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The Soulful Strings ‎- 1970 – The Soulful Strings Play Gamble-Huff

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The Soulful Strings Play Gamble-Huff is the final album from soul-jazz group The Soulful Strings, a Chicago based instuemental group who released six studio albums and one live album from 1966-1970,  One of the grooviest albums ever cut by Richard Evans’ Soulful Strings, and a tasty batch of tracks written by Gamble & Huff.

A1 Hey Western Union Man 3:45
A2 Together 2:52
A3 I’ve Got The Groove 4:14
A4 Beside You 4:00
A5 Turn Back The Hands Of Time 3:28
B1 One Night Affair 6:26
B2 Silly, Silly Fool 3:29
B3 I Can’t Stop Dancing 3:05
B4 Deeper In Love With You 3:27
B5 Never Gonna Give You Up 5:41

“Soulful Strings Play Gamble-Huff” may not sound like the most exciting concept; ‘don’t Gamble and Huff normally have string sections?’ you may sardonically ask yourself. Well prepare to be “Evansed” (somewhat similar to being “Stepneyed”, incidentally) because this album is an absolute gem.

“Play Gamble-Huff” is a huge leap over the early, exciting if somewhat inconsistent Soulful Strings albums. The covers are so much more than delete-one-string-section-substitute-another predictable tropes. The songs are pushed so far into baroque pop territory they barely resemble soul or jazz anymore, the only reminders being Morris Jennings’ “I can’t be anything but funky” drums and the occassional blasts of fuzz guitar.

The approach is helped by pairing down the strings to an actual quartet (though I do hear a couple more violins every so often), providing an intimate chamber feel foreign to most albums earning the easy listening tag. The song selection is pretty brilliant: Gamble and Huff were popular (Jerry Butler, Archie Bell, Intruders, Neptune-era O’Jays) but not yet massively so, meaning that none of these songs sound overexposed.

Most soul fans may not even recognize the original artists on all of these. The star of this show is undoubtedly Cash McCall (surprising, considering Phil Upchurch is also present), who seems to derive great joy in repeatedly obliterating the gentle beauty of the complex string parts with searing fuzz guitar that is compressed to within an inch of its life. Cadet’s studio string project came to an end with all involved at the height of their power.