hit single - her cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" went all the way to #3 on the singles chart. Subsequently the album went Gold.

One Day At A Time (1970) <|> Come From The Shadows (1972)
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Clarence Carter - This Is Clarence Carter (1968)

Clarence Carter is an American soul singer, songwrtier and guitarist.

Clarence Carter was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1936. He was blind from birth, and grew up listening to blues records, teaching himself guitar along the way. In 1960 he graduated from Alabama State University, majoring in music. He formed a duo with another blind classmate, Calvin Scott, and as Clarence & Calvin they recorded a number of R&B singles in the early 60s, released on a variety labels, but none of them charted. By 1966 they were performing live in Birmingham, but after Scott was injured in an auto accident they went their seperate ways.
Carter's solo career began with him recording at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. His own song "Tell Daddy" was released on the Fame label, and became a #35 R&B hit. It was covered the same year by Etta James, who took it even higher up the charts as "Tell Mama". Carter's next single, "Thread The Needle", got to #38. He then signed with Atlantic Records, and "Looking For A Fox" got to #20. His real breakthrough hit came in 1968 - the brilliant "Slip Away" got to #2 on the R&B chart but crossed over to #6 on the pop chart. His debut album came out the same year, an excellent collection of gritty southern soul numbers, highlighted by Carter's distinctive baritone and the great instrumentation from the Muscle Shoals musicians backing him. It featured all his recent hits with the exception of "Tell Daddy", plus some more good originals, a couple from the partnership of Dann Penn and Spooner Oldham, and a fine country-soul fusion with Curly Putman's "Set Me Free".

|> The Dynamic Clarence Carter (1969)

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Dion - Dion (1968)

Dion is an American singer-songwriter, best known for his string of hits in the early 60s.

Dion DiMucci had seen success with a number of hits in the early 60s. However the mid 60s were a period of commercial decline for him, as changing public tastes rendered his brand of pop music obsolete. His last Top 10 hit was in 1963, and for the next four years he did not trouble the charts. The singles he did release during this time saw him experimenting with both blues and folk-rock, as he tried to find a new direction. In 1967 he re-united for one album with his original group The Belmonts, but that too failed to produce any hits.
1968 was the year of his comeback. Citing a religious experience as inspiration, he kicked his heroin addiction and resigned with Laurie Records, with whom he had released most of his original hits. He recorded a recent song by Dick Hollier which was a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans - Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy (the last two having both been killed just earlier that year). "Abraham, Martin & John" was a beautiful record, a completely new sound for Dion, set to a folk-rock backing with lush, swirling orchestration (including some notable harp flourishes). It suited his supple, soulful voice perfectly, and became a huge hit, getting to #4 on the pop chart and effectively relaunching his career.
A self-titled album followed in its wake, with a fine selection of songs performed in the same orchestrated folk-rock style (the harp making some notable re-appearences). The songs themselves were mostly covers of those by the leading singer-songwriters of the day (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Fred Neil, Joni Mitchell), plus a great version of The Four Tops' "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever" and a very surprising (and very effective) re-imagining of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze".

There is one bonus track featured here -  "Daddy Rollin' (In Your Arms)" was the b-side to "Abraham, Martin & John". It's a driving bluesy number, showing another sort of style Dion was experimenting with around this time.

Love Come To Me (1963) <|> Wonder Where I'm Bound (1969)

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Kaleidoscope - Bernice (1970)

Kaleidoscope were an American psychedelic band originally active from 1966 to 1970.

Kaleidoscope had released three brilliant and unique albums between 1967 and 1969, but by the end of the decade their enthusiasm and imagination had apparently begun to run out. Solomon Feldhouse and Stuart Brotman both departed, to be replaced by singer-guitarist Jeff Kaplan and bassist Ron Johnston, joining drummer Paul Lagos and multi-instrumentalists David Lindley and Chester Crill (the last two being the only founding members left).
Bernice was no doubt something of a disappointment to many fans, as it lacked the eclectic fusion of genres that made their first three albums so special. Instead it was more of a predictable guitar-driven psychedelic rock record. The instrumentation was still superb throughout, but it didn't really have much to make them stand out from any other rock band of the era.
Following its release the band broke up.

Incredible! (1969) <|> When Scopes Collide (1976)
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Barbara Lynn - You Left The Water Running: The Tribe Singles (1966-1967)

Compilaton 
Barbara Lynn is an American R&B singer, songwriter and guitarist.
 
1962 had seen Barbara Lynn score her breakthrough hit, and only #1 record, "You'll Lose A Good Thing", produced by Huey P. Meaux and released on Jamie Records. Several more singles on Jamie followed, but none were as big a success. In 1966 Meaux moved her to his own Tribe Records label, and here she released four singles. One of these was the first recording of an early Dan Penn classic, "You Left The Water Running", which would soon be recorded by a number of different R&B and soul artists. It charted modestly, getting to #42 on the national R&B chart. In 1967 she signed a new deal with Atlantic Records.
As there were only four singles on Tribe, this compilation is just a short one of eight tracks, but they are all good, "You Left The Water Running" being particularly noteworthy.

