The Old Town & Barry Soul Survey

The Old Town & Barry Soul Survey


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The Old Town label is known more for 1950s and early-'60s doo wop, R&B, and rock & roll than it is for 1960s soul music. However, it and its subsidiary label Barry did continue to operate throughout the '60s and release numerous soul records, though without much commercial success. This collector-oriented compilation features 26 of such sides, though one (Peggy Scott's "Things Have More Meaning Now") dates from 1973, a couple others didn't see the light of day until the 1990s, and one (Charlie Thomas' "No One Home to Come Home To") was previously unreleased. As it happens, none of the Old Town material by the label's two most successful artists during this period (Arthur Prysock and Hector Rivera) was available to license for this compilation. That leaves Billy Bland and, if you're really up on your soul charters A-Z, Thelma Jones as the only names here that even most soul collectors would be familiar with right off the bat. It's varied and fairly generic '60s soul without a specific regional or label-specific identity, but that doesn't mean it's bad. There are some above-average cuts here, like Freddie Houston's "If I Had Known," which sounds a bit like Jackie Wilson's more melodramatic '60s stuff arrangement-wise; Billy Bland's "All I Wanna Do Is Cry," which comes off a little like it's trying to ride Gene McDaniels' train; and the Sparkels' "Try Love (One More Time)" and Beverly McKay's "Say It With Feeling," which are uncannily like Motown's very early girl group-ish efforts. The influence of Motown, New York uptown soul, and maybe a little bit o' early Philly soul is all over many of the sides, and some of the more derivative ones can't fail to bring to mind superior efforts by Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and the like. So it's for collectors only, but it's above-average as such soul specialist productions go, with consistently good production.

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