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Ain't a black thing, ain't a white thing ...
Fran Fried | Fresno, Ca. United States | 06/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's a groove thing. Simple as that. The greats all knew that. And all you have to do to grasp the essence of what Rhino was attempting in this collection from its glory days is enjoy Otis Redding putting his soul stamp of approval on The Beatles, a group whose first steps toward immortality included "Money," "Twist and Shout" and "Please Mr. Postman." Otis wasn't very good with words, but man, did he turn "Day Tripper" loose! Pure soul!
The condensed history will perfunctorily record that "rock" was a black music form co-opted by whites, but I'm thinking this is more of what Alan Freed had in mind when he had his Moondog Shows and Coronation Balls the decade before I was born.
Some of the covers of "white" rock by black greats are hits that you expect to be here: The Pointer Sisters' smash of Springsteen's (via Robert Gordon) "Fire"; Ike & Tina's nuff-said "Proud Mary"; The Four Tops' mix of Motown manhood and Levi Stubbs' gently forceful melancholy on "Walk Away Renee"; Aretha's gospel take of The Band's "The Weight"; EWF's overplayed Beatle hit from that horrible "Sgt. Pepper" movie ("Got to Get You Into My Life"); The Isleys' beautiful, blissful take of Seals & Crofts' "Summer Breeze"; Run-D.M.C.'s groundbreaking stomp through "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith. But the treasures here are the songs lesser known: the power behind Howard Tate's version of Dylan's "Girl of the North Country" (glad he's lived to make a comeback), Otis Clay's bouncing howl through Sir Doug's "She's About a Mover" (which, after all, was a homage to Ray Charles' "What'd I Say"), and The Staple Singers' criminally underrated version of "Slippery People," which followed Talking Heads' original by just a few months.
Even though I gave this five stars just on the strength of what's here, I would've tacked a sixth star on had the Rhino folks included Otis' version of "Satisfaction" ("I cannot get me no ..."), Garland Jeffreys' '80s version of "96 Tears" -- and, most especially, perhaps the weirdest and coolest black-on-white cover of all: Wilson Pickett doing The Archies' "Sugar Sugar.""