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Soul - Released February 2, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
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Soul - Released February 18, 2008 | Rhino Atlantic

Months after his tragic and untimely passing, Otis Redding remained a primary source of inspiration to the career of vocalist Arthur Conley. Soul Directions -- which was issued during the late spring of 1968 -- was the artist's third long-player, and while the bulk of the ten-track effort was produced by the legendary Tom Dowd, it is highlighted by two of the last tunes that Redding worked on with Conley, albeit behind the scenes. All the more profound is the gospel-tinged centerpiece, a touching paean simply titled "Otis Sleep On." Although Conley had formidable success recording at Fame in Muscle Shoals, AL, and Stax Records, it was the latter's rival -- the Memphis-based American Studios -- where the project primarily came together. The team of Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn provide the midtempo opener, "You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy," and the soul-stirring "This Love of Mine." Conley supplies half the disc's material, including the happy, hand-clappin' "Funky Street" -- inspired by the true-to-life urban Soulsville on Atlanta, GA's own Auburn Avenue -- which became a Top Five R&B hit. He is likewise credited alongside Dowd on the recommended ballad waltz "Burning Fire." Perhaps because Redding was testing out his chops as a producer, his indomitable spirit remains alive and kicking on the upbeat "Hear Say" -- which needs little help getting the groove off the ground, especially the piquant as ever Memphis horn arrangement. Redding's trademark pleading delivery style permeates the gritty reading of Otis' co-written "Love Comes and Goes." Conley's "Put Our Love Together" stands out for its alternately organic backing choir and the muted nylon-string acoustic guitar that dominates the supporting instrumentation. The fun and funky closer, "People Sure Act Funny," made it into the Top 20 on the R&B singles survey. Here it bears more than just a trace of Joe Tex's influence, even as it had actually been recorded by the likes of Lee Dorsey and Shorty Long. Despite the uniformly strong selection, the album made no pop crossover impact. While it fared a bit better than its predecessor, Shake, Rattle & Roll (1967), Soul Directions would become Conley's final pop LP entry. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Soul - Released November 27, 2012 | Rhino Atlantic

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Pop - Released April 19, 2005 | Rhino Atlantic

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Pop - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Elektra

When describing this dozen-song odds-and-ends package, the term "scraping the bottom of the barrel" certainly isn't too far off the mark. Not surprisingly, More Sweet Soul (1969) was R&B vocalist Arthur Conley's final solo entry on Atlantic Records' subsidiary imprint Atco. As noted on the rear LP jacket, the material is split between sessions that were held at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, and the American Recording facility in Memphis, TN. In both instances, legendary producer Tom Dowd was behind the scenes. Likewise, it was probably Dowd who -- having worked with the burgeoning fretmeister extensively at Fame during the era -- suggested the addition of guitarist Duane Allman to their already formidable hitmaking house band consisting of guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist David Hood, keyboardist Barry Beckett, and drummer Roger Hawkins. With a lilt that insinuates a reggae influence, the disc kicks off with an affable update of the Beatles' White Album deep cut "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." Another subtle (but telltale) sign that More Sweet Soul was an afterthought rather than career-defining project for Conley is the lack of his own considerable and strong original material. In the instance of his previous outing, Soul Directions(1968), the artist provided a number of the better titles. Although not the rule to the same degree, his co-writing credits here are indicative of the stronger selections. The irresistible groove pulsating through "Aunt Dora's Love Soul Shack" -- which made it into the R&B Top 20 singles survey several months prior to the LP's release -- is one prime example. Similarly, "Run On" bears a syncopated strut rhythm that was an earmark of the funky sounds coming out of Memphis in the mid- to late '60s. The cut also demonstrates Conley's ability to interject himself in the arrangement, bouncing his energetic lead vocals between the horn lines à la James Brown or Conley's mentor, Otis Redding. Far from throwaways, the comparably uninspired ballad "Is That You Love" seems to retain none of Redding's trademark gut-wrenching "begging" delivery. To the same extent, the generic "Shing-A-Ling" is far from the best that he had to offer. After decades out of print in North America, Collectors' Choice Music issued More Sweet Soul and the aforementioned Soul Directions on CD in 2008. ~ Lindsay Planer