wasn't a great soul singer and the Ram Jam Band
weren't a spectacular soul group. They didn't do the greatest songs and the production isn't very imaginative. What Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band
had going for them was energy. Tracks like "Que Sera Sera" and "She Shot a Hole in My Soul" succeed because of the sheer amount of sweat that Washington
sheds as he pushes his band along in a whirlwind of dancefloor-filling mania. This two-disc set covers all the group's studio records of the 1960s, the first collecting singles and the second the entire Shake a Tail Feather Baby!
record plus eight previously unissued bonus tracks. Most of the best tracks are up-tempo groovers. "Michael (The Lover)" is a highlight with its singsong melody, "Different Strokes" is a hard and funky jam finding Washington
in fine tonsil-shredding voice, and "Water" is a fine slice of Stax-sounding soul. A few of the tracks -- including the strange "Would You Believe (My Little Chickadee)" and the surprisingly soulful take on "Que Sera Sera" -- are almost bubblegum soul, with chugging rhythms and a lighthearted delivery. The ballads aren't very successful, as Washington
's somewhat rigid voice can't carry a tune with a slow tempo; he needs the Ram Jam Band
clattering away behind him. His inept take on "Tell It Like It Is" is the low point of the collection. For some strange reason, Castle includes six songs from the 1970s. Apart from the lame supper-club soul of "Each and Every Part of You," the tracks are OK. The second disc is less successful than the first. The Shake a Tail Feather
album is made up mostly of derivative covers of soul standards ("Knock on Wood," "I'm Your Puppet," "Three Time Loser") and several songs from the first disc are repeated. Of more interest to Washington
fans are the previously unissued tracks that close the disc. There are tracks that sound like nothing else Washington
recorded: the dramatic, Four Tops
-influenced "If This Is Love (I'd Rather Be Lonely)"; "Careful Not to Break the Spell," a psychedelic country-folk soul tune replete with fuzztone guitar and female backup singers straight off a Glen Campbell
record; the ska instrumental "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman"; the pedal steel-driven country bubblegum tunes "Boomerang" and "She's All I've Got"; and the reggae-influenced cornball novelty number "Summer Fever." While the collection is a vital piece of the Geno Washington
story that should be in every fanatic's collection, casual fans and soul aficionados would be much better served by a single-disc collection that combines the best of Washington
's studio work and the best of his incendiary live albums. Unfortunately, such a disc doesn't exist.