on 13 December 2011
These 24 tracks are bascially a set of demos bar one track ('Search Your Heart') which was released as a single A-side. The recording dates not listed (probably because these are demos) but my guess is that they range from '68 to '71. There is very little 'sweetening' on the tracks so no strings and few horn overdubs but I haven't got an issue with that since for Southern Soul less is definitely more. However there are problems; firstly George Jackson was a pretty non-descript singer by the standards of the genre he was working in which lets face it had a surfeit of truly great vocalists (think James Carr, Otis Redding, Jimmy Hughes, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter and so on.... the list is long). Secondly despite the liners stating what a great songwriter he was (and he DID write more than his fair share of classics however not many are here!) a good proportion of the tracks included are pretty generic mid-tempo work-outs with few hooks to distinguish them and his singing is not sufficiently stellar to elevate the more middling material.
If you are a big fan of the southern soul genre then you'll probably gain some enjoyment from this CD but it simply isn't a patch on the recent FAME studio releases on KENT such as those by Etta James, Jimmy Hughes and especially Candi Staton, not to mention the generally excellent 'The FAME Studios Story' compilation. The best thing frankly about this release is simply the sound of the studio itself and the brilliant FAME studio players with the distinctive slightly 'draggy' rhythm section and lashings of reedy organ, which almost (but not quite) compensates for a majority of the tracks exhibiting anonymous songwriting with merely passable vocals.
What particularly concerns me is that apparently this is the first of at LEAST three volumes! I really think that'll be really stretching things thin since Vol.1 is usually the best of a series and they are already reaching for the 12-bar blues tracks on this set (there are a couple) none of which are remotely distinctive and this is coming from a blues fan. I already detect the sound of a barrel being scraped. Perhaps KENT should have collated all the best tracks into a single volume rather than planning three or more and that way they'd have come up with something that might've approached the quality of the aforementioned artists above, as it is you'd have to be totally fanatical to pick up more than one volume of this series if the quality of Vol.1 is representative of the whole set.