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Listen to the history

The R&B Box: 30 Years of Rhythm and Blues
The R&B Box: 30 Years of Rhythm and Blues
By various artists

Rhino Records: 1994

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This review first appeared in the November 29, 1994 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

It would be tempting to try to capture the scope of "The R&B Box" simply by listing all the classic soul and R&B songson this six-CD collection. Just for starters, one could throw out cuts like Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love," "Earth Angel" by The Penguins, Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love," "I Only Have Eyes for You" by The Flamingos, Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem," or ... well, you get the idea.

Besides, this is far more than an extended K-tel greatest hits package. The 58-page booklet porvides exhaustive information on the artists, songs and labels found here. Music historian Billy Vera (a top-notch soul/rock singer himself) co-produced this package and also contributed the literate, knowledgeable liner notes. The numerous photographs help fill out the historical aspect of this collection, which not only presents some of the best music of the past 50 years, but palces the songs and artists into the context of the times that produced them.

Even more of a credit to the folks at Rhino is a list of suggested listening at the back of the booklet – including numerous suggestions of collections on other labels, and a short explanation of why some artists, such as Sam Cooke, were not included. Such devotion to the music is all too rare, and this generosity of spirit reflects on the qualitiy of the entire "R&B Box."

More than any single-label retrospective, this set is one of the most comprehensive looks at postware popular black music.