Dan Greer  “Beale Street Soul Man”  (Kent CDKEND 396)

By Pete Nickols

Thanks To You Girl; Shell Of A Man; She’s Not Mama’s Little Girl Anymore; Hook Line And Sinker; You’re Slipping Away; Take A Look At Yourself; You Can’t Prove That; Peace & Love; Hell Paso (Part 1); Voodoo Woman; Bless You; I’m A Lucky Guy; How Does It Feel; It Hurts To Lose At Love; What Good Is A Man; Any Moment Now; Only The Beginning; Natural Reaction; Mistaken Identity; When Will It All End; Share; So Good To Be Young.

Dan GreerAs a southern soul singer-songwriter, Dan Greer doesn’t quite claim a position in the same major league as, say, George Jackson or George Soule but he was certainly a significant player on the late-60’s and 70’s Memphis music scene and, of course, early on, he wrote with George Jackson himself for Goldwax, co-penning songs with him for the likes of The Ovations, James Carr and Spencer Wiggins and cutting a single with Jackson as the Greer in the George & Greer duo.

After Dan Penn left Fame for American, it was almost a toss-up as to whether it would be Greer or Jackson who would initially fill the void for studio-owner Rick Hall but it was Jackson who won out, although, after a brief flirtation with Ode, Greer himself would later make his mark as a solo singer-songwriter primarily for Gene Lucchesi’s “Sounds Of Memphis” concern, and the tracks on this Kent CD stem from his time with that company.

As with Penn and Jackson, it wasn’t just soul-music which his studio-owner encouraged Greer to write because country-pop and rock was developing strongly ‘down south’ as the seventies took over from the sixties. Therefore, understandably, not all the promos and released songs on this 22-tracker are in the pure-soul mode.

The first three tracks are what I would term listenable, easy-on-the-ear, well-sung pop-soul, albeit with good, telling lyrics from Dan. Then comes “Hook Line And Sinker” which is an outstanding piece of foot-tapping swampy southern-soul, cut so well by Lucchesi’s femme group The Minits – is that them perhaps backing up Dan on this fine demo? In somewhat similar swampy vein is the very good released MGM side “Hell Paso (Part 1)” which also boasts some great organ work towards its end.

Strong storyline country-soul features in “”You’re Slipping Away”, “Take A Look At Yourself”, “You Can’t Prove That”, “How Does It Feel” and “Share”, with several of these songs having a ‘feel’ and ‘sound’ somewhat reminiscent of Swamp Dogg’s output from this era. I especially like the aforementioned “You Can’t Prove That”, which has a lovely haunting quality.

A tad too pop at the expense of soul to my ears are “”Peace & Love”, “Bless You”, “I’m A Lucky Guy” “Only The Beginning”, “Natural Reaction” and “Mistaken Identity”, while “Voodoo Woman” is a bit messy and not potent or telling enough for a song of its title.

However, “It Hurts To Lose At Love” and “Any Moment Now” are nice slow-paced emotive pieces of what one might term melodic ‘sweet-deep’ soul while “What Good Is A Man” starts with an extended ‘rap’ but certainly has some interesting lyrics, suggesting that a man even with plenty of faults is better for a woman than no man at all – just the sort of lyric that puts the song in its time-frame, as such sentiments would probably not be considered appropriate today.

“When Will It All End” is a rather messy, if strongly-worded, message-song while the final track on offer, “So Good To Be Young” is a happy-sounding piece of Sam Cooke-ish pop-soul, also with some ‘message’ lyrics added in for good measure.

Kent must be credited for putting together a compilation of work by this significant singer-songwriter and much of it is very listenable. However, some track-skipping by ‘soul-only’ fans will doubtless take place after an initial full play-through, and certainly I could not agree with the blurb on the back of the CD sleeve which is decidedly over-ambitious in describing the contents as "22 lost Southern Soul masterpieces".