Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Edwin Starr – 20th Century Masters – the Best of

I picked this up cheap without really realizing the number of hits that this man was responsible for. Of course, I grew up with the incredible “War” blasting through my AM radio, but I was less familiar with his earlier tunes.

Opening with the R’n’B Top Ten hit “Agent Double-O-Soul”, Starr shows that he is a terrific song writer as well as singer, and he had a knack for a clever turn of phrase. This continues on “Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)”, which has a similar feel and became another hit for him.

“Twenty Five Miles” is a true classic – a great, upbeat sing-along about being determined to walk back to his baby because of her lovin’! “I got to keep on walkin’” he shouts over an incessant dance groove as he counts down the miles. A near-perfect r’n’b raver!

On a mellower note is “Oh How Happy”, a duet with Blinky Williams, which is lovely and became a soul standard after this recording.

Funnily enough, despite his obvious song-writing talents, “War”, probably his best known song, was not written by him, but by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, originally for the Temptations. Starr was smart enough to jump for this when it was offered to him and, coming shortly after the Kent State shootings, it became a number 1 hit in 1970. Rightfully so – funky, strident, angry, but still retaining its groove and melody. It does sound a bit like late 60’s Temptations, now that I think about it… By the way, the mix and mastering seems especially strong on this collection and I hear bits that I hadn’t heard before, such as the lead guitar lines that are somewhat buried on this tune.

“Stop the War Now” is a sound-alike that is a little too derivative to stand alone but would probably be thought of as a good song if you hadn’t heard “War” first. He does some nice funk with “Time” and “Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On”.

There are a couple of more tunes on here, including a disco song, “Contact”, which I think is fairly mediocre even for the genre, but overall, this is amazing soul collection!