Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Look At The New Winfield Parker Compilation On Omnivore Recordings

Presenting an important piece of American soul history, and local history too considering the artist's ties to the Baltimore, Maryland, area, Mr. Clean: Winfield Parker At Ru-Jac, out tomorrow via Omnivore Recordings, is a superb set of classic sides. The equal of the best Wilson Pickett stuff from the same era, these Parker cuts are lost gems now lovingly reissued so that fans of American soul can enjoy them again, or for the first time.

This set of Ru-Jac label tracks is a remarkable time capsule of a period when U.S. soul stylings were positioned between the earlier doo wop era and the harder stuff bubbling up from the South via the Stax/Volt label. Parker, at least judging from these cuts, could master nearly all styles within the rhythm-and-blues genre itself. The 1964 single "When I'm Alone/Rockin' In The Barnyard" offers 2 of the best tracks on this exemplary collection with the "A" side being an Otis-like slow-builder, and the "B" side succeeding as a kind of jokey, but still swingin', dance stomper. The plaintive 1967 "Go Away Playgirl" sounds now like some lost Sam Cooke number, with Parker's vocals perfectly suited to the riffs here. "She's So Pretty" is a burst of James Brown-style showmanship with a dash of The Wicked Pickett thrown in, think "Land of 1000 Dances" for a reference point. "Mr. Clean" is Parker's version of something like "Mr. Pitiful" from Otis Redding, though the female backing vocals here hint at the tunes that would rule the r'n'b charts a bit later. Horns drive this cut and Parker reveals himself to be supremely confident with this sort of strutting soul, so much so that a new(er) listener can only marvel at the lack of easy availability of these recordings earlier; this is fantastic stuff for any fan of Stax/Volt and the whole Sixties era itself.

Mr. Clean: Winfield Parker At Ru-Jac, is out tomorrow via Omnivore Recordings. The set collects 17 "A" and "B" sides along with another 6 unreleased tracks (demos and alternate takes) from the Ru-Jac label. For those who are new to Parker's stuff, this set should be a revelation. For those who want to hear a bit of history from the "Chitlin' Circuit" of the past here on the East Coast, get this. Containing music that places the D.C.-Baltimore area firmly on the map of soul music history, this is a superb introduction to one of the unjustly overlooked giants of American r'n'b around these parts.