Most soul music fans think of singer Jackie Wilson when the name Brunswick Records comes up, but as this outstanding and wide-ranging collection from the label's golden soul era demonstrates, Brunswick was a hit factory in its own right. Less buffed than Motown, more urban than Stax, Brunswick assembled its own crackerjack staff of arrangers, producers and studio musicians under the leadership of Chicago producer and a&r man Carl Davis. What's most impressive is the breadth of material, from the inspired pairing of Lavern Baker and Jackie Wilson on the incendiary “Think Twice” to the bittersweet harmony tour de force of the Chi-Lites'1971 Top Three hit “Have You Seen Her.” In between is a world of soul music that includes the familiar — like Tyrone Davis'”Turn Back the Hands of Time,” Wilson's “Higher and Higher” and Young Holt Unlimited's “Soulful Strut” — and those richly deserving rediscovery such as Erma Franklin's thumping “Gotta Find Me a Lover” or Fred Hughes'classic hustler's anthem “Baby Boy.”
The incredible versatility of the Davis production team allows the performers to grow and experiment, and the result is a bird's-eye view of the evolution of soul in the late '60s, as it moves from such stand-and-deliver singers as Barbara Acklin, Major Lance and Gene Chandler (whose “The Girl Don't Care” is a must-have) through house arranger Willie Henderson's “Funky Chicken” to the neo-psychedelia of the Chi-Lites'”Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” and the Lost Generation's “Talking the Teenage Language,” which very likely marks the only pre-hip-hop recording of “izzle-talk.”
The 39 tracks assembled make two compelling cases: artists like Gene Chandler and Tyrone Davis took a back seat to no one when it came to pure soul, and Brunswick is the house of soul that still hasn't gotten its due. This is a first-rate collection that rewards both the faithful and the curious.