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Last Soul Company [Box] ()

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When Malaco Records started out in the late 1960s, the label that small Southern R&B companies looked up to was Stax. The Jackson, MS-based Malaco, like the Memphis-based Stax, focused mainly on deep-fried Southern soul in the beginning -- only in 1968 and 1969, Malaco was a struggling young operation that was fighting to stay afloat. But ironically, Malaco would still be in business long after Stax's 1975 demise, and it would continue to favor classic soul long after most labels had moved away from it. When other black-oriented independents were putting out urban contemporary, rap and house music in the 1980s and 1990s, Malaco was the place you went to hear soulsters like Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle and Latimore and soul-minded bluesmen like Little Milton and Bobby "Blue" Bland. In 1999, Malaco celebrated its 30 years in business with The Last Soul Company, a six-CD box set that spans 1968-1998 and ranges from the decent to the superb. It's miraculous that the company survived long enough to have a 30th anniversary -- small R&B labels have come and gone over the years, and Malaco itself almost went under at various times. This collection contains all of the hits that defined Malaco, including King Floyd's "Groove Me" in 1970, Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" in 1971, Dorothy Moore's "Misty Blue" in 1976 and Z.Z. Hill's "Down Home Blues" in 1982. Over the years, Malaco Records and the Malaco studio dabbled in disco (one of this collection's most famous tunes is Anita Ward's 1979 disco smash "Ring My Bell"), funk and urban contemporary, but essentially, Malaco has remained a soul label with an interest in blues and gospel. Half the fun of hearing a collection like this one is discovering some obscure gems -- on The Last Soul Company, such gems include Jewell Bass' seductive "Let Your Love Rain Down on Me," Power's remake of the Rascals' "Groovin'," and male singer Ona Watson's soul makeover of Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It." Obviously, a six-CD set is too much for the casual listener, but for the seasoned R&B fanatic, The Last Soul Company is a fascinating listen. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi Hide synopsis

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