ATLANTIC SOUL LEGENDS: 20 ORIGINAL ALBUMS FROM THE ICONIC ATLANTIC LABEL.

ATLANTIC SOUL LEGENDS: 20 ORIGINAL ALBUMS FROM THE ICONIC ATLANTIC LABEL.

Imagine you were given the chance to compile a box set containing twenty albums from one of the biggest and in their own worlds “iconic” labels. What twenty albums would you choose and what criteria would you use when compiling this box set? Would you focus on choosing just twenty classic albums, or would you dig a little deeper, looking for a couple of hidden gems. For the compilers of Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set, this was a reality. This is the latest offering from Rhino, who will be releasing Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label on 1st October 2012. Now considering that Atlantic have been releasing music since 1947, the compilers were absolutely spoilt for choice. Not only did they have access to all the Atlantic albums, including the Atco subsidiary and Stax’s back-catalogue. These twenty albums cover the period between Ray Charles 1958 album What’d I Say to and Sam Dees’ 1975 album The Show Must Go On. Included in Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label are albums by true legends like Ray Charles, Booker T and The MGs, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway. There are also  hidden gems from Clarence Wheeler and and The Enforcers, Howard Tate and Sam Dees. What makes Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label even better is the price. For just under £33, €40 or £50 then Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label is one of the bargains of 2012, as you’ll realize when I tell you about this box set.

Of the twenty discs in Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label, they cover the seventeen-year period between 1958 and 1975, and include albums from four labels. These are Atlantic, their subsidiary Atco, plus the Stax and Volt labels. Ten of the albums are from the main Atlantic label, three from Atco, while five albums are from Stax and two from Stax’s Volt subsidiary. Interestingly, eleven of the albums that feature in Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label are debut albums. This includes albums from Booker T and The MGs, Solomon Burke, Rufus Thomas, Percy Sledge, Sam and Dave, The Barkays, Eddie Floyd, Arthur Conley, William Bell, Donny Hathaway and Clarence Wheeler and The Enforcers. In many cases, these debut albums are among the best albums these artists went on to release.

Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label features ten albums released by the main Atlantic Records label. Only one album is from the fifties, Ray Charles 1958 album What’d I Say. With Ray Charles and The Drifters Atlantic’s two of their biggest acts, the sixties would see music and Atlantic changing, especially with Elvis Presley having entered the building. This would see Atlantic sign and release some of the biggest soul singers in history, and release a string of classic albums. Among them would be albums from Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett and the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin.

By the sixties, Atlantic would become one of the biggest soul, jazz and R&B labels. Six of the Atlantic albums in the Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set were released in the sixties, starting with Solomon Burke’s 1963 debut album If You Need Me. This is followed by The Drifters’ 1964 album Under the Boardwalk, and two albums from 1965, Wilson Pickett’s classic album In the Midnight Hour and Don Covay and The Goodtimers’ Mercy.  Although there are only two other albums released during the sixties, what albums they are. A year later, in1966, saw the release of Percy Sledge’s debut album, When A Man Loves A Woman. Without a doubt is the finest album, featuring not only the title-track but Pouring Water On A Drowning Man. Probably the best of the sixties Atlantic albums included in Aretha Franklin’s 1968 Magnus Opus Lady Soul. Considering Aretha Franklin released a string of classic albums, choosing just one must have been difficult for the compilers, but they’ve chosen well. As the sixties drew to a close, Atlantic Records and music was changing. The seventies saw Atlantic move from primarily a soul, jazz and R&B label to one releasing albums from rock giants like Led Zepellin. However, Atlantic would still be releasing quality soul music. 

With Atlantic no longer just focusing on soul, jazz and R&B only three albums from Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label were released during the seventies. The first of these is Clarence Wheelers and The Enforcers’ hugely underrated and innovative soul jazz debut album Doin’ What We Wanna in 1970. This was a real landmark album with an innovative, funk-laden sound. It was a benchmark album for the direction of seventies funk and is a welcome addition. For me, it’s always been something of a hidden gem. So too is an album released two years later in 1972, Howard Tate’s eponymous album Howard Tate. Many people will know Howard’s Get It While You Can, which was covered Janis Joplin. Sadly, for too long, Howard Tate’s bluesy, soulful music has been a hidden secret among music fans. Hopefully, Howard Tate’s inclusion in this box set will allow more people to discover the Philly born singer’s music. Sam Dees’ The Show Must Go On, released in 1975, is the final album from Atlantic Records. Like Clarence Wheelers and The Enforcers and Howard Tate, Sam Dees is a hugely underrated singer. He’s also a talented songwriter whose songs have been covered by everyone from Loleatta Holloway, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and George Benson. While this trio of albums were the last of the albums from Atlantic Records, there are a quartet of albums from Atlantic subsidiary Atco in Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label.

The four Atco in Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label albums were released between 1962 and 1970. This includes albums from four giants of soul music Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Arthur Conley and Donny Hathaway. Ben E. King’s 1962 album Don’t Play That Song was the first of these albums. Five years later Arthur Conley released his classic debut album Sweet Soul Music. A year later in 1968, Solomon Burke released If You Need Me. For me the best of the four Atco albums is Donny Hathaway’s seminal debut 1970 album Everything Is Everything. These four albums show the changing face of soul music and how, by the dawn on a new era new artists were taking over the mantle from veteran soul stars. Similarly, Atco as a label was changing with Atco releasing rock albums in ever increasing numbers. By the mid-seventies, Stax was about to close its doors, after becoming insolvent. What didn’t help was the termination of Stax’s distribution deal with Atlantic. However, before that, Stax had many classic albums to release.

