Everlasting: The Best of Carl Carlton

Everlasting: The Best of Carl Carlton

by Carl CarltonCarl Carlton


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Carl Carlton is a quintessential cult artist, a musician whose history exists almost entirely on the fringes, offering a parallel history of his times. Carlton wound up sneaking into the charts a few times -- his disco revamp of Robert Knight's "Everlasting Love" climbed to number six on the Billboard pop charts in 1975, his hot funky 1981 single "She's a Bad Mama Jama (She's Built, She's Stacked)" reached number two on the black charts and was heavily sampled for years afterward -- but he was never quite a star; he was always on the outside, riding and anticipating trends from Northern soul and smooth uptown soul through sleazy funk-rock and '80s electro, creating classics at almost every stop along the way. Everlasting: The Best of Carl Carlton, the first-ever career-spanning Carlton comp and pretty close to the first retrospective ever assembled on the singer (Charly had a collection in 1988 that was never wildly circulated, nor did it cover as much ground), spans a generous 22 tracks released at four different labels, running from 1969's "Look at Mary Wonder (How I Got Over)" to 1985's "Slipped, Tripped (Fooled Around and Fell in Love)." There's a tremendous amount of variety between these two cuts, with the first third of the collection devoted to his bouncy, Motown-inspired sides for Don Robey's BackBeat before things start getting sexier as the '60s give way to the '70s, first with the thick funk of "Wild Child" and then settling into a slow, smooth groove before ending with the pulsating Rick James beats of "She's a Bad Mama Jama" and "Private Property." Few of Carlton's peers had this range, nor were they as convincing in every style as he is here. That range may not have resulted in many hits, but it does make for a phenomenally strong body of work, presented here in this superb compilation whose only fault is that it has no liner notes explaining Carlton's history. It would have been nice to have that be part of the compilation, but don't let that be a deterrent to picking Everlasting up: this long-overdue compilation is good enough to earn Carlton's place in the pantheon of cult soul greats.

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