Spencer Wiggins had the poor fortune of being a great soul singer in a place where and at a time when there were more than enough of those to go around -- namely Memphis, TN, during the mid-'60s when Stax Records was the biggest name in town, Willie Mitchell's Hi Records was on the rise, and Atlantic had practically made the town its second home. While Wiggins had a strong enough voice to have found a home at any of those labels, he was discovered by Quinton Claunch of Goldwax Records, and while Claunch was a talented songwriter and producer, his label didn't have the juice to push many of its acts to stardom (the tragic James Carr being a rare exception). Listening to The Goldwax Years, a collection of 22 numbers Wiggins cut for the label between 1966 and 1969, it's not hard to imagine that with better breaks Wiggins could have become one of the major soul stars of the era; his voice could swing from quiet pleading to full-on soul bellow without seeming excessive either way, his sense of phrasing and working the drama of a song was strong indeed, and the production on his sessions (usually by Claunch and Rudolph V. Russell) was terrific, able to conjure up shades of Big City cool when needed while usually offering a healthy portion of Deep South passion. And though not all the songs he had to work with were great ("He's Too Old" and "Soul City U.S.A." just don't work despite solid performances from Wiggins and the studio players), there are some really fine numbers here, including "Lonely Man," "That's How Much I Love You," "Poor Man's Son," and a gender-switch cover of the Aretha Franklin hit " "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)." Spencer Wiggins never became one of the leading players in Southern soul, but his recorded legacy supports the notion that there were an awful lot of great acts around if someone this good could slip through the cracks, and folks who dig vintage R&B owe it to themselves to give this underappreciated master a listen. ~ Mark Deming
Uncut (p.106) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[O]n 'Lonely Man' and 'I'm A Poor Man's Son', he pleads convincingly."
No Depression (p.100) - "On the tracks here, he can inhabit a deep blues, a churchy soul tune, and even country-tinged material."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.124) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[He] dealt in loneliness, unrequited and forbidden love."