Various Smart's Palace

Apparently there was more going on in Wichita than its linemen. Smart's Palace was just a minor league nightclub far away from the major centres of soul in the U.S., but its isolation somehow made its small recorded output all the more soulful. There's little sense of production at all in these tracks — everything sounds live and uncorrected. All the music's sloppiness, wonky tunings and unrefined ideas are on display, but everyone is playing their hearts out. The overall effect of this soul feels better than searching for individual highlights, but a few more than serviceable numbers stand out, like Theron and Daniel's "It's Your Thing" riff entitled "It's Your Love," and the pleading "Crazy About You Baby" by L.T. and the Soulful Dynamics. The best of the bunch is a wild tangent on the Beatles' "A Day In The Life," refashioned as a Bar-Kays-style instrumental by the excellently monikered Chocolate Snow ("kids, don't eat…"). Whereas other Numero collections feature inferior tracks or concepts, the atmosphere of this collection transcends both of these limitations to become an engrossing listen. (Numero Group)