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I'm Your Man - the Anthology 1963-1972

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Album Review

Aside from a sole mid-charting hit in 1963, "Watch Your Step" (included here), soul singer Brooks O'Dell didn't make much of a commercial splash during a career that saw him wander among several labels in the 1960s and '70s. This 26-track CD has much of the material he managed to record, including mid-'60s singles for Gold, Bell, and Columbia; a late-'60s 45 for Valentine; early-'70s singles for Mankind; a couple unissued mid-'60s cuts for Scepter, and previously unreleased tracks produced by Swamp Dogg in the early '70s. While some of this is avidly sought after by soul collectors, O'Dell was a pretty average if respectable soul singer, with a slightly rougher vocal tone than the typical performer in the genre. Aside from Swamp Dogg, some other big names had a role in some of his sessions, with a young Kenny Gamble and Thom Bell helping to write some of his 1963-1964 sides for Luther Dixon's Gold label. One of those was "Watch Your Step," an impressive uptown soul number, even if it was rather close to Freddie Scott's smash "Hey Girl" in melody. The minor-keyed 1965 orchestrated single "You Better Make Up Your Mind" is another highlight, but otherwise this collection is just an OK listen for the most part, finding O'Dell unable to firmly settle on a signature style. There are hints of gutsy blues-soul in "It Hurts Me to My Heart" and "I Got What It Takes, Pts. 1 & 2 & 3" (sic), yet "Walkin' in the Shadow of Love" sounds like a studied Brook Benton imitation. The Swamp Dogg-produced cuts are in an updated style, yet are sometimes disappointingly laid-back and anonymous. The collection's unlikely to appeal to a broader audience than soul cultists, but those cultists will appreciate Kent/Ace's typically attentive packaging and liner notes.


Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Although he is far from a household name, Brooks O'Dell's impassioned vocals on a series of singles recorded between 1963 and 1972 for various Northern R&B and soul labels have made him sort of a cult figure among deep fans and collectors of those genres. O'Dell practically defines the terms unsung and obscure, and little has been published concerning the details of his life, but he'll forever be remembered for his powerful 1964 hit, "You Better Watch Your Step," released on Luther Dixon's New York-based...
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