5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
a bittersweet reminder of what might have been,
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This review is from: Nineteen Sixty Six (Audio CD)
It's not often that whole albums that have sat in the vault for nearly 45 years turn out to be as good as this. It's to the great credit of Capitol that they thought it worth spending money on recording a singer who hadn't had a hit for 5 years, was still subject to possible (eventually actual) contractual interference from another label and was only out of jail while his case was under appeal. While the actual amount of studio time used was small - 3 half-day sessions across 2 days - someone had clearly worked hard on the arrangements and both the musicians and LWJ himself sound well-rehearsed and motivated.
From a musical point of view, everything goes right here - LWJ is in as good voice as at any point in his career, the arranger/producers (David Axelrod & H.B. Barnum) and musicians (members of L.A.'s most elite sessioneers, a.k.a. the Wrecking Crew) are stellar and on form, the material is good and the recordings themselves are superb. It's a great pity that nothing else went right - a moment of drunken ill-temper in 1964, a previous label that didn't want to record him, but didn't want anyone else to either and finally his death in jail a couple of years later made sure this superb material didn't get issued in the 60s.
To aficionados, Little Willie John is known as one of the singers who first defined soul music, before the term existed. Unfortunately his recording career ground to a halt in the early 60s and was prevented from revival by the above factors. On the evidence of this CD, he had the talent to have been one of the greatest soul stars of the late 60s and 70s, given the right material and backing, which he certainly has here. The value of this CD, apart from its sheer quality, is in revealing what LWJ sounded like as a sophisticated but bluesy mid-60s soul singer, as opposed to a 50s/early 60s rhythm & blues/proto-soul singer. It's a huge shame that this really is his last recording, and a monumental might've-been.