Ben E. King, one of the greatest R&B vocalists of all time, passed away in April at the age of 74 but his music, thankfully, lives on. The folks at Real Gone Music and SoulMusic Records are teaming up to pay tribute to King with a pair of two-CD sets featuring every A- and B-side he recorded. First installment “The Complete Atco/Atlantic Singles Vol. 1: 1960-1966” gets the undertaking off to a fantastic start.
After cutting his teeth in the late 1950s as featured vocalist for a new version of The Drifters and singing lead on classic tunes “There Goes My Baby,” “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” King embarked on a solo career in 1960. The 28 tunes on “Vol. 1,” many never before available in the United States, underscore just how silky smooth King was in his prime.
The essential songs from the period are here — including “Spanish Harlem,” “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” “Amor” and, of course, “Stand By Me” — and King also shines bright on “Show Me the Way,” “A Help-Each-Other Romance” (with LaVern Baker), “Here Comes the Night,” “Walking in the Footsteps of a Fool,” “Gypsy,” “River of Tears,” “The Way You Shake It,” “Cry No More” and “Don’t Drive Me Away.” This is an essential addition to the collection of any self-respecting music fan. (Jeffrey Sisk)