This is the 3rd and hopefully last volume of Kent's series compiling George Jackson's demo recording on FAME records. I reviewed the last two and decided in each case these were 'fanatics-only' items for serious Southern Soul collectors with patchy (and sometimes outright poor) content but a good enough listen for enthusiasts of the sound of the FAME session players. This one is more of the same and perhaps less so since the liner notes commendably admit this CD mostly comprises the demo off-cuts that were not covered by other FAME artists, presumably because they thought the songs weren't up to scratch. If this is the case then the FAME artists had a good ear since too many of these tracks pass by in an anonymous mid-tempo blur with few hooks and little to recommend them bar being nicely played by the FAME session bands quite often with appealingly chunky organ and a firm backbeat.
The bad tracks include the third song; "I'm In The Middle Of A Good Thing" is a totally shameless rip-off of "Knock On Wood" which at least the liners again don't shy away from admitting. The closing track is a 1963 home-demo of "Won't Nobody Cha-Cha With Me" which the liners claim is 'historically significant' however that doesn't change the fact that it is rubbish: crap song, crap performance and crap sound quality (!) and it shouldn't be wasting space here. The title track "Old Friend" is an unbelievably sappy country ballad complete with overbearing strings and a spoken middle section; the liners claim it shows Jackson's versatility - I'd say it shows he was rubbish at writing and singing country music.
The large number of hook-free mid-tempo songs comprise most of the poor tracks including such items as "Doesn't It Make Sense To You", "I'm Holding On", "Add A Little Sunshine" and so on. The good? Well the 3-4 ballads all seem pretty strong, a feeling that is perhaps exaggerated by the preponderance of plodding mid-tempo tracks surrounding them but I definitely like, "Just Another Day", "All He Can Do Is Love You" and "That From The Heart". There is a track which was actually covered by name artist (Wilson Pickett); "I Got My Own Style Of Lovin'" that is clearly ahead of the rest of the pack here in writing and especially performance with some stinging guitar from the legendary Duane Allman - an obvious highlight of the set. Another track; "Switching Tracks" the liners speculate is also Allman supported but the wah-wah licks prominent on this song don't sound anything like him, though the song itself ain't half bad compared to much on offer here. The bluesier, funky tracks here such as "Two Legs And A Red Dress", "Your Love Caught Me Off Guard", "You Got To Make A Decision" & "Superstitious Woman" also stand out, just a shame there aren't more of them.
In conclusion, another set (and please let this be the last) which confirms my contention that one absolute killer compilation could've been mined from these three volumes which would have really have enhanced Jackson's reputation. As it is the dilute nature of these sets won't change minds regarding his rep as a journeyman singer and songwriter which is a pity since the best on offer from the three volumes indicates he deserves a better fate. 3-stars is probably a fair enough mark - OK for big enthusiasts but no-one else.
on 15 December 2013
George Jackson was a wonderful songwriter but a so-so singer who only ocasionally hit all the right notes. He had soul though and this comes shining through on some of this material such as the upbeat 'Switch tracks' and 'I'm In The Middle Of A Good Thing' . I also enjoyed 'Don't Let a Good Thing Go To Waste' & the somewhat similar 'You Got To Make A Decision'. The latter song would have been perfect for Candi Staton had she chosen to use it. Therein lies the problem with most of these cuts. They are demos of songs written for other people. There are some very good songs but also some boring fillers. Since we are now at volume three of his FAME demos from Ace, following on from at least two other CD of demos and vocals from other sources it was inevitable that this particular collection just wouldn't work. As a previous reviewer mentioned it would have been better to collect the best demos together on one volume. It would be such a shame if someone discovering the music of George Jackson picked up this volume first. The recently departed Jackson deserves better. Best to cherry pick and download in this case.