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Perhaps as good as any compilation can get, Les McCann: Talkin' Verve hardly lives up to its acid-jazz premise or its subject's real talents. Still, it does rescue some of the lost music pianist/vocalist Les McCann made over six albums for the Limelight label between 1964 and 1967. Seems the folks at Verve were going for a goofy menu of gospel-jazz, pop crap, and funky soul to round out an hour of not always choice McCann moments.
As can be expected, the jewels of the collection are the small-group jazz numbers with McCann's groovin' gospel piano out front ("Little Freak," "Colonel Rykken's Southern Fried Chicken" and the first-rate classic "Beaux J. Poo Boo"). Things stay on track when funk gets stirred into the sauce. But here, McCann sits back and lets horns carry the tunes ("Watermelon Man," "Red Top," "La Brea" and "Boo-Go-Loo"). The duds, which unnecessarily weight this collection, are offered when McCann goes into lounge singer mode ("The Great City," "Green, Green Rocky Road," "Sad Little Girl" and an early version of "Compared to What?") and, most regrettably, when he offers up corny pop fare of the day ("Sunny," "Goin' Out of My Head" and a leaden "Guantanamera").
Les McCann: Talkin' Verve could have been better (where's "A Little Three-Four" and "Jack V. Schwartz" from But Not Really or "Les McNasty" and "Bat Man" from Beaux J. Poo Boo ?). But like the McCann compilation on Blue Note, it's the best you can do until the originals come along on CD. But avoid Tom Terrell's heavy-handed liner notes if you really want to enjoy the music.
Tracks:Watermelon Man; Beaux J. Poo Boo; The Great City; Guantanamera; Sunny Part I; Sunny Part II; Green, Green Rocky Road; Little Freak; Red Top; Compared To What?; My Friends; Sad Little Girl; La Brea; Goin' Out of My Head; Boo-Go-Loo; Colo nel Rykken's Southern Fried Chicken.Collective
Collective Lee Katzman: trumpet; Seldon Powell or Jerome Richardson, Plas Johnson: tenor sax; Les McCann: piano, vocals; Vince Corrao, Jimmy Georgantones, Vinnie Bell or Carl Lynch: guitar; Leroy Vinnegar, Victor Gaskin: bass; Booker T. Robinson, Paul Humphrey, Frank Severino: drums; Lynn Blessing, Warren Chiasson: vibes; Aki Aleong, Joseph Torres, Ron Rich, Ric DeSilva: percussion.