If you were to ponder about the main movers of the 60’s and 70’s soul and r’n’b generation, artists such as Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Irma Thomas and Al Green, would instinctively spring to mind. Reading the track listing of Festival Records’ new Heavy Soul compilation, featuring songs from the aforementioned era, you’d be forgiven for thinking the compiler was smoking something, when names like Cher, Willie Nelson, Link Wray and The Flying Burrito Brothers all make an appearance. However it all begins to makes perfect sense, when you allow these 37 tracks to engulf you.
This fusion of soul, gospel, r’n’b’ and country rock – which stemmed from the recording studios of America’s deep south – was termed by many, as “heavy soul”. The fact that racial tensions were still quite prevalent at this time, says a lot about the musicians from both sides, whom repeatedly joined forces to produce some of the most influential “heavy soul” tracks of all time. Muscle Shoals, Stax and Sun Studios, are just three of the legendary recording labels that housed many of the acts on here.
Standouts include Wilson Pickett’s foot stomping rendition of Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild”, Cher’s “Cry Like A Baby” which is a wonderful piano led funk number, Roy Head’s dance-floor filler “She’s a Mover”, Aretha Franklin’s exquisitely soulful take on The Band’s “The Weight”, Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Shotgun Man” and Sam Samudio’s – of “Wooly Bully” fame – horn & electric guitar infused “15 Degrees”. Folks, now that’s what I call, heavy soul!
This review was written for Tonedeaf (An Australian music site)