Just when you began to cringe at the thought of another tribute album, along comes Billy Price's "The Soul Collection," an R & B homage full of revealing and compelling performances.
Revealing because Price doesn't round up the usual suspects. Instead of saluting Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, or Otis Redding, he focuses on less familiar names, giving each their due. The list includes Otis Clay, James Carr, Joe Simon, O.V. Wright, the Soul Sisters, Linda Jones, Arthur Alexander, Syl Johnson, Latimore, and other worthy artists. Compelling because Price is a terrifically expressive soul singer in his own right, one who conveys both the pain and the pleasure implicit in these choice songs. Because there's nothing forced or affected about his delivery, he's able to convince you that every song on this album bears repeating, which is saying a lot, given the emotional power of the original recordings.
Even so, some of Price's interpretations stand out. Among them are three Clay tunes (including a duet version of "That's How It Is," which features Clay); a now brooding, now defiant reading of Wright's "Gonna Forget About You"; and the pleading ballad "Let It Happen," a powerful reminder of Carr's remarkable but seldom recognized talent. On these and other tracks, it's also clear that Price's tight, horn-powered band shares his keen soul sensibilities.