BY FRED MILLS
One of my favorite finds in a recent crate-digging expedition was a near-pristine copy of Southern soul songstress Jackie Moore’s final release for Atlantic Records, 1973’s Sweet Charlie Babe. It nicely summarizes the Jacksonville (Fla.)-born musician’s career up until that point, collecting material originally cut at Philadelphia’s venerable Sigma Sound and Miami’s Criteria Recording and spotlighting her smash pop hits “Precious, Precious” and “Sweet Charlie Babe” alongside such R&B chart staples as “Both Ends Against the Middle” and “Darling Baby.”
Now the Real Gone label has seen fit to release a 30-song collection containing that album’s 10 tunes along with several B-sides and no less than 14 unreleased tracks. Naturally the aforementioned hits are front and center and obvious high points: “Precious, Precious” is a swaggering strut on the part of Moore, who mewls and coos with a raspy resolve, additionally powered by Cornell Dupree’s sinewy guitar licks and punctuated by the Memphis Horns, while “Sweet Charlie Babe” is sweet, strings-laden Philly soul at its best, produced by the legendary Young Professionals team of Bunny Sigler, LeBaron Taylor and Phil Hurtt. Both demonstrate the range and depth of Moore’s musicality and how, in retrospect, she should be regarded as representing the gold standard for female soul singers of that era, and no less than a distaff contemporary of Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Additional evidence: “Time,” from ’72, a muscular blend of girl-group-styled pop (check the backing vocals: they feature Cissy Houston and the Sweet Inspirations) and Blaxploitation-esque funk (the chukka-chukka wah-wah guitars are by Dennis Coffey and Ray Minett, while among the keyboardists is one Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John).
And even if this two-CD set didn’t have those hits, it would be pure gold. One clear standout, for example, is a four-song mini-set cut one day in June 1972 at Muscle Shoals: “It Ain’t Who You Know” b/w “They Tell Me of an Uncloudy Day” may have failed to chart as a single, but the gospel pop of the A-side and the funky, Staple Singers-like B-side are every bit as riveting as the songs that did; and an unreleased cover of the Stevie Wonder-penned “I Love Every Little Thing About You” and sultry slow jam “Lead Me, Guide Me” (also unreleased) are almost as good.
In one sense, The Complete Atlantic Recordings is “the Jackie Moore story” because following her Atlantic tenure (she left the label in ’75, frustrated that the A&R department wasn’t hearing any hits among her latest recording sessions) she mostly disappeared from public view save one disco hit in the late ‘70s, “This Time, Baby.” Liner notesman Charles Waring indicates that she’s recently resurfaced on the oldies touring circuit, however, so with the release of this compilation, perhaps a younger generation of soul and funk acolytes will see fit to accord her the type of attention and acclaim that the likes of Charles Bradley and Bettye LaVette have been enjoying of late. As the title of one of those songs suggests, it’s “Time.”
DOWNLOAD: “Sweet Charlie Babe,” “Both Ends Against the Middle,” “They Tell Me of an Uncloudy Day,” “Time”