February 04, 1992
Rhythm & Blues, Philly Soul, Soul, Northern Soul, Pop-Soul, Chicago Soul, Uptown Soul

Album Review

Iceman: The Mercury Years compiles 44 tracks from the talented Butler's mostly successful 1965-1974 stint at the label. Despite his hits and classics with the label, he didn't start off with gangbusters there. He did steady himself somewhat with "I Dig You Baby" and "Mr. Dream Merchant." Just as his fortunes seemed to be drifting downward, Butler rebounded by 1967. Iceman: The Mercury Years makes no bones about its unabashed emphasis on Butler's work with Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell. Not surprisingly, the tracks included prove the point. The big hits -- including "Only the Strong Survive," "Hey, Western Union Man," and "A Brand New Me" -- lose nothing in a greatest-hits format. Still, some of the lesser-known songs from Ice on Ice and The Iceman Cometh certainly weren't the best choice for this compilation. Away from Gamble & Huff and back in Chicago, Butler's early-'70s work was typified by the strong and dramatic sounds of the area. Interestingly enough, this set gets its most interesting and instructive moments centering on Butler's Mercury decline. Songs like "Special Memory," "How Did We Lose It," and "If It's Real" aren't great, but certainly retain their strength among the better-known tracks. While his 1973 hit duet, "Ain't Understanding Mellow," is included, other great tracks of the period, like "That's the Way It Was (That's the Way It Is)" and his great cover of Carole King's "So Far Away," didn't make it here. All in all, Iceman: The Mercury Years does offer great songs, but the original albums might be more sufficient.
Jason Elias, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Love (Oh, How Sweet It Is)
  2. Loneliness
  3. Alfie
  4. The Right Track [#]
  5. You Make Me Feel Like Someone
  6. I Dig You Baby
  7. You Walked Into My Life
  8. (Nobody Ever Loved Anybody) The Way I Love You
  9. You Don't Know What You Got Until You Lose It
  10. Mr. Dream Merchant
  11. I've Been Loving You Too Long
  12. Lost
  13. Beside You
  14. Never Give You Up
  15. Hey, Western Union Man
  16. Can't Forget About You, Baby
  17. Are You Happy
  18. Only the Strong Survive
  19. Moody Woman
  20. Go Away and Find Yourself
  21. Only the Strong Survive [Stronger Version][Alternate Take]
  22. A Brand New Me
  23. What's the Use of Breaking Up?
  24. Don't Let Love Hang You Up
  25. I Forgot to Remember
  26. Got to See If I Can't Get Mommy (To Come Back Home)
  27. I Could Write a Book
  28. Life's Unfortunate Sons
  29. Where Are You Goin'?
  30. Special Memory
  31. You Just Can't Win (By Making the Same Mistake)
  32. How Did We Lose It
  33. If It's Real What I Feel
  34. Walk Easy My Son
  35. Ain't Understanding Mellow
  36. Windy City Soul
  37. Radio Promo
  38. One Night Affair
  39. I Only Have Eyes for You
  40. (They Long to Be) Close to You
  41. Can't Understand It
  42. Power of Love
  43. Memories Don't Leave Like People Do
  44. For Your Precious Love [Live][*]