Patty & the Emblems were the contemporaries of acts like the Sapphires, and just as distinctive. Pat Russell was a soul belter on a par with any woman who ever stepped up to a microphone for Motown (check out her performance on "What's the Use"), and the Emblems could harmonize as sweetly as the Miracles
. What's more, they had access to the songwriting talents of Leon Huff
, who got them their one big hit ("Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl") and brought them a lot of other worthy material ("Showdown," which sounds a bit like "Heat Wave"; "You Can't Get Away," "The Sound of Music Makes Me Want to Dance," which sounds a bit like "Dancing In the Streets"), usually with clever hooks. Listening to the 20 sides here, it's impossible to fathom why they didn't last. Even where the songs weren't exactly first-rate, the group's style and Russell's voice were capable of carrying the material and making something special out of it. Their sound was not only sweet but bold; Russell projected angst in portions ranging from a trickle to a torrent of emotion, as well as a sultriness that would manifest itself at the strangest, most striking times. The rest of the group were impeccable in their singing, and the backing band always has a great beat and a good, heavy sound -- even augmented with strings -- that should have made the group a natural for radio play and discotheques. The collection is awesome throughout, and there isn't a bad song here, with the very best, the soaring "I'm So Confused," saved for last. And the sound is superb, one of the best CDs that Collectables has ever issued.