Various – Please Release Me: The Soulful Side of Country (Jasmine 942)

29 tracks, highly recommended.


Although Ray Charles’ groundbreaking 1962 LP Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music gets the credit for the first commercially successful fusion of Country and Soul music, the truth of the matter is that R&B artists had been recording Country material for years before hand.  But after Charles hit paydirt mining Nashville’s song factory, others were bound to follow suit.  Spanning the years 1959 to 1962, this set, on the one hand, gives us talented R&B singers like Little Esther Phillips (“Release Me”), Arthur Alexander (“I Wonder Where You Are Tonight”, Big Maybelle (“Cold, Cold Heart”), and Solomon Burke (“Just Out of Reach”) getting nearly drowned in syrupy arrangements and sappy background singers—although Phillips (“Why Should We Try Anymore”) and Alexander (“I Hang My Head and Cry”) do redeem themselves.  Elsewhere, LaVern Baker triumphs on “Shake a Hand”, Bobby Bland jazzes up “Who Will The Next Fool Be”, Clyde McPhatter delivers a rollicking “I’m Movin’ On”, Elton Anderson is yearning on “The Secret of Love”, Fats Domino’s rolling “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, and Fontella Bass’ brassy “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” come up trumps.  With strong performances from William Bell, Phil Phillips (who could forget his immortal “Sea of Love”, a doo wop classic), Varetta Dillard, and the Man himself, Ray Charles, makes this collection, despite its’ flaws, a winner.

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