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I Made My Own World, CD (£11.50)
If I start this piece by calling Vernon Garrett a journeyman artist, many of you might see that as a criticism of his talents. Not at all, my friends - look in the Penguin English Dictionary and you'll find that the definition of 'Journeyman' is an experienced and reliable performer". Well, Vernon's still going strong in his sixth decade as a recording artist, and his recorded output has rarely veered towards the land of the unlistenable in all that time, so he's both "experienced" and "reliable" to the ears of soul fans. If the word journeyman, therefore, doesn't describe Vernon Garrett to a 'T' - and in the best possible manner - then I really can't think of one that describes him better.
Ace has been reissuing Vernon's recordings for years - both his solo sides and the excellent duets he cut with his late wife, Jewel - through the company's ownership of the Kent/Modern catalogue. Having been a mainstay of the UK Kent compilations catalogue since the early 80s, and having enough good repertoire on him to enable us to do so, we thought it was about time that we compiled the best of his solo and duet sides together in one full-value CD compilation. So we have - and I Made My Own World is the very pleasing result of our endeavours.
Although Vernon has several CDs available of his 80s, 90s and most recent recordings, this compilation is the only way for VG collectors to get the best of his 60s and 70s recordings in one place, an earlier Japanese CD anthology being long deleted. It features at least one take of each of his Kent and Modern 45s, some of which differ from the master takes that are available elsewhere on Kent but that are no less enjoyable for not being the masters. It also features several more of the best cuts from Vernon's stupidly rare Grenade album, again to complement those already reissued on Kent. (On several of these, Vernon is backed by a group of musicians that subsequently coalesced into late 70s funk/soul superpowers LTD featuring Jeffrey Osborne.) There are also highlights from a live 1964 Vernon and Jewel club date in Oakland, California that add immeasurably to the pathetically small cache of extant live soul sessions from that decade and that, again, have only previously been available on that long-deleted Japanese CD. And to top all this off, we located a previously unheard R&B mover from the Running Out session, I'm Guilty, that'll be guaranteed to get all the New Breeders 'at it' instantly. Oh, and did I mention that, as a bonus, we're giving the first legal release to the storming instrumental track - previously only available as one side of a bootleg 45 - to Vernon's Northern classic If I Could Turn Back the Hands Of Time here?
As well as all this great music, Vernon has been specially interviewed for the sleevenotes, by respected West Coast R&B authority Steve Propes, and Steve's notes tell the Vernon Garrett story in far greater detail than has ever been published before. Hey, is this a good CD or what?
The fine recordings that make up I Made My Own World prove that Vernon Garrett could and should have been more of a contender than history shows him to be. From top to bottom, this is first rate 60s and 70s soul from a singer who, given a few better breaks and a different set of circumstances, could have been as big as any one of his contemporaries in soul music. Still, it's never too late for success to come knocking, and this "experienced and reliable" artist continues to play to appreciative audiences in his twin strongholds of Southern California and Northern Texas, having really made his own world among his fan bases in both places. He's also released several newly recorded albums over the past decade and a half - and we at Ace are more than a little happy to add our own fine contribution to his CD catalogue with this most excellent collection.
by Tony Rounce