ATCO SOUL DIAMONDS
Buried Treasure Records (France), CDR album, 24 tracks (see back cover scan below)
BURIED TREASURE has released four more albums in this “Soul Diamonds” series since I last discussed it: COLUMBIA SOUL DIAMONDS, ATLANTIC SOUL DIAMONDS, RCA-VICTOR SOUL DIAMONDS, and now this one devoted to Atlantic’s step-sister ATCO label.
Of the four recent volumes, I’d have to give this one the highest marks in that it does not really step into the 1970’s the way that the other volumes did….thus it’s a solid volume from top to bottom. Most of the material is, I’d assume, licensed in….or at minimum, recorded in various places….we have Nashville, Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Detroit….and the single by Oscar Toney Jr. (who’d recorded extensively for Papa Don Schroeder for a number of great singles on Bell) was even recorded in England.
Compilations like this are the soul equivalent of the Beatfreak compilation I reviewed here recently. They are a random collection of b-sides and singles that did not find a national audience, essentially a collection of odds’n’sods, but when put together on a 24-track compilation, these leftovers form a sumptuous feast which is the ultimate testimony to the depth and breadth of soul music in the 1960’s (and into the 70’s). Writers on soul music (and there are a number of them–the genre has attracted many fanatics and trainspotters who have done great documentation) often use the term “Journeyman” to refer to those artists who recorded for many years for many labels and did great recorded work and were solid draws at smaller clubs for decades, but never had a national hit. They moved from label to label. There are certainly a number of those here—-Eldridge Holmes, Darrell Banks—-as well as people who’d had hits in the past and kept doing quality work and keeping up with the times admirably—-Dee Dee Sharp, Ben E. King, Jimmy Ricks (of The Ravens), the duo of Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson. There are also artists who moved up to Atco from a smaller subsidiary label—-J. P. Robinson, for instance, who’d moved up from the Miami-based Alston.
You can listen to and appreciate this album on any number of levels….the regional differences in the productions and the material, the influences displayed by the vocalists and the backing musicians (doo-wop, blues, gospel, etc.)…and since the album is programmed chronologically by release number, it’s kind of an Atco label sampler from an alternate universe, like those recent (and amazing) compilations of Stax/Volt B-sides that Ace-UK has been doing recently.
Because pretty much all the performances will be unfamiliar to the non-collector, there’s a freshness here AND the collection gets better and better with each play. EVERY artist here is superb and worthy of a major retrospective. The much-underrated Dee Dee Sharp is still around today, and Percy Wiggins (brother of Spencer Wiggins) had a significant revival career and later found a large audience through his work with the Bo-Keys. Of course, some went back to the Gospel world when the secular career failed to keep paying the bills.
In any event, this album is a deep dip of the ladle into the pot of one of the great periods of African-American culture and of popular music history. It should be celebrated, but more than that, it should be enjoyed….and this album can be enjoyed by all. I should point out that this is a CDR label (like my KSE label), and that this clearly is a homemade CDR and a home-printed cover, and while there are informed liner notes on the songs and the artists, they are somewhat hard to read as they read horizontally across a multi-fold booklet and you can get seasick trying to keep on the same line from one side to the other. Still, that’s a minor quibble, and actually as this is clearly put together by some record collector, that home-made quality can be worn as a badge of pride….at least that’s what I tell myself with my CDR label.
Crystal Ball Records is selling this French import (and some of the other entries in the series) in the US. Check out their website….you can also buy it from them on Ebay, and if you’re only buying the one item, postage will be cheaper at Ebay than at their website. ENJOY! This is an album that will still sound as wonderful, if not more wonderful, 25 years from now. Soul music is truth music, unvarnished, straight from the heart—-full of life wisdom and impassioned performances.