The Complete Goldwax Singles Vol. 2: 1966-1967
The second of Ace's three volumes documenting the Goldwax's label complete run of singles enters what most connoisseurs would consider to be its prime period, with all of the tracks having first been issued in 1966 and 1967. In particular, this era found Goldwax's most prominent artist, James Carr, releasing some of his most heralded songs, including "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man" and "The Dark End of the Street." It's no surprise that Carr is the most heavily represented member of Goldwax's roster on this two-CD compilation, as he's responsible for ten of its 54 tracks. It's also no surprise that the kind of deep Southern soul Carr sang is the most heavily represented style on this anthology, especially in the sides by Spencer Wiggins and the almost annoyingly Sam Cooke-like Ovations. But since Goldwax is so identified with the deep soul style, the big surprises for collectors are the numerous cuts that found the label venturing outside of the R&B field. Kathy Davis, Leroy Daniel, Carmol Taylor, and the Terry's all do relatively straight country-pop with a honky tonk angle, though they're more competent than memorable. Jeannie Newman's 1966 single is country-meets-girl group pop that recalls, as the liner notes rightly point out, some of Sandy Posey's work. Yet more unexpectedly, the Yo-Yo's play something of a mixture of garage rock and blue-eyed soul, though only "Leaning on You" makes much of a mark. Even the 1967 single by Timmy Thomas (later of "Why Can't We Live Together" fame) is kind of left field, offering organ-dominated soul instrumentals.
While Ace's completism is admirable as ever, the stew of deep soul and other genres makes one question who's going to find this a wholly satisfying listen. Deep soul fans can find entire CDs devoted to the output of Carr, Wiggins, and the Ovations, and aren't likely to be unduly impressed by the non-R&B oddities. While some of the soul rarities by Goldwax's lesser-known artists (like Barbara Perry) are OK, they're not stunning, especially when a past-his-peak Ivory Joe Hunter runs the Drifters and Arthur Alexander through a blender for the highly derivative "Don't You Believe Him." And while this opinion won't sit well with Goldwax advocates, even much of its better stuff was rather derivative of -- or at least doesn't compare favorably to -- the more famous soul coming out of Stax in Memphis at the same time. But a meticulously sequenced series such as this isn't really aimed at the most discriminating listeners. It's for those who want it all in a good package, and there probably couldn't be a better such package of the Goldwax catalog for those who want it, complete with Ace's usual thorough liner notes.