Reviews are written by Yoni unless otherwise stated.
Lately I haven't been able to do many full scale reviews, so please refer to the CD release notes section for an update on what's being released on the real soul side.
various artists - Shreveport Southern Soul: The Murco Story - Kent (UK)
The re-issue revolution reaches Murco , a small Shreveport record label with quite a reputation among 60's soul fans. Although the label is not one of the ultra obscure ones, none of its releases ever got into the Billboard R&B charts. Not even Eddy Giles's "Losin' Boy", track number one on this compilation, that has by now become a true 60's soul classic (incidentally it did make the lower reaches of the Cashbox charts). The song is strikingly simple, (just two chords for most of the song's duration), yet Eddy delivers the somewhat plain lyrics very soulfully, accompanied by a very persistent single tenor sax. Compiler John Ridley points out on his (excellent as usual) liner notes that there's a contrast between the lively rhythm and approach and the self-pity of the lyric; well maybe there's a trend there, because on another Eddy Giles Murco track, "Happy man", the music is deep soul all the way, of the type that is usually associated lyrically with heartbreak and misery, yet the lyrics on this one are all about the joys of Eddy's newly found love. Of course happy ballads are not that rare in soul music. Whenever I hear such a track, Sam and Dave's magical "I've got everything I need" comes to mind. Another Eddy Giles gem, probably my favourite by him, is also included here, although it was not released on Murco but leased to Silver Fox: " So deep in love " (ex Soul of the Net Living Room Chart entry) and on this one there's no cotrast, as both the mood and the lyrics are jubilant from the first note of the wailing sax intro to the last seconds of the ad-lib. There are four more tracks by Eddy, all of them worthwhile: a solid version of "That's how strong my love is", with an extra few seconds on the ad lib as compared with the original Silver Fox release (other side of "So deep in love"); "While I'm away (baby keep the faith)", a Vietnam ballad, albeit the lyrics of which are a bit too patriotic for my tastes; the slow-funky "Ain't gonna worry no more", and the bluesy "Love with a feeling".
The second most featured artist on this set is Dori Grayson, whose six tracks for Murco and Peermont, (the latter a subsequent label owned by Murco main man Dee Marais), are all included. Dori has a powerful voice, and her tracks are quite consistently pleasant. My favourite by her is "Got nobody to love" , a 3/4 paced ballad with some uptown touches; Murco's style was not strictly southern, and this is even more evident in another nice Dori Grayson, "I can fix that for you"; also, upon listening to all these Murco recordings and looking at the release dates, I discovered a tendency for many of them to sound a bit dated for their time; e.g. for both tracks (two sides of Murco 1036) by Abe & Marion Ester and The Casanovas, if I hadn't seen the 1967 release date, I would have guessed that they were recorded in 1963 (and I usually take pride in guessing years of releases with a high degree of success). Maybe this was the reason for Dee Marais's relative lack of success? Having said that, both these Abe and Marion tracks are gorgeous, especially "Let me be the fool", a flowing, early-60's styled ballad with naively moving lyrics. "Sweet lovin' man" on the other hand sounds like a Stax record in its uptempo prime, i.e. 66/67 Stax, yet it was released in 1970.
Reuben Bell was the artist that best survived the demise of Murco, continuing his active music career throughout the 70's and early 80's; but his Murco sides are excellent, especially "Another day lost", the humble contribution to this CD by yours truly (as it was not intended to be included at first). A mid paced group sound (backed by the Casanovas), with a driving beat, and superb interplay between the group harmonies and the soulful lead singing from Mr. Bell. As with several other Murco tracks, this could have recorded in DC, Philadelphia or in New York, rather than Shreveport. Like many other Murco tracks, this track also features a short tenor sax solo. The uptempo "Action speaks louder than words" is also a good big city group sound (althought credited to reuben Bell alone).
Some other gems on this album: " A sad sad song " by Charles Crawford (another former Living Room Chart entry of mine), with its poignant rap intro, and clear Otis overtones (and this was 1973 - again showing Marais to be somewhat uncontemporary , but I'm not complaining). This one was released on Hy-Sign, another Dee Marais project in the early 70's.
Marion Ester contributes a classic soul ballad (without Abraham/Abe nor the Casanovas this time): 1968's "Not guilty". The relatively fast 6/8 tempo and the piano triplets are reminiscent of the earlier Stax ballads e.g. by Carla Thomas or William Bell.
Ann Alford's 1972 release "If it ain't one thing it's another" is a sort of bluesy-funky-ballad, which is quite impressive in its credible testimony about the misery of poverty. There is also one previosuy unreleased track (unless you count the last few seconds on "That's how strong my love is" by Eddy Giles) : Everyday (pt.1) by Abraham and the Casanovas. A melancholy ballad, probably from the early 70's, that starts off with a somewhat corny spoken intro, but gets better later on.
Obviously this CD, although not strictly a deep soul compilation, does focus on slower, deeper tracks and not on the uptempo side of things. Hopefully the faster, funkier aspects of Murco and its related labels will be covered by a subsequent compilation. Two of the tracks to be included on such a compilation should be Eddie Giles's "Music" (featured on my Living Room Top 40 a while back), a tribute to uptempo soul, and Abraham and the Casanovas "The Kangaroo Pt. 2", a semi-instrumental early funk gem.
All in all, this is an excellent compilation; we soul fans should feel lucky to be living in a time where so much lost soul music is being re-released. This excellently packaged, well compiled and written CD, with its superior sound (stereo on many of the tracks), is one of the best examples yet of this re-release trend.
various artists - When a man cries - Kent (UK)
In its vinyl days, Kent released two superb deep soul compilations drawing on the Wand/Scepter/Musicor/Dynamo labels: The Soul of a Man, and Down to My Last Heartbreak. This long awaited CD focuses on the same source of material, hence some overlaps with the aforementioned LP's, but contains enough hitherto not re-released material (as well as one previously unreleased track) to justify its purchase by most deep soul fans.
Essentially this compilation represents the southern, deep soul side of the New York group of labels. These labels are often associated with uptown soul. However, probably following Atlantic's success with leasing soul recording from the south, then actively recording its artists there, several northern USA, big city soul record companies such as Wand followed suit. Most of the tracks on this CD are part of that late 60's trend of leasing recordings made at the studios of the south, while a minority of the tracks were recorded in New York, but these, too feature a deep "southern" sound.
The opening track is Joe Wilson's excellent 1971 ballad, "When a man cries", recorded at the Malaco studios, in Jackson Mississippi. The cleverly arranged (by its writer Wardell Quezergue), midtempo "Let a broken heart come in", which was Wilson's follow-up 45 is also included; both have never been re-released as far as I know.
Of the tracks that have appeared on the two 80's Kent LP's, the most notable are the Masqueraders two Memphis recorded ballads led by Lee Jones, "Let's face facts" and "Sweet lovin woman", both from 1967, (preceding their biggest hit, "I ain't got to love nobody else", not included here as it gained hit status on the independent Memphis imprint of American Studios, AGP); two ultra-deep, extra slow ballads from Marvin Preyer: his version of "What can I call my own" and "Don't stop lovin' me this time"; both must have been recorded at the same recording session, as their arrangements are very similar, featuring the same wonderful appreggio guitar and exquisite horn backings. Personally I prefer "What can I call my own", as I find the lyrics more interesting and sincere.
Judy Clay's "He's the kind of guy" was not recorded in the south yet its sound predicts her later Stax/Volt southern deep soul sides, plus some nice bells that add a Christmas touch, in line with its release date of late 1966.
Another favourite of mine re-released on this set is Billy Thompson's flowing ballad "Kiss tomorrow goodbye".
Johnny Moore's poignant Falling in love again was lifted from the Wand vaults for the "Down to the last heartbreak" Kent LP, and is now released on CD for the first time.
Jackie Moore's outstanding "Loser again" originally released on Wand in 1969 is IMO better than her subsequent Atlantic successes.
Among the tracks that have not been previously released on the Kent vinyl LP's, are "I'm down to my last heartbreak" by Kenny Ballard and the Fabulous Soul Brothers, a 1967 remake of Wilson Pickett's 1963 hit; while Pickett's vocals remain unparalleled, this somewhat slower and superbly arranged version is certainly worthwhile. Charlie Whitehead contributes two tracks: a nice midtempo version of Jimmy Holidays's How can I forget, and the uptempo The story of Mr. Pitiful, a spin-off Otis Redding's classic, albeit credited here to Jerry Williams Jr. aka Swamp Dogg. I guess "Pitiful" is considered a ballad due to its lyrics, rather than its musical format, hence its inclusion in Otis's "Sings Soul Ballads" album, and now this version on another ballad oriented album.
The rather mellow version of "It hurts so good" by Katie Love and the Four Shades of Black precedes Millie Jackson's hit version (yet it's not the original, which according to the compiler John Ridley's notes was by Susie Rainey). "You and you alone" by Lee Mitchell is my favourite "newie" of this set, a quality deep soul track from 1973, recorded in Alabama at the Sounds of Birmingham studios. Johnny Copeland gritty vocals are featured on the bluesy 1966 ballad "You're gonna reap just what you sow", produced by legendary Texan producer, Huey Meaux. Miami artist and producer Clarence Reid's 1965 track "Somebody will" sounds surprisingly like a Joe Tex record, but then the Buddy Killen production credits provide an explanation for the similarity to Tex.
All in all, this is definitely one of the best deep soul collections ever to be issued on CD.
Bill Haney's Atlanta Southern Soul Brotherhood Volume 2 - Kent (UK)
Bill Haney's operation was based in Atlanta. Some of his productions were released on his own Chant label, while other were leased to various other record companies, most interestingly perhaps, the two sides, included here, of his production on Dino & Doc that were released on Volt, a the Stax subsidiary, that at the time rarely leased outside material.
The Chant records were not very successful commercially, and hence released quantities were quite small, making most of the records hard to find today. Interest in the label has led to re-issues in the 90's, starting with David Porter's vinyl compilation Goode Ole Soul on his Howzat label in 1993, and continuing with the recent Kent series, of which this is the sequel to 1998's volume 1.
While I haven't been very impressed with the overall quality of Haney's work, he did produce s few gems and it's good to see them re-released on CD in excellent sound quality. For one, Jerry Woorard's shimmering rendition of "Something I ain't never had" (1967) is a blue-eyed soul masterpiece, and was actually one of the first records to be mentioned on the Soul of the Net, on a list I made of my favourite non-black soul vocal performances on record.
Other notable inclusions on this set: Milton Marlin's Wasting my life loving you; although this ballad sounds a little dated for its 1965 recording date, there's a subtle soulfulness about it, with the melodious (and well tuned!) sax harmonies in the background adding to its attractiveness. On the upbeat side, Aching all over by Gary Allen nicely revives Otis Redding's singing style, three years after Redding's death (1970). From the same year we also have Miss Jackson's daughter by Randolph Walker, a classic slab of 60's funk, again possibly sounding somewhat old fashioned to current record buyers by the time it was released. Is this the hint to Haney's lack of success - being just a little behind the times? Randolph Walker was Haney's top act, however I'm not too impressed by his vocal qualities. Personally I prefer other artists on Chant's roster like Joe Graham, who provides one of the best of the nine previously unreleased tracks on this CD, "I'm a happy man". Obviously a 70's recording, it flows along very pleasantly. Another good previously unreleased track is Jarvis Jackson's You got love, a mid-pacer that sounds a little uptown-ish, and may have some northern soul appeal. One thing Haney did not have, is a identifiable sound; while one can say this shows he was versatile, another way to see it is that he never found his niche within the soul world.
Besides the handful of gems, there are other tracks which I could live without. One of them is Jarvis Jackson's recording "My love is true". Musically it follows the harmonic sequence of Little Willie John's classic "Let them talk"; lyrically, it replaces the original's poetic qualities (remember "Idle gossip comes from the devil's workshop"?) with the very bland "my love is a true love and I love you so; I will love you forever and I'll love you till the day I die"; a previously unreleased track that should have stayed in the can. Not that it sounds so bad, it doesn't; but that thin line between inspiration and mediocrity should be well kept by us soul fans, or else we are bound to drown in a sea of countless recordings that just sound like the real thing, but are not. Jarvis Jackson is an excellent singer, and he is not to blame, as this may well have been an unfinished idea not destined to see the light of day.
All in all, if you like southern soul of the 60's and early 70's and don't own the best of Bill Haney's 45's or the Howzat compilation, buying this CD is not a bad idea at all. You get a handful of gems and plenty of tracks that might yet grow on you in time. The unreleased material, even if not always top-notch, is as always an added value in a retrospective compilation.
various artists - At The Club - Kent (UK) CDKEND 168
various artists - Still Paying Our Dues - Kent (UK) CDKEND 169
various artists - Where It's At - Kent (UK) CDKEND 173
A deal by Ace-Kent to license Atlantic/Atco material, including of course pre-1968 Stax/Volt material, has resulted in these three CD's, and hopefully many more to come. This batch of CD's is dedicated to the uptempo/dance side of soul, each CD representing a different aspect of it from a UK point of view:
At The Club covers the earliest UK scene, the mod-oriented clubs where uptempo southern soul such as "Looking for a fox" (Clarence Carter), "Chain of fools" (the original Don Covay version later covered by Aretha), and "Something good" (Carla Thomas), were played side by side with what were to be the seeds for the northern soul sound, i.e. more uptown, mellow sounds like Willie Tee's classic "Walking up a one way street" (albeit cut down south in New Orleans), and "Just one look" (Doris Troy). Other tracks worthy of note are the Mar Key's seminal "Last night", the Satellite (pre-Stax) 1961 recording that defined the uptempo horn-led sound that ruled southern soul for most of the 60's; and "Keep lookin'" one of Solomon Burke's excellent but not too numerous uptempo offerings. However, many of the tracks on this volume have been reissued on CD before, so if you are a fan of Stax/Atlantic you may not need to buy this CD.
Still Paying Our Dues, the second in this series, covers the straight northern soul side of Atlantic; Although Atlantic was in many ways the opposite of Motown, its huge catalogue does contain numerous releases that reflect the Detroit beat that was to become the archetype for the northern soul record. Not surprisingly, many of the tracks on this volume are lease jobs, not recorded at the Atlantic studios or in the Stax studios affiliated with Atlantic. Most notably Darrell Banks's "Angel baby": it sounds so Detroit simply because it was cut in Detroit. Archie Bell & the Drells' magnificently arranged "Here I go again" was recorded in Philadelphia with Gamble Huff and McCoy involved. There are however southern recordings untypically leaning towards the big city sounds, such as the Astors' Classic "Candy", recorded at Stax but having the ingredients to make it a big sound on Northern Soul dancefloors. Another track recorded at Stax which is a big Northern Soul favourite is Wendy Rene's Bar-B-Q, somewhat of a left-fielder for the northern soul scene as it does not exhibit that Motown-ish sound whatsoever. On the liner notes Ady Croasdell writes that "it's appeal is a mystery" to many, well not to me: it may not be classic Northern Soul but it's an irresistibly happy record from the attacking bass-led intro to its finish 2:28 minutes later.
Where It's At, the third of the series is the mainstream 60's soul compilation. You are not bound to buy this one if you are a veteran in the soul world, as you will own many of the tracks here. It does contain some less well known tracks such as the instrumentals In The Midnight Hour - Little Mac & The Boss Sounds, (as far as organ-led instrumentals of Midnight Hour go, personally I prefer Billy Preston's version), and Jazz flutist Herbie Mann's take of the Mar Key's Philly Dog. However about 20 of the 26 tracks are very well known tracks (even When a man loves a woman is here!) that have been available on CD before. I guess Ace/Kent wanted to capitalize on the Atlantic deal by releasing a more mainstream oriented CD, and we can't condemn them for that - still this one can serve as a nice birthday present for our less fanatic friends.
Here are the track listings for the three CD's. As you may know many of the tracks, this will help you decide whether or not you need any of these. Meanwhile we will be waiting further releases from the Atlantic vaults, from which there is a lot more to unravel. I heard somewhere that a fire destroyed many of the masters, so that sadly there will not be many previously unreleased tracks, but even so there are many hundreds of wonderful 45's waiting to be dubbed to CD.
