Album Review

Mid-60s Soul from Magnetic Ru-Jac Vocalist

Winfield Parker - Mr. Clean: Winfield Parker at Ru-Jac

Baltimore soul singer Winfield Parker walked a strange path to the microphone. Having broken into the business as a saxophonist, it was a gig as a carnival pitchman that seeded the idea to step out front. This led to his forming the Imperial Thrillers and catching the ear of Ru-Jac Records founder Rufus Mitchell. Mitchell owned a tightly woven web of local businesses that serviced his label, including a booking agency and a stagewear company, and quickly signed Parker to a solo contract in 1964. Backed by Ru-Jac’s house band, the Shyndells, Parker waxed the moody ballad “My Love For You,” a song he’d picked up supporting vocalist Little Sonny Warner, and backed it with the wonderfully ragged funk of “One of These Mornings.”

Parker’s realization of his leading man potential was evident from the first single, and he only got better with the pleading “When I’m Alone” and it’s dance-tempo B-side, “Rockin’ in the Barnyard.” His confidence continued to grow as he recorded more uptempo numbers in 1967, including the horns-and-organ rocker “I Love You Just the Same” and a trio of tunes written by soul legend, Arthur Conley. He continued to release singles on Ru-Jac through 1968, including the Wilson Pickett-influenced “She’s So Pretty” and “Funkey Party,” a more relaxed arrangement of “I Love You Just the Same,” and the James Brown styled two-part “Mr. Clean.”

Parker moved on to record for Arctic, Wand and Spring (where he scored with a cover of Edwin Starr’s “S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight),”), but returned to watch over the Ru-Jac catalog upon the passing of Rufus Mitchell. Omnivore’s twenty-three track set includes all nine of Parker’s Ru-Jac singles alongside six previously unissued bonus tracks. The vault material includes a true stereo recording of “Go Away Playgirl,” alternates of “My Love For You” and “My Love,” and an unreleased cover of the William Boskent-penned Sonny Warner B-side “Nothin’.” This is a superb collection of little known music from soul music’s glory years, augmented with photos, promotional ephemera, and liner notes by Kevin Coombe. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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