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SYL JOHNSON - Complete Mythology (6LP + 4CD box set)

When Numero Group put out the Twinight instalment of their ongoing Eccentric Soul series in 2007 and left out unappreciated soul giant Syl Johnson, eyebrows were raised. One way of looking at the omission was that maybe the artist better known for his Hi recordings was just too big to fit Numero’s mandate of bringing attention to complete obscurities, which Johnson certainly is not. That licensing issues may have also kept such wonderful material off that excellent compilation was another potential answer. Then there was the slight possibility, that glimmering hope, that the revered reissue label were holding back with something truly special.

Three years later, not only have Numero delivered the goods on Syl Johnson's Twinight material, but they've gone far beyond what any soul fan could have hoped for and put together a package that also gathers the rest of his pre-Hi material in a gorgeous 4CD and 6LP box! From the '50s to the '70s, Johnson’s earlier career is covered across his many homes including King/Federal, Shama, TMP/Ting, Zachron, One-Derful, Cha Cha, Special Agent, Trip, and P-Vine. The vinyl gives you the two Twinight LPs with original album art, plus four more slabs collecting singles from the remaining labels. It’s all reproduced on the CDs, and comes with a book of detailed discographic/biographic information, including interviews with the man himself. The price is excellent too, considering the kind of archaeology and investment it would take to amass a similar collection in original form.

And the music? Over the years, hip hop producers and soul aficionados have propelled Syl Johnson to cult status, thanks to a career that spanned late '50s R’n’B to classic funky '70s soul. Well-covered songs like “Is It Because I’m Black?”, and beats that have been plundered endlessly for samples, have secured him a very special place in the hearts of soul fans (certainly a much bigger one than when he recorded this material).

This one’s a treat for sure, and a perfect gift for the holiday season.

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