At The Club:
1. Help Me (Get The Feeling) (Pt. 1) - Ray Sharpe with the King Curtis Orchestra 2. It Ain't What You Got - Jimmy Hughes 3. Some Other Guy - Richie Barrett 4. Looking For A Fox - Clarence Carter 5. Some Kind Of Wonderful - Soul Brothers Six 6. Something Good (Is Going To Happen To You) - Carla Thomas 7. I'm Gonna Run Away From You - Tammi Lynn 8. At The Club - The Drifters 9. Que Sera Sera (What Ever Will Be, Will Be) - The High Keys 10. Poison Ivy - The Coasters 11. Chain Of Fools - The Goodtimers 12. Able Mable - Mable John 13. Holding On With Both Hands - Eddie Floyd 14. Last Night - Mar-Keys 15. The Memphis Train - Rufus Thomas 16. Three Time Loser - Wilson Pickett 17. Keep Lookin' - Solomon Burke 18. 40 Days-40 Nights - Don Covay & The Goodtimers 19. Green Onions - King Curtis 20. Comin' Home Baby - Mel Torme 21. He Don't Love You (And He'll Break Your Heart) - Levon & The Hawks 22. Slim Jenkins' Place - Booker T & The MGs 23. Just One Look - Doris Troy 24. Walkin' Up A One Way Street - Willie Tee 25. Young Boy Blues - Ben E King
Still Paying Our Dues:
1. Please Operator - Tony & Tyrone 2. Feels Good - Bobby Wilson 3. Angel Baby (Don't You Leave Me) - Darrell Banks 4. You Got To Pay Your Dues - The Drifters 5. Catch Me I'm Falling - Esther Phillips (With The Dixie Flyers) 6. Take Your Love And Run - Barbara Lynn 7. Send Him Back - The Pointer Sisters 8. Love Don't You Go Through No Changes On Me - Sister Sledge 9. Here I Go Again - Archie Bell & The Drells 10. Thank You Baby For Loving Me - Soul Brothers Six 11. Crazy Baby - The Coasters 12. Fireman - Vala Reegan & The Valarons 13. Don't You Even Care - Leslie Uggams 14. Bye Bye Baby - Dee Dee Sharp 15. Frantic Escape - The Innocent Bystanders 16. (I've Got To Find) Happiness - The Ambassadors 17. Candy - The Astors 18. What Can A Man Do - Ben E King 19. Can't You See (You're Losing Me) - Mary Wells 20. Bar-B-Q - Wendy Rene 21. Nothing Is Impossible - Al Perkins 22. Choppin' Around - Jimmy Wisner 23. Bring Your Love Back To Me - Linda Lyndell 24. Today's Man - Mark Putney 25. Coming Home To You Baby - Crossroads
Where It's At:
1. Snatchin' It Back - Clarence Carter 2. Sweet Soul Music - Arthur Conley 3. Land Of A 1000 Dances - Wilson Pickett 4. Slip Away - Clarence Carter 5. Warm And Tender Love - Percy Sledge 6. Chain Of Fools - Aretha Franklin 7. You've Got Me On The Critical List - Don Covay 8. Your Old Lady - The Isley Brothers 9. Do The Hully Gully Pt 1 - King Coleman 10. My Girl Sloopy - The Vibrations 11. See Saw - Don Covay 12. The House That Jack Built - Aretha Franklin 13. Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) - Carla Thomas 14. Philly Dog - Herbie Mann 15. Soul Finger - The Bar-Kays 16. Down In The Valley - Solomon Burke 17. My Girl Sloopy - The Killer Joe Orchestra Aka King Curtis & Willie Bobo 18. In The Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett 19. Uptight (Everything's Alright) - Charlie Palmieri 20. Tighten Up Pt. 1 - Archie Bell & The Drells 21. In The Midnight Hour - Little Mac & The Boss Sounds 22. When A Man Loves A Woman - Percy Sledge 23. Release Me - Esther Phillips 24. Stupidity - Solomon Burke 25. Looking For A Fox - Clarence Carter 26. You Don't Know Like I Know - Sam & Dave
various artists - Underground Oldies vols. 1 -4 - ITP (US)
This series by US label ITP is subtitled "rare and hard to find oldies". Strangely the word "Soul" is not mentioned on the covers, but what it is, is a very good series of compilations deriving its material from the harmony ballad sound of big-city American R&B. Most of the tracks included are either non-charters or records that made the lower reaches of the national R&B charts. This is in accordance to the producers' scheme, which is to compile "oldies" that would be alternatives to the overplayed tracks in commercial oldies stations and mainstream oldies compilation CD's. To me this is a most welcome surprise, in that at last, someone takes care to resurrect sounds of a type that has not often been catered for in the soul re-release market. Unlike deep soul, not to mention northern soul, these mellow "uptown" sounds have by and large not been the center of attention. In fact, I would not be surprised if a few of the tracks on these CD's are "wrong sides" in Northern Soul terminology, i.e. the ballad sides that are on the other sides of UK "Northern" dance records.
While normally I do prefer the deeper side of soul music, I did enjoy these four CD's very much, and I do recommend them wholeheartedly. The compilers have to be credited for maintaining a very high standard, and for not succumbing to the temptation to include well known hits. Listening to any of the CD's from start to finish is a pleasant experience. Images of sky-scraped skylines of the big cities of the USA are conjured as the harmonies float. Just be careful if you listen to this in your car, the sounds are so mellow you may doze off after a few tracks!
Another thought that crossed my mind as I was listening to these CD's, is how much this harmony soul sound has been resistant to change, as opposed to other black American music styles that have seen drastic alterations through the years. There are no original labels and release dates on the liner notes, but as far as I've checked, the earliest record included is the Debonairs' "Every once in a while" released on Dore in 1961, a classic doo-wop sound, while the latest track I knew here is Skip Mahoney and the Casuals' beautiful soprano-led "Wherever you go" (on Abet, made #60 R&B in 1976). Clearly, the harmony ballad sound of the late 60's and the 70's is quite a smooth continuation of early 60's doo-wop R&B, and even today, the tradition of street-corner harmonies yielding sweet, romantic ballads still prevails in black American music.
The tracks on the four volumes are too many to mention (for me at least) but a glimpse at CDNOW's web site (look for labels: ITP records) will give you the full track listings.
Some of my own personal favourites on this series: Magic Touch's exquisite 70's version of Helen Smith's "A woman will do wrong" (Vol 1); The Exavations - "Somewhere", Billy Stewart's "I'm no Romeo", as well as the aforementioned Skip Mahoney gem (Vol. 2); Volume three is crammed with goodies, such as Linda Jones's 1969 non-hit in Loma "That's when I stop loving you" (I don't always like Linda's somewhat theatrical vocals, but on this one the contrast between the backing harmonies and her wails is just perfect); Vivian Copeland's clever mid-tempo "He knows my key will always be in the mailbox" (also from 1969 on D'oro) , and the Carltons' Impressions soundalike "Hey Mr. Lonesome" (Argo, 1964). Two more sides (of the same record) by Linda Jones are included on volume four "I who have nothing / It won't take much", the latter answered, quite by chance I guess, by the opening track of this volume, the Manhattens' "It's gonna take a lot". The Manhattens are also included on volume three, with the biggest hit to be found in this series as far as I could tell, "One life to live", a record that made #3 R&B in 1972. Volume four also includes Eddie Holman - I'm not gonna give up, which was also included in one of David Godin's Deep Soul Treasure CD's, which goes to show that the line between deep soul and sweet/harmony soul is not always a clear one.
Some of the rest of the better known acts included on the four volumes are: The Lost Generation, The Lovelites, The Entertainers IV, The Brothers of Soul, The Whispers, Brenton Wood, Gene Chandler, Timothy Wilson, The Whatnauts, Barbara Mason, Bloodstone, Mike & the Censations, and the Natural Four, however these relatively known artists are often represented by often surprising choices, and they are supplemented by several names which I have not heard before.
As I write this review, volumes five and six of "Underground Oldies" have just been released. Let's hope that this is just the beginning. There's a lot more of this type of soul music to unravel, and ITP seem to be doing a great job at it. Just remark: on such a serious and well-compiled CD reissue, label and date information would not go amiss.
various artists - Windy City Soul - Charly CDNEW 134 (Germany)
This is the follow up to Charly's Chicago Twine Time (see former review). While the former CD focused on Mar-V-Lus, this one focuses on the sister label One-derful. There's some overlap with Goldmine's "One-derful, Mar-V-Lus Northern Soul" (also reviewed in the past), but the rest of the tracks contain a few, though not all, of the best non-Northern Soul sides from this label.
As you may know by now, this group of Chicago labels owned by George Leaner is among my favourite ones, mixing the sound of Chicago, sometimes Detroit, with the soul styles of the south, where many of the artists and musicians on this label came from - which means I am bound to rate highly any compilation that deals with these labels.
Going by chronological order (which is not the sequence of the tracks on this CD; at the risk of repeating myself, I have to say that the logic behind track sequences on most soul reissues is a mystery to me): this compilation skips the seminal "The town I live in" by McKinley Mitchell, and in fact all subsequent McKinley Mitchell tracks, which are said to be awaiting a further volume of these series, so I won't complain about that. Of the three records released on One-derful in late 1962 then, only one appears here - both sides of Betty Everett's first 45 for this label - the excellent deep blues number, "Your love is important to me", featuring a wonderful piano all along, and its rockin' A side, "I got a claim on you". 1963, too, is featured with just one track - Mary Silver's "Power of love", a nice, if not spectacular mid tempo track featuring a prominent horn section over a sweet, girlie-ish vocal. The paucity of tracks from this year is explained by many of them belonging to the altogether omitted McKinley Mitchell, and to the Five Du-Tones, who for some reason were included on the first, Mar-V-Lus volume of this series. Anyway on to 1964, and again both sides of a Betty Everett 45, I'll be there / Please love me. I'm not impressed by either of them - they suffer from noisy arrangements, and the songs are mediocre to say the least. Next we enter Northern Soul territory with an early specimen of this post-hoc genre - Lucky Laws with his joyful "Who is she". Next is the first of three 1965 representatives. Joe & Mack's "Don't you worry" is not too convincing male-duo performance on a fast, southern-tinged track, which, again, managed to find its way to dancefloors decades and thousands of miles away. Next are the Accents, both sides of their first One-derful release are featured. "Who you gonna love" is an excellent, tough dancer, nothing like their former record, the happy "New girl" - hey, now how did that that one slip away from me? Oh, I see - New girl was on M-pac!, not One-derful late '64, how tricky. But it's on here too, just the same.
Where were we? Still with the Accents. Flip of "Who you gonna love" is the mid-tempo "You better think again", which is pleasant enough, with just a shade of similarity to "New girl". On to Otis Clay's first inclusion (there are eight OC tracks here, one of which was unreleased at the time; six of his released tracks are not here - a complete Otis Clay CD from this era would be a great idea). "Flame in your heart" is a remarkable gospel drenched ballad, which sounds, as do all of Otis Clay's releases, perfectly southern. Next is "Do the 45", the first record by the mighty Sharpees, whom I really admire. This is a good uptempo dance track obviously inspired by Junior Walker's Shotgun; a pity its flip "Make up your mind" is missing. Now we're in 1966, and the representation of the label's sequence of releases is beginning to be more dense. Both sides of Beverly Shaffer's One-derful 4838 are present: the lovely, mid-tempo, Motown influenced, wonderfully arranged "Where will you be boy", and the similarly paced, but harder, and less impressive IMO "Even the score".
The Sharpees' next release, included here (of course), was the utterly brilliant "Tired of being lonely" dramatic, danceable and featuring a magnificently soulful lead vocal. Its less inspired flip is also here - "Just to please you"; the song is not that good, but still, the vocals are excellent.
The final inclusion from 1966 is Otis Clay's 45 "I testify / I'm satisfied". Testify is an uptempo rouser. Obviously this nods to another Otis, Redding, and to the Stax sounds that were in vogue at the time (especially the horn arrangement). I prefer the swaying midtempo flip, though, with its lovely piano work and heartfelt vocal.
1967's first entry is the Sharpees' follow up to "lonely", "I've got a secret"; this is the best surprise for me on this set, as I hadn't known it until now. It's just as good as its predecessor, and also, just as danceable, which makes me wonder why this track wasn't on the above mentioned Goldmine set. Next is Liz Land's 45 of mid-67. "One man's poison" is a minor-key blues number, featuring a noisy arrangement which is not my cup of, er, my pint of lager. Neither is the slightly better flip, an uptown ballad, too poppish for me, albeit a Jo Armstead co-writing credit. On to the next Otis Clay 45, both sides of which are present again: "That's how it is" is a classic ballad, and again the combination of the lilting piano and Otis's full, throaty vocals is a winner. The flip is known to every northern UK soulie, that "Showplace" I call home... stylistically about halfway between Memphis and Detroit, it is a splendid dancer. The next One-derful release was "Wait till I get to know you", by the Admirations, which is yet another track tailor made to suit subsequent northern UK tastes, and a good one at that (the instrumental flip is not included). Next release was Otis Clay again: "A lasting love" is probably my favourite Otis Clay track: a ballad with shades of uptown, and a whole lot of soul, featuring an exquisite production. Its uptempo, insistent flip is excellent too, interestingly borrowing one line off the Sharpees' hit: "at night in my lonely room, I can't sleep, for thinking bout you...". Next one is again by the Admirations, "Don't leave me", another nice, relaxed, northern soul sound, quite in the same vein of "Wait". Last but not least is the unissued at the time "I don't know what to do" by Otis Clay, first released on a Japanese P-Vine compilation in 1979, a hard soul pounder, which, like all Otis Clay One-derful recordings, is certainly worthwhile.
All in all, this CD is a little treasure consisting of many remarkable 60's soul recordings. The liner notes by Chicago soul scholar Robert Pruter are well written; writer credits and original record catalogue numbers are given - so there is really nothing to complain about. Let's just hope this Charly series continues until it covers all, or most of the releases on George Leaner's labels.
Spike's Choice - The Desco Funk 45's Collection - Desco (US)
Let me start this review with one word I don't use often - UNBELIEVABLE. And I mean that literally. I find it hard to believe what the people at Desco Records are telling me - that the tracks on this CD were all recorded over the past two years. If so, then this is a dream come true for me. For so many years now I have been hoping that somebody, somewhere will record new tracks in the grand tradition of 60's soul; not anachronistic throwbacks, not adult audience-oriented nostalgia, but new material, with the energy and freshness that used to be part of the music when it was still contemporary. I tended to assume that this had become impossible. Well, apparently it hadn't.
A word of warning though: the tradition followed here is definitely that of James Brown and his funky people - the JB's, Bobby Byrd, Marva Whitney etc. Personally I love this funky stuff just as much as I do deep soul, northern soul or any other variant of 60's style soul. However I know that not all soul collectors, especially of the northern soul variant, dig that funky sound. So if you don't like JB, chances are you will not like this. If you do, you're in for a very pleasant surprise.
Desco Records is a New York record label that has released twelve vinyl 45's (yes vinyl) and a few vinyl LP's over the past year or two. Their slogan says "Guaranteed heavy heavy funk", and they are not joking. Probably many people would expect P-Funk/Funkadelic/Ohio Players styled material, but no, Desco's influences go a few years earlier. Now all the A sides and B sides of the 45's were packed into one CD - Desco's first.
On to the tracks: Lee Fields contributes four tracks; three of them heavy-heavy funk numbers a-la Bobby Byrd; my favorite of the three is "Hey Sallie Mae get off of my feet", a slow funk burner complete with great horns, organ, real drumming, and Lee's soulful vocals on top of it all. The fourth Lee Fields track, "Take it or leave it" is an exception here in that it's a ballad; a real, thick, juicy ballad clearly influenced by James Brown's ballads of the late 60's. A little too long for me though at 4:48; however I must say thankfully that most of the other tracks here are about three minute long - can you believe this?
Sharon Jones is the most featured artist with six tracks; some originals and a couple of covers - Eddie Bo's "Hook & Sling" and James Brown's "I got the feeling"; the latter is quite a mind-blower, with Sharon and the band successfully dealing with the intricacies of this funk masterpiece. Its flip on the original 45 is also excellent - "You better think twice", a seriously funky original. Joseph Henry had one Desco 45 so far, hence two tracks on this compilation. I particularly like "I feel right", a wonderful slow funker, featuring some great bass work and an excellent vocal.
Many of the rest of the tracks are instrumentals - by the Other Side, Ravi Harris & the Prophets (featuring a Sitar), The Soul Providers, Bosco's Billionaires, and the Sugarman Three. Many of these feature a tinge of Jazz on top of funky beats. I can see them being dance floor hits on funk/jazz oriented clubs, and BTW I've seen Keb Darge's name signed on liner notes on one of Desco's LP's, so that should give you an idea of the style, if you know Keb's funky soul UK events. My favorite instrumental here however is "Papa's got a brand new bag", featuring lovely organ & sax work, sounding as original 60's as you wanna.
Some of the 45's are still available, and there are also several LP releases available. If you are a vinyl junkie like me or a DJ, you should consider all of these. However the only way to obtain all the Desco tracks released on 45's so far is on this CD, which, in case you have not understood this so far, I strongly, absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend.
For more info about Desco Records / ordering information, go to the Desco Records Website.
Johnnie Taylor - Taylored to Please - Malaco (US)
JT's latest Malaco release is stylistically similar to his former album "Good Love", and is just as good. Lately JT's albums include a mix of two types of tracks: On some tracks the sound is quite current , electronically produced; other tracks have a more traditional feel, using real drums and instruments; generally it's the uptempo stuff that has the modern feel while the ballads get the trad production. Although like most classic soul fans I prefer real instruments, I do enjoy hearing ole JT on material that has a more youthful feel to it; he does this very gracefully and without losing his soul.
This set's highlights for me include Cheating on me - a classic southern cheatin', story telling, song; computerized drums on this one, but what a formidable vocal from Johnnie. Can't live without you is a mid tempo modern swayer, in the vein of Good love from the former set. This track would not be out of place on "urban" programming, yet the vocal is oh so soulful, with some beautiful male vocal backing. Throw your hands in the air is all the way hip-hop; not very original, but still JT's vocal makes it worthwhile. On the traditional side of things, What good is a man, is almost a perfect throwback to a classic 60's soul ballad; I say almost because it wouldn't fool me into thinking it was actually recorded in 1967; the drums are too heavy, the sound of the instruments is different, and the track is too long; having said that, again JT's vocal is again very impressive. It's great to hear the man still full of soul after more than 40 years as a professional recording artist (first in gospel and then soul). If you take your love is a lovely ballad written by Fredrick Knight. The obligatory George Jackson composition is included, as usual - however, You couldn't break me is a rather unimpressive uptempo track. This CD also treats us to two versions of an Disco Lady 2000, attempting to update Johnnie Taylor's biggest hit of his career (which in fact had very little "Disco" in it apart from the title); the "slam remix" is complete with a hip hop DJ and scratching effects. Interesting to hear JT in such a context, but this is not the track I will be listening to mostly on this set.
The bottom line - if you are into buying current soul releases, this is certainly one of the best. I think that JT is right in trying to get a balance between trad sounds and keeping up with the times; I especially enjoy his ability to breathe soul into current rhythms and production styles.
