1. Ray Charles- "Singular Genius - The Complete ABC Singles" (Concord)
Every a & b side from his singles recorded with ABC-Paramount. This reasonably priced 5-CD set includes 106 tracks and comes with a 48-page liner notes booklet. Singular genius, indeed.
2. Various Artists - "The Fame Studios Story: 1961-1973" (Kent)
This 3-CD set features recordings from various artists recorded at Muscle Shoals from 1961-1973. Absolutely no filler on this collection of not often heard singles, hits & deeper tracks. Packaged with a beautifully put-together hardback book.
3. Various Artists - "This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45RPM 1957-1982" (Tompkins Square)
Flat-out terrific 3-CD compilation featuring 72 rare independent gospel 45 tracks. The intensity of some of these performances will blow you away.
4. Mickey Newbury - "An American Trilogy" (Saint Cecilia Knows)
This collection consists of his trilogy of albums from 1969-1973 - Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy & Heaven Help The Child - plus an extra disc of demos, rarities & unreleased tracks.
5. Various Artists - "Sweet Inspiration: The Songs of Dan Penn & Spooner" Oldham (Ace)
Featuring songs written by Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham recorded by artists such as Charlie Rich, Etta James, Sandy Posey, The Box Tops, James Carr, Dionne Warwick & Barbara Lynn. This is just a single-disc compilation so it only contains a fraction of the songs written by one of the finest pair of soul music songwriters ever but these soul, country and pop versions of their songs serve as a really satisfying introduction.
6. Willie Wright - "Telling the Truth" (The Numero Group)
Willie Wright was from Bayland, MS & later moved to Massachusetts. In 1977, he recorded this release & 1,000 copies were pressed. This soul-folk masterpiece remained buried in obscurity until unearthed by The Numero Group. One of the musical surprises for me in 2011. Reminds me, somewhat, of Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks' album.
7. Charlie Rich - "It Ain't Gonna Be That Way: The Complete Smash Sessions" (Ace)
29-track, single-disc compilation of all the tracks he recorded for the Smash label in the 60s. Soul, country, rock & pop and it's pretty great. Even includes an excellent rockin' Christmas song as an added bonus.
8. Roy Orbison - "The Monument Singles Collection (1960-64)" (Monument)
2-CD set featuring all of his a & b sides recorded for Monument Records from 1960-64. Also including a 1965 concert DVD recorded in Holland.
9. Candi Staton - "Evidence: The Complete Fame Records Masters" (Kent)
2-CD compilation with all 48 tracks recorded at FAME Studios including 12 previously unreleased titles. Soul at its finest. Things like this make me happy.
10. The Beach Boys - "The Smile Sessions" (Capitol)
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. This is from a new 2-CD collection of songs, session outtakes, dialogue, etc. from the 1966-67 sessions for their 'Smile' release which was supposed to come out in 1967 & was meant to follow up "Pet Sounds."
11. Various Artists - "Boddie Recording Company: Cleveland, Ohio" (The Numero Group)
3-CD, 58-track collection of rare 60s and 70s soul, funk & gospel released by the Cleveland-based Boddie Recording Company. You'll be hard-pressed to find better packaging than this collection.
12. Etta James - "Heart & Soul: A Retrospective" (Hip-O Select)
Etta James has never had a proper retrospective done until this year's release of this 84-track, 4-disc collection spanning her entire career. Sadly, Etta James is terminally ill, but what a musical legacy she will leave behind her.
13. Dave Davies - "Hidden Treasures" (Universal)
This compilation features all of the 60s material that Dave Davies wrote and/or sung on and has never been all available in one place until now.
14. The Rolling Stones -"Some Girls [Deluxe Edition]" (Universal Republic Records)
This expanded reissue of their 1978 album now includes an additional disc of previously unreleased (officially) recordings taped during the Some Girls sessions.
15. George Jackson - "Don't Count Me Out: The Fame Recordings Volume 1" (Kent)
This single disc compilation is made up of all previously unissued Fame recordings. Fantastic southern soul tracks which all feature the vocals of George Jackson.
John Wendland is host of Memphis to Manchester on 88.1 KDHX, every Thursday morning, 7-10 a.m. Central.