Released Monday 1 October 2012 in the UK (9 Oct 2012 in the USA) - "Atlantic Soul Legends" is a European made Mini Box Set on WEA Music/Warner Music France/Rhino 8122797264. It contains 20 CDs in 5" x 5" Card Sleeve Repros with a 32-page booklet - and breaks down as follows:
1. RAY CHARLES - What'd I Say (1959, Mono, 10 Tracks, 30:10 minutes)
2. BOOKER T & THE M.G.s - Green Onions (1962, Mono, 12 Tracks, 35:17 minutes)
3. BEN E. KING - Don't Play That Song! (1962, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 29:10 minutes)
4. SOLOMON BURKE - If You Need Me (1963, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 30:12 minutes)
5. RUFUS THOMAS - Walking The Dog (1964, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 30:57 minutes)
6. THE DRIFTERS - Under The Boardwalk (1964, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 30:49 minutes)
7. DON COVAY and THE GOODTIMERS - Mercy! (1964, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 34:03 minutes)
8. OTIS REDDING - Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965, Stereo 11 Tracks, 33:32 minutes)
9. WILSON PICKETT - In The Midnight Hour (1965, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 30:31 minutes)
10. PERCY SLEDGE - When A Man Loves A Woman (1966, Stereo, 11 Tracks, 29:06 minutes)
11. SAM & DAVE - Hold On, I'm Coming (1966, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 31:41 minutes)
12. BAR-KAYS - Soul Finger (1967, Stereo, 11 Tracks, 30:12 minutes)
13. EDDIE FLOYD - Knock On Wood (1967, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 35:07 minutes)
14. ARTHUR CONLEY - Sweet Soul Music (1967, Stereo, 10 Tracks, 26:07 minutes)
15. WILLIAM BELL - The Soul Of A Bell (1967, Stereo, 11 Tracks, 32:55 minutes)
16. ARETHA FRANKLIN - Lady Soul (1968, Stereo, 10 Tracks, 30:04 minutes)
17. DONNY HATHAWAY - Everything Is Everything (1970, Stereo, 9 Tracks, 41:24 minutes)
18. CLARENCE WHEELER & THE ENFORCERS - Doin' What We Wanna (1970, Stereo, 7 Tracks, 40:22 minutes)
19. HOWARD TATE - Howard Tate (1972, Stereo, 12 Tracks, 35:09 minutes)
20. SAM DEES - The Show Must Go On (1975, Stereo, 10 Tracks, 35:19 minutes)
Subtitled "20 Original Albums From The Iconic Atlantic Label" - they are all pictured on the rear of the box - which in itself has a distressed look like a DJ's carry case. The album sleeves follow their American releases and the colour artwork is gorgeous to look at. A smart move in the 32-page booklet is the reproduction of all album credits because you basically can't read the tiny print on most of the repro rears. The front covers are also pictured in colour at the top of each page (track details as well) and there's a 4-page introduction (in English and French) by Christophe Geudin - Editor of the "Funk U" magazine. His small biogs on each album are full of good details.
The only reference to mastering is a single sentence on the last page of the booklet which states - "the best existing masters have been used for the CD reissues included in this box set." Although I can't be sure, this suggests 'new remastering' to me (as opposed to the early Nineties issues when most of these titles were re-released). I'd also add that the same guy in Rhino France who co-ordinated and researched the 2010 Donny Hathaway 4CD box set "Someday We'll All Be Free" (which did have superb new remastering - see separate review) is involved in this box set too - DAVID DUTREUIL. Ray Charles, Eddie Floyd, William Bell - the sound quality is wonderful throughout...
It won't take long for rabid Atlantic collectors to work out that the last three titles in this box set are not just welcome additions to any Soul/Jazz collection - but two are seeing the CD light-of-day for the first time anywhere. And what a trio they are...
CLARENCE WHEELER gives us Saxophone/Organ funked-up instrumentals of The Beatles' "Hey Jude", Eddie Harris' "Sham Time" and Jack McDuff's "Theme From Electric Surfboard". The sound quality is really muscular - especially on "Doin' What I Wanna" where the trumpet of Sonny Covington does battle with Wheeler on Tenor Sax. The album's other ace is the nimble-fingers of Sonny Burke on Organ sounding like a souped-up Ramsey Lewis on "C.W." but then smoozing it with the best lounge-lizards on "Dream Bossa Nova". Class acts Cissy Houston and Judy Clay add their Backing Vocals to the funky "Right On" - and on the strength of this track alone - you can hear why this 1970 album is so sought after...
The self-titled HOWARD TATE LP by the Southern Soul man was put out by Koch Records some years back on CD but is not commonly seen - so it's inclusion here is a clever choice. Produced by the legendary JERRY RAGOVOY - he also contributed the lion's share of its excellent soul songs. I'm delighted to report that its sound quality is superb too - really clear - especially the brass that punctuates almost every track. It opens with the funky "She's A Burglar" - and I also love "Where Did My Baby Go" - so very Clarence Carter. The unemployment ballad "The Bitter End" is Tate's sole self-written track on here - and is done in a Rufus Thomas spoken style.
I'll admit the SAM DEES album is new to me - but my God what a find! All songs are originals or co-writes with members of his band. The opening six-minute social commentary on drugs taking over American cities is called "Child On The Streets" and it's fabulous. With its "Your father is a pusherman..." lyrics - it's a sort of Norman Whitfield slow funk vibe with layered echoed vocals and an organ sound that feels like it belongs on a Progressive Procol Harum song. Think Rare Earth, The Undisputed Truth and psychedelic shack Temptations - and you'll get the general idea. Then it goes into pure Eugene Record/Chi-Lites territory with a spoken ballad - "The Show Goes On" - his vocals beautiful. The strings, piano and soaring vocals give "Just Out Of My Reach" a Harold Melvin/Philadelphia International feel - lovely stuff. The funky "Claim Jumpin'" sounds like Ann Peebles done by a man - while "Troubled Child" once again has those impassioned lyrics ("...Streets instead of a playground...") and a great melody with a slow build.
To sum up - "Respect" from Redding's "Otis Blue", "Chain Of Fools" from Aretha's "Lady Soul", "The Ghetto" from Hathaway's "Everything Is Everything" - you could go on for hours. I'll be dipping into this for weeks.
"Atlantic Soul Legends" is a properly brill little box set - stuffed to the gunnels with an embarrassment of riches. And even if you know most of it - or own half of it - there are discoveries in here you need to make. What an astonishing label Atlantic Records was - and what a lovely way to celebrate its gigantic Soul Music legacy...
PS: Lovers of ATLANTIC and STAX Records should note that as of October 2012 there is a massive reissue program of classic albums going on in Japan - 100+ titles to be exact. They feature Fifties Blues and R'n'B, Sixties and Seventies Soul, Funk & Fusion etc. All are budget price (£7.50 per disc) and feature 2012 DSD remastering. Many of these titles are familiar - but a huge number are new to CD (numbers 1, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 and 20 of this box set are NOT included so far - making these 10 exclusive to this UK/Euro issue). For a full detailed list of the Japanese reissues - see the 'comment' section attached to this review...