1972 Case File #95.

Jerry Butler, The Spice of Life

File Between: Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes

Comments: There has probably never been a double album about which someone has not said “boil it down to a single record and it would be a great album.” The Spice of Life is no exception; the  extravagant running time afforded to sixteen songs over four sides results in a lack of focus and unnecessary elongation of grooves that don’t always benefit from it. The hoarsely passionate Butler, a veteran of the Chicago soul scene — he had been the lead singer of the R&B version of the Impressions before Curtis Mayfield made them over into a sweet soul group — is never less than magnetic, but the heavily-orchestrated songs let him down from time to time, layering on studio instrumentation that, while it always sounds good, doesn’t always contribute much. Still, there’s a lot to love here, and a single-disc summation of the highlights could go up against any soul record of the era and come away with at least a draw. Which makes it all the more inexplicable that it’s never been reissued on CD; even padded out with unnecessary covers of “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” and (gag) “Baby I’m-A Want You,” there are enough swoon-worthy moments here that any deep soul lover would go justifiably nuts over.

A Keeper? I may end up trying that single-disc distillation at some point; in the meantime, it’s not like it takes up that much room on my shelves.

Vinyl Rip: One Night Affair

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