Title: The Road To Soul 1960-1962
Soul, as a genre, is a relatively recent phenomenon, really coming into its own during the mid 60s. Up to that point, the genre was looking for a direction, merging R&B, gospel and doo-wop while taking flavours from country here and jazz there. During this exploratory, evolutionary period, a number of groups and solo artists played with various combinations of genres, finding their musical feet and feeling their way towards, what we would refer to as, soul.
This superb 2CD set examines the scene just before soul became a standalone musical genre and does so from the perspective on one label, Atlantic.
There are obvious issues with this approach, of course. For one, you miss an array of other artists who were just as, if not more, important and you miss the ‘big picture’ of an evolving genre in flow. Nevertheless, Atlantic was important in soul terms and a micro-evolutionary examination retains value for the musical historian.
More familiar names, such as Solomon Burke, Carla Thomas, Ben E. King, Betty Lavette and Barrett Strong are listed here but there is plenty of roughage in this soul diet.
One of the most intriguing inclusions on this set and one that Jasmine obviously thought twice about is Mel Torme’s Comin’ Home Baby. To me, this track is an inspired choice, Although Torme was a jazz singer, through and through, this single was always seen as an aberration him and many of the people around him. Nevertheless, it was a distinctive and supremely catchy single that still holds up today as a proto-soul piece with obvious jazz overtones.
Generally, there is a simple purity with most of the tracks on offer here. Full of enthusiasm, passion and emotion, it would be easy to place a retro-pioneering verve on these tracks. Turning eager singers into conscious innovators, in hindsight. Yet, surely, many of the artists realised that change was in the air and that their art was in transformation. As such, you will be impressed with the selection on offer here.