Don’t Count Him Out

Soul is a genre dominated by powerful and charismatic singers.  But a vital though often overlooked part of the foundation of 60s/70s soul was the songwriters, the guys who wrote a seemingly never-ending series of great tunes.  Some of these figures, like Isaac Hayes (who wrote for Stax), managed to have successful careers in the spotlight as well.  George Jackson was one of the many who didn’t.  Clarence Carter, Candi Staton, Wilson Pickett, and others recorded his songs in the late 60s and 70s, but he also recorded numerous songs on his own that were not compiled and released until recently.  In 2009, the Ace label – which specializes in reissuing old rock, soul, funk, and blues — put out George Jackson: In Memphis 1972 – 1977, which showed that Jackson excelled at writing r&b of the Southern variety (Listen to “Dear Abby“).

The Kent label, a subsidiary of Ace, has now released Don’t Count Me Out: The Fame Recordings, Vol. 1., with twenty-four more tracks from Jackson.  Some soul writers probably lacked the vocals to step out from behind the curtains, but Jackson was at ease singing bluesy numbers and soul ballads.  Although he trafficked in southern soul, he did not have a gritty, forceful voice like some of the men who sang his songs.  Jackson’s singing is smooth, and the polished template allows for a breadth of expression — little vocal cracks, quavers, and vibratos reach the ear with clarity and gently convey the emotions Jackson is trying to communicate.  It’s a laid back and graceful approach to the deep soul template.  Jackson’s solo output merits the same consideration as that of the more famous men and women he wrote for.

[A longer version of this review appeared on Popmatters]

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