The Definitive Impressions The Impressions


60s Soul
Catalogue Id:

... The Impressions' Big Sixteen". I can still remember the first copy I ever saw, hanging in the window of "The Melody Inn" - the hippest record shop in Stanford-Le-Hope, Essex and, luckily for me, my local record shop. It was in a drop-down strip of plastic that also housed an import copy of James Brown's Try Me album, Motown Magic and The Late, Fantastically Great Elmore James. All four were second-hand, which showed an unbelievable lack of taste on the previous owner's part. I later found out from the young, ultra-aware shop proprietor Martin Hubbard - my original musical mentor, and the man who later gave me my first job in the record business - that they belonged to an ex-mod called Ron, who'd 'grown up' and traded them in for Procol Harum and Grateful Dead albums, having declared to himself that "Soul was sh*t". Silly fella..."

For weeks, Big Sixteen and the others blazed brazenly from the Melody Inn's window, almost daring me to buy them all. Like most kids on a limited budget, I could ill afford to even think about that, as I barely made enough money from various paper rounds, shelf-filling and eventually, a Saturday job at the 'Inn', to pay for all of the singles I wanted to buy, let alone long players (even second-hand ones!).

The weekend before my 14th birthday, it was still there in the window. Someone had 'tried' JB, and someone else was experiencing the 'Magic' of Motown. But Elmore was still inexplicably up for grabs - and so was Big Sixteen. With birthday money looming large, I knew it would be mine within the week...

...Inevitably, it wasn't. Someone came in on the Saturday and bought it. I'd never asked Martin to save it, because I was convinced that everybody in my home town knew that I was going to buy it as soon as I had the money. My disappointment had to be assuaged by a just-arrived copy of The Rhythm Of Major Lance, which Martin recommended as being a good 'consolation prize', from the same source and was probably part-exchanged for Piper At the Gates Of Dawn", "Surrealistic Pillow" or something similar - as Big Sixteen. Nice make-do if you can get it, of course.

...I still have that copy of TROML. Sadly, by the time I was working for a living and could afford to buy albums on a regular basis, Big Sixteen had been deleted. Down the years I managed to get every one of its fantastic tracks on other albums and/or singles, but I never did own that album, with its simple yet memorable cover image and its content of a dozen and four of the greatest records ever made. At least, I didn't until it eventually added another 12 tracks and re-emerged triumphantly, in 1988 and in CD form, as Kent's Definitive Impressions. This was the first compact disc to offer an exhaustive overview of the Impressions' superlative ABC-Paramount recordings. And, despite several others that have followed in its wake, it's still the only one that lives up to its title from beginning to end...

...Now, after a very lucky (for us) 13 years as a mainstay of the Kent catalogue, Definitive Impressions has been given its equivalent of a long service award, via a spruce-up that will gladden the hearts of old soul boys everywhere. We've obviously made no changes to the music - with a track listing like it has, how could there be any need for changes? - but it's been given a new packaging, with a newly-written appreciation of the Imps by yours truly plus a wealth of record labels and rare pix/ephemera for your visual pleasure. Best of all, it now boasts a front cover that pays deserving and respectful homage to Big Sixteen, by using that same cover shot on that unmistakable pale blue background. There can be few more reassuring and welcoming sights in any record collection than this...

Even those with only a passing interest in soul music would have to agree that Definitive Impressions is a cornerstone to any serious collection of soul music. The proof, should you need any, is in the tracklisting - here you'll find Gypsy Woman, I've Been Trying, Keep On Pushing, You've Been Cheating, We're A Winner, I'm So Proud and People Get Ready, to name but a few of its unchallenged contenders for any musical Hall Of Fame. These, and the other 22 sumptuous, soulful songs featured have few equals in the annals of American music. There can be no questions about this that a quick scan of the remaining titles won't answer.

There are many who will gladly tell you that the exquisite harmonies of Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash make them the finest soul group of all time, I would be unwilling and unable to oppose any such assertion, and I'm willing to bet that even Ron - who, you'll remember, we already met at the top of this piece - has long since outgrown his psych leanings and would once again agree with me. Here, then, are two dozen and four of the greatest recordings made by anyone, anytime and anywhere - Definitive and, unquestionably, Impressive.

By Tony Rounce"


Track listing


Side 1

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If you don't already own an Impressions collection, you could not do better than this one. It's total, complete class.

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