- Released: August 17, 2009
- Label: Fantastic Voyage
Liner Note Author: Mike Atherton.
One could reasonably argue that British music fans love soul and rhythm & blues even more than American audiences, or at very least they're eager to celebrate lesser-known talents within these genres in a way folks at home do not. Ember Records, one of the leading independent record labels in the U.K. during the '60s and '70s, released a steady stream of noteworthy R&B sides for the English market, and Good to the Last Drop: From the Ember Tape Vaults/ Rare Sixties and Seventies Soul features 23 sides issued by the label in their heyday. While Ember released some soulful singles from homegrown acts, only one of them appears here (" "Looky Looky" by the Brothers Grimm), while the rest were licensed for British release from a variety of American labels, most notably the Detroit-based GM Records (named for owner Guido Marasco rather than a certain local auto manufacturer). There were enough U.K. labels snapping up American soul material at the time that Ember's R&B line was a bit short on big names, but there are plenty of solid, lesser-known tunes on this set. Fork in the Road sound like a more polished version of the Chairmen of the Board on "Can't Turn Around Now," the Values cover Dean Martin and make it work (complete with a passage in Italian) on "Return to Me," Tony & Tyrone generate a righteous groove on the rollicking "Everyday Fun," Ed Robinson delivers a potent message number on the emotional powerhouse "Hey Blackman," and Mr. Flood's Party sound taut and intelligent on a cover of "Compared to What." The legendary Johnny Otis (with his son Shuggie Otis in tow) contributes the closing cut, "Good to the Last Drop," which is a sadly ordinary-sounding disco number despite some freaked-out synthesizer work, and though Jewel Akens' "Wee Bit More of Your Lovin'" is an admirably tough rock & roll number, calling it soul isn't truth in advertising. But otherwise this is a solid and well-sequenced collection of worthy and lesser-known soul tunes, and Mike Atherton's liner notes are well written and present the facts as they're known. Fans of vintage R&B who are still in the market for quality obscurities will find this to be a good value for money, not to mention fine listening. ~ Mark Deming