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The Down Home Soul Of Z Z Hill, CD (£11.50)
The best of the Kent output from this underrated talent, who combined elements of Cooke, Bland & B.B. in a classy blend of sophisticated soul/blues.
This welcome CD builds on the ground-breaking collection released on Kent a few years back. ZZ Hill comfortably straddled the worlds of southern soul, modern blues and Northern Soul-styled material and prior to his untimely death in April 1984 was at last reaping a belated success. His Down Home Blues from that final period had been released on Malaco Records and become the blues anthem of the 1980s, anticipating the return of heavy fan and critical interest in the genre. Born in Naples, Texas on September 24th 1941, he was christened Arzell, but changed his forename to ZZ after the success of Riley King with his B B moniker. He sang with gospel group The Spiritual Five and served a R&B apprenticeship with the Texan bands of Bo Thomas and Frank Shelton. In the early '60s, Otis Redding visited a gig in his town, and was sufficiently impressed to recommend he make some records, which he did for the MH label. You Were Wrong sold nearly 300,000 discs (according to ZZ) and brushed the Hot 100 in 1964. Subsequent MH and Mesa releases failed to hit and he moved to Kent/Modern. There he co-wrote 90% of his songs, some derivative and paying homage to heroes like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, others finding his own personal soul groove. Maxwell Davis, who had brought so much class to the records of artists like B B King, supervised most of Z Z's sessions at Kent. At the time of their release most of these failed to make a big impression and Cliff White speculates in his liner notes that the sound was too uptown for the R&B market and not slick enough to match either Motown or Stax. Whatever the contemporary response, these sides cut between 1964 and 1972 now sound, with hindsight, brilliant and the obvious forerunners of Z Z's down home soul blues. If you missed the vinyl releases the first time round, or when Kent/Ace sampled them in the mid-8Os, you're in for a really soulful surprise. If you got them then, you'll still need this new CD compilation. It's that good!