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Jeanie Greene - Mary Called Jeanie Greene (1971)

Jeanie Grene is an American soul and gospel singer.

Mary Elizabeth Johnson was born in Corinth, Mississippi in 1943. She released a few obscure singles as Jeanie Johnson whilst still a teenager in the late 50s, which were produced by Chet Atkins. In the mid 60s she recorded at Quin Ivy's Norala studio in northern Alabama (best known for Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves A Woman") under the name Jeanie Fortune, but again with no success. It was here that she met and married musician Marlin Greene, and began to find steady work as a backing singer, first at Norala and then at Chips Moman's American Sound Studio in Memphis. She also released a one-off single with her fellow backing singers under the name Southern Comfort in 1970.
In the early 70s she was signed to Elektra Records, along with a number of other southern musicians (including Lonnie Mack, Don Nix and Mickey Newbury). She worked closely with Don Nix, appearing on his solo albums and albums he produced for other artists, and going on tour as members of The Alabama State Troupers. They also both appeared at George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh, as members of the backing choir. Nix produced her one and only solo album in 1971, which was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. It had a rootsy southern soul / gospel sound, with Greene's strong voice and piano front and centre. The gospel elements were to the fore, with religious themes to most of the songs. It had a very similar sound to Nix's own solo records from the same year.
Little has been heard of Jeanie Greene since. She continued to work as a backing singer, but never released another solo album.

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The Grateful Dead - From The Mars Hotel (1974)

The Grateful Dead were an American rock band renowned for their lengthy musical improvisations in concert..

1974's From The Mars Hotel was The Grateful Dead's second album to be released on their own recently formed record label. By this time they were definitely much better known for their live performances (and resultant live albums) than studio recordings, though nevertheless the album came together well. One song in particular, "Scarlet Begonias", became an instant live favourite and remained as a staple of their set list for the rest of their career. Elsewhere the album featured two songs written and sung by bassist Phil Lesh (which was something of a rare occurance).
Following the album's release the band took a brief hiatus from touring.

Wake Of The Flood (1973) <|> Blues For Allah (1975)
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Gordon Lightfoot - Summer Side Of Life (1971)

Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian singer-songwriter.

Summer Side Of Life was Gordon Lightfoot's follow-up to his breakthrough album Sit Down Young Stranger, which had given him international recognition in 1970 with the song "If You Could Read My Mind". The new album was very strong, following in the same stylistic vein as its predecessor, with a few more subtle country influences throughout (it was recorded in Nashville, and featured many of the city's top session musicians). It didn't include any big hits, though two songs (the title track and "Talking In Your Sleep") charted in his native Canada. Nevertheless it was a very good album, a worthy follow-up to establish his name as a singer-songwriter in the US, and it contained many of his best songs.

Sit Down Your Stranger (1970) <|> Don Quixote (1972)
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Bobby Womack - Facts Of Life (1973)

Bobby Womack is an American soul music singer-songwriter and musician.

1972 had been a highly successful year for Bobby Womack, as he scored his #1 R&B hit with "Woman's Gotta Have It". In 1973 he collaborated with J.J. Johnson for the soundtrack of the film Across 110th Street, and the title song was another R&B hit at #19. His next album came out the same year, another great smooth soul album recorded with The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section. As was usual for Womack, it had some interesting choices of cover songs, the ones here being Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower", Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "The Look Of Love", Jerry Goffin & Carole King's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" (retitled "Natural Man"), Sam Cooke's "That's Heaven To Me" and Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out". The latter was something of an evergreen standard, but Womack gave it a brilliant funky new arrangement. Released as a single, it was a #2 R&B hit, and also got to #29 on the pop singles chart. Another song on the album that had hit all over it, but didn't see release as a single, was George Soulé's "You Can't Stop A Man In Love".

Understanding (1972) <|> Lookin' For A Love Again (1974)
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Santana - Santana III (1971)

Santana are a band who have been active since the late 1960s, based around guitarist and leader Carlos Santana, and known for their fusion of rock and latin music.

By the end of 1970 Santana had recruited a seventh member, teenage guitarist Neal Schon, who joined existing members Carlos Santana (lead guitar), Greg Rolie (keyboards), David Brown (bass), Michael Shrieve (drums), José Areas (percussion) and Mike Carabello (percussion).Their third album was another wonderful fusion of rock, jazz and latin music, arguably bettering its more widely known predecessor Abraxas. Schon's guitar was very much in evidence throughout, as he took many solos, sharing the lead roles with Santana himself. Santana also sung a rare lead vocal on "Everything's Coming Our Way". 
The album generated two hit singles - "Everybody's Everything" and "No One To Depend On" charted at #12 and #36 respectively. The album itself got to #1. It is generally seen as the third in a trilogy of great albums by the band's 'classic' early lineup. It actually marked the end of an era, as following its release the band drifted apart and Carlos Santana took control of the name himself, taking it towards much more experimental (and subsequently less commericial) sounds.

