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Format: Audio CD|Change
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 February 2016
INTRODUCTION:

Wilbert Harrison was born on January 5, 1929 in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1952, he was first signed to Deluxe Records, then Chart Records, and finally he signed a five year contract with the notorious owner Herman Lubinsky on his Savoy label. He ceased recording for Savoy around 1956 but was still under contract to that label until August 1959. But Wilbert Harrison convinced Fury label owner Bobby Robinson, and recorded Kansas City in March 1959. The song hit Number 1 for 2 weeks on Billboard Hot 100 and sold 2 million records. Lawsuits then ensued, resulting in delay in recording a follow-up to his multi-million seller. He stayed with Fury label until 1962. He then changed labels to Sue Records and SS International. In 1969, he rewrote his 1962 hit Let’s Stick Together as Let’s Work Together, and turned it from a song about divorce and separation into a call for world peace. The latter song shot up the chart to No. 32 in 1969. In 1970, Canned Heat’s version hit No. 2 in UK. In 1976, Bryan Ferry took his version of the original Let’s Stick Together to No. 4 on the UK chart. His remix version of that song was No. 12 on the UK chart in 1988. Remarkable! Sadly, Wilbert Harrison died of a stroke on October 26, 1994 at the age 65.

CONTENT:

This 2 CD set contains 40 songs by Wilbert Harrison, containing all singles from 1953 to 1962, a and b-sides.

POSITIVE POINTS:

1 Jasmine Records is finally catching up on the art of making singles compilation. Here all the singles (under different labels) are arranged chronologically, a and b-sides, charted and uncharted, but only from 1953 to 1962.
2 There is a 6-page booklet with an informative essay by Bob Fisher. But the best improvement of all is the inclusion of label & number, plus year of release and chart positions (in both R&B and Pop charts).
3 The sound is very well remastered, clean with no hiss.
4 The price is reasonably cheap, especially from sellers. I got mine from Amazon.co.uk for £7.84. But with the low Canadian $ plus delay in shipping, I am rethinking my strategy for purchase of future UK releases. I probably get the best bargain if I wait for the price to drop from sellers on Amazon.ca in the future.

NEGATIVE POINTS:

1 No songs beyond 1962 are included, probably due to copyright law relating to Public Domain.
2 There are only 51 minutes Disc 1 and 48 minutes on Disc 2. Come on Jasmine Records, you could have filled up the remaining empty spaces with more songs from 1963 onward. From my Complete Singles Discography on Wilbert Harrison, there are at least 80 more songs that you can choose from, like his charted hits including Near To You (118/1963), Let’s Work Together (Parts 1 & 2)(32/1969) and My Heart Is Yours (98/1971).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Wilbert Harrison’s catalogue is not well represented on CDs. This is the first time a Complete Singles Collection (under different labels), a and b-sides, charted and uncharted, arranged chronologically, with label & number plus chart positions, is available and with good sound. Although it is only up to 1962, I am still very satisfied with this effort. But since Wilbert Harrison is not that well known with only one major hit (Kansas City), I feel that this set is more for collectors.
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Gifted with a highish light tenor voice, Wilbert is easy on the ear, offering slight blues, a touch of Caribbean and mid-pace r&b. Tracks here cover all his 45's, A's and B's, for Glades, Rockin'/Deluxe, Chart, Savoy, Fury, Neptune and Doc, 1953-62. Opener "Gonna Tell You A Story (aka This Woman Of Mine)" which as you'll detect toot sweet, is a thinly disguised rewrite of Little Willie Littlefield's "K.C. Loving". He seems to have had an obsession with the tune, which paid off later.

His first major label was Savoy, where he was gifted with some top session men, not least being guitarist Mickey Baker. Not having enjoyed any success of note with his previous labels, he concentrated of writing his own songs, the odd blues but mainly r&b and the odd foray into something like pop/r&b ("Da Dee Ya Da...") and one instro, "Florida Special". There's an expensive cloud over his signing to Fury in '59, but the payback was a two million seller, "Kansas City". An all-time classic r&b oldie, it's shuffling beat was aimed at the feet and a scintillating guitar break from 'Wild' Jimmy Spruill didn't harm matters. Sadly, it was mainly downhill from there, apart from a blip in '62 with "Let's Stick Together" (and as "Let's Work Together" in '69, reaching #32 on Billboard). Canned Heat hit big in the US with "...Work...", bigger still in the UK, in 1970, and Brian Ferry had a top UK charter a with note-for-note (almost!) of the original "...Stick...".

Many cuts on CD2 have "Kansas City" at their heart, but nothing remotely near its success. The set builds to KC, then falls away a bit, but it's all enjoyable stuff, my faves being from Fury onward. He recorded for many labels after Doc, including a couple of albums as a one-man band, for Sue (accompanied by 'Thunder Thumbs' on bass!) and Jugger-Naut. Notes from compiler Bob Fisher tell Wilbert's story.
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