Feddie Scott - Cry To Me: The Best of Freddie Scott - Columbia Legacy Series (US)
This compilation is not actually a complete retrospective of Freddie Scott's recordings, but covers just his recordings made for the Shout label from 1966 to 1968. Shout was of course created by Bert Berns, the New York producer and writer who had a lot to do with making Soul Music what it was in the 60's, especially the deep side of it; although he worked out of New York, his productions sounded as real and as deep as the southern recordings of the time, and they had sounded this way even as early as 1963, before the southern deep soul sound was solidified in the mid 60's. Sadly Berns died in 67; the Shout label continued to exist under new ownership, but its artists were to search for new producers. Freddie Scott's recording here include both Bert Berns productions and post-Berns recordings.
Freddie Scott's vocals are of the dramatic, uptown soul style, much like that of Chuck Jackson and Tommy Hunt. When he joined Shout, it was three years after he had a big hit with Hey girl, a rather poppish record that reached the top 10 both R&B and pop charts in 1963, on Colpix. No sizable hits followed on Colpix, so Scott ended up in Bern's label. No doubt his Shout productions were grittier than what he had been accustomed to, thanks to Bert Berns's touch.
The liner notes lack discographical information, so here's a quick run through Freddie Scott's Shout 45's, courtesy of the Soul of the Net...
Are you lonely for me baby / Where were you - Shout 207
Cry to me / No one could ever love you better - Shout 211
Am I grooving you / Never you mind - Shout 212
He will break your heart / I'll be gone - Shout 216
Run Joe / He ain't give you none - Shout 220
Just like a flower / Spanish Harlem - Shout 227
(You) Got what I need / Powerful love - Shout 233
No one could ever love you / Loving you is killing me - Shout 238
Forever my darling / Got what I need - Shout 245
All the above 45's sides are included, apart from one - Spanish Harlem, the B side of Shout 227. In adition, there are three non-45 tracks off Freddie Scott's 1967 Shout LP, Are You Lonely For Me Baby, all covers: Open the door (sic, without "to you heart"), Shake a hand and The love of my woman (a version Theola Kilgore's 1963 hit The love of my man). Also included are two previously unreleased Shout recordings - You'll never leave him, and Our love grows.
As usual, after all this factual information, a word about the music: although I am not a big fan of Freddie's overtly dramatic vocal style, I do like many of his recordings at Shout, probably more due to the productions than to the vocals. The opening track, Are you lonely for me baby was written by Bert Berns, but produced by Gary Sherman; its dramatic effect certainly came across, and it turned out to be Freddie's Scott biggest hit, at least on the R&B charts. Strangely enough, it went all the way up to #1 on the R&B charts on December 1966, but made just #39 on the pop charts; certainly a bigger gap than usual between the achievements on these two respective charts. Cry to me is a slow version of the Solomon Burke / Betty Harris classic hit, again produced by its writer, Berns, and obviously modeled after Betty's version. The arrangement is exquisite, as only Bert Berns made 'em, with the usual beautiful guitar licks, and quiet, serene sound; however to my ears the vocals here overdo the dramatic effect; I prefer Betty Harris version by far. Other interesting covers here are to Jerry Butler's He will break your heart, suprisingly given a funky mid tempo treatment, which comes across quite well; and The love of my woman, which is quite beautiful, again thanks to a great Bern Berns production. The originals that stand out, to my ears, are Am I grooving you, an originally styled slow-uptempo track (made #25 R&B); No one could ever love you, an uptown soul ballad written by Berns and Ragovoy; and (You) got what I need, from 1968, written and produced by Philly's Gamble and Huff, apparently brought in to help after Berns passed away. I just love this record, which somehow sounds a lot like what Eddie Floyd was recording down in Memphis at the same time; not typical of Gamble/Huff at all. It's flip, Powerful love, is also pleasant, if not brilliant. As for the previously unreleased tracks: You'll never leave him, is a nice midtempo number, dramatic as usual; as for Our love grow, it is an attempt at MOR which should have stayed in the can.
Bottom line time: another gap has been filled on the long vinyl-2-CD trail, making this CD a very natural part of any serious soul fan's collection.
Doctor Good Soul - various artists - Sequel (UK)
A rather eclectic compilation from the vaults of several soul related labels: Calla, Colpix, Dimension, Josie, Jubilee, Lolo, Moon Shot, Port, Satin, and last but not least Roulette.
I've found no significant common denominator for the 24 tracks included on this set, other than they are somewhat obscure soul recordings from the heyday of soul music - 1963 to 1974, with one track that goes back as far as 1957.
Four of the tracks bear that unlikely year of release, 1998. This is one of the nice parts of the current CD reissue boom: previously unreleased material. Two of these are amongst my favorites here: Carol Fran - Roll with the punches, is a Mighty Hannibal (James T. Shaw) composition, that has been released in the 60's (versions by Garnett Mimms and Lonnie Youngblood). Carol Frans's version is nice & tight, albeit the hornes sound somewhat screechy, I don't know if they were recorded like that or whether the re-mastering is to blame. Anyway this version was apparently recorded at the Hi studios in Memphis in 1967 but canned by Roulette, an uptempo rouser in the late 60's southern tradition.
The other previously unreleased gem here is by non other than Betty Lavette , from her Calla days. Cry me a river is not the standard by that title, but a moody beat ballad. An excellent song, with Betty lamenting over an arrangement that is quite a sparse: just a rhythm section, without any strings horns or backup singing. Apparently this recording was never finished, but that just adds to its magic. Its sound, quiet yet powerful, seems timeless. If I were Sequel, I'd consider releasing this as a single complete with a video clip. Who knows, it may turn out to be Betty's biggest hit to date.
To mention a few other bits and pieces that are to be found here: Top Shelf's Give it up is in a classic late 60's sweet soul vein, (recorded for Lolo, produced by George Kerr). The Gee's - It's all over is a swaying, slow, relatively early Northern Soul- type sound, not spectacular but pleasant. Ben Aiken - Stay together young lovers is one of the best known tracks here, a beautiful uptown ballad. Bobby Dukes - Just to be with you, a mid tempo item from 1974 with great singing, should go down well in the UK crossover scene. Very very pleasant, that one.
Just as I was mentioning on my Living room top 40 page some "Shoe" songs, along comes the next track, by Dr. Love himself, Bobby Sheen, with a very countrified ballad, My shoes keep coming back to you, that hadn't heard before.
In fact, the striking fact about this compilation to me is that a lot of it consists of unknown tracks by artists that are reasonably well known... these include, in addition to the ones already mentioned, The Delfonics, Brenda Jo Harris, Freddie Scott, The Vontastics, The Impressions (1957 track), Jerry Williams, Donald Height, Betty Harris (an alternative take to the unreleased track Why don't you tell him, released also on the current Soul Perfection Plus CD), another Bobby Sheen, Honey & the Bees. And if you're asking yourself where did the title Dr. Good Soul come from, well it's from track number 23 by an artist called Landy. A pleasant dance record, reminiscent of Major Lance on Okeh, etc.
All in all, a rather interesting, if not spectacular, collection.
One-derful, Mar-v-lus Northern Soul - Goldmine (UK)
Chicago Twine Time - Charly (Germany)
The summer of '98 saw a long awaited release of not one by two different CD compilations of recordings on George Leaner's labels, Mar-v-lus, One-derful, and M-pac.
The Goldmine CD is a compilation of tracks these Chiacgo labels that have been played on the Northern Soul scene. The Charly CD is broader in its musical scope, but focuses mainly on one label out of the thre, namely Mar-v-lus.
First, some numbers: The Charly CD contains 28 tracks; 19 of these were actual releases on Mar-v-lus 45's (there were 21 Mar-v-lus 45's released, hence about half of the tracks on them appear on this CD). These Mar-v-lus releases are supplemented by 5 more tracks by the Five Du-Tones and Du-Ettes, on One-Derful and M-Pac, and three more tracks that were not released at the time - one by the Five Du-Tones and two by Johnny Sayles, who has no less than six tracks on this CD altogether.
The Goldmine CD contains 30 tracks, three of them previously unreleased. Eleven of the tracks on this one also appear on Charly's Chicago Twine Time - understandably, these are the Northern Soul tracks that were released on Mar-v-lus, as opposed to One-derful and M-Pac.
Phew... now for some SOUL. Although as I said eleven of the tracks overlap, I'd strongly recommend both CD's. The Goldmine CD does contain the best of these labels' "Northern" output. Tracks such as Baby what has happened to our love - The Ringleaders, Tired of being lonely - The Sharpees, Twine time - Alvin Cash, are excellent Northern Soul classics, to name but a few, and they are quite varied in their style too. This compilation is not all footstompers, and the smooth sounds of Harold Burrage's Ben E. King-ish beat ballad Master key and Beverly Shaffer swaying Where will you be boy complete this very worthwhile disc (Listen to some of the sounds on The One-derful etc. page).
As for the Charly compilation, it includes some non-Northern tracks that are indispensable, such as Ordinary guy by Josephine Taylor, the original Shake a tail's feather by the Five Du-Tones, as well as some fine ballads: Without you - the Ultimations, is an uptownish downtempo track, as is Sad feeling, one side of Cicero Blake's sole release on this group of labels. Johnny Sayles cut some good southern/blues tinged tracks, namely You told a lie, You did me wrong and Got you on my mind. The rest of Johnny's tracks included here are raucous upbeat numbers that reflect George Leaner's southern influences. What is Love? by Josephine Taylor is a beautiful mid-paced swayer that I suspect would not clear the dancefloor at NS events.
Some non-inclusions on the Charly CD, though, make me wonder if the compilers can be trusted... with this being primarily a Mar-V-Lus compilation, how could they have neglected to include Josephine Taylor - You're the sweetest thing, a magnificent ballad; Sugar daddy by the Du-Tones, a happy, fun uptempo track; And they could have added several tracks by Alvin Cash, such as the cool No deposit no return, or the funky Alvin's got a boogaloo. Not to mention other tracks that I may have never heard! I wish this was a complete double CD "complete Mar-V-Lus 45's", to be followed by the Complete One-derful and Complete M-Pac box sets... well I can dream can't I.
Sound quality varies from track to track on both CD's, and obviously some tracks were reproduced from 45's.
Anyway, I think I'll go out of my way, as I do sometimes, and include a complete track listing for the two CD's (U stands for unreleased at the time of recording):
On Both CD's: Every beat of my heart - The Du Ettes / I still can't get you - Joseph Moore / Ain't gonna cry no more - Josephine Taylor / Your love has got me down - The Blenders / Lonely girl - The Young Folk / Please forgive me - The Fu-Ettes / Love is a good thing goin' - The Blenders / Would I do it over - The Ultimations / Twine time - Alvin Cash & the Crawlers / Behave yourself - Miss Madeline / Tell me where I stand - Johnny Sayles (U)
Just on Goldmine: Baby what has happened to our love - The Ringleaders / Tired of being lonely - The Sharpees / Spring song (new girl) - The Accents / Don't leave me - The Admirations / Who is she - Lucky Laws / More power to you - Harold Burrage / Don't fight it - Willie Parker / Who are you gonna love - The Accents / I'm Satisfied - Johnny Sayles (U) / Don't you worry - Joe & Mack / Do the 45 - The Sharpees / Wait till I get to know you - The Admirations / Showplace - Otis Clay / Don't hurt the one you love - Willie Parker / You better think it again - The Accents / Tell me where I stand - Johnny Sayles (U) / Please love me - Betty Everett / Master Key - Harold Burrage / Where will you be boy - Beverly Shaffer
Just on Charly: Without you - The Ultimations / What is love - Josephine Taylor / Joey - The Young Folk / The Barracuda - Alvin Cash / You told a lie - Johnny Sayles / Sad feeling - Cicero Blake / Don't turn your back on me - Johnny Sayles / Love is a good thing going - The Blenders / Ordinary Guy - Josephine Taylor / You did me wrong - Johnny Sayles / The girl I love - Johnny Sayles (U) / I'm lost without you - Joseph Moore / I'm gonna love you - The Du-Ettes; Shake a tail feather, My world (U) , Please change your mind, Outside the record hop (trying to get in) - The Five Du-Tones
Oscar Toney Jr. - Oscar's Winners - Westside (UK)
Review written by Michael Butler.
Winners is subtitled 'The Papa Don Years 1967-1968', which says everything you need to know. The legend, 'A Papa Don production' (as seen on records by Mighty Sam, James and Bobby Purify, and Moses and Joshua Dillard) is a guarantee of excellence. The eighteen sides collected here exemplify deep soul - that fervent, aching, desperately melancholic expression of Afro-American genius - and were recorded at Chip Moman's American Studio in the Memphis heartland. What surprises is its wide variety of reference.
The riff from The Beatles' 'Day Tripper' propels 'Ain't That True Love'. 'Until We Meet Again' is down-home country with soulful tinge (check the sleeve of Toney's original Bell LP: the participating musicians are 100% hillbilly). The stupendous echo on 'For Your Precious Love' evokes Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. And sources extend from Burt Bacharach to Henry Mancini (it's safe to say that Oscar blows Audrey right out of the Moon River). Openness was clearly a feature of soul music, circa 1967.
Oscar Toney himself is an OV Wright with teeth: his expressive baritone gravitates to falsetto shrieks when the spirit hits. Pure church, in fact. He prefaces 'For Your Precious Love' (the Jerry Butler song) with a rap from the pulpit, and invests 'Dark End of the Street' with the pain of the righteous man who has fallen from grace. 'For Your Precious Love', a Stateside hit in '67, moulded Toney's public persona: an ardent suppliant, with reserves of anguish and strength to draw upon. 'Never Get Enough of Your Love' and 'Without Love' conform to type.
Oscar's Winners supplants Papa Don's Preacher (Charly's offering from '88) as the definitive Toney collection. If it also evokes an era as remote as the age of chivalry, that's only because soul music has been running downhill ever since.
Yoni's comments: 'Until we meet again' is one of my all time favourite ballads. Sentimental and somewhat country, true, but the arrangement delivery of this Vietnam lament makes it 100% deep soul.
Also worth a mention is "A love that never grows cold" - OTJ's excellent original version is included here.You may know the song from its equally brilliant version by Jimmy & Louise Tig and Co.
Re teeth - if Michael hints that the late great OV Wright did not have any, I would say this would need some scientific verification.
Re downhill - I'm afraid I agree with that completely, though there are some uphill climbs on the way to the bottom, e.g. the stuff I played on my 90's special radio show.
James Brown's Funky Divas - Polydor
I'm not sure about the title - the word divas somehow does not connect in my mind to James Brown's series of female musical (and often not just musical, as the liner notes reveal) companions, who were by and large wonderful singers, but sadly not very commercially successful stars. But the concept of this double CD set is excellent - chronologically presenting great tracks by JB's female proteges, from Bea Ford to Lyn Collins, from the uptempo r&b and ballads of the early 60's to the funky late 60's and to the Funk of the 70's. Having said that, I have to say that it is a pity that some of the best tracks by artists represented here are missing. This compilation is by no means comprehensive, so let's hope a volume two awaits soon.
Disc One represents the 60's. It kicks off with James Brown and Bea Ford's hit duet performance, You've got the power, released on Federal in 1960. A great early soul ballad, though personally I prefer the less well known 1968 version of this song, by James Brown and (an uncredited) Vicki Anderson, that appears on JB's 1968 album I got the feelin' (if you'd like to hear this and other JB related great deep soul sides, click away to the deep soul of James Brown). The multitude of tracks here and the shortitude (sorry, English is not my mother tongue) of time will not allow me to run through all of them, so I'll just mention the artists: After Bea we get Sugar Pie DeSanto, Yvonne Fair, Tammy Montgomery (AKA Tammi Terrell) - interestingly all above three early JB proteges were, unlike the ones who followed, to achieve success on other phases of their careers. Then follows Anna King, Elsie Mae, The Jewels, Vicki Anderson - my favourite James Brown related female artist, she's been with JB since 1966, off and on, and recorded wonderful tracks in the 60's (some of them appear on my JB deep soul section), and the early 60's, though, amazingly, she never had a chart hit, R&B nor Pop! What an underrated singer. Then comes Marva Whitney, JB's first funky lady of the late 60's, who was rather more successful, having three R&B hits: It's my thing (wasn't this an answer to the Isley's It's your thing? I believe so), I made a mistake because it's only you, and Things got to get better.
Disc Two contains the 70's segment of Vicki, including her brilliant (well, musically at least) answer to JB's Super Bad, Super Good. It also contains one-offs by Kay Robinson, Shirley Jean and the Relations, and Martha High, but the main course for lovers of JB's funky style is surely Lynn Collins (The Female Preacher), the most successful of all JB female aides, who had several hits - including the funk-filled Think about it (top ten R&B), Mama Feelgood, Rock me again and again... (6 times...), and a couple of nice, mellow duets with JB, Me and my baby got a good thing going, and What my baby needs now is a little more lovin (just noticed the tendency of JB produced tracks to have very long titles!)
So much for a very brief run through this 41 tracker - sorry, no time to include specific reviews of tracks, but generally speaking, whether you are a fun of "straight" 60's soul or a "rare-groover" type of person - you will find many good tracks here. As I said, this could have been better had it contained some gems that were left out, but when a double CD such as this is released, covering a much neglected and underrated area of soul music, we will not complain, but rush out to our nearest CD store and buy this, won't we.
Oh and by the way, the liner notes by Alan Leeds are very good, and the track listing is top notch - including recording dates and locations, personnel, 45 and album catalogue numbers and chart positions. Good job!
J J Barnes - The Groovesville Masters - Goldmine double CD (UK)
I was listening yesterday to this new J J Barnes double CD on Goldmine with mixed emotions. J J is a wonderful singer, and has long deserved a retrospective compilation. But this CD exhibits a somewhat careless and unthoughtful attitude both towards the artist and towards the soul punters.
There's a reasonable biography by Richard Pack, but the tracks are ordered in a totally random way, many of them not mentioned in the biog, and of course the biog mentions a lot of records not included on the CD. The track sequence mixes releases on Kable, Ric Tic, Groovesvillle/Revilot, Volt and Buddah (labels and year of release/recording are not listed), along with unreleased material of all sorts. Worse, there's a "duet" and "acapella version" which are really idiotic, and top it all, a track I don't believe is by JJ at all, and a very poor one at that.
