As a songwriter, George Jackson is a Southern soul giant. He is revered by artists and soul fans alike for his prolific output of high quality soul songs and he was at the peak of his powers during his tenure at the FAME studios from 1968 to 1972. Rick Hall, who owned FAME, knew that if a top soul artist was coming into the studio and some songs were needed, then George was the man.
He was valued so much as a songwriter that his career as a singer was sadly neglected, and only two George Jackson 45s were issued during his long association with FAME. Luckily for us, Rick Hall held on to a truckload of the other recordings George cut at FAME which have remained in the vaults until Tony Rounce, Dean Rudland and Alec Palao plucked them from the shelves for this terrific release and several future volumes.
I love George Jackson’s singing. His voice has a fragile vulnerability and, combined with his honest, no histrionics delivery, you genuinely believe that George lived the ups and downs of love and life that he writes about in these beautifully crafted Southern soul songs. And I’m not alone in appreciating George’s voice, when I asked songstress Dorothy Moore, she smiled and said “I love me some George Jackson”. George also remembers with pride getting complimented by Wilson Pickett on one of Pickett’s trips to FAME. “Wilson said to me ‘It’s from your heart’, [then] he told Rick Hall and Jerry Wexler ‘Y’all should cut a record on this guy, he’s great’.”
Some of these tracks were used for pitching the songs to the artists and as ‘guide’ tapes in the studio once chosen. Southern soul fans will recognise ‘I Can’t Leave Your Love Alone’ and ‘The Feeling Is Right’ released by Clarence Carter, ‘Search Your Heart’ and ‘Back In Your Arms’ recorded by the Wicked Pickett and Candi Staton’s funky ‘Evidence’. If you’re as completely obsessed as I am, you can listen to original by George and follow it up with the released version by the some of the best Southern soul artists of the day.
A personal favourite from George’s two Fame singles is the churning ‘Find ‘em, Fool ‘em and Forget ‘em’, so it’s a treat to hear George on an earlier, bluesy incarnation of that song here called ‘3-F Blues’. But best of all is the side which Kent have quite rightly used as the lead track of the CD, George’s own rendition of stunning deep ‘Search Your Heart’. To use that old cliché, it’s worth the price of the CD alone. The surprise of the CD is the quality of the songs that were not snapped up at the time. The emotive deep ‘Let’s Stop Hurting Each Other’ and the catchy uptempo ‘Stuck On Her’ are just two “shelved” sides that would have proudly graced any top soul album of the day.
These tracks are all high quality studio recordings that could (and should) have been issued at the time. So you could say that this is the delayed release of George Jackson’s debut Fame album, and as such is one of the most important Southern soul CDs of the year.
By Martin Goggin