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Old Friend
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Performer Notes
  • Liner Note Author: Tony Rounce.
  • George Jackson never quite made it as a performer, despite cutting a handful of fine soul singles for various labels in the '60s and '70s. Instead, Jackson found success as a songwriter, penning hits for the likes of Wilson Pickett ("A Man and a Half"), Clarence Carter ("Too Weak to Fight"), Candi Staton ("Six Nights and a Day"), Z.Z. Hill ("Down Home Blues"), Bob Seger ("Old Time Rock and Roll"), and even the Osmonds ("One Bad Apple"). Wolf Stephenson, who worked with Jackson at Malaco Records, once said of him, "George had hooks coming out of his ears. They weren't all hits, but I never heard him write a bad song." Anyone who wants practical evidence of that statement will find plenty of proof on Old Friend: The Fame Recordings, Vol. 3, a collection of 23 tunes (all but two unreleased) Jackson cut during his time as a staff songwriter at Fame Records from the mid-'60s to the early '70s, with one home-recorded demo closing the disc. Nearly every song on this set is a gem, and given that most of these recordings were intended to be publishing demos, it's hard to believe that someone didn't score a hit with "Heart on a String," "You Got to Make a Decision," "It's Up to His Woman," or "Two Legs and a Red Dress," among others, and with a handful of Muscle Shoals' best studio cats backing him up, these performances are full-bodied and full of solid grooves throughout, even when they appear to have been captured on the run. Just as importantly, Jackson was a passionate vocalist with a solid voice and a knack for the emotional spectrum of songs about love gone wrong (or occasionally love gone right), and there are plenty of acts who enjoyed long and successful careers with performances less immediately impressive than these. It might be going a bit far to call George Jackson a lost hero of Southern soul, but Old Friend: The Fame Recordings, Vol. 3 suggests that with better luck, he could have been as big as a singer as he was as a composer, and fans of the golden age of R&B will get some serious kicks from this music. ~ Mark Deming
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