Also, It sounds to me like on some of the tracks that were re-mastered, the vocals are set too high.
Many of the previously unreleased tracks are just demos, not finished tracks with horns/strings, backing vocals etc. - which I don't mind, they are interesting as they are, but why don't they mention this anywhere.
Trying to make some sense of it all, I wrote down the track listing with a note on each track saying where (I think) it comes from. Any further info would be most welcome.
Won't you let me know - Kable, 1960, Kable (first 45)
Please let me in - Ric Tic, 1965
Sweet honey baby - prev. unreleased
I found a new love - prev. unreleased
Our love is in the pocket - Revilot, 1969 (backing recorded in 1966)
Forgive me - Groovesville, 1967
Let's party - prev. unreleased
Now she's gone - Revilot, 1968
Sweet Sherry - Volt LP Rare Stamps, 1969
As Eric Karten pointed out to me, this is not identical to the Volt LP version, which was in fact the only official US release at the time. Probably an unifinished master, or one with different overdubs. Too bad the liner notes don't mention a word about this.
Sad day's a coming - Revilot, 1968
Snowflakes - Volt ,1969
Baby please come back home - Groovesville, 1967
Hold on to it - Revilot, 1968
Welcome back (now that I got you back) - prev. unreleased demo of Now that I got you back -- this is just 1:22 long, though on the CD it says 2:11. Why not say it's just a demo?
I think I found a love - Ric Tic, 1965
She's gone (should be Now she's gone) - Revilot, 1968
Harder you love - unreleased at the time, released on The Groovesville Review CD vol. 2
Help me - unreleased at the time, previously available on the 70's UK Contempo LP Groovesville Masters
I need a change - unreleased at the time, previously available on the 70's UK Contempo LP Groovesville Masters
A hole in the wall - prev. unreleased
Deeper in love - Ric Tic, 1966
Now that I got you back - Groovesville, 1967
Unyielding - prev. unreleased
Say it - Ric Tic, 1967
The going's on - unreleased at the time, released on The Groovesville Review CD vol. 1
I'm sorry - prev. unreleased
Welcome to the club - unreleased at the time, previously available on the 70's UK Contempo LP Groovesville Masters
Chains of love - Groovesville, 1967
I'll keep coming back - Revilot, 1968
Still in my heart - prev. unreleased (released by Steve Mancha)
He don't love you like I love you - prev. unreleased
Got to get rid of you - Volt, 1969
Call on me baby - prev. unreleased
You brought love to my life - prev. unreleased
Your love is gone - unreleased at the time, previously available on the 70's UK Contempo LP Groovesville Masters
Your love is gone - unreleased at the time, previously available on the 70's UK Contempo LP Groovesville Masters
My love comes tumbling down - Kable, 1960 (first 45)
Just don't know what to do - should be Don't know what to do, prev. unreleased; released by Darrell Banks; I don't believe this is J J Barnes. Whoever this is, he's way off key. Maybe it's Solid Soul's janitor?
Harder you love - 'duet' with Darrell Banks - this piece of prev. unreleased nonsense is just Koppel doing his thing again - mixing two different vocals on the same backing track. So unprofessional and inconsiderate of the original artists, enough of this already!
Baby please come back home (acapella) - acapella?? This is just the vocal track without the backing. Not meant to be acapella, no harmonies, and another example of total disrespect for the artist on behalf of Goldmine - seems like they were trying hard to come up with enough tracks for a double CD.
If so, then where is So Called Friends (Revilot)? Why not include Holidays 45's with J J singing? If Ric Tic stuff is included then why just 4 tracks and not others?
But at the bottom line, I should make the distinction between the sloppy production of this CD, as opposed to the wonderful music contained herein, beautifully sung by one of Detroit's finest voices ever. If you don't have the original 45's and the Rare Stamps LP / CD, then this set, however sloppily packaged, is still a must.
This Is Northern Soul Volume 2 - Debutante (UK)
Chris King's Motown-Northern Soul sequel mentions the high standards of volume one. Again, there is almost no overlap with other Northern Soul compilations, that usually do not have access to Motown material. True, some of the tracks can be found on CD on "straight" US Motown releases of 60's material, but these are the minority. For most of the tracks here this is their first CD release.
This volume exhibits the same type of variety as its predecessor: a few bona-fide Northern Motown classics, obviously held off the first set in order to keep the commercial attractiveness of this one. Such tracks are I'll always love you - The Spinners, Baby hit and run - The Contours, Tell me it's just a rumor baby - The Isley Brothers and My weakness is you by Edwin Starr. But probably the big selling point for the Northern Soul crowd is the inclusion of recordings that had been previously unavailable, played by Northern Soul DJ's off acetates or one off pressings. One such track, Suspicion by the Originals (known to veterans as "Baby have mercy on me"), kicks off this CD, brilliantly demonstrating how Motown was right at the core of that musical style that later became Northern Soul. Another recording which turns up here under a different title is It's my baby by Marvin Gaye, previously known as "When I feel the need" - a sophisticatedly arranged, atmospheric track, bearing the release year of 1994, but recorded, I would guess, in 1967. Nice to see two Jr. Walker tracks in this compilation - the man from Georgia had never been oriented towards that Motown/Northern Soul sound, but still , Tune up from 1965 has a Jazzy, Mod appeal, and I ain't going nowhere is a track from the early 70's, when Junior had calmed down a beat and belatedly adopted the mainstream Motown sound - just when most other Motown stars were leaving it, in fact. Personally I prefer the more raucous, funky side of Jr. Walker, although he did have some beautiful mellower records in the late 60's and early 70's.
There are quite a few "other" versions here. Although I often regard such versions as unessential fillers, some of the tracks of this type here carry enough quality and interest to justify their inclusion. Among these are Just Ain't enough love, done by Eddie Holland; Two can have a party too done by Tammi Terrell alone, without Marvin; the Isley's stone classic This old heart of mine given a different treatment by Tammi Terrell again, actually this was different enough to give her a hit of her own; and the Four Tops' version of Lonely lover, made famous to the Northern Soul scene by Jimmy McFarland.
What else? Some classic Northern Soul tracks by Motown's girl groups: The Marvelettes - Only your love can save me, The Velvelettes, with no less than three tracks here: Lonely lonely girl am I, These things will keep me loving you, and A bird in the hand (is worth two in the bush), and good old Martha & the Vandellas with One way out.
A personal favourite of mine for many years is Bobby Taylor's I've been blessed. This recording by the guy from Vancouver sounds more like a Don Davis production on Groovesville.
Several other fine selections included, by Shorty Long, Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway, Carolyn Crawford , Jimmy Ruffin (NOT what becomes of the broken hearted again, don't worry).
Unlike some other Northern soul compilations, the technical quality here is fine too. The only complaint I have is about the liner notes being too sparse - but to end with a positive note - this is an excellent CD!
Love a Go Go - Uppers (Sweden)
Good to see Sweden jump on the 60's/rare soul CD re-release bandwagon. Although this is basically a northern soul compilation off the vaults of the Chess group, something that has been done before several times, this is still a refreshing project in more ways than one.
First the packaging - this looks nothing like the UK Northern Soul comps. The CD comes in a cardboard box, which I find quite convenient, and I like the graphics on it. On the other hand, there are no liner notes whatsoever - just track listing, but thankfully writing and publishing credits are included, unlike many other CD comps.
As for the contents - there is a slight modish approach to the selection, which means a little broader musical range than usual, yet there are no real pop letdowns.
Love a go go by The Lime sets the mod-ish mood - some would say this is just straight pop, but it has a nice hook, good harmonies and a classic northern type beat, so it's OK with me. Some inevitable Chess group classics are here - e.g. The Dells - Wear it on our face and There is and Tony Clarke - Landslide. However, many Chess artists are represented but not by their most obvious tracks, e.g. Fontella Bass with Lucky in love, a very pleasant mid-pacer, The Valentinos with Let's get together (and not Sweeter than the day before, which has already been included in about a dozen previous compilations). The Radiants are represented with I'm glad I'm the loser, which is the flip of the famous northern classic Hold on, and to my ears may be even better than its celebrated A side. Gene Chandler is not a classic Chess artist, but an early 70's Curtis Mayfield composition performed by him has found its way to this CD - In my body's house; not at all Northern Soul, unless it would be considered "Crossover", a definition I'm still trying to get a grip of. The mighty Little Milton is represented with a not very well known track, Driftin drifter, midtempo pace but intense vocals as usual. Post-Radiants Maurice McAllister is here too, his track is not too original a choice - Baby hang on, very well known on Northern Soul circles, a late 60's track, on the verge of Crossoverism I should think, and he even mentions the word crossover on the lyrics. Etta James is one of those soul music legends who had scores of excellent tracks, yet are thinly represented on the Northern Soul scene by a track or two which happen to have the Right Beat. Well, hers is Seven day fool, a strange little song celebrating total submission to her lover, which is very danceable. Just a mention of some other interesting tracks included here before I hit it and quit: Frank D'rone - Think I will has a kind of jazzy groove that is more mod than northern soul, albeit I don't like the vocals and the horns are too noisy to my ears; The Kittens - Ain't no more room, 100% uptempo Northern Soul; Don't get your signals crossed, a good straight soul record track from Chess veteran Bobby McClure; Tennison Stephens - Where would you be, a good song with grittty vocals from an artist I shamefully admit to not having heard of before.
All in all, a good compilation, surely a must if your collection does not include several of these Chess gems.
For more information on this CD and other Uppers releases and how to order them, go to the Uppers web page.
Joe Simon - Mr. Shout - Ace (UK)
Finding early and relativley unknown tracks recorded by soul's stars is to me one of the most exciting aspects of collecting soul music. For almost every big name in soul, there are records to be found from his or her "prehistory". Often I find such records to be extremely satisfying musically, already showing signs of greatness, yet to be discovered by the general soul-music buying public at the time of their recording. Such are recordings by Wilson Pickett with the Falcons and as a soloist on Wand, Clarence Carter on his duets with Calvin Scott, Arthur Conley with the Corvets, Aretha on some of her CBS sides, Johnnie Taylor on his gospel recordings and on the Sar / Derby secular records, Sam and Dave on Roulette and others.
And now comes this CD, which does just that - unravel the "prehistory" - for one of soul music's most successful artists ever - Joe Simon. His career really took off in the late 60's on Sound Stage 7, with the wonderful Chokin' kind - one of the most influental soul records ever made, still much copied on today's southern soul scene. Then of course there were the Spring days in the 70's, with yet more commercial success.
Before Sound Stage 7, Joe Simon recorded 7 45's for Hush (1959-1962), the first two with the Golden Tones and then as a soloist; then in 1963 one 45 for Irral, which was picked up on Dot. Then in 1964, he recorded one 45 for Gee Bee, which was picked up by Vee Jay - and that was My adorable one, an early country-soul classic. BTW If you look at Joel Whitburn's Billboard R&B chart book, you will not find this record. It only reached #102 on the pop charts at the time when Billboard were not having an R&B chart, which is why it's not listed there.
Two more records followed on Vee Jay, one of them being his first formal R&B chart hit, Let's do it over.
All of the above mentioned 45's are included here, along with three more previously unreleased recordings - one from the Hush days, and two from the Vee Jay period. During all of the period included on this CD, Joe Simon was recording in California, mainly in the Frisco Bay area, where he lived after moving there with his family from his home town in Louisiana.
One mystery track here is a version of Sam Cooke's Bring it on home to me. The liner notes claim it was recorded in 1965, unreleased at the time, apparently getting a release in 1970 on Buddah - well that can't be what happened, because the recording sounds like 1970 one, definitely not a 1965 one. The drumming, the vocal backing, everything about the production is un-1965. Not that it matters that much, it's not a very good version anyway, and it's quite out of place on this CD.
Some of my favorite tracks on this compilation - My adorable one is lilting ballad, if you don't know it you're in for a treat, albeit one word of warning, the version included here is take 15, and somewhat different from the one I know. When I'm gone is quite in the same vein - another excellent 6/8 ballad (included in my top 40 page). The third of the Vee Jay ballads, Let's do it over, is also very good, with a southern soul styled production. Its flip side, The Whoo Pee, is a good R&Bish dancer.
Out of the Hush sides, which I'd never heard before, the ones that caught my ears are Ocean of tears, a somewhat eerie doowop ballad; Troubles is a fast bluesy side with an excellent horn arrangement; I keep remembering is again blues influenced, but this time a somber ballad; the Irral/Dot track Only a dream is also a nice gospel-influenced ballad. Not all the early sides are as good though - and there's no clear soul direction in all of them, typical of the early 60's when Black American artists were searching for a musical direction, and for a short while did lose a lot of Black America's musical distinction.
A word about Joe Simon's voice on the Hush sides - I'd say it still hadn't reached its maturity, and sometimes comes out as screeches on the higher notes.
Some of these tracks have been available before on the Charly CD "My adorable one". Some of the original 45's are quite easy to find. But this is the first time all of Joe Simon's early career is unraveled - although not as impressive as the early careers of some other soul stars, this collection of all of Joe Simon's early recordings is a great job well done. I have just one question: why mix the tracks in a sequence the rationale of which I cannot find? I don't see why they should not be listed chronologically.
Another Night With... Big Dee Irwin (UK West Side)
DiFosco Ervin, a.k.a. (Big) Dee Irwin (1932-1995) had his first hit as lead singer of the Pastels. Recorded as early as 1956, hitting #4 R&B and #24 Pop in 1958, Been so long was a marvelous R&B ballad and certainly one of the earliest precursors of soul music (later beautifully re-made in full deep soul mode by Sonny Warner).
Dee Irwin was a big voiced, husky baritone, as well as a prolific writer during the 60's. This compilation includes three early phases of his career, in addition to the above mentioned Pastels track: his two solo 45's on the Hull label; most of his Dimension recordings (including his version of Swinging on a Star, a pop hit but not an R&B one, with uncredited co-vocals by label-mate Little Eva); and a few tracks recorded for Roulette but previously unreleased.
For me the best tracks here are the Hull sides (from 1959-61): two achingly romantic doo-wop styled ballads (though with no vocal group), I can't help it and Rubin Rubin, and two strong soul-blues sides, Let's try again and 'Tis farewell.
The rest of the tracks here span the earlier part of the 60's, and to my ears sound too lightweight and pop-oriented to reflect Dee's true talent. The one outstanding Dimension track for me is And heaven was here, where his vocal skills shine through - and this one even has some dance potential.
Still, it's good to see material like this getting (re)released on CD, and let's hope that this set will be followed by a subsequent compilation of Dee Irwin's sides for Phil LA of Soul, Rotate and Imperial, for which he cut the wonderful northern soul item I only get this feeling (included on The Soul of the Net radio program #1; later successfully covered by Chuck Jackson), and some good duets with Mamie Galore. Another excellent track by Dee was his duet with German singer Suzie on Jimmy Reed's Ain't that loving you baby (Polydor).
Also worth mentioning are the notes on this CD which are excellent and provide a full recording biography for Mr. Irwin/Ervin, not restricting themselves to the period covered by this specific collection.
Willie Clayton's Greatest Hits - Midnight Doctor - Blueside (UK)
Over the past two decades, Willie Clayton has been a consistent stronghold of real soul music. In an era when the term "soul music" refers to any style of black American music, regardless of its soul content, Willie Clayton's records can be regarded as a true continuation of the legacy of soul music of the 60's. True, there is a lot of blues infused into his albums - as is the case with most current southern soul records, e.g. on Malaco, Ichiban, etc.; Personally I am not too happy with this lumping together of soul and blues - with all due respect to the great tradition of the blues, soul music, that revolutionary sound created in the early 60's deserves a place of its own, and a term of its own. Having made this reservation, however, I can definitely say that I do recommend this album wholeheartedly for fans of true soul music.
This "greatest hits" compilation actually covers Willie Clayton's material recorded for Ace records, an independent label operating out of Pearl, Mississippi, with record sessions held in Jackson, MS. Since 1993, Willie has recorded 3 albums for that label, and the best of these, plus some previously unreleased tracks are included here.
This set kicks off with Three people sleeping in my bed, taken off Willie's first Ace album - no sexual fantasy here, it's just "me and my woman and the man in her head"; a modern classic, and a truly excellent song and performance. The other big hit included is Equal opportunity, a brilliant duet with Pat Brown, which I've already raved about on the Trivia page and included in my 90's special Soul of the Net Radio show. If you're still not persuaded about the quality of Willie Clayton's vocals, listen to his version of Walk away from love: not only does he dare to cover a record by David Ruffin, one of soul music's most revered vocalists of all time, but he gets away with it, producing some spine shivering soprano shrieks along the way. Other favourites of mine are In need of a good woman, a powerful ballad which again showcases some fine soul singing, as does Meet me tonight. Clearly the 90's Willie Clayton has developed a vocal style of his own; in the past I've sometimes thought that he sounded too much like other famous soul vocalists. One track on this set still has a trace of this - Let's get together, where both the arrangement and the vocals show some heavy Tyrone Davis influence.
The bluesier tracks include a good version of Z.Z Hill's Don't make me pay for his mistakes, as well as My baby's cheating me, Midnight Doctor, and Young blues man, previously unrelesed. But I say Willie is not exactly a young blues man, but a soul man currently at the prime of his career.
My only complaint to the compilers regards the lack of inclusion of Back street love affair from the first Ace album, a beautiful ballad later also done by Willie Clayton's wonderful prot?g?, Pat Brown.
A word about the packaging - the graphics and liner notes on this UK release are clearly superior to those on the original Ace albums, and I am sure Willie would be proud to hold this compilation in his hands. And as for you, dear soul fan, here's your chance support a great soul artist while he's still at it. Buy this CD, enjoy it and help keep the flame of real soul music burning.
