Agony Shorthand

Friday, September 03, 2004

Probably the first Soul Jazz compilation that I can flat-out & wholeheartedly say I don't recommend. "Chicago Soul", despite a couple of polished soul/blues nuggets, is a total mess. Ostensibly it's a compilation of, that's right, Chicago-based 1960s soul, but thematically it's all over the map, dipping a toenail into bombastic rock-based guitar blues, reedy flute-based afro-soul, Tamla/Motown-style uptempo R&B, squishy soul balladry, and tepid half-gassed funk. Jumping from micro-genre to micro-genre's no big shakes if A.) the material's all first rate and B.) the sequencing gives the appearance of coherence even when it's not. That, alas, is not the case on this one; a good mainstreamy soul workout like EVE BARNUM's "Please Newsboy" is followed with a clunker like the pseudo-exotica Martin Denny-esque "Soul Vibrations" by DOROTHY ASHBY, then another mediocre R&B middler, then some more tropical nonsense (LOPEZ ALEXANDER's "Baltimore Oriole") that sounds like it sprang from a song-poem record. And HOWLIN' WOLF's remake of his own blues shouter "Evil" is just awful; I wouldn't be surpised if some white boy wanker is the one firing off the "blazing" Clapton-like wheedlee-wheedlee-wheedlee rock leads. Sure, the comp has ETTA JAMES' great firebreathing soul stompers "Tell Mama" and "You Got It", but you can get those anywhere. I don't have the benefit of liner notes that might get me a place aboard the programmatic logic train here, but the sad truth is that "Chicago Soul" is about as exciting as its title. Instead, why not go back a few years in the Soul Jazz catalog & a thousand miles South for their great New Orleans scene comp, "Saturday Night Fish Fry"? Your listening time is far too precious to fart around with anything less.