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4.7 out of 5 stars
Nineteen Sixty Six
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 15 February 2016
Little Willie John wrote some of Soul Music’s most famous songs, and for this Little Willie John deserves recognition as a great artist. This album Nineteen Sixty Six is the last album recorded by Little Willie John, and for this needs to be included in your Soul Music collection. Nineteen Sixty Six by Little Willie John is a highly collectable and highly recommended album. You need to buy this album for its Super Soul Music charisma and sheer charm – highly recommended.
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on 6 March 2017
Good album, far from his best though. I had to have it but prefer his classic stuff from the early fifties.
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on 8 April 2016
Shame he could not produce more music
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 February 2011
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.
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on 1 November 2011
This is an intriguing album and one which might have provided a late fillip to Willie John's career if it had been released at the time. It was recorded in 1966 while the courts were considering an appeal to John's conviction for manslaughter after a knifing incident. At the time his career had effectively finished. The series of hits in both the US R&B and National charts, which started in 1955 were virtually over by 1962 though his label, Federal, did keep trying up to `63. I should add that the appeal was turned down. John returned to prison where he died from pneumonia or a heart attack, depending on who you believe, in 1968.

When the tracks for the album were laid down, John evidently still commanded considerable respect in the recording world since he was assigned David Axelrod as producer plus the absolute cream of the LA session world as instrumental support. Much of the album is in the heavily orchestrated style with some jazzy touches that we also hear in the later Duke recordings of Bobby Bland or in some of the later Ray Charles (when he stuck more to a blues agenda that is). John is so well on form vocally that many of these tracks could be seen as the epitome of his style of soul - impassioned blues with loads of orchestral colouration.

Because there were relatively few tracks recorded Ace have added a goodly number of alternate takes plus at least one number, "Endless Sleep" which one understands was not intended for release. In some respects that number is one of the most interesting present. Originally a slow, doom filled track from white rocker, Jody Reynolds with almost a David Lynch sound on guitar, and with Reynolds fated to be virtually the epitome of the one hit wonder. The Willie John version ups the tempo with a near latin feel not unlike his famous "Fever" and the performance of the song is almost unrecognisable compared with the original.

Another one I have to mention is again, an unlikely presence here, and that is "You are my Sunshine". What is it about this song that both attracts covers and inspires great versions? I know I've said it before but I've rarely heard a bad one. Up-tempo as one might expect with the band obviously enjoying the chance to add some funk to the proceedings. Apart from this one plus a couple of others like "Country girl" and "Early in the Morning" the mood is generally slow and contemplative but with the occasional melodramatic touches like those on "In the Dark".

A great recording though one, perhaps, with no absolute standout track. One certainly wonders what might have happened if it had been released at the time of recording.
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on 18 December 2008
This is amazing. Sounds fresh and crisp despite 40 years on the shelf. Earl Palmer on drums and Carole Kaye on bass give it a slight Phil Spectoresque flavor, without the muddy production. This is worth all five stars!
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on 18 December 2013
This compilation starts with a wonderful Northern Track, and throughout it, it’s got a moody, mysterious, far away, type of sound about it, created by Little Willie John, and wonderfully arranged by David Axelrod and H.B. Barnum.
Little Willie John had a wonderful voice, illustrated by the different styles of music featured here; so sad that he went the way he did. In this CD we can, at least, enjoy his artistry.
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