And by the way, if you want to listen to Willie Clayton's first 45, recorded at the age of 14 - click on to The John Ridley page.
For Millionaires Only Vol. 2 - Goldmine (UK)
The second volume on Goldmine's series of rarer-than-usual northern soul compilations, is, like its predecessor, an above average Goldmine release, though I can't say it's as good as volume 1. Unlike other CDs out of Todmorden, on the Millionaires series there's practically no recycling of material already issued on other Goldmine CDs, and even though I haven't been to a UK soul event in ages, I have a feeling that this compilation somehow captures the atmosphere of the current northern soul scene more adequately than other CD releases, certainly of ones restricting themselves to a certain label or a certain legendary soul venue.
Well, I'll go out of my way this time and mention all the tracks on this set. It opens with the Four Temples, All of my life (Virtue), a good mid-paced dancer distinguished by the nice sax led intro. The Magnetics - Lady in green is the other side of Heart you're made of stone which was on volume 1 - I prefer the more soulful flip, but this side is certainly atmospheric, and I believe is the more frequently palyed side . Next is Dennis Edwards, lead vocalist with the Contours then lead singer of the post David Ruffin Temptations, with an obscure release on International Soulville, Johnny on the spot - a northern soul legend of the 90's, however , although it certainly features a classic northern beat, its status probably owes something to the subsequent fame of the artist. Did I say that this collection captures the atmosphere today's northern scene successfully? Well, Reggie Alexander - It's better (Boss) exemplifies the rather sentimental / poppish mid-tempo tracks that are being spun today - I don't go for most of these, but they're part of the scene. BTW Mr. Pete Smith maintains that Reggie is none other than Andy Williams !!? Talking about Pop, Billy Arnell's Tough girl is represented by its instrumental side - the beat is right, but nothing else is, well, in my opinion anyway, but the somewhat mysterious air about it probably caught the ears - and the legs of northern soul punters. Back to Soul Music - and a relatively well known artist for a change - Jimmy Delphs - Dancing a hole in the world (Carla) is certainly within soul territory, an excellent track. On to another Detroit record - Danny Woods, with the R&Bish You had me fooled (Correctone); good soulful vocals. Sonny Herman - What about me (Utopia) is another soulful, uptempo track from LA. Ruby - Deceived (Gold Token) is the flip side of that label's release of "feminine ingenuity" (also released on Take 6 with a different B side), and is an inspired, original track, with an atypical, almost ska-ish beat, certainly one of the best here. The Cashmeres - Showstopper (Hem) is reputedly a popular track recently, but personally I find the production and the vocals somewhat sloppy and a bit off-key, it's not a bad record but I don't see what's special about it. The Limelites (without Shep) - Don't leave me baby (Uncle) has the classic northern soul traits, a handclappin rhythm with drum rolls at appropriate places, not spectacular but nice. The beat is right also on Chuck Flamingo - What's my chances (Rojac), though it's a little "tired" sounding to my ears. Next up is a real surprise for me - I have never heard the original version of Nothing you can do by Bobby Womack, a track I like a lot as recorded by Wilson Pickett. It doesn't storm along like the Wicked Pickett's version, and the backing track is a bit strange, with lots of bongos and a dominant harmonica, but somehow it all works out and the result is a fine soulful track. Two uptempo footstompers follow: Eddie Rey - I've got something of value (True Soul), and John Wesley - Love is such a funny thing (Melic) (the latter also cut by Larry Williams and Johnny Watson). Debbie Curtis follows with a melodic albeit poppish mid-tempo item, and poorly recorded at that, I check the mailbox (Jarbbo). But talk about poppish, Jesse Davis's vocals on There's room for me (Revere) surely wins him the worst track title on this compilation. Although claimed by the liner notes to be black, Jesse sounds totally soul-less. Jon Tee - Crazy (Jay Tone) is not a lot better in my opinion. Things get better with Cleveland Robinson - Love is a trap (Nosinbor - that's Robinson spelled backwords, well almost anyway, the singer's own label), not brilliant but has a catchy hook. The final track is by the Quintessents, with a line-up which is said to be a predecessor of the Natural Four. Image of a man (Vibra) is an atmospheric track, not perfect for dancing though.
A word about technical quality - it's obvious that most if not all tracks here were dubbed from discs, hence the quality is not like that of re-mastered tracks, and depends on the quality of the record - of course, when records are this rare you can't expect mint quality on all of them. Personally that doesn't bother me too much, but don't say I didn't warn you.
And a note about liner notes - on this one they are quite comprehensive and well written - which means Goldmine can do it if they want to.
All in all, a recommended set, which includes some worthwhile tracks that the average fan is not likely to own on original vinyl, not in this life anyway.
The Groovesville Review Vol. 2 - Goldmine (UK)
The good news is that this CD contains some outstanding tracks, a few of which have not been publicly available before. The bad news is that, like the former Groovesville Review volume, and maybe more, a lot of the unreleased tracks here are "other" versions of well-known tracks, either by different artists or different takes by the same artists. Apparently Don Davis and other Detroit producers had the habit of recording several of his artists on the same song, either as demos or full recordings, and they seem to have had the knack for releasing the best version. In any case, the versions are quite similar, often sung to the same backing track, so it's not that there's any innovation in these versions. Personally I don't get a big kick out of hearing Melvin Davis sing a track I've grown accustomed to associate with Darrell Banks or vice versa, etc.
Anyway - the opening track, Recipe by L.V. Johnson is a real beauty, recorded in 1969, and I think it would perfectly fit the Crossover tag much used in the UK. My only complaint is that the fade out is a do-it-yourself job; the backing track just stops abruptly after 3:19 minutes. The other contestant for most valuable track is Love on a lease plan, by Johnnie Taylor (spelled Johnny). It starts off with a dramatic interplay between male and female backing choruses - a lot of production for a demo! And is it really JT? There have been doubts about this. I thought that knowing Mr. Taylor's voice so well - from his Gospel sides with the Soul Stirrers, through the Sar secular releases and then Stax and beyond, I'd know if it's him the moment I lay my ears on this track. Well, I don't. The voice is quite similar to JT, but the style of singing is somehow not exactly the same, this is especially notable towards the end. This might be explained in two ways - (a) it sounds different because it's a Detroit record and he adjusted his style accordingly or (b) It's not Johnnie Taylor but an unnamed master by a different singer with a very similar voice, and the Johnny Taylor tag was given to this master because of the similarity of the voices. I'm also doubtful with regard to Kev Roberts' liner notes about this one: "A week before Don Davis singed Johnny Taylor, they'd demo'd a great side titled Love on a lease plan". The year for that track is given as 1966. As far as I know Johnnie Taylor's work with Don Davis began in 1968, whereas he was signed with Stax and worked with Hayes/Porter from early 1966. How this track came to be is still a mystery to me. If this is indded old JT, could this be one of the demo he allegedly made for Motown just before signing with Stax? Still a mysterious track but a brilliant one in any case, so what the heck!
Only 6 of the 25 tracks have been released at the time they were recorded: These are: I will fear no evil - Robert Ward (but is it the same take as on the 45? Not sure); I'm in love again - The Debonairs (way too pop for me); the beautiful Baby please come back home - J. J. Barnes; You're still in my heart - Melvin Davis, Hey Senorita - The Tokays, a rare pseudo-Latin track which sounds like it was dubbed from a disk., and Genie by Terri Bryant, an atmospheric track albeit at times too poppish for me. And that left hand piano intro - where do I know it from? I think The Isley Brothers - Take some time out, starts off exactly the same but then goes in a different direction altogether, but there must be another disc with this intro, can it be the Precisions, Such misery - I haven't heard this one in a while and I don't have the record, so correct me if I'm wrong!
Of the rest of the previously unreleased tracks, my faves are Baby I Cried - Eddie Hill, a mid tempo number which is soulful and suitable for the middle-aged dancer; Hit and run - Pat Lewis, a good version of this song that had several versions before, including one by Martha Reeves on a previous Detroit compilation by Goldmine; Your love is sweeter - a previously unreleased track by Steve Mancha that features top-notch vocal performance from him, as usual, but the song is not that strong and the production is unfinished; Steve Mancha is also featured on Souvenirs, a more polished recording, nice but not outstanding.
Redundant tracks and oddities include a intro-less and inferior take of the wonderful Somebody somewhere (needs you) - Darrel Banks; L.V. Johnson's not very convincing version of J. J. Barnes's beautiful Snowflakes (Volt). Melvin Davis and Steve Mancha duetting on Jackie Beaver's I need my baby - we had that on volume one, didn't we? And the silliest track I've heard for a long time, Joey Kingfish and Eddie Anderson on I won't hurt you anymore - the liner notes claim this to be a duet, but I can assure you, these are just two different vocal tracks to the same backing, misinterpreted as a duet and mixed together. No two professional singers would be caught dead recording such a duet. There's no synchrony at all between the two vocals, no harmonies, no taking solo parts, just the two of them singing the same notes from start to finish, but each with his own timing and vocal style. The result is cacophonic. Koppel, you should know better than that.
Time for this review's bottom line: if you like Don Davis productions and Detroit 60's soul , and you are a CD buying person, you will have to buy this. But in my opinion, the two volumes of Groovesville Review could have easily been squeezed into one excellent volume.
Northern Soul Lost & Found - Goldmine (UK)
The thread that runs through this compilation of 25 northern soul tracks reflects a business association rather than an artistic one, i.e. the labels represented are all associated with the Philips conglomerate: Philips, Mercury, Fontana and Blue Rock, the latter being the group's R&B subsidiary.
As in the case of most major labels, there is no distinct sound associated with its R&B output, and there is a variety of studios/producers involved, so that tracks herein feature a wide range of styles. There is certainly not much in common between the Motownesque She don't deserve you by the Honey Bees on one hand and the hard driving, horns laden version of Keep on talking by Prince Philip Mitchell (recorded at Fame) on the other. Other than that they are 60's soul tracks that are adaptable to the northern soul idiom, of course.
Both the above tracks are excellent, and so is a good percentage of the others, making this a recommended CD even for northern soul veterans who sneer at the many nostalgic type northern soul compilations available these days.
To these ears, some of the other standout tracks are I won't let her se me cry - Big Frank and the Essences (Philips/Blue Rock), reputedly worth 200 UKP on both labels, a big city sound with a big voice in the vein of Chuck Jackson and Tommy Hunt; the compilation's title track, Lost & found by Kenny Carlton (AKA Kenny Carter), written and produced by Van McCoy; Quit while I'm ahead, another Van McCoy production, by Lonzine Cannon, a good soul shouter; 90 days in the county jail - Danny Woods, almost too funky to be northern, and a little scandalous on the lyrics side; Just like a woman by the Temptations-influenced Fads (well, who weren't); I won't share by the Paramounts, so northern-soul-styled it makes it hard to believe that the term was not even invented at the time of its recording; Come see what's left of me by Bobby Hutton, with Joe Armstead on its writing and production credits, and sounding extremely Detroit; and I'm leaving, very soulfully sung by Jimmy Norman.
The bottom line: the soul content of this CD is considerably higher than that of your average northern soul compilation. Value for money is also quite good, as many of the tracks were not available on CD before and fetch medium to high sums on vinyl. Lost and found is an apt title, conveying the resurrection of these tracks years after their recording dates. The only sad part about it for me, is that it is unlikely that someone will ever resurrect all the wonderful rare soul records that do not happen to feature northern soul danceabilty, on these labels and on all the others; the number of rare deep soul comps released in a year can be counted by the fingers of one hand, not to mention good uptempo or midtempo records that just don't sound "northern". Shouldn't we be finding these lost treasures too?
Still Wanna Be Black - Jimmy Lewis - Kent (UK)
Jimmy Lewis has had more success as a writer than as a performer. His career is comparable to a lot of behind-the-scenes soul personalities who actually could deliver brilliantly as well as write, but somehow never took off as performing artists. The list is long but the Soul of the Net's favorites Homer Banks and George Jackson come to mind. The latter's career has been remarkably parallel to Mr. Lewis's - both men recorded sporadically beginning in the early 60's, both achieved a lot more success writing for others, both continued to record and write real soul material in the post-60's era when mainstream R&B had lost a lot of its soul. They even wrote for the same people - Z. Z. Hill, Johnnie Taylor among others, and both were involved with Malaco records for a long time. Quite amazingly, it was 1996 that brought what probably turned out to be Jimmy Lewis's biggest commercial achievement to date - the soap soul hit Bill by Peggy Scott Adams on his own independent label - Miss Butch records, already mentioned elsewhere on this site as one of the landmarks of 90's soul. Well they say you've got to pay some dues, and Jimmy Lewis most certainly has. Just a mention of some of his classic compositions: It's private tonight (recorded by Arthur Adams), Love is so good when you steal it (Z Z Hill), Stop half loving these women, (not very consistent advice on these last two...) recorded by Johnnie Taylor as well as by Jimmy Lewis himself, Careful man (John Edwards), Got to get you back , (Bobby Womack).
On to the CD at hand: this is a reissue of his 1974 album Totally Involved (originally on Hotlanta), just 8 tracks on that, and a further 12 previously unreleased tracks. Jimmy Lewis seems to have an endless amount of previously unreleased material. Different unissued tracks have been available before on augmented Japanese and American CD versions of Totally Involved, but the non-LP tracks here are all unique to this compilation.
Jimmy Lewis's singing has quite a wide range of styles, and perhaps as more of a backroom person than a performer, he has not found (or has not had to find) a consistent singing voice. Definitely an original stylist, he does sound at different times a little like Bobby Womack, Joe Tex, Ray Charles (with whom he collaborated in the late 60's), Al Green and Sam Cooke. My favorite tracks on this CD include, from the original album, the deep ballads It ain't what's on the woman, How long is a heartache supposed to last, and Thank you, a northern soul styled gem, if you skip the intro; the previously unreleased stuff is exceptionally good, and outstanding tracks include I got my troubles, an Al Green-ish ballad; One woman's man, a rousing uptempo number with classic late 60's style horn lines, and, the grand finale - the title track Still wanna be black. Somehow the plaintive melody and the deeply moving lyrics on this simplistically arranged 6/8 tempo ballad (might be a demo actually) hit me so bad when I first heard it, I tell you people, I had to play it three times in a row!
The bottom-line? If you like the deeper end of 70's soul, you should definitely do yourself a favor and get this CD!
Dry Your Eyes - Brenda & the Tabulations * * * - Jamie / Guyden (US)
and the Tabulations had an overnight success in early 1967 with the smooth,
uptown ballad Dry your eyes. Like many overnight
successes, Brenda Payton and the three Tabulations - Maurice Coates (co-writer
with Brenda of many of their tracks), Eddie Jackson and James Rucker - never did
re-achieve the same amount of success, but they did have a steady run of medium
size chart hits that lasted until 1977 - in all, 16 Top 50 R&B hits. This CD
is a reissue of their Dionn LP Dry Your Eyes,
complete with the original cover picture of Brenda Payton with the tear on her
left eye. The CD contains all the A sides and B sides of the five 45 releases
they had on Dionn in 1967, including When you're
gone, which is a bonus track, not included on the original album. Subsequent
single releases on Dionn in 1968 and 1969 are not included. Brenda & the
Tabulations later recorded chart hits for Top & Bottom, Epic, and Chocolate
City. Did I mention they were from Philadelphia? I know you know, but just for
As for the music: what we have here is plenty of subtle, orchestrated Philly style ballads - the title track of course and, notably, a nice version of Smokey's Who's loving you (but have you heard little Michael Jackson's version of that one from 1969? pure magic), Stay together young lovers, and the LP only track Oh lord what are you doing to me. The cover of the Marvelettes' Forever, taken at a midtempo pace, may cater to northern soulies, as well as Hey boy, which was used as a B side on no less than 3 45's. The version of Gershwin's classic Summertime is also interesting. On the whole, this is a nice set, though it does not exactly suit my own tastes in soul music - as you should know by now, uptown is not my part of town. But I would like to congratulate Jamie/Guyden for releasing this original LP, (along with a couple of bonus tracks) this is the kind of work that we soul fans should be thankful for, and especially, of course, all you Brenda & the Tabulations fans out there.
Soul Summit - The Ambassadors * * * - Jamie / Guyden (US)
Do you like The Ambassadors? The correct answer should be, "Which Ambassadors do you mean". The group on this disc is the one from Philadelphia, and the only Ambassadors ever to have an R&B chart record, namely, I really love you. This disc is a re-issue of their original 1969 Arctic LP Soul Summit, and includes three bonus tracks. Previous to their stay at Arctic they had recorded secular sides for Atlantic and Delite, and Gospel for Federal as the Philadelphia Ambassadors. Other Ambassadors I know of are the ones on Sound Stage 7 (who cut the beautiful ballad There's something on my baby's mind) and the ones on Pee Vee, a white group that recorded the Northern Soul classic Too much of a good thing; on Sound Stage 7 there were also Bobby Ledford and the Soul Ambassadors, and there were also The Ambassadors of Soul on Ovide.
Well, so much for originality of the name of the group, and on to the contents of this CD. Track 1 is the aforementioned I really love you, a classic (and classy) late 60's Philly cool-soul sound. The original album tracks range from the excellent to the undistinguished LP-fillers. My favorites are Storm warning, a top notch northern soul style dancer, and Ain't got the love (of one girl on my mind), written by Barbara Mason, a beautiful mid tempo swayer. Not surprisingly, both these tracks were used on A sides of Arctic releases subsequent to I really love you, but failed to chart nationally. Besides Storm warning there are a few more tracks that should not clear a northern soul event's dancefloor - If I'm all you got (I'm all you need), and the three bonus tracks, which all have potential to attract the northern soulie's ears and feet, albeit two of them, recorded live, are quite rough on the technical side. One of them, Happiness, is a live version of their Atlantic 45, which sadly could not be included in this collection of Arctic sides. The last track on this set is Proud of my baby, which although the liner notes claim is a previously unreleased track, is actually identical to the track which is on the other side of Happiness, on Atlantic, titled I'm so proud of my baby, but without the horns and strings, which were probably overdubbed following the original session. And the edit is a bit different, adding a slow guitar intro and having a few extra seconds at the end. Interesting how this Atlantic track got into this Arctic collection.
