Surprisingly, there haven't been any compilations dedicated to soul duets from the 1960s, so the fine folks at RPM Records from the UK did a fine job rectifying that in 2000 with It Takes Two: 23 Prime Cuts of Classic 60s Soul and R&B Duets. Rather than spotlight a lot of the known soul duos like Sam & Dave or Ike & Tina Turner, RPM has decided to dig up a bunch of collectible duets and I have to say that was a great idea. Not only does this compilation hold many surprises, it will definitely please the curious.
It Takes Two runs through all kinds of styles of soul from the early 60s style to the psychedelic soul of the late 60s, so it never gets boring.
Things start out strong with the soul gospel drag of I Need Your Loving by Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford (which also appears on Kent's Birth of Soul, Vol. 3). another one which can be found on a Kent compilation (Birth of Soul, Vol. 2) is Spring by Birdlegs & Pauline which was originally released a year after I Need Your Loving in 1963 (both songs also reached into the R&B top 20).
A Lover's Holiday by Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson has that wonderful style that is best known by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell with more of southern grit. They also sound great on the rollicking Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries. Both songs have been collected on various collections like RPM's The Complete SSS International Recordings by Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson, Varese's The Very Best of Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson (you may also remember A Lover's Holiday from the Jesus' Son Original Soundtrack).
Inez & Charlie Foxx are best known for their song Hummingbird - but they are heard here on the irresistibleBaby Drop a Dime - a song I really fell in love with. I'm also a sucker for "court of love" styled songs even if they sound dated - so I liked their slower ballad I Stand Accused (both songs also appear on The Dynamo Duo on Kent.
Hank Ballard updated his song Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go (the original of which was featured along with another Hank Ballard and the Midnighters song called I'm Gonna Miss You in the 1980s movie The River's Edge) in a soulful duet with Betty Lavette in 1971. Hank is known for his doo-wop roots but here he and Betty Lavette let loose with Betty sounding like a Janis Joplin styled singer here.
A really nice surprise is the Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound glory of Kane & Abel's He Will Break Your Heart from 1967 which has been rumored to be The Righteous Brothers and really sounds like them in this fantastic lost side. It's also been compiled on the hard to find Red Bird Story and more recently on Phil's Spectre: A Wall Of Soundalikes.
Brooks & Jerry's playful I Got What It Takes, Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 are a great addition to any soul collection - and I don't think have ever been released on cd. Note that these two songs are listed as one track in the cd artwork but really appear as two separate tracks (thus making the cd have 24 tracks and not the listed 23).
We get to hear two contrasting sides from Barbara & Brenda - the upbeat side of If I'm Hurt You'll Feel the Pain which has a Marvin Gaye vibe (sung by girls) and Too Young to Be Fooled which slows down the pace in a mysterious way (and reminds me of the song Not Too Young to Get Married - neither of the Barbara & Brenda - songs have ever been compiled on cd).
A true collectible with an incredible groove is Lover and a Friend by Inez Cheatham & Eddie Bo. This song was featured in the Brainfreeze Breaks (and also It Takes 2: Essential Soul & Funk Duets on Harmless which might be another soul duets compilation worth checking out for those interested).
Betty Harris & Lee Dorsey are featured on both Love Lots of Lovin' (and upbeat soul tune) and Take Care of Our Love (a slower bluesy Ray Charles styled number) both of which appear on Sundazed's Ride Your Pony cd.
Big John Hamilton & Doris Allen do the funky psychedelic soul of Buddy Miles' Them Changes - a song I always loved by Jimi Hendrix and his Band of Gypsies works wonders as a soul duet.
The early Donny Hathaway duet with June Conquest called Thank You (not the Sam & Dave tune I believe) is a tune written by Donny Hathaway & Curtis Mayfield and released on Curtis Mayfield Curtom label so it definitely has that Curtis sound. Interestingly, June Conquest was supposed to duet with L.C. Cooke (Sam Cooke's brother) but he never showed up for the session so Donny Hathaway took his place.
There's only one time when I felt the compilation dragged when there were a few ballads back to back - Pledging My Love by Johnny McKinnis & Laura Greene has a Sam Cooke doing a duet sound (and has never been compiled on cd before). This leads right into another slow ballad version of Let It Be Me by Jerry Butler & Betty Everett - a song which never has done much for me. Jerry Butler & Betty Everett get things going again on the classic Ain't That Loving You Baby which has a great swinging soul to it.