The body count for 60s and 70s soul heroes has been depressingly high this year. As I write, June is not yet two weeks old and the Grim Reaper’s already availed himself of Freddie Scott and Kim Tolliver, as well as Northern Soul heroine Lynne Randell. Sadly, for those of us who have grown up on 60s and 70s soul and have ourselves reached middle age, the death of those whose work we admired when it was new is becoming an all too commonplace event. And their passing becomes even more tragic, when it turns a CD celebration of their career into a memorial.
When Ace/Kent did its deal, earlier this year, to bring the small but mighty Ko Ko catalogue to UK CD, the label’s main artist Luther Ingram was still alive although in frail health. We were desperately keen to get our reissue programme under way while Luther was able to appreciate at least part of it, but the GR had other ideas and claimed him on 19 March.
All four of our planned CDs will pay tribute to one of the greatest soul voices of the late 60s and early-mid 1970s. Southern soul singers do not get any better than Luther Ingram, whose Ko Ko 45s and albums are and remain among the best records of their time. His four albums will be issued on Kent, as two 2-On-1’s, a little further down the line. We kick off our Luther series with the first of two volumes that embrace the man’s Ko Ko singles releases many of which were not included on the original albums and are making their CD debut.
PITY FOR THE LONELY covers all of Luther’s Ko Ko singles from his 1966 label debut You’ve Got To Give Love To Get Love to the end of 1971. Records such as My Honey And Me and Ain't That Loving You were instrumental in establishing the reputation that he consolidated in 1972 with the multi-million seller, (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right – which can be heard on this CD’s follow up volume. All of the tracks here were recorded in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, places that are synonymous with quality southern soul. They fully support my contention that Luther Ingram never made a bad recording for Ko Ko.
It’s gratifying to be able to oversee a project that will maintain Luther Ingram’s status as a premier league soul man. He may not have been as prolific as some of his more acclaimed contemporaries, but on a record-for-record basis, you’d be hard pressed to find a more obvious master of his craft than Luther Thomas Ingram.
By Tony Rounce