Melvin Sparks : Legends of Acid Jazz
Hard-edged soul jazz guitarist, Melvin Sparks, was a popular sideman in New York during the late-60s and 1970s, and released several funky records as a leader as well. This lengthy compilation pulls from the latter, and includes driving versions of Sly Stone’s “Thank You,” War’s “Spill the Wine,” the Coasters’ “Charlie Brown,” and several of his funkiest originals.
The Temptations : Psychedelic Soul
An expansive, 2-disc set covering the Norman Whitfield era (roughly 1968-1973) in Temps history. Despite the loss of lead singer, David Ruffin, the group and Whitfield were firing on all cylinders, creating some the most inventive soul music anywhere, and scoring hit after massive hit. “Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Ball of Confusion,” “Runaway Child, Running Wild,” “Masterpiece,” “Psychedelic Shack,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” were all top-10 hits.
Third Guitar : “Lovin’ Lies b/w Sad Girl“
A great find on American Song! Third Guitar’s two 1968 45s on Rojac (this one and “Baby Don’t Cry” b/w “Don’t Take Your Love From Me”) have long been coveted by soul collectors, and with good reason. “Lovin’ Lies” features intense vocals and rolling percussion. “Sad Girl” is a great ballad in the style of the Impressions.
The Stylistics : Greatest Hits
The Stylistics were never better than on their ballads, and this set – despite being a slight, 10 track budget comp – nonetheless manages to include most of the best of these. “Break Up to Make Up,” “You Are Everything,” “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New” are all among the best sweet soul tracks ever to come out of Philly.
Gato Barbieri : In Search of the Mystery
A hard left turn from my other four picks, this is Barbieri’s first session as a leader, coming hot on the heels of his time with Don Cherry’s group. It’s as forceful and (sometimes) grating as anything Albert Ayler or Pharoah Sanders was doing at the time, and an interesting peek at the beginnings of a career that would shortly turn towards innovative Latin-inspired works, and then a long glide towards commercial popularity.