There are five albums in the Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set that were released on the Stax label. These albums are from the period Atlantic were distributing Stax’s music. Choosing just five Stax albums from what’s the classic period between 1962 and 1967 isn’t easy. Some albums pick themselves, including Booker T and The MGs classic 1962 debut album Green Onions, with its inimitable title-track. A year later in 1963, Rufus Thomas released his debut album Walking the Dog. Again, it’s probably the strongest of the five albums Rufus released for Stax. If Green Onions is a Stax classic and picks itself, so too does Sam and Dave’s 1966 debut album Hold On I’m Comin.’ It gave Sam and Dave a number one in the US R&B Charts, and along with Soul Men, are their two finest albums. Two debut albums from 1967 feature in the box set. These are William Bell’s The Soul of The Bell and Eddie Floyd’s Knock On Wood, whose title-track gave Eddie a US R&B number one single. Both albums are among the best albums William Bell and Eddie Floyd released. Like Atlantic, Stax had a subsidiary label, which featured one of soul’s greatest singers and one of Stax’s funkiest groups.

Otis Redding had released Pain In My Heart in 1964, before he signed to Volt a subsidiary of Stax. Having released The Great Otis Redding Sings Ballads in March 1965. Six months later, Otis released his first seminal album Otis Blue. Featuring Respect, A Change Gonna Come, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long and My Girl, Otis Blue reached number one in US the R&B Charts. Just two years later, in December 1967 Otis Redding died tragically in a plane crash. For many people, this made Stax a less attractive proposition for Atlantic, and a year later, Atlantic terminated its distribution agreement with Stax. After that, Stax struggled with problems with distributors and in 1975 folded, having become insolvent. That however was still to come and in 1967, Stax released The Bar-Kays’ debut album Soul Finger. Quite simply Soul Finger is a delicious stew of soul and funk and the perfect introduction to The Bar-Kays music. The title-track Soul Finger gave The Bar-Kays their biggest hit single, reaching number seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts. While these two albums are the only albums from the Volt back-catalogue, they’re two of of Volt’s finest releases and welcome additions to the Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set, which contains music from four of soul music’s iconic labels Atlantic, Atco, Stax and Volt. 

Having spent a considerable amount of time listening to Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set, one thing struck me not only how music had changed, but how Atlantic Records had changed. When Ray Charles released What’d I Say in 1958, Atlantic Records was only eleven years old and rock and roll was in its infancy. By the time The Drifters released their 1964 album Under the Boardwalk, music was changing and changing fast. The Beatles and Rolling Stones had changed the musical landscape and Atlantic Records was about to enters its heyday as musical behemoth. Soon, Atlantic would release albums by Percy Sledge, Arthur Conley, Wilson Pickett and Donny Hathway, while singers like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. As the sixties drew to a close and Atlantic became a very different label, releasing increasingly more albums by rock artists. 

Indeed, by the time Sam Dees released The Show Must Go On, Atlantic Records and music in general had changed beyond recognition. While Atlantic Records were one of the oldest and biggest labels, other labels including Philadelphia International Records, Motown and Hi Records were releasing some of the best, most innovative music of the seventies. Atlantic Records was still releasing quality music, just not the same type of music as ten years earlier. That’s what makes the Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set such a fascinating and compelling collection of music. It demonstrates how soul music changed between 1958-1975. So for anyone with even a passing interest in soul music this is a must have, considering it features albums from some of soul’s biggest names. This includes Ray Charles, Booker T and The MGs, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Donny Hathaway. There are also hidden gems from Clarence Wheeler and and The Enforcers, Howard Tate and Sam Dees. Among these twenty albums are classic albums aplenty, including Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul, Otis Redding’s Otis Blue, Donny Hathaway’s Everything Is Everything and Booker T and The MGs’ Green Onions. 

Choosing just twenty albums from Atlantic Records back-catalogue must have presented the compiler with a multitude of challenges. I’m sure that they could’ve just as easily have compiled a box set of fifty albums. Their selection of albums is an interesting and compelling collection of music. While everyone would’ve chosen different albums and will have their favourites, the compilers have chosen wisely. There’s a selection of artists who played an important part in Atlantic’s long and illustrious history. Overall, the only glaring omission is The Detroit Spinners, who surely deserved  an inclusion. My only other criticism is that some of the sixties’ albums do sound slightly dated. Apart from that, mostly the Atlantic Soul Legends: 20 Original Albums From the Iconic Atlantic Label box set is just crammed full of some of the best soul music Atlantic Records released during a seventeen year period between 1958-1975 and demonstrates just why Atlantic Records is indeed, such an iconic label.

ATLANTIC SOUL LEGENDS: 20 ORIGINAL ALBUMS FROM THE ICONIC ATLANTIC LABEL.

Atlantic Soul Legends : 20 Original Albums From The Iconic Atlantic Label

3 Comments

  1. Mel

    Great review. As always your reviews are a great read. You are the hardest working man in music. Keep em coming!!!!!!

    • Hi Mel,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m glad that you’re enjoying my blog. I’ve lots more great stuff coming soon. Keep on enjoying my blog.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

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