Personnel: Tommy Hunt (vocals); Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles (vocals, background vocals); Chuck Jackson (vocals); Paul Griffin (piano); Cissy Houston, Dee Dee Warwick (background vocals).
Liner Note Author: Ady Croasdell.
Recording information: Bell Sound Studios, New York, NY (06/??/1961-06/25/1968); Chicago, IL (06/??/1961-06/25/1968); Groove Sound Studios, New York, NY (06/??/1961-06/25/1968); New York, NY (06/??/1961-06/25/1968).
Introduction by: James Bishop.
Photographer: Ady Croasdell.
Arrangers: George Tobin; Teacho Wiltshire; Leroy Glover; Jimmy Wisner; Alan Lorber; Paul Griffin ; Burt Bacharach; Bert Keyes.
This 29-song compilation of Hunt's 1961-68 recordings for the Scepter and Dynamo labels features, as the liner notes declare, "80% of Tommy Hunt's U.S. solo recordings." Most of the CD is taken from Hunt's 1961-64 singles for Scepter (including the original version of Bacharach-David's "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" and his biggest hit, 1961's "Human") and outtakes from the period that showed up in the '80s and '90s on assorted Kent compilations. There are also less impressive tracks from his stay at Luther Dixon's Dynamo label in 1967-68. The notable but odd New York 1960s soul offered here has its virtues, but nonetheless, it is not immediately arresting -- not enough to garner more than a cult following. Hunt, like fellow Scepter artists Dionne Warwick, Chuck Jackson, and Maxine Brown, benefited from the label's patented "uptown" brand of soul, with its sumptuous string arrangements, choral backup vocals, and theatrical pop songwriting. Yet Hunt lagged behind everyone else in that list regarding his commercial impact and, ultimately, the quality of his work. He had a deep voice which was a tad overwrought, but not as dramatically overwrought (and therefore appropriate for the Scepter/Wand production mill) as that of his rival Chuck Jackson. With the singular exception of Bacharach-David's "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself," he was not gifted with material as outstanding as the best of what Warwick, Jackson, and Brown received. However, for the listener who both digs the Scepter sound and is willing to settle for less brilliance than could be found with those other singers, this is a recommended disc, if only for the commendably typical and pleasing Scepter production and arrangements, complemented by Hunt's competent delivery. There are some nice surprises along the way, like the dramatically arching "This and Only This," one of the finest overlooked Leiber-Stoller compositions, and "It's All a Bad Dream," with its unusual fish-tank sound effects. ~ Richie Unterberger