RATING: 5 STARS
The Tony Joe White mother lode has arrived. Warner Archives was on the ball in the ‘90s with a round of reissues for his three seminal early albums-Black and White, …Continued, and Tony Joe-originally released on Nashville’s hip alternative label, Monument Records. And now, Swamp Music goes above and beyond by compiling all three (and a fourth “bonus” disc) into a box set that’s highlighted by 35 prime, unreleased tracks and a handful of alternate versions. White was a leading figure in the undercurrent of pre-Outlaw movement of singer/songwriters that included Kris Kristofferson, Larry Jon Wilson, Chris Gantry and others. There’s an earthy, unaffected quality about the songs written by Monument artists and their production values. Besides possessing pure talent as a writer, White’s originality also lay in his gruff, blues-fueled voice, and his ability to adapt it to whatever style tickled his fancy-be it country, pop, funk, psychedelic, soul or blues. Remarkably, many of the unreleased tracks go toe-to-toe with the album cuts; there are plenty of hidden gems in here-White originals but also a plethora of songs by treasures writers like Joe South, Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Bobbie Gentry, Joe Tex, Wayne Carson and others. This unabridged volume is essential for both the seasoned fan and any listener curious about the funkier, soul-drenched side of Music City in the late ‘60s and ‘70s.