As usual with this genre of CD's, the Soul of the Net welcomes this complete re-issue of an original 60's LP with previously unreleased bonus tracks. Buy these CD's and you'll not only enjoy the music but support the labels that cater for us classic (and classy) soulies.
This Is Northern Soul * * * * * Debutante (UK)
The relation between Northern Soul and Motown involves a paradox: the backbone of the Northern sound of soul consists of Motown-inspired records, records on a legion of labels, large and small, that were undoubtedly trying to incorporate into their production the sound that worked so well for the Motown group of labels. Only through the existence of Motown and its enormous success in the mid 60's can we explain the bottomless pit of soul records with that "northern" beat, on other labels, that has been providing good quality "newies" for the Northern scene for 30 years now.
And yet records on Motown and its affiliated group of labels - Tamla, VIP, Soul and others - are quite far and in between on most Northern Soul events. Why? Because the Northern scene is also a "rare soul" scene. Although the Four Tops I can't help myself , for example, is, strictly musically speaking, the archetypal Northern Soul styled record, no Northern DJ would be caught dead playing it - it's too famous, too mainstream, and so were most of the records by the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Isley Bros, etc. The Motown records that do get played on the scene are the non-hits - or the minor hits - which would never be played on, say, a golden oldies radio station in the US.
Not only are there not that many Motown records played as Northern Soul, but within the CD/LP compilation revolution that has been making the mega-expensive 45's available to the general public, almost no Motown recordings were ever included, presumably due to licensing problems. This CD compiled by Chris King not only puts this right by including a lot of the greatest Motown Northern nuggets for the first time on CD, but also includes recordings that were not issued on 45's in the 60's. A real left fielder, this, on a label which specializes on mid price casual compilations such as "38 classic love songs", and now suddenly - this CD which surpasses most Goldmine or Kent comps for sheer quality and value for money. On to the contents, but first a quick compliment on the cover graphics, very simple but an effective nostalgic throwback to the UK Motown compilations of the 60's. The set opens with a previously unreleased gem by Brenda Holloway - Think it over, a.k.a. Reconsider, which as Mr. King write on the liner notes, "has everything a northern soul stomper requires". Track 2 is Frank Wilson , Do I love you, no description needed; a brilliant record which I never get tired of, my UK Tamla Motown 45 release, that is (no, I'm not the lucky owner of the fifth known copy of the US release, only four copies known, worth about £5000 each) - but now it's on stereo for the first time, interesting to hear it this way. Next - probably the most popular Northern track of 1997 - This love starved heart of mine by Marvin Gaye, a track which was discovered on a master tape in the Motown vaults in the mid 80's, and released formally by Motown only in 1995, on the Love Starved Heart CD (all previously unreleased Marvin Gaye), and on a limited promotional vinyl 45 release, which has become the most recent Northern Soul rarity, and what a wonderful track it is. These three opening tracks set the standard for the rest of this compilation: an excellent blend of previously unreleased or at least not formally released material and of records that were released but were appreciated only, or mainly, by the northern soul scene. To the latter group belong tracks such as Just a little misunderstanding - The Contours, I'll keep holding on - The Marvelettes and Just walk in my shoes - Gladys Knight & the Pips, three tracks that were very popular in the very early days of Northern Soul (or the UK 60's soul scene, even before it became "Northern"), but just minor hits in the US. Tracks not released at their time of recording include Forever in my heart, a.k.a. Come on back to me baby - The Temptations, You hit me - Kim Weston and It's never too late - Gladys Knight. Most other tracks also stand up to this compilation's high standards: The Supremes - He's all I got could easily have been one of their #1 hits, but instead it turned up on a B side and so became a northern fave; Frances Nero - Keep on lovin' me, another classic; The Monitors are represented with two good tracks - Share a little love with me and Crying in the night. The commercially unsuccessful Andantes throw in a very pleasant Heatwave/Quicksand soundalike: (Like a) Nightmare. The Temptations are represented with two more tracks: Truly yours, featuring a great lead vocal by David Ruffin, and I gotta find a way (to get you back). the Originals supply an upbeat soul version of Goodnight Irene, Brenda Holloway is featured again with the well known When I'm gone, and the Spinners are included with What more can a boy ask for, which I remember from the 70's Motown compilations LP From the Vaults. Personally I prefer I'll always love you - but there's still hope: since this comp is subtitled "A collection of 24 Tamla Motown Northern Soul Rarities Vol. 1", am I right in expecting a second volume? The bottom line - this a unique and very well recommended northern soul compilation.
Thanks to Greg Tormo & Bernie O'brien for comments included in this review.
Kent's Magic Touch * * * * Kent (UK)
No, it's not a revamped CD release of the old vinyl compilation by the same name on the same label. But it does include, as did that LP, Melba Moore's terrific piece of northern magic, The magic touch, one of the best examples of canned 60's recordings dug out by UK soulies. Other than that, this compilation of Musicor/Dynamo stuff is different from its vinyl namesake. Four tracks are assigned 1997 as year of release: Eddie Carlton's soulful Things are getting a little tough, though having been played on the northern scene before, apparently sees its first ever (legitimate) release; also previously unissued: a track by Dee Dee Turner, which was given two alternative titles by Kent: Maybe maybe baby vs. Baby baby baby, though actually the title should be I'd rather hurt myself (this ballad has been recorded and released in the 60's by another singer, watch this space for details when I recoup from a current senility attack); Barbara and Brenda - That's enough (not the song recorded by Roscoe Robinson) , and an Italian version (which I could have lived without) of the most famous allnighter signature tune, Long after tonight is all over - Jimmy Radcliffe. As for the released tracks, although all on one label, or rather two affiliated ones, it's quite a mixed bag. And don't be fooled by the acrobatic dancer on the front who's picture was taken just before a very bad fall on his face; this is not a strictly northern soul compilation, some ballads and other non danceable stuff here. The quality is somewhat unsteady. There are some excellent tracks, albeit quite well known, such as You fixed my heartache - Inez & Charlie Foxx, Quit twistin' my arm - Stanley Mitchell (An escapee from Popcorn Wylie compilations), Crying like a baby - The Jive Five, Sweet sweet lovin' - The Platters, Never love a robin - Tommy Hunt, and the beautiful, lyrical, My heart cries for you by Porgy and the Monarchs. Of the ballads, the most impressive to me is I'm so glad I found you by the Diplomats, an uptownish arrangement with a soaring, soulful vocal lead. In between a few other good tracks there are quite a lot of fillers - though of course one man's filler may be another man's gem (or a woman's, of course). So as usual with these Northern compilations - it's all up to the specific track(s) you need. It's really a tricky business rating a compilation CD, or for that matter, any album; it's the tracks that count, and one big "want" of yours that gets scratched out, or one big personal newie, can make an otherwise worthless album a big find for you. The bottom line: as northern or northern-related soul compilations go, this 27 tracker is somewhere in the middle. Not brilliant through and through, contains some weak spots, but there are quite a few good tracks included which you need, unless, as is quite likely, you already have them.
The Mad Lads - Their Complete Early Volt Recordings * * * Stax (UK)
Vocal groups were not the backbone of the Stax sound. Of the few groups that did record at Stax, the Mad Lads were the most successful. However, their sound was not at all representative of the southern soul revolution that was going on around them. Although local Memphians, the Mad Lads' musical influences were removed from mid 60's Memphis both in time – their style was somewhat old fashioned and doowopish, and in space – they sounded more like a group out of, say Philadelphia than Memphis. Their stay at Stax/Volt was a long one and in fact, they recorded nowhere else. This compilation includes all their released recordings, and three unreleased tracks, cut during the first Stax/Volt period, up to 1968, when the Atlantic distribution contract was ended. Their first record, The sidewalk surf / Surf Jerk - which was released on Stax, not Volt, is not included, but all Volt releases of the said period are present, including all the tracks off the Volt LP Mad Lads In Action, and all non-LP 45's - A sides and B sides, plus three previously unreleased tracks. Several of the tracks appear in original (not electronically enhanced) stereo for the first time – not the most dramatic feature for me, but if you're heavily into stereophony you may be interested. To me, in fact, the essential Mad Lads tracks up to 1968 are not many. I'd say any decent soul record/CD decent collection should include Don't have to shop around, I want someone, Nothing can break through, Whatever hurts you, and my favourite, I don't want to lose your love, a 45 that failed to make the Billboard R&B charts – there's just no justice in the world, is there. All of these appeared in the Stax/Volt Box set vol. 1 (see review below), so unless you're a hardcore Mad Lads fan, this CD is not essential if you have the box set. The rest of the non-box-set album tracks and B sides range between the pleasant but not spectacular and the truly boring. Northern soulies may find interest in the Mad Lad's version of Michael (The lover), but not so much in the previously unreleased version of label mates Astors' Candy, which is taken at a non-northern beat. The other two unreleased tracks are Please wait until I'm gone, a nice mid-paced tune, albeit a rhythm-change spoils it for me (and the lead vocalist on this one is definitely not John Gary Williams, the regular lead), and the final track, Cloudburst, which begins as a convincing dancer, but suffers from a sort of "bridge" in the middle that sounds amateurish, and was probably the reason why it was canned in the first place. The bottom line: this CD should please beginning collectors who are not familiar with the Mad Lad's handful of stone classics, or dyed in the wool Mad Lads freaks. For the rest of you, it's not essential. However, let's not be an ungrateful lot. The makers of this compilation deserve a big thank you for taking time to remaster, research and produce this CD which will obviously not bring a lot of profit to its proprietors. Nuff respec' to the guys at Stax/Ace.
The Roots of Northern Soul * * * * Goldmine UK
This may turn out to be my favorite Goldmine northern soul CD yet. It's got everything I like in a compilation: big classics interwoven with relative unknowns and lots of variation in musical style. If this is what northern soul was like in the early days, then it overlapped my own taste in soul music then more than it does now. An R&B/southern touch is evident in this collection, much more so than in what I am used to see categorized as northern, which since the early 70's, generally speaking, has leaned more towards uptownish or motownesque rhythms and arrangements. Consider for example the role of New Orleans in this collection: Three Robert Parker tracks, Irma Thomas, Betty Harris, Benny Spellman and Aaron Neville all represent the crescent city here (albeit the Aaron Neville track, A hard nut to crack, sounds more Detroit than anything else). Northern mega classics include The kick off track, Robert Parker - Let's go baby where the action is (for me and probably for many this has become an anthem of northern soul, though its rhythm and production is more R&Bish than most stuff played on the northern scene); Willie Tee - Walkin up a one way street; Betty Everett - Getting mighty crowded; Gloria Taylor - You got to pay the price; Gene Chandler - Nothing can stop me; The Inspirations - Touch me, kiss me, hold me; The Ad Libs - Nothing worse than being alone; Fred Hughes - Don't let me down. If your collection lacks any of these, this CD provides a good opportunity to own them. "Southern meets northern" tracks include Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson's marvelous Lover's holiday which has been a fave of mine for a long long time, and is certainly no rarity, but I'd not heard it played as northern soul. Joe Simon, a southern soul giant, is represented with his big northern sound - No sad songs. Clarence Murray is a southerner who seemed to specialize in records with the right northern beat - and appropriately he is represented by two of his best tracks, Don't talk like that and Baby you got it. Roscoe Shelton - You're the dream has a nice xylophone-led arrangement. Betty Harris has the last word on this compilation, with the beautiful beat ballad - I'm evil tonight. Other tracks worth mentioning in this 30 tracker are the Van McCoy Strings' soothing instrumental appropriately titled Sweet and easy, and the Dells throw in one of their best tracks (from the Vee jay days)- Hey sugar (Don't get serious), featuring that familiar and unique Dells sound. I'll wrap up this review by saying that I'll definitely recommend this CD as part of a Goldmine northern soul initiation series, though some of this stuff may be considered overplayed or over-re-issued by some. Me, I can never overplay or over-listen to You got to pay the price or Getting mighty crowded, and since about ten of the tracks were new to me, I'd say this is perfect blend of tracks of varied popularity and varied style.
The Kelly Brothers - Sanctified Southern Soul * * * * Excello US / Kent UK
always resented the claim that soul music was nothing but gospel music with
secular lyrics, soul music covering so much wider a range than gospel, both
musically and lyrically. But the Kelly Brothers came as close as any soul act to
diminish the difference between gospel and soul - and I'm not complaining. What
we have here is in fact gospel music with secular lyrics - and, most
importantly, with horns, which were never used in gospel arrangements (the
devil's instruments?). Hence the title of this set, Sanctified Southern Soul is
The Kelly Brothers were actually five: Lee, Reese, Andrew, Robert and Curtis, although most publicity shots and record covers show them as a trio. After recording several gospel 45's as the Kelly Bros., they went secular on the Federal label, changing their name to the King Pins (nothing to do with King Curtis's Kigpins). They had one R&B chart hit on that label - It won't be this way (always) in 1963. In 1964 they moved to the Sims label in Nashville. This set covers their output on this label from 1964 to 1967, along with some later 1967/8 tracks released on the Excello label. Several previously unreleased recordings from that period are also thrown in, bringing the total number of tracks to 28.
The set kicks off with both sides their most successful Sims single, Falling in love again / You're that great big feeling. The A side is a strong fast-paced, gospel styled ballad which really flows along, led by Curtis Kelly's Sam Cookish vocal. As with many of soul greatest 45's, this too is a coupling of a ballad with an uptempo dance track; Great big feeling is a powerful spin off High heel sneakers, a great intro followed by a track full of energy and excitement with great vocals by Robert Kelly (who was generally in charge of the Kelly's uptempo lead vocals). Not many of the other tracks on this CD rise to the level of the first two, but if you take care to separate the good from the mediocre ones (which something I always take a little time to do when I get a new CD/LP) you will be able to find some gems here. Often I use the lyrics as a guideline to tell me which of the tracks have a lasting value. On Falling in love again, the lyrics, though quite simple, convey truthfully the conflict between the joy of falling in love and the fear of the agony that is so often the outcome of love. Although the third track, My love grows stronger is quite similar to Falling in love again, lyrics like "my love is taller than the tallest tree, deeper than the sea" don't really say anything, and musically too, the inspiration that is evident on the first track is lacking on "stronger", although it's definitely pleasant. A quick run through some of the other tracks: Make me glad is another pleasant ballad. I'd rather have you is a good uptempo track (Robert again doing the lead singing), but suffers from corny lyrics again - "I'd rather have you than a big diamond ring" etc., - not sure this a dilemma Robert Kelly ever had to face. You're the most is very similar to Dee Brown and Lola Grants' We belong together, which it predates, so the Kelly Bros. could have sued (by the way, the brothers wrote most of their titles). Can't stand it no longer is a nice mid-tempo one, almost straight gospel. Ouch! Oh baby could have some Northern Soul appeal. Of the previously unreleased tracks, the ones that made a strong first impression were I'll be right there (uptempo, with Robert on lead as usual) and Stop these tears, a ballad featuring a guitar recorded through a Leslie speaker which reminds me of I'll work it out by James Crawford, maybe that's why I like this one. Of the Excello tracks, my pick is Comin' on in, again straight gospel ballad with almost gospel lyrics ("Got one foot in heaven, and I'm comin' on in") - this one is from 1967, and it demonstrates how soul ballads got slower and slower going from the early/mid 60's to the later part of the 60's.
Time for the bottom line - 28 tracks, several unreleased, some recorded in the legendary Fame studios - if you're a southern soul fan, and haven't known the Kelly Bros. before or never had their records - this CD is highly recommended.
The Shades Of Blue * * * Collectables US
The Shades Of Blue were Edwin Starr's "blue eyed" prot?g?s. Led by Nick Marinelli, Their faultless rendition of Starr's composition, Oh how happy (released on the Impact label) brought them their brief moment of glory on the R&B and Pop charts in 1966. So what else did they do? That's the question answered by this CD. Well, the answer is, they had several releases in the same vain as Oh how happy - cheerful, youthful lyrics, with a good Detroit beat and lots of that beloved xylophone that could well please Northern Soulers - though they might be just a shade (no pun intended) too poppish for some. My favourite of the several tracks of this genre here is Happiness, which I suspect might be a "grower" and certainly has that Northern Soul drive in it. Other tracks in the same vain are Lonely summer, A way to love, With this ring and Millionaire. Most of the other stuff on this 14 tracker is straight pop, which is not necessarily bad, but not relevant to these pages. Oh, and by the way, Oh how happy is included of course, which might be a good reason to get this CD if you like it and don't own it already, albeit it seems to be a different mix to the one I know.
Beg, Scream & Shout - Rhino (US) 6 CD boxed set ****** for beginners, less for veteran soulies.
Actually I'm reviewing this one although I haven't bought it, and I'm not going to, unless it's going to be as a present for someone I want to convert into soulism. And I do think that someone who has not been exposed to these records before can be converted by this set. Personally I have all but 5 of the 144 tracks here in my collection, which is not huge - which goes to show that there are no big surprises or rarities here. The tracks range from the very well known (Stand by me, I've been loving you too long, Sweet soul music, etc.) through long standing soul cult standards (Nothing takes the place of you, Love makes a woman, Tainted love etc.) to some not so often heard gems (The Soul Clan - That's How It Feels, The Jackson 5 - Who's Lovin You, Al Green & The Soul Mates - Back Up Train, Bull & The Matadors - The Funky Judge, The Contours - First I Look At The Purse, and others.) For what it is meant to be, the selection is truly excellent. If you are starting a soul CD collection, you should definitely get this set (but don't forget the Stax box sets vol. 1 and 2).
concept of the set is this: 2 CD's for Beg (the ballads), 2 for Scream (by which
they mean mid-tempo), and 2 for Shout - the up-tempo, dance tracks. As service
to its visitors, the Soul of the Net hereby lists all the tracks on this set,
which should speak for themselves. I wish Rhino the best of luck with this
release, and may it convert the whole world back to real soul music.
