(4 / 5)
Ahhhhhh. Sweet soul music (and a splash of gospel) from The Sweet Inspirations; a bumper box set of three discs delivering their output for Atlantic Records between 1967 and 1970.
Plenty of gold nuggets among this 66 tracker by the gifted vocal group who scored nine US RnB charted singles. This set features their five original Atlantic albums alongside a dozen non-album tracks.
A classy and comprehensive collection from the voices behind a slew of hitmakers including Solomon Burke, The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Wilson Pickett and many others.
Aside from their backing vocals and harmonies duties for other artists, the quartet were signed in their own right by Atlantic Records supremo Jerry Wexler.
The goodies here include the top five rnb and top 20 pop hit, “Sweet Inspiration”, written by top southern soul songwriters Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn, a track from The Sweet Inspirations 1967 debut album.
Also here is 1968’s “What The Worlds Needs Now Is Love” and the gospel homage, “Cissy Drinkard And The Sweet Inspirations: Songs Of Faith And Inspiration”.
Plus, 1969’s “Sweets For My Sweet” recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – the title track, a revival of The Drifters’ 1961 hit, and 1970’s “Sweet Sweet Soul,” which includes “(Gotta Find) A Brand New Lover”, a US top 30 rnb hit which featured lead vocals by the wonderful Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother and aunt to Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick.
We get also eight tracks with the line-up including Ann Williams who replaced Cissy Houston; produced by Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro. Originally intended for release as an entire LP, but unreleased in full until now.
Liner notes by US writer/essayist Tim Dillinger, including extensive quotes from Estelle Brown specifically for this re-issue. Produced by SoulMusic Records’ founder David Nathan.
Disc one is titled “Blues Stay Away From Me”, 22 excellent tracks, which like most of these 66 cuts, sound as fresh as they would have back in the day.
This first bunch of tracks of the set features decent covers of “Knock On Wood”, “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and the brilliant Dan Penn and Chips Moman-penned Aretha Franklin classic from 1967 “Do Right Woman – Do Right Man”.
Second disc gives us 26 tracks under the banner, “Unchained Melody”, including the title track, a cover of “Alfie”, a lovely version of “Crying In The Rain” and “Sweets for My Sweet”.
The final disc and its 18 cuts called “Light Sings”, opens with “I’ve Been Inspired To Love You”, and includes a medley of “Little Green Apples”, “Think” and “Something”. A gospel-soaked selection, including “Pilgrims Of Sorrow”, “Down By The Riverside”, “The 23rd Psalm”, “Swing Low” and the gorgeous “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”.
When it comes to celebrating the female US vocal groups in the soul and rnb genres of yesteryear, there are the usual suspects, mainly from the Motown roster, but these ladies rarely get the recognition they deserve. That is rectified here and now….
By Sally Fox
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’