There have been several Georgie Fame compilations over the past decade, but it is this one on Raven that boils all of it down to the essence of his contribution to the Brit R&B beat-crazy scene of the 1960s and early ’70s. Here are the singles, the hits, the near misses, and the worthy album cuts compiled to show the audacity, imagination, and wild, swinging toughness of Fame. Fame’s earliest influences were Fats Domino and Little Richard, but by the time he cut his first album, Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo, live at Great Britain’s notorious jazz club, he was deeply under the sway of Mose Allison’s Back Country Suite. And does that ever come across here. Fame was raw, in the moment, and always presenting his tracks with a slightly out of control feel. The 28 cuts here range from the jumping R&B of “Yeh Yeh” and Allison’s classic “Work Song” to his stellar read of Titus Turner’s “Get On the Right Track,” a smoky version of Milt Jackson’s “Bluesology,” a deeply soulful take on the John Mayall/Jon Mark groover “Something,” and the catchy pop ditty “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde,” which reached number seven on the American charts. (It didn’t hurt that the tune came out at the same time as the infamous movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.) All of these are in the first half of the set and recorded before 1967! But Fame could croon, too, as evidenced by this beautiful version of Little Willie John’s “Need Your Love So Bad,” with strings. The camped-up R&B move on Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son” takes Allison’s version a step further, his horn-heavy rolling stroll on Bob Dylan’s “Down Along the Cove,” with a female backing chorus, completely reinvents the tune, and his jazzed-up New Orleans groove consciousness does the same on “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.”
In all, this is an indispensable collection for anyone seeking to get acquainted with Fame outside of his work with Van Morrison or interested in the finger-poppin’ beat madness of swinging London in the ’60s.