CD Review: Carl Hall - You Don't Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972

New compilation shines a light on this overlooked soul singer.
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Carl Hall was something of an enigma. Possessing an incredible four-octave vocal range, he began his career as a gospel singer in the 1950s for The Rasberry Singers before moving on to secular music in the 1960s, first with Mercury and, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, under the Warner Brothers musical umbrella. From 1967 to 1972, Hall released only a handful of singles that didn't make much of a dent in the charts, but have since become collector's items. In addition, Hall recorded a number of tracks that remained unreleased until now. Carl Hall - You Don't Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 collects 19 tracks, 13 of which are previously unreleased, from this overlooked powerhouse vocalist.

The collection leads off with its title track, a slow burning soul track with guitar and horn accompaniment. Hall displays his impressive range with an impassioned vocal, selling the song and its lyrical message with great passion. "Mean It Baby" is more up-tempo and recalls the Motown music of the era with a bouncy feel. One can imagine late 1960s Stevie Wonder doing this track.

"The Dam Busted" finds Hall locked into a soulful groove, giving a gritty vocal in the process while "I Don't Wanna Be (Your Used To Be)" is a horn-driven rocker that once again shows off Hall's potent voice. Here and throughout, Hall delivers these songs as if it will be his last time in a recording studio, which wasn't that far from the truth, sadly.

In 1972, Hall released his last Warner single, a reworked cover of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love." While the former was a psychedelic rock anthem, here it is the Summer of Love meets Shaft. It's a drastic reinterpretation, but it works. Hall brings the tempo back down on "Change With The Seasons," a piano ballad with a gospel-inspired vocal.

The unreleased tracks showcase Hall's skills as an interpreter. "The Long And Winding Road" puts the emphasis on the vocal, which is considerably more over the top than Paul McCartney's original. Here the song is transformed into a potent R&B number. While not better than the original, it is worthwhile nonetheless. More straightforward is his cover of "Time Is On My Side," which is given a bluesy treatment here.

Perhaps Hall's booming voice was too much for the pop charts at the time. He eventually found a home on Broadway, where his theatrical voice may have been a better fit. Regardless, his pop singles deserve a second listen and it is unfortunate so many of his tracks remained unreleased for so long. Carl Hall - You Don't Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 does a good job at trying to rectify this problem.