Percy Sledge scored a major hit in 1966 with his heartfelt reading of the country- soul ballad “When A Man Loves A Woman,” which spent two months on the Top 10, becoming an iconic song on the Big Chill generation’s playlist. But he was no one-hit wonder. Sledge, now 69, had three Top 10 R&B hits—“It Tears Me Up,” “Warm and Tender,” and “It’s All Wrong But It’s Alright”—and continued throughout the Golden Age of Soul and beyond to release exceptionally strong work that rivaled such peers as William Bell, Sam and Dave, and Johnnie Taylor.
The result, as heard on this superb four-CD collection of 104 tracks (five previously unreleased) recorded from 1966 to 1974 on Atlantic-affiliated labels, is a legacy of solid soul from the King of Country Soul. There are familiar cover songs—“You’re Pouring Water on a Drowning Man,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” and “Try a Little Tenderness,” for examples—all getting the crooner’s signature stamp. Rare releases include songs recorded on obscure albums in South Africa (from a 17-night sold-out concert tour), the Netherlands, and Germany, and even a pair of Christmas singles.