Abraxas (1970) <|> Caravenserai (1972)
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Tony Joe White - Black And White (1969)

Tony Joe White is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Tony Joe White was born in 1943 in Oak Grove, Louisiana, and grew up listening to blues, country and Cajun music. 1967 saw him signed to the Nashville-based Monument Records. After a few non-charting singles, his debut album came out in 1969. Produced by Billy Swan, it featured backing from keyboardist David Briggs, bassist Norbert Putman and drummer Jerry Carrigan. With White's earthy baritone and lyrics with down-home Southern themes, the result was a distinctive swampy roots-rock sound. Much of the material was surprisingly funky, with White playing some tasty wah-wah guitar. Most of the songs were Tony Joe White originals, though it also had some choice covers including Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman", Bobby Russell's "Little Green Apples" and Burt Bacharach's "The Look Of Love".
One single released from the album, "Polk Salad Annie", became a surprise hit and managed to eventually climb to #8 on the US pop chart. It also became well known as part of Elvis Presley's live act throughout the 70s.

|> Continued (1969) 

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Joe Simon - No Sad Songs (1968)

Joe Simon is an American soul singer.

Joe Simon had achieved scored two hits on the R&B chart in 1966 and 1967 with "Teenager's Prayer" and "My Special Prayer", both on the Nashville-based Sound Stage 7 label. Both had featured on his debut album.Through 1967 and into 1968 he released several more great singles. The three others which became hits were "Nine Pound Steel" (#19 R&B), written by Dan Penn and Wayne Carson Thompson, "No Sad Songs" (#22 R&B), originally recorded by Oscar Toney Jr., and "(You Keep Me) Hangin' On" (#11 R&B), which had originally been a country hit for The Gosdin Brothers in 1967.
His second album came out in 1968. It wasn't an entirely new set of songs, as most of them had already seen release as singles or b-sides, including his three most recent hits. Three of the other songs were also featured on his first album. Nevertheless it came together perfectly, showcasing Simon's distinctive brand of country-soul.

Pure Soul (1966) <|> Simon Sings (1969)
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John Mayall - Looking Back (1969)

John Mayall is a British blues singer and multi-instrumentalist, who was a major figure in the 60s British blues scene.

By 1969 John Mayall had retired the Bluesbreakers name, and his contract with Decca Records was almost up. His most loyal sideman for the past two years, young guitarist Mick Taylor, had taken up a job offer in the summer and joined The Rolling Stones. Mayall himself moved to L.A. the same year, where he began performing with a new group with a very different sound.
With Mayall's blessing, Decca records collected together a number of songs that had not been released on LPs before, mostly singles and b-sides. Looking Back came out in 1969, containing songs that covered the period from 1964 to 1968. It featured various different lineups of The Bluesbreakers, with appearances from Taylor, Eric Clapton and Peter Green, as well as the group's first (and least well known) guitarists, Bernie Watson and Roger Dean.

Blues From Laurel Canyon (1968) <|> The Turning Point (1969)
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The Staple Singers - Freedom Highway: The Epic Years (1965-1968)

Compilation 
The Staple Singers were an American gospel and soul vocal group.

In 1965 The Staple Singers again moved to a new record label, Epic Records. They continued to record in their distinctive bluesy gospel style, though they were now including more protest songs in their repertoire, becoming popular as part of the civil rights movement. In 1967 they had two singles scrape into the Top 100, the first being their own "Why (Am I Treated So Bad?)" and the second being a cover of Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth". 
This extensive compilation contains thirty-three songs from their Epic years (though it doesn't contain every last recording). Disc 1 is actually the 1991 CD compilation Freedom Highway, and Disc 2 is compiled from a variety of more obscure sources. Includes a wonderful reading of Hank Williams' "Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw", an obscure early Bob Dylan number ("John Brown"), as well as many familiar traditional titles such as "Will The Circle Be Unbroken", "Wade In The Water", "Mary Don't You Weep" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine".
Like on The Riverside Years, these songs benefit from a clean, well-produced sound, but retain all the original grit and honesty of their earliest recordings. Many of the songs ("For What It's Worth" being the most notable example) suggest a move towards a more mainstream pop sound, with the instrumental backing a little more full-sounding, but Pops Staples' guitar is still the driving force throughout. 

Great Day: The Riverside Years (1962-1964) <|> Soul Folk In Action (1968)
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