For the reviewer, multi-artist compilations are a curious beast. How to measure them? What factors to consider, and how to weight them? Sometimes comps are a cash-in on a flavor-of-the-month sound or style.
Shout! Factory recently launched an ongoing series of releases that are essentially genre exercises. The latest of these is Soul Revival, a quick survey of contemporary artists plying their trade in a classic soul style. The vibe set forth by the included artists is squarely focused on invoking the sound and feel of 1960s and 1970s American soul music. With a resurgence of interest in the style, a number of artists (Sharon Jones, to name just one) have gained well-deserved high profile.
The selection of artists is pretty well beyond question. Any comp that includes (as this one does) quality cuts from Chaka Khan, Thelma Houston, Steve Cropper and Felix Cavaliere, Bettye Lavette and the aforementioned Sharon Jones establishes itself in can’t-miss territory. While staying within the established genre, Soul Revival does an admirable job of surveying the aural landscape. There’s material that leans in a funk direction (“Disrepectful” by Khan with Mary J. Blige), and other smoother styles.
While Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings‘ cover of “100 Days, 100 Nights” is a fine tune (and a good exemplar for the novitiate), the track has been over-comped. Jones and her band have many other fine songs that would have fit equally well. Which brings us back to the issue of how to review a comp such as this. Measured in terms of adventurousness in track selection, Soul Revival rates low. But assuredly that’s not the intent of the disc. In essence the purpose of the disc is to turn on more casual listeners who have heard of Jones et. al. and wonder what all the buzz is about. They’d like to dip their toe in the water before diving in. For them, Soul Revival is a fine way to do that. And at thirteen tracks, the disc offers good value for money.
So for anyone with more than a passing interest in modern-day soul sounds, Soul Revival would be a dilettante purchase, a superfluous addition. But as a party disc or a door into the genre, it’s recommended.
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