V.A. - The Buddah Box (1993)
This remarkable three-CD box set recaps the biggest hits spawned by the Buddah record label and its distributed labels (Kama Sutra, Team, Pavilion, Hot Wax, Sussex, and Curtom). While the Buddah label was best known for its role in the 1967-1970 bubblegum genre and for giving rise to one surprise hit after another, it also was responsible for more substantive work from such acts as Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight & the Pips, early Captain Beefheart, and Charlie Daniels. The latter two are unfortunately not represented in this collection; even so, the sheer breadth of material covered here is astonishing. Unlike better-known labels of the period like Motown, Stax, and Philles, there is no unifying sonic trait in the artists under the Buddah umbrella. Consequently, listening to the entire collection in one sitting is a schizophrenic endeavor in its bouncing from bubblegum (1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express, et al.) to Jesus-freakdom (Ocean's "Put Your Hand in the Hand," the Edwin Hawkins Singers' "Oh Happy Day") to '70s soul balladry (the elegant "Dream Merchant" from New Birth and "You Are My Starship" by Norman Connors) to disco oddities (Andrea True Connection's "More, More, More," the bizarre "Wide Receiver" by Michael Henderson). Despite the stylistic inconsistency, The Buddah Box is a worthwhile investment for music collectors, as its liner notes tell a fascinating story of the label's evolution, and there are a number of hard to find gems represented. It might have benefited from a few more obscurities - the collection sticks to Top 40 hits wherever it can - but it makes a good argument that the story of a trash-singles label can be just as interesting, and the tunes nearly as compelling, as that of the more respected labels of the '60s and '70s.
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