Closing out the year in fine style, November is shaped by an iconic starlet, often decorated as the first ‘Queen of Soul’. Classed as a presiding influence over the legacy of early vocal soul, Dinah Washington still enjoys an enduring resonance with contemporary audiences and artists, over fifty years since her death. The new collection, Dinah Washington: Original Queen of Soul, serves as both a commemoration – as the anniversary of her death nears – and as a celebration of the talent she exuded in her recordings. Three Decades of Artistry features her most unforgettable performances, over the course of a definitive 80 track selection, one expertly collated by Soul music writer and broadcaster Clive Richardson. Rare and highly coveted recordings of her early years on Southside Chicago’s club circuit in the 1940s are included, as are her vibrant displays in the 1950s, when she incorporated a range of styles and moods into her sound. The compilation follows a considered chronology of her career, also documenting her later work with producer Henry Glover; work notably invigorated by blues traditionalism and a progressive stance towards the emergent soul market. Met by unprecedented recognition at the outset of the 1960s, with a Grammy nomination and 40 hit singles within the Billboard R & B charts already under her name, Washington’s life was cut short on December 14th 1963. Despite such a tragically premature end, her work remains impeccable and timeless, as this retrospective testifies. An essential capsule of her inimitable talent.
Accompanying Dinah Washington is a special expanded edition of our American Music Library series. American Music Library: The Hits of 1962 departs from the format of previous instalments, with an increased length of 120 tracks. Such ample room is given over to the dance crazes that dominated the charts at the time, courtesy of Philadelphia’s Cameo & Parkway labels. The first emphatic steps of Berry Gordy and his Tamla-Motown-Gordy stable of labels in Detroit are another commanding sound within the set. But between these more imposing presences, there are plenty of early pop, country and R & B favourites which reveal the extensive diversity of the American pop landscape at the time. With such a significant number of hits the collection conveys that the American charts were in rude health, defined by a glut of familiar triumphs and cultish curios. Pop savant, Austin Powell, curates and annotates a set which maintains the high level of documentarian clarity and fan enthusiasm seen in previous editions of the series.