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"...Hey Mama...Let Me Fix It For You..."
on 26 April 2009
Having had a massive male vocal career with Mercury Records throughout the Fifties & Sixties, Brook Benton's stay at the wonderful Atlantic label for the late Sixties and early Seventies produced a run of good albums that achieved only moderate chart positions and are all but forgotten now - and criminally so. Possessed of the most fantastically deep and expressive voice, he could sing anything from Sinatra's "My Way" to Elton John's "Country Comforts" - and he usually gave them his own soul/funky/gospel stamp. This cool little UK/Europe compilation is a great way into that.
Celebrating 60 years of Atlantic (stickered as such on the jewel case and printed on the black & red label), this 20-track June 2007 Rhino set is part of a large series of budget-priced compilations offering generous amounts of classic music for peanuts money. The 4-page inlay is only adequate as you can imagine, and offers no real discography or history - so here's a detailed breakdown on what's on offer (75:14 minutes)...
Brook Benton's 5 US Atlantic/Cotillion albums were:
"Do Your Own Thing", USA July 1969 LP on Cotillion SD-9002
"Brook Benton Today", USA February 1970 LP on Cotillion SD-9018
(CD Tracks 1, 5, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16)
"Home Style", USA August 1970 LP on Cotillion SD-9028
(CD Tracks 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11)
"The Gospel Truth", USA June 1971 LP on Cotillion SD-058
"Story Teller", USA 1972 LP on Atlantic SD-9050
(CD Tracks 2, 4, 17, 18, 19 and 20)
As you can see from the track allocation above, having no songs at all from "Do Your Own Thing" or "The Gospel Truth" is a huge disappointment. But the 20 tracks we do get from the other 3 are welcome - especially the six from "Story Teller" which are new to CD. A small US label called DBK Works put out "...Today/Home Style" as 2LPs on 1CD in 2004, but that's now hard to find and pricey - so for both the die-hard fan and the casual buyer, "Platinum" is an extremely inexpensive way of accessing rare music from a lesser-documented period of Benton's amazing career.
Having had a chart hit with his superbly soulful version of Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night In Georgia", it's not surprising that he covered three more of his tunes - "For Lee Ann", "Aspen Colorado" and "Willie And Laura Mae Jones". The "Rainy Night..." soundalike "For Lee Ann" features CISSY HOUSTON on almost operatic vocals while the mellow and languid style of "Aspen Colorado" suited Benton's style so well.
A real gem here, however, is the wonderful self-penned "Let Me Fix It", a slinky and sexy soul song, which features THE DIXIE FLYERS on Horns and Keyboards and Cissy Houston on witty Duet vocals. It turned up in 2001 on the Atlantic compilation "Right On! Vol.3" (aimed directly at those who like break beats and grooves) and sent many soul fans back into second-hand record shops in London trying to find his LPs!
Most of the sessions were produced by ace arranger ARIF MARDIN and many of the tracks also feature THE SWEET INSPIRATIONS on Backing Vocals.
Although it doesn't state 'remastered' anywhere - it's presumed being Rhino that they are because the sound is wonderful throughout - a little hissy in a few places - but nothing that would detract.
What's needed of course is a Brook Benton Rhino Handmade Limited Edition BOX SET covering all 5 of his albums, the 7" singles and hopefully even some tasty unreleased stuff (there's bound to be some and I'll bet it's good too). Whether that's commercially viable or not is another matter.
In the meantime, this budget-priced remastered compilation is stunning value for money and makes available music that is increasingly hard to find now on original vinyl.
A voice and a talent you need to rediscover - highly recommended.
PS: the other Atlantic artists in "The Platinum Collection" series are: LaVern Baker (see REVIEW), Archie Bell & The Drells (see REVIEW), Booker T & The M.G.'s, Ruth Brown, Solomon Burke, Clarence Carter (see REVIEW), The Clovers (see REVIEW), Arthur Conley (see REVIEW), Don Covay, The Detroit Spinners, Eddie Floyd, King Curtis, Barbara Lewis (see REVIEW), The Mar-Keys, The Persuasions, Sam & Dave, Percy Sledge (see REVIEW), Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, (Big) Joe Turner (see REVIEW) and Betty Wright