Recording information: A & R Studios, New York (1968); All Platinum Studios, Englewood, New Jersey (1968); American Studios, Memphis (1968); Birmingham Studios, Birmingham, Alabama (1968); Cincinnati, Ohio (1968); Criteria Studios, Miami, FL (1968); Fame Studios, Memphis (1968); Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals Alabama (1968); Jazz City Studios, New Orleans, Louisiana (1968); Malaco Studios, Jackson, Mississippi (1968); Master-Trak Studios, Crowley, Louisiana (1968); Mobile, Alabama (1968); Pasadena Sounds Studio, Pasadena, Texas (1968); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1968); Playground Studios, Calparaiso, FL (1968); Quinvy Studios, Sheffield (1968); Quinvy Studios, Sheffield, Alabama (1968); Royal Studios, Memphis (1968); Shreveport, Louisiana (1968); Sound City Studios, Shreveport (1968); Sound of Memphis Studios (1968); Sound of Memphis Studios, Memphis (1968); Stax Studios, Memphis (1968); T. K. Studios, Miami (1968); United Sound Studios, Detroit (1968); United Sound Studios, Detroit, Michigan (1968).
Back in 2011, Ace Records released Take Me to the River: A Southern Soul Story, a triple-disc anthology capturing the deepest tributaries of Southern Soul. Take Me to the River concentrated on music recorded in the deep south, so the 2015 sequel, Back to the River: More Southern Soul Stories 1961-1978, functions as an answer of sorts, presenting three distinct tributaries flowing from the river of soul through the deep south. First, there's a disc's worth of northern artists recording in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, followed by a collection of soul made in Texas, New Orleans, and Florida, each territory deliberately left out of Take Me to the River. Finally, the third disc takes stock of how the Southern sound's influence manifested in the north, whether it's Southerners crossing the Mason-Dixon line to play with established stars, or Northerners attempting to approximate that deep, soulful feel. Listen casually, and the similarities seem striking: all 75 songs feel of a piece, united by smoldering performances -- a description that applies to the instrumentals as much as the singers -- and expertly constructed songs. Despite the presence of a few luminous stars and even fewer hits -- the biggest crossover single here is Brook Benton's "Rainy -- the focus is not on individual cuts but rather the big picture. Back to the River paints Southern soul as a massive, undeniable cultural force, one that defined its era and remains a powerful, moving reservoir of music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine