Mississippi soul singer Mike James Kirkland, like so many of the 1960s and 1970s soul singing greats, grew up singing doo wop and gospel, and by the time he was fronting Mike & the Censations in the mid-'60s, he had mixed in elements of funk and jazz as well, coming up with an impressive hybrid that sounded a bit like Sam Cooke singing with a garage soul band, and sides like the striking "Don't Sell Your Soul" could hold their own on any radio station. In all, Mike & the Censations released seven singles, none of which got the attention they deserved as Kirkland moved from label to label in search of the right deal, even turning down Columbia Records at one point, and the end result of it was that the Censations never got to release an album of any kind. Kirkland drifted into the 1970s and really found his stride with a pair of albums with MCA Records, 1972's Hang on in There and 1973's Doin' It Right, both of which sounded like Superfly-era Curtis Mayfield crossed with What's Going On-era Marvin Gaye, and tracks like the ecological-themed "What Have We Done," the reassuring "Hang on in There," and the lush and beautiful "Love Is All We Need" ended up being highly sought-after collector's items with the low-rider set. That was it for Kirkland, though, at least as a secular musician. In later years he ended up hosting a socially conscious television talk show in Los Angeles and reconnecting with his gospel roots, singing mostly in churches and only occasionally reaching into his secular catalog. Kirkland, in a fair and just world, should have been a big-time funk and soul star, but it was not to be. It certainly isn't the music's fault. At his best, Kirkland could hold his own with Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, or Otis Redding, and he deserves to be spoken of in that company. This valuable two-disc set combines both of the MCA albums with those rare early singles from Mike & the Censations to deliver the collected secular works of a great lost funk and soul singer. It's wonderful to finally have it all together, even if it took some 40 years. Soul is soul.