Linda Jones was something else. A veritable human volcano of emotion, she never held back and always seemed like she was ready to burst and explode . Indeed, she's one of those singers that can stimulate a frisson of goose bumps on the back of your neck with one note.
Born in New Jersey and raised in the church, she possessed a formidable vocal talent and crossed over the tracks to the world of R&B in 1963 at the age of 19, cutting a version of Jackie Wilson's 'Lonely Teardrops' under the name Linda Lane for the Cub label. That early single features on this fabulous 24-track anthology, which is the first ever compilation to chart Jones' career from beginning to end and feature music from every record label that she recorded for.
After 'Lonely Teardrops' flopped, Jones journeyed to the Atlantic Records subsidiary, Atco, in the mid-'60s. She got there thanks to the help of songwriter and producer George Kerr, who became something of a mentor to the young singer. Two sides are featured here from her short Atco stint, of which 'Take The Boy Out Of The Country' is the best. Experiencing no joy hit-wise with Atco, Jones then pacted with Leiber & Stoller's Red Bird label, joining their Blue Cat subsidiary for the singles 'Fugitive From Love,' and the infectious 'You Hit Me Like T.N.T,' the latter framing Jones' melismatic voice with a Motown-esque arrangement. But the singles flopped and Jones then moved to Warner Bros subsidiary, Loma, and finally scored a hit with the song that became her signature tune, 'Hypnotised,' which climbed to #4 in the US R&B charts.
At last Linda Jones was getting the attention that her music deserved. Another Top 10 R&B smash followed - the aching, mid-tempo ballad, 'What've I Done To Make You Mad' - but the singles 'Give Love A Try' and the Motown-inspired 'My Heart Needs A Break' didn't fare as well. You'll find all those choice cuts here alongside the superb LP cut, 'A Last Minute Miracle' (a dance floor stomper that's a favourite of the Northern Soul scene).
Though she had tasted chart success at Loma, Warner Bros decided to close the label down as it pursued the rock music dollar and the singer was left looking for a new deal, which her producer, Kerr, found at Gamble & Huff's Chess-distributed Neptune label in 1969. The compilation features four of her Neptune-released songs, including the double-sided chart entry, 'That's When I'll Stop Loving You' and the singer's take on the O'Jays' 'I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow.' Neptune went bust after a year, which led Jones to seek sanctuary at Joe Robinson's New Jersey-based All Platinum label, where she recorded for its Turbo imprint. 'Stay With Me' was her first chart entry for her new label but she cracked the R&B Top 20 with her epic, gospel-inflected deconstruction of the Impressions' 'Your Precious Love' complete with spoken monologue.
With its wailing, cathartic, emotionally-draining vocal performance, the song encapsulates the power, passion and uniqueness of Linda Jones. She was a phenomenal vocalist and deserved some of the accolades that were heaped on her more famous contemporaries, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight. Sadly, though, Linda Jones' premature death (she died aged 28 after going into a diabetes-related coma) means that her career has been reduced to nothing more substantial than a brief footnote in soul music history. But the magnificent music on this compilation shows us that her talent deserved much more.