The Great J.J. Jackson

by: J.J. Jackson

J.J. Jackson may be remembered for just one song, but that tune was a doozy -- "But It's Alright" was a tight, hard-grooving bit of Northern soul (so Northern it was actually recorded in England) with a swinging and swaggering vocal from Jackson, and it was catchy enough to become a major hit in 1966 and then hit the pop charts again in 1969. The Great J.J. Jackson was released after "But It's Alright" became a hit for the second time, and combines four songs from Jackson's 1966 debut album (imaginatively called But It's Alright) with eight newer tracks. Funkier and more psychedelic-influenced sounds may have been making their presence known at the end of the '60s, but Jackson was a man devoted to old-school soul, and the tone of this album is consistent despite the three years separating the two batches of material. Jackson's vocals suggests he learned more than a little from Otis Redding, and while his songs and the arrangements reflect the East Coast R&B sound (with some Motown around the edges), he wasn't afraid to add a good portion of Southern grit to his performances, and the results offer up the best of both worlds. Jackson was also a strong songwriter even if he never came up with another number quite as emphatic as "But It's Alright" (he even borrowed a bit of its melody for "Four Walls [Three Windows and Two Doors]"), and there are a few songs here that by all rights should have been hits, including "Too Late," "Try Me," and "Down But Not Out." For their 2009 reissue of The Great J.J. Jackson, Collectors' Choice Music included the eight songs from 1966's But It's Alright that didn't make the cut for the 1969 edition (among then "The Stones That I Throw," an early Robbie Robertson composition that predates the Hawks' evolution into the Band), effectively giving fans both albums built around Jackson's biggest hit. The original release was already a top-shelf soul session, and in expanded form this is arguably the definitive J.J. Jackson collection. ~ Mark Deming

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