Review ·

Call it the Evolution of Oliver Wang -- Soul Sides Volume One is much more than a tangible representation of the writer/deejay's MP3 blog. The compilation captures the taste of the Soul-Sides.com host by collecting singular yet touching soul, it is better described as an up-to-date snapshot of his maturing tastes. Consider, then, Soul Sides Volume One Wang's take on grown 'n' sexy.

 

Longtime fans will likely find Wang's selections apt. His love of Silver Age breaks, clever sample sources and easy rolling guitars bare ample fruit here with the original femme-anthem "What A Man" by Linda Lyndell and the impossibly rare Lee Moses cut, "Time and Place." Hardly one to school the new jacks, he merely encourages the hot dogs to ketchup on their diggin' by digging a little deeper. Instead of allowing familiar faves such as Dusty Springfield and John Lennon to have their way, Wang clears the path for the lesser-acknowledged: Aretha's sister Erma Franklin swings low for a huskier "Piece of My Heart" and Donny Hathaway ravages "Ordinary Guy" with a heartbreaking vulnerability unknown to even the song's author.

 

Admittedly, Wang's soul connection veers loopy at times, such as with the whimsical "(I Ain't Singing) No More Sad Songs" by Amanda Ambrose and the sly, lascivious blues of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Lovin' You." Nevertheless, Wang's appreciation of stone-cold soul has become refined, finding best expression through the humble yet heart-stopping Joe Bataan Everyman anthem "Ordinary Guy" and the nouveau sunset romance of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' "All Over Again" (a cut that I embarrassingly overlooked the first time around).

 

Though Wang has spent years outside of the Web exploring his aural muse, be it through his O-zone radio show on KALX Berkeley and his numerous mixtapes, he has rarely indulged in wholesale self-gratification. Prone to doing deejay sets of "Spinning Wheel" covers or tapes of hip-hop B-sides, even his year-end best-of lists read less like passionate personal statements than "well-researched" and thoughtful summaries. The selfless approach has resulted in unflattering titles such as "most politically correct journalist," but it has not affected his status as the consummate digger -- a cat at home with both collecting and yarning about the perfect beat. Soul Sides Volume One is a rare and welcome reminder of how far Oliver Wang has come. Here's lookin' at Volume Two, Oli!

 

Note: In an attempt to pay homage to the artists on this compilation, a portion of proceeds from Soul Sides Volume One will be donated to the Rhythm & Blues Foundation his charity provides financial assistance to R&B artists of the '50s, '60s and '70s. These artists provided the foundation for all contemporary music and are crucial figures in the roots of American culture. Unfortunately, due mainly to unscrupulous record company policies of the era, many of these legendary artists are now penniless with no health insurance, retirement fund, or source of income.

 

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Zealous Records Web site (audio samples)

'Soul Sides Volume One' Web site

Oliver "O-Dub" Wang's Web site

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