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October 2006

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Spencer Wiggins
The Goldwax Years
Kent Records (U.K.)

Spencer Wiggins

Well, here we have it, the CD reissue of the year. Spencer Wiggins was, along with labelmate James Carr, the absolute kings of deep Southern soul in the late '60s. Where Carr's delivery was an earthy sexual one, Wiggins' was steeped in churchy gospel tones. The Goldwax Years (Kent - U.K.) covers his years at Goldwax Records, the little label out of Memphis that had no peers when it came defining the term SOUL.

It is unfortunate that his Goldwax recordings which were sold to Fame Records were unable to be present here, too, but Ace (U.K.) literally tried for years to reach an agreement with Fame to include these sides, and finally gave up and chose to release this CD without them. It has been rumored that most of the Fame material was finally leased to EMI (U.K), so perhaps these and other great Fame tracks will finally see the light of day once again. Even without these few tracks, we have a release blessed with 22 tracks of sublime ecstasy (in a strictly musical sense).

From the first few seconds of track number one, "Once In A While (Is Better Than Never At All)," with its organ, guitar, drums and the great female voices, you know you are in for a very special experience. Songs like "Old Friend (You Asked Me If I Miss Her)" and "Take Me Just As I Am," with its great horn lines, take you back to an era of innocence and excellence. Plaintive songs about love both present and lost differ greatly from the songs called soul today.

There are no "Stand Up In It" or "Candy Licker" lyrics here, but one listen to Wiggins sing "Uptight Good Woman", and you know you're in the Hall of Fame, with a genre defining song of great intensity. Also included here is Wiggins' great male version of the Aretha Franklin classic "I Never Loved A Woman (The Way I Loved You)" a show stopper for sure. Then, of course, there's the 1968 classic, "That's How Much I Love You," one of my favorite Wiggins tracks. He shows he can sing the blues too with a fine cover of B.B.'s "Sweet Sixteen."

For those of you that clung to your copy of Soul City U.S.A., the extremely rare Japanese vinyl release on Vivid Sound, and flaunted it in front of those envious collector's who did not own it, FLAUNT NO MORE, we now have 12 of those tracks in pristine sound, plus ten others(no throwaway tracks here).

As you can guess, this is a five star, must own release. So do it.

--- Alan Shutro

 

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