I recently had to take a day-long road trip. I was certain that Dave Godin's collection of deep soul would be a musical highlight of the drive, so I saved it for last. My plan would've worked perfectly if I hadn't listened to the new Eli "Paperboy" Reed CD first.
Paperboy Reed isn't doing anything amazing. He cherry picked the finest elements of classic soul and recreated them for a modern audience. His album Roll With You is kind of like hearing The Supremes and The Miracles and The Temptations and Wilson Pickett all rolled into one band that is fantastic but ultimately unoriginal.
Deep Soul Treasures is also unoriginal. Unfortunately, there's very little fantastic to balance it out.
The problem with the music on Deep Soul Treasures is that, in most cases, it's obvious why these songs were left in the vault. The majority of the songs possess one or two fantastic elements but are mired in mediocrity. The James Brown track from 1961, "Lost Someone," has an incredible vocal track, but the band is as flaccid as a gay man at the Hustler Club. Bessie Banks' "It Sounds Like My Baby" is slow and sexy, but the background singers sound like the Mumblin' Motown Rejects.
There are a few shining stars, though. Bobby Womack's voice on "Baby I Can't Stand It" is stellar, and Betty Lavette's "Let Me Down Easy" is a dark soul gem with a vocal performance that is as inspired as the arrangement and the production.
The liner notes have the biased enthusiasm of a fan rather than the objectivity of an historian, but otherwise they're awesome. There are historical tidbits about every artist and song, and the photos are a mixture of headshots and images of the actual labels on records. It's the kind of booklet that's worth reading from front to back, even if you only have a passing interest in obscure soul relics.
Listen if you like: obscure soul from the '60s and '70s; filing away trivia so you can make music snobs feel inferior.
If it were food, it'd be: a bland dish that your grandmother made when you were growing up: it's not all that special unless you were there to enjoy it the first time around and/or you really love grandma.