BEG I - The Soul Clan - That's How It Feels * The Delfonics - La - La - Means I Love You * The Fantastic Four - The Whole World Is A Stage * Ben E. King - Stand By Me * The Precisions - You're The Best (That Ever Did It) * O.V. Wright - Eight Men, Four Women * Brenda Holloway - Every Little Bit Hurts * Toussaint McCall - Nothing Takes The Place Of You * Judy Clay & William Bell - Private Number * The Mad Lads - I Don't Want To Lose Your Love * The Jackson 5 - Who's Lovin You * Garnet Mimms - Cry Baby * Brenda & The Tabulations - Dry Your Eyes * Barbara Mason - Yes, I'm Ready * Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage * Sam & Dave - When Something Is Wrong With My Baby * Otis Clay - That's How It Is (When You're In Love) * The Sweet Inspirations - Sweet Inspiration * Barbara Lewis - Baby, I'm Yours * Percy Sledge - It Tears Me Up * Mitty Collier - I Had A Talk With My Man * Deon Jackson - Love Makes The World Go Round * Al Green & The Soul Mates - Back Up Train * The Impressions - Choice Of Colors
BEG II - The Dynamics - Ice Cream Song * Otis Redding - I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) * The Dells - Stay In My Corner * Jackie Ross - Selfish One * Eddie Holman - Hey There Lonely Girl * William Bell - Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday * Joe Hinton - Funny * Aaron Neville - Wrong Number (I Am Sorry, Goodbye) * Tony Clarke - The Entertainer * Leon Haywood - It's Got To Be Mellow * Tyrone Davis - Can I Change My Mind * Bobby Hebb - Sunny * The Intruders - Cowboys To Girls * Dionne Warwick - Don't Make Me Over * Maxine Brown - Oh No Not My Baby * Bobby Womack - Fly Me To The Moon * Billy Stewart - I Do Love You * The Radiants - Voice Your Choice * James & Bobby Purify - I'm Your Puppet * Esther Phillips - Release Me * Gene Chandler - Rainbow * Jay Wiggins - Sad Girl * Irma Thomas - Wish Someone Would Care * Ray Charles - In The Heat Of The Night * Lorraine Ellison - Stay With Me
SCREAM I - Shorty Long - Function At The Junction * King Curtis - Memphis Soul Stew * Dobie Gray - The "In" Crowd * The Blue-Belles - I Sold My Heart To The Junkman * Barbara Acklin - Love Makes A Woman * The O'Jays - Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette) * Bettye Swann - Make Me Yours * Clifford Curry - She Shot A Hole In My Soul * Betty Everett - You're No Good * The Ikettes - I'm Blue (The Gong-Gong Song) * Four Tops - 7-Rooms Of Gloom * Aretha Franklin - (Sweet Sweet Baby) * Since You've Been Gone * The Young Holt Trio - Wack Wack * Solomon Burke - Got To Get You Off My Mind * Martha & The Vandellas - You've Been In Love Too Long * James Carr - Pouring Water On A Drowning Man * Fontella Bass - Rescue Me * Joe Tex - Show Me * Gladys Knight & The Pips - Friendship Train * The Knight Bros. - Temptation 'Bout To Get Me * Clarence Carter - Snatching It Back * Lou Rawls - Dead End Street Monologue/Dead End Street
SCREAM II - James Brown - Out Of Sight * The Esquires - Get On Up * Jerry Butler - Only The Strong Survive * Willie Tee - Teasin' You * MEL & TIM - Backfield In Motion * Erma Franklin - Piece Of My Heart * Chuck Jackson - I Don't Want To Cry * The O'Kaysions - Girl Watcher * Stevie Wonder - I Was Made To Love Her * Carla Thomas - B-A-B-Y * C & The Shells - You Are The Circus * Wilson Pickett - I'm In Love * Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces - Searching For My Love * The Velvelettes - He Was Really Sayin' Somethin' * Joe Simon - The Chokin' Kind * Don Covay - Seesaw * The Showmen - 39-21-46 * Ike & Tina Turner - A Fool In Love * Mary Wells - Bye Bye Baby * Brenton Wood - The Oogum Boogum Song * Doris Troy - Just One Look * BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S - Time Is Tight
SHOUT I - Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music * The Meters - Cissy Strut * Archie Bell & The Drells - Tighten Up * Bob & Earl - Harlem Shuffle * Howard Tate - Stop * Bull & The Matadors - The Funky Judge * Soul Brothers Six - Some Kind Of Wonderful * Major Lance - The Monkey Time * The Supremes - Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart * Alvin Cash & The Crawlers - Twine Time * Gloria Jones - Tainted Love * The Joe Jeffrey Group - My Pledge Of Love * Rex Garvin - Sock It To 'Em J.B. - Part I * Marvin Gaye - Can I Get A Witness * Lee Rogers - I Want You To Have Everything * Shirley Ellis - The Real Nitty Gritty * Rodger Collins - She's Looking Good * Cliff Nobles & Co. - The Horse * Johnnie Taylor - Who's Making Love * Bobby Patterson - T.C.B. or T.Y.A. * Little Milton - Grits Ain't Groceries (All Around The World) * The Isley Brothers - It's Your Thing * Darrell Banks - Open The Door To Your Heart * Soul Sisters - I Can't Stand It * Dyke & The Blazers - We Got More Soul
SHOUT II - Jackie Wilson - Baby Workout * Edwin Starr - Agent Double-O-Soul * Robert Parker - Barefootin' * The Marvelows - I Do * Sir Mack Rice - Mustang Sally * Soul Survivors - Expressway To Your Heart * The Capitols - Cool Jerk * J.J. Jackson - But It's Alright * Etta James - Tell Mama * The Flirtations - Nothing But A Heartache * The Temptations - (I Know) I'm Losing You * Rufus Thomas - The Memphis Train * Mar-Keys - Last Night * The Five Du-Tones - Shake A Tail Feather * The Contours - First I Look At The Purse * Eddie Floyd - Big Bird * Bob Kuban & The In-Men - The Cheater * The Marvelettes - Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead * Jr. Walker & The All Stars - Shake And Fingerpop * The Fantastic Johnny C - Boogaloo Down Broadway * Bar-Kays - Soul Finger * Kim Weston - Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) * Eddie Holland - Leaving Here * David Ruffin - My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me) * The Show Stoppers - Ain't Nothin' But A House Party
For Millionaires Only * * * * * Goldmine (UK)
theme of this limited edition CD is records with price tags between 300 and 1200
UK Pounds. How did they get these? The answer is a combination of popularity on
the northern scene, and rarity, owing mainly to lack of distribution on behalf
of the original labels - often, but not always, small local labels.
Well, judging but this 20 track comp, you do get what you pay for. This comp has both features that make a northern soul compilation better than the rest: good soul content, and high percentage of never-before compiled tracks. The set kicks off with the brilliant Bobby Kline - Say something nice to me (originally on MB, worth 400 UKP). A classic that has already been released on a Soul Supply vinyl comp, but this time the sound quality is a lot better. My other favorite classic here is The Magnetics - Heart you're made of stone (Bonnie, 1000 UKP). One that I hadn't known before but gives me tremendous kicks is William Powell - Heartache souvenirs (Power House), an relentless stomper, with a strangely detached vocal (might be blue-eyed) which makes a perfect contrast - my July 1997 no. 1 soul hit! I seem to have a dangerously expensive taste - this one is also worth a grand. Other nuggets included here: Jimmy Wallace - I'll be back; The Soul Set - Will you ever learn, Tommy Ridgely - My love gets stronger; and the fantastic Johnny Summers - I can't let go (Yorktown, 800 UKP). Definitely worth its higher than usual price, you better hurry up and get this CD while it lasts. I believe Goldmine's marketing line on this one has some truth in it: If a 90's CD comp is ever going to become a collector's item, this is the one.
Groovesville Review * * * * Goldmine (UK)
Groovesville is one of my favorite labels. I consider Don Davis as one of
the geniuses of soul music. However, listening to this CD, after I tore the
cellophane wrapper with shaking hands, was a trifle disappointing. This is a
compilation of mostly unreleased masters, and it was probably silly of me to
expect the exceptionally high standard of the released output on the label. It's
true that some previously unreleased, recently released CD tracks are of the
highest quality. However, statistically, most are inferior to released
recordings of the same era. This makes perfect sense, at least in the case of
Don Davis, who no doubt had a splendid ear for soul records, and would not can a
record for no reason.
The cream of Groovesville and Don Davis related artists are represented here: JJ Barnes, Steve Mancha, Darrell Banks, Melvin Davis, The Parliaments, Edwin Starr, and a moonlighting David Ruffin, trying an odd one out with Don Davis in the midst of his highest success with the Temptations. Intriguing as all this seems to be, the number of stand out tracks here is small. I haven't flipped about the kick-off track, Edwin Starr - Has it happened to you yet. It uses the Sweet sherry backing track, and I can't seem to get the original off my mind while listening to this one. Obviously JJ Barnes's version preceded this one, since if you listen closely you can hear JJ's muffled wails on the into. I prefer the other Edwin Starr here, You're my mellow, a real stomper - but a not previously unreleased track. Steve Mancha has four solo tracks here and one with Melvin Davis - a version of I need my baby. It's soulful enough, but somehow sounds unfinished, and anyway, who needs a version of Jackie Beavers's wonderful original, with the same backing track? The same is true for the great Melvin Davis's version of J.J. Barnes's Chains of love. The other Steve Mancha tracks are all good but conventional soul tracks. None has the extra something that it takes to make a soul classic. Stand out tracks are The Parliaments - Heart trouble (the other of the two non-previously unreleased tracks here), The Professionals - That's why I love you, albeit a take - or mix - which is slightly different from the released one, and Darrell Banks - I'm the one who loves you, again a different take. Of the previously unreleased tracks that are not just alternative takes, my favorite is Willie Hatcher - Searching - with vocals that are a cross between Darrell Banks and Steve Mancha. Another thing - I don't know if these master tapes have a separate channel for the vocals (they probably do, hence all these different song/artists, same backing track variants). If so, I suspect that the vocals have been mixed a little too high relative to the backing track on most of the tracks here.
The bottom line for this one: I don't want to sound ungrateful. Goldmine and Martin Koppel must be thanked for unraveling these master tapes. But if you expect this to be the equivalent of a time machine going back to 1967 and fetching 22 brand new releases on Groovesville, be warned, you will be disappointed.
The Boo-ga-loo Years * * * * Right Stuff (US)
Boo-ga-loo label was founded in 1966 in Detroit by Sammy Kaplan, and in its
three years of existence its output revolved around Jerry "Jerryo" Murray.
Working with or without Robert Tharp, (Tom of Tom & Jerryo) Murray cut a
string of party records that were much funkier than most contemporary Detroit
soul music. Tom & Jerrio (still with an i) had a big hit in 1965 with Boo-ga-loo, on ABC, a fast, piano led and horn laden
instrumental with interjections such as "Vamos girl, vamos". It seems that the
whole of the Boo-Ga-Loo's existence (the label, that is) stemmed from that
record - not included here, since it was not released on the compiled label
According to Jon Levy's liner notes, the Detroit studios where the Boo-Ga-Loo sessions took place were "usually well stocked with two of Jerryo's staples: Scotch whiskey and attractive young women". Most of the tracks on this CD sound like it. The set begins with Karate Boogaloo, the labels' biggest hit, from 1967. The only other Jerryo solo track that made the R&B charts was Funky Boogaloo, on January 1968. Both were released and nationally distributed on the Shout label. Both excellent party tunes. Funky Boogaloo has a nice catchy trumpet hook that adds a certain mellowness to the otherwise totally upbeat, funky going-ons. Soul lover nods to Otis and Carla's version of Tramp. I wonder though why it was included twice, on tracks 2, shown as by Jerryo, and on track 11, shown as by Tom & Jerryo, titled Soul L-O-V-E-R. Both tracks are totally identical. I guess someone at Right Stuff was not paying attention, with all those Jerryo sides sounding pretty much the same to ears that were not disciplined to the funky stuff.
Although this is a label compilation and not a Jerryo retrospective, only three of the 14 (actually 13) tracks are not performed or co-performed by him. The Sea Shells track seems totally out of context here, it's an early 60's sounding side (A young Jerry Murray? a girl group? not a hint about this in the liner notes). The Soulmates are represented by a nice but unspectacular upbeat instrumental. And Mighty lover is credited to the Mighty Lover Band - but it's not an instrumental, as this would suggest. In fact it's an excellent track, typical Detroit, produced by Popcorn Wylie, and released twice on the Boo-Ga-Loo label: once as by the Ideals, and once as by the Mighty Lovers (but not as by the Mighty Lover Band). Confused? Never mind, just blast track 12 on your stereo and do some northern soul spins and backdrops to it.
Back to the funky (Tom &) Jerryo stuff: Funky four corners is James Brown inspired, fast and funky. Soul sister is good, with a little more structure to it than the rest. Papa chew do the boogaloo is a spin off Tom & Jerrio's ABC recorded boogaloo hit, not as funky as the others and could have some northern soul appeal - don't know if it was ever played on that scene. I'm tired is a nice mellow instrumental, which is a nice change by the time you get to track 9.
Time for the bottom line: not a brilliant CD, Jerryo's interjections ("papa-chew!!!" etc.) may be a little silly and repetitive, but if you like 60's funk and don't have the original records, you should get this.
Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures * * * * Kent UK
A welcome new item in a genre of which there are too few releases - deep soul. Talking about rare deep soul here. The rarity is not mentioned in the title of this comp by legendary UK soul celebrity Dave Godin, but there's no "I'd rather go blind" or "Nothing takes the place of you" here. Is the quality of these rare tracks comparable to that of more well known deep gems? I still haven't made up my mind, but this CD caters for a variety of tastes within the deep soul world, and any soul fan is likely to find in it four or five tracks that will make his/her life a little bit happier in the coming weeks. Dave Godin undoubtedly has a weakness for drama - dramatic lyrics and arrangements, many with strings and things are evident in many of the 25 tracks here. Check out Showdown by Kenny Carter which kicks off like a Tchaikovski symphony. Not sure yet if I love it, but I suspect it has a growing-on-you potential. Other dramatic deepies include Lights out - Zerben R Hicks & the Dynamics and The turning point - Jimmy Holiday with a Ben E King soundalike performance. Of the more southern sounding tracks, my favorite is the relatively well known Cry baby cry by Van & Titus, albeit an alternate take here - a ballad that flows immaculately from beginning to end; a rare Otis Redding production on Billy Young, Nothing's too much, on Mercury (not one of the Redding produced Jotis label sides); the Otis Redding influence is also very evident on Easy as saying 1-2-3 by Timmy Willis (Mr. Soul Satisfaction), released in early 1970, three years after the Big O's tragic death. Other tracks I liked so far: She broke his heart - The Just Bros. (Wand), Tried So hard to please her - The Knight Bros. on Mercury (post Checker, an Impressions inspired number), and Try love by Dori Grayston on Murco, an outstanding vocal performance on a quite standard ballad, and Jean Stanback - I still love you (Peacock 1968, released in the UK in 1969 on Dave Godin's own Deep Soul label). The CD is lovingly packaged. The CD booklet is gorgeous graphically and the content is enlightening. This may not be the best CD ever released, as Dave Godin claims, but you're not seriously considering not buying this, are you?
Twinight's Chicago Soul Heaven * * * * Kent UK
Twilight records was founded in Chicago in 1967, but changed its name to Twinight after five releases, due to an existing copyright on the former name. Its main man was Syl Johnson, who had a string of R&B hits on the label before signing with Hi in 1971. As this comp shows, the label had no single distinctive sound. Releases on it represent a crosscut of the then current soul styles. This CD has more focus on the 70's releases, and there are very few 67-68 tracks on it. I suspect that this is due to the fact that those were the years of southern soul, and as Syl Johnson's output from that time shows, the style was raunchy, horn-led soul , which may not be Adrian Croasdell's cup of tea. I hope the planned volume 2 will put that right. But the stuff that IS here is quite good, especially on the deeper side of things. My fave here is That's the reason - Buster Benton, an ultra-sad soulful slowie. I also like Temptation is hard to fight by George McGregor & the Bronzettes, and Tearing me up inside by Harrison and the Majestic Kind, a deep mid tempo gem from 1970, and Which one am I, a triangle tale by the Perfections, and Wayward dream by Annette Poindexter. There are two less known Syl Johnson tracks here (the bulk of his Twilight & Twinight stuff was recently released on The Twilight & Twinight Masters Collection, on Collectables, reviewed below). Some Chicago acts who had success in other labels turned up on Twinight eventually, such as The Radiants (from Chess) and Josephine Taylor (from Mar-V-Lus), and are represented here with one track each. Tracks with "northern" feel are very few, most notably Maggie by Johnny Williams (the Slow Motion man? don't know, might be). What else? Renaldo Domingo has a voice quite similar to Darrow Fletcher's, and E. Rodney Jones's Soul Heaven lament to late soul kings is represented by the instrumental flip, for some reason. Hope to get the A side on part 2. The bottom line: this is the next best thing to getting a pile of Twil(n)ght 45's. Can't be bad, can it?
