The Sound That Ushered Soul Into The Stereo-Phonic Age
YUSUF LAMONT | NEW YORK, NEW YORK United States | 01/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1967. Motown. Aretha. Stax. Soul was defined by very specific and regional sounds 'round this time. Motown had the pounding backbeat with the crisp hi-hat, bright guitars and pleading vocals. Aretha had the driving piano, tight drums and that ring-shout call-and-response with the backup singers. The Stax sound was the fat bass, crackling guitar licks, drums that snapped your spine and the performers sweat dripping from the speakers. That's what soul music was on the face of it in 1967. And then came Jerry Butler. Actually he was already here. For years in fact; starting with one of the century's greatest songwriters, Curtis Mayfield in the first incarnation of the legendary Impressions. The hits came. For Your Precious Love. He Will Break Your Heart. And as these things go, Jerry left. Went solo. The hits still came, but fewer and further between. Moon River. Let It Be Me. Then...the hits dried up. Motown, Stax and Aretha owned the airwaves. And Jerry became the first to do what others would later do in droves. In 1967, Jerry Butler went to Philadelphia to record. I can remember my mother unwrapping the the Mercury album by Jerry -"The Iceman Cometh". It came with a "suitable for framing " photo of "The Iceman" half-imbedded in a block of ice but looking as cool as a cucumber. Then she played the record on our first "stereo". We'd had record players before...but this...THIS was a stereo. My mother of course loved it. I however...was sent into another zone. To the right of me, I could hear the drums, bass and piano. To the left of me I heard the guitars, strings and horns. And dead center baby, was the mellow baritone of the god-damned Iceman! Whooooo! Soul music never sounded like this before. It was perfectly and pristinely recorded. You could hear every instrument AND Jerry Butler. It changed the way I listened to music forever. I was learning what an arrangement was, courtesy of Mr. Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Thom Bell, the producers and arrangers of this album and of course...The Iceman. This compilation covers those years Jerry spent at Mercury records but even more importantly covers the period when soul "grew up". Gone from these recordings was the intentionally tinny, AM-friendly Motown sound and the brusque, transistor-fueled thump of Stax and Aretha. This was "cool" soul. As ready for the cocktail party as it was the jukebox. Gamble, Huff and Bell ushered soul into this new era with these recordings with Butler. It was the true birth of the "Philly" sound that would later dominate pop music for the better part of a decade. And it gave us the SECOND great "album" of the soul era after Aretha's "I Never Loved a Man", Jerry's "The Iceman Cometh". Unlike most albums at the time, this one was not "one hit and ten pieces of filler". Like Aretha's, this one boasted cut after cut of prime soul. Not a throwaway in the bunch-and it wasn't even a "concept" album! Fortunately this compilation includes that album and it's "Ice on Ice" follow-up. Listen for the sheer soul perfection of Jerry's aching (and occasionally emotively breaking) voice on "Hey Western Union Man" and "Only The Strong Survive" and then flip your 'fro to the almost symphonic, but soulful and little-heard gems, "Lost" and "Are You Happy". Remember what soul music sounded like before these songs came out...and then think of what soul became AFTER they hit!"
"Rhino Records' "Best of" is the best one-disc retrospective from Jerry Butler's 20-year chartspan of hits. But "Iceman" gets deeper (and cooler) into his decade with Mercury Records, one of soul's most fertile periods.Butler moved from Chicago's defunct Vee-Jay Records to Mercury in 1966. After several early well-sung but nondescript singles (exception: the superb "Mr. Dream Merchant") Butler joined up-and-coming Philadelphia producers Leon Huff & Kenny Gamble. The magnificent results included "Hey Western Union Man," the gorgeous "Never Give You Up" and two versions of Butler's Top 5 hit "Only The Strong Survive." It also includes should-have-beens like "Are You Happy," and "I've Been Loving You Too Long," which Butler wrote with Otis Redding.The hits continued briefly after Gamble & Huff left to form Philadelphia International. These include a tribute to Butler's Chicago home and two duets with Brenda Lee Eager, including the most soulful "Close To You" anyone could've made. Throughout, Butler masters deep emotional singing without histrionics. His music here, cleverly closing with a live version of his first hit, "For Your Precious Love," underscores that fact. Not quite as essential as the 2CD collection of his friend and partner Curtis Mayfield, but recommended nonetheless."
Paula from VA | 07/25/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the ultimate Jerry Butler collection, a must for all soul lovers"
Butler never disappoints.
Paula from VA | Centreville, Va USA | 01/17/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Come on, fellas! This is the Mercury set. It makes no pretense of being all of this guys hits. And his best stuff was made with Vee Jay. That said, this is one of the great voices and most dynamic singers of our time, and there is nothing in this set to diminish that. Just sit back and let The Ice Man get into your heart and soul. You'll love the feeling!"
J. Hoffman | dover, pa. United States | 07/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"there's only one thing to say about mr. jerry butler, he's the best r n b singer that has ever lived!!j.h.of dover usa"