Wigan Forever * * * * Goldmine UK
Another strong northern soul compilation from Goldmine. It's title refers to the legendary Wigan Casino, one of the shrines of northern soul during its heyday. Not having had the opportunity to have been there, this is a good way of learning about what I missed. Wigan veterans may know all of the tracks here, but for me, a general soul fan albeit with a solid interest in the 'northern' aspect of soul, this is a good combination of tracks I know, tracks I've heard, and tracks I don't know. The opening instrumental track, G Davis & R Tyler - Hold on help is on the way is new to me, it's a little jazzy and definitely groovy and a joy to dance to. Maurice Williams, a southern singer who had a few records on the northern scene is represented here with the Toussaint/Sehorn New Orleans produced - Being without you, a surprisingly northern (both in the US and UK sense) sounding record. Southern recorded northern soul hits seem to be the motto of this collection, at least partially, this brand of NS also represented by: Don Varner - Tear stained face on Quinvy a 100% southern record that was destined to become northern legend due to the base player mindlessly producing a motownish base line (my interpretation). Also Sam Dees - Lonely for you baby, a SSS International recording, where I think it's the low-key piano on the intro that makes this one pass as northern soul - both tremendous soul records. Speaking of southern-northern, there are also a few records here from the Sound Stage 7 catalog: a Little Richie record, not the classic Just another heartache but the less impressive One - bo -dillion years. Ted Ford - You're gonna need me, 1:44 minutes of good southern soul, again with a chance adaptability to northern soul dancing, and the Fabulettes, Screamin' and shouting - this one's got the quicksand jumpy kind of rhythm, doesn't sound southern at all, maybe it was leased to SS 7 or recorded earlier before southern records got their special recognizable flavor, and in any case it's very good. What else? two tracks by Sidney Barnes, the well known, very soulful I hurt on the other side, and also You'll always be in style. Also a few classic beat ballads, e.g. Sam Fletcher - I'd think it over, Wade Flemons - That other place, Kenny Shepard - What difference does it make - not exactly my cup of tea, but a very popular genre in the north of England. Bottom line: of the 30 tracks, a lot are of good soul quality , there's not too much overlap with other comps, and there are some rarities here that would cost you a lot to own in 45 rpm vinyl format.
Darrell Banks - The Lost Soul * * * * * * Goldmine UK
This CD can be retitled the complete Darrell Banks. Basically it's his two original LP's, the non-LP singles tracks, and the cherry for me, three previously unreleased tracks: I will fear no evil (formerly done by Robert Ward, but this is a much stronger version), I'm knocking at your door (or at your heart, as in the lyrics), please let me in and The harder you love. I don't know why Goldmine chose not to highlight the CD being 2 originals + bonus tracks, and why the track sequence mixes tracks from the two LP's and from the singles. But if you use The Soul of the Net's discography, you'll know what you are hearing. Not all the tracks are the same takes as in the records. On some tracks there's a (version one) note, don't know what that means, maybe take one? But then Don't know what to do and I could never hate her are definitely different takes from the Here To Stay album tracks. But enough of this trivia: Darrell Banks was perhaps soul's finest singer, this CD contains ALL the tracks he released plus unreleased tracks, so this is the best CD money can buy. Seen?
Pat Brown - Equal Opportuniy * * * * Ace US
Finally managed to get a copy of this late 1996 album (from CDNow, a good source for US releases, including current southern soul). I raved about the title track on my trivia page. It's a duet featuring Willie Clayton, who produced this set. Willie does his usual soulful stuff, which he has been doing consistently for so many years, but it's Pat Brown's singing that gives me the goose pimples, and there's nothing I can do about it, when she sings "... now Willie you do this all the time, ain't no need of getting mad at me, now you call it cheatin' baby, but I call it, I call it equal opportunity". The arrangement is not as good as it could have been, horns parts are played on a synthesizer, etc., but the song is so strong and the singing so soulful that it compensates for this. I wonder though why since 1971 the ONLY topic for southern soul is cheatin' - will we ever get a tame love song again? Having made my point regarding the title track, I have to say that there is no other track on par with it. My other fave is Back streets, a song Willie Clayton has recorded before, which is an early 70's type of mellow southern ballad, very pleasant, with a grow-on-you potential. There's also a nice version of Nothing takes the place of you, though for some reason it is titled Thinking of you, which is the theme on the intro rap. There are some pleasant mid tempo tracks such as Love on loan and Don't get off on me, the latter could have been a mid tempo Northern Soul dancer, but too bad the electronic drum can't make the necessary drum roll. There are ten tracks in all, most of them are OK, and Pat Brown's singing is a joy to listen to, but I wish they had packed more outstanding material into the album, as it is it sounds like one of those one hit & fillers albums. Still, if you like to be convinced that soul music is still around and not all is lost, as I do, get this album.
The Fascinations - ...Out to getcha * * * * Sequel UK
Everybody knows Girls are out to getcha, one of the few Northern Soul classics to have actually been a considerable hit in the US at the time of its release (early 1967). But Curtis Mayfield's proteges recorded quite a few tracks from 1966 to 1968, and now they have been collected in this fine compilation. The flip, You'll be sorry is a spine tingling ballad, and there are also two unreleased Fascinations tracks, at least one of them, Trusting in you, carrying a strong Northern Soul potential. The album also includes two tracks by the Mayfield Singers and eight by the Mayfield Players. The former were a vocal group that included Leroy Hutson and the late Donny Hathaway among others, who released a 45 on the Mayfield label in '67, both sides of which are included here, while the Mayfield Players are CM's studio band, represented here with 8 formerly unreleased instrumental tracks, including two destined to be Northern Soul floor fillers - Don't start now, tailor made for a NS all nighter, and Out to getcha, the title track, which is just the backing track of GAOTG, and as often happens, the vocal-less version revitalizes the energy of the track. Most other Mayfield Players tracks are also backing tracks of Fascinations/Mayfield Singers recordings - with reggae-version like titles, e.g.Still trying for I've been trying, So sorry for I'm so sorry, and the above mentioned Out to getcha for Girls are out to getcha. I wonder if these titles were found on the masters or given by the compilers. Anyway, most soul fans have a weak spot for instrumentals, and these 8 tracks justify it - some of them are real soul soothers, and all of them are bound to reveal the Karaoke singer in you.
Floorpackin' * * * * Soul Supply UK
An excellent new compilation. Lots of classic Northern Soul of the more soulful variant, e.g. Frankie Beverly - If that's what you wanted (that's before he became Frank), Earl Jackson - Soul self satisfaction (whatever the title means. This record is so soul self satisfying that we won't ask), the Four Perfections - I'm not strong enough, Richard Temple - That beatin' rhythm, The Fi-Dels - try a little harder, The Hesitations - I'm not built that way. For some reason, almost all of the tracks on this CD are ones that were issued on vinyl NS comps in the 80's, so if you have these, e.g The Record Collector on Destiny, Floorshakers on Kent, Out On The Floor Tonight on Inferno, etc., then you may not need this one. Otherwise, and unless you have the original multi-hundred Dollars/Pounds 45's, then you definitely need this CD.
Solomon Burke - Rock & Soul * * * * * Sequel UK
Solomon Burke - King Solomon * * * * Sequel UK
Solomon Burke has been lagging behind in the original LP reissue
business, but now Sequel makes up for lost time. These labels should be thanked
for the good work they have been doing lately with these wonderful reissues.
Solomon Burke is of course one of the Kings of Soul, and Rock and Soul is one of soul music's first notable
LP's. It was released originally in 1964. This CD reissue contains no less than
8 bonus tracks to the original 12. The original tracks are earlier, recorded in
1962-64, and contain the hits Cry to me (1962
recording), If you need me (Atlantic's little dirty
trick on Wilson Pickett, who recorded the better original at the same time on
Double L but due to inferior distribution lost chartwise to Solomon's version),
You're good for me, Goodnight baby (baby goodnight)
and my favorite - He'll have to go. The other
tracks are mostly 45 B sides, of which my fave is Won't
you give him (one more chance), a strange little track with a dominant
acoustic guitar, an unlikely but effective instrument in soul music (hear Arthur
Conley's Put our love together on these pages for
some more soulful acoustic guitar). The record was produced by Bert Berns, that
New York genius of early soul. The bonus tracks contain Everybody needs somebody to love (made world famous by
the dreadful Blues Brothers version on that big soul comeback film in 1980), Yes I do, The price, Got to get you out of my mind
(SB's biggest chart hit) - all hits from the year after the original album
was released (1964-5), and some more B sides, notably
Dance dance dance (flip of Someone is watching,
included in the King Solomon album), and Maggie's
farm (flip of Tonight's the night, that A side
is included as a bonus track in the King Solomon reissue). As usual, the bottom
line is this - if you don't have the original LP and/or all the singles, and
you've surfed into these pages and read so far - you've got to have this CD. If
you do have the vinyl, then being the soul nut that you are you will probably
also want the CD, and remember that by buying it you are supporting the CD
labels' efforts to make soul music available again in the late 90's.
King Solomon was released originally by Atlantic in early 1968, but contains material recorded in 1965-1967. The original LP contains the beautiful bluesy Someone is watching (1965), the soulful ballad Baby come on home (1966), the lovely mid tempo Party people (which also appeared on the Soul Clan LP), the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham ballad Take me (just as I am) (albeit a quite silly monologue ruins it for me. I prefer Arthur Conley's version), a good version of the much recorded When she [he] touches me, (anyone wants to take up the job of listing all versions for the trivia page?) amongst others. There are four bonus tracks, including the deservedly big hit Tonight's the night (strange that its flip Maggie's farm is a bonus on the Rock & Soul CD) and Can't stop loving you now, one of Solomon's quite rare uptempo performances. Talking about uptempo, where is the 1966 hit Keep looking? [late addition - keep looking is included on a subsequent Solomon Burke release on Sequel of the late 1968 Atlantic LP "I Wish I knew"; although chronologically it does belong on the earlier set, we say, better late than never!]
Some tracks on King Solomon are still produced by Bert Berns, who passed away in 1967, others by Jerry Wexler. I wonder why Solomon Burke still recorded mainly in New York in 1966/7 and was almost never recorded down south as the other soul stars of the era. This was only corrected after SB left Atlantic on the marvelous Proud Mary LP (1969), released on Bell records. Is there a CD reissue of that one? Anyway, King Solomon, although slightly weaker than Rock and Soul, is still strongly recommended.
Howard Tate - Get It While You Can * * * * US Mercury
Howard Tate's original LP was released twice in the 60's - first in 1967 and then again in 1969, with two extra tracks. Both albums' cover art and liner notes are included in the CD's booklet, along with new notes. The latter contain a mention of a legend saying that Jerry Wexler called the album's producer, Jerry Ragovoy and told him that this album was considered "The Bible" down in Memphis. Well, I don't know. Memphis and Muscle Shoals in 1967 were buzzing with producers and recording studios that di dn't really need these New York/New Jersey recordings as a "Bible". However, there are some beautiful tracks here, and they deserve credit for having been recorded up in NY/NJ and sounding (almost) like southern recordings - not a bit of the lush, polished sounds usually associated with NY. The album starts with Ain't nobody home, this is the original version of this classic & classy cross between blues and soul, later covered successfully by B.B. King. I learned it all the hard way is a beautiful ballad, while Stop is excellent uptempo southern-style soul. With 17 tracks in all, there's a lot to discover here, and as usual the original album + extra tracks relevant to the album's period is an attractive format.
Kevin Kiley wrote in to add the following info: this was not Howard Tate's only LP. There is a very rare record that he did for Lloyd Price's Turntable label called Reaction (TTS-5002), produced by Price & Johhny Nash! (year of release unknown)
Sweet Soul Music: The Best Of Arthur Conley * * * * * * US Ichiban
A wonderfully compiled collection of tracks by soul music's most underrated artist. Arthur Conley should have been way up in the top ten of soul performers. From the first demo that he wrote, recorded and played to Otis Redding in 1965, I'm a lonely stranger ,his writing and singing were pure sweet soul magic. This compilation includes most of his non LP 45 tracks - the fabulous In the same old way, Let's go steady, Whole lotta woman, They call the wind Maria and God bless. It also includes many of the outstanding tracks included in his four Atco LPs - I'm a lonely stranger, Otis sleep on, Put our love together among others - and of course the uptempo hits are here - the seminal Sweet soul music, Shake rattle and roll, Funky street and People sure act funny. Two of Arthur Conley's original LP's Sweet Soul Music and Soul Directions were also made available in CD format this year - and you should do yourself a favor and get all three CD's, even if you will get some redundancies. It took thirty years, but maybe Arthur Conley is being at last recognized as not just the Sweet Soul Music Man. See also his discography
Syl Johnson - The Twilight & Twinight Masters Collection * * * * Collectables
This is one of my favorite compilation concepts. Take all the 45's of an artist from a given period and give him the best-of album that he should have had but didn't. Up until now the only way to get all of Syl Johnson's pre Hi material was to buy the singles. Not such a bad idea, but it is great to have all this good stuff packed together compactly. Those of you who know him only from the Hi days may be a little surprised - he was much grittier and funkier in his Twilight/Twinight days. Come on sock it to me and Different strokes were reasonable hits from this funky era, deservedly so, and there are a lot of other tracks here in the same vein. Also included are his answer songs, I'll take those skinny legs, and I take care of homework (see chat page for more on answer records). Then as the times were a changin' at the end of 1969 he had a big hit with the strong black awareness record, Is it because I'm black - musically leaning more towards the minor-key, bluesy style that he later perfected at Hi. Also included is his original 1970 version of One way ticket to nowhere, a minor hit for him and a bigger hit for Tyrone Davis a year later.
The Astors Meet The Newcomers * * * * US Stax/Fantasy, UK Stax/Ace
remember buying Candy on a blue Stax 45 many years
ago, not knowing who the Astors were but hoping for the best on the strength of
the Hayes - Porter writers' credits and on that of the revered label. What's
this then? I thought when I put the record on my turntable. Strange harmonies,
weird beat - not at all what I was expecting, and so the record was shelved away
for about ten years. But that was before the Northern Soul revolution which
disciplined my ears to different soul sounds. The Astors' records are among
Stax's few but very impressive attempts to make the Northern Soul scene. (That
this was 1965 and the Northern Soul scene only started years later is of little
importance - probably everyone knew it was coming - otherwise why did they all
record those thousands of classic Northern Soul records that were discovered
only years later?).
And now it's 1997 and the Astors get their first album release, with eleven tracks, albeit sharing it with the Newcomers. The tracks range from the early sixties Satellite pre-soul period up to late 1967, and all of them are of the highest quality. Six of the tracks appeared on the Stax Singles Box, which means five didn't. There's an alternative live version of Candy here, which has something about it that makes it even more danceable and exciting than the original, even though there's a slight moment of misunderstanding between the band and the singers in the middle. Other outstanding tracks include In the twilight zone and Daddy didn't tell me / More power to you, the two sides of Stax 232, a very strong single which should have hit but didn't.
The Newcomers were a teen group of the yellow-label Stax period, and their tracks included here date from 1969 to 1974. Not exactly the perfect companions to the Astors for a two-theme CD. Both soul vocal groups, but that's about all they have in common. Their first Volt single, Girl this boy loves you is a beautiful sweet soul mid-tempo ballad, but later they pushed the Jackson Fivish kid group thing a little too far, with the likes of Pin the tail on the donkey and Humpty Dumpty, not exactly the finest in soul music. Later they matured, but it was already past the prime of soul, and their 1974/5 hit (Too close to be lovers) Too much going to say goodbye is a fair mid-seventies style ballad.
Big In Wigan * * * * * UK Ace/Kent
Once in a while we get a Northern Soul compilation that is truly better than the rest. Its subtitle tells the story: " a collection of shameless oldies played in the golden era of Northern Soul (1968-1996)". Maybe for the veteran Northerner some of the tracks here are worn out, but not for me: although I must have heard J. J. Barnes's Sweet sherry a thousand times before, when I got to this track listening to this new CD with my headphones on, while trying to make a yellow-cheese toast, I just couldn't get the headphones off till the very last second of the song, and I just let the toast burn away. (I found some time to make a new one on the Skip Mahoney and the Casuals track). The other big big personal hit of mine here is Happy by William Bell, and other great tracks include Baby reconsider by Leon Haywood, I'll never fall in love again by Bobby Freeman, Till you give in by Bobby Patterson, You turned my bitter into sweet by Mary Love (I think this one was on Kent's first compilation, in the 80's vinyl days, which was actually a US Kent/Modern collection), just to name a few. Some of the four 70's tracks here are not up to the 60's standards - but there's surely enough good stuff here to make the 5 star score.
Clarence Carter - The Dynamic Clarence Carter * * * * * Sequel UK
Here come the CD reissues of two of my all time top ten soul albums. If you like Clarence Carter, then you are no doubt a true member of the Real Soul Cult. I can't understand why, but some of my friends who will gladly listen to Otis Redding or Al Green do not like Clarence Carter. But I certainly do, and there are hardly any soul albums that can top these two classics. Produced at Muscle Shoals, the music here shows that the Fame crew headed by Rick Hall were no suckers compared to the Stax people - somet imes I lie awake at night for not being able to decide which of the two were the best. The two originals are reissued in my favorite format: an original classic LP plus bonus tracks that are non-LP 45 tracks. This Is CC was his first album. The 1968 magic is all over it - from funky grooves like Lookin' for a fox and Funky Fever through mid tempo gems like She ain't gonna do right, Slippin' around, and the classic hit Slip away - to ballads like CC's soulful renditions of Do what you gotta do and Set me free. And the bonus tracks: I stayed away too long and Step by step (the latter a 1965 single by the Clarence and Calvin duo) - two of the strongest candidates for Soul's Finest Ballad, and finally Clarence Carter's original version of Tell Daddy - does anyone remember now that Etta James' Tell Mama was a version of this one? CC's second album, The Dynamic, originally issued in early 1969, was just as good, and the three bonus tracks here include the never before released on LP or CD Don't make my baby cry - yet another contestant for The Finest Ballad. The original LP tracks, perhaps following the success of the mellow vain of Slip Away, are mainly of the mellower variant, no funky stuff here, but Let me comfort you, Think about it, You've been a long time coming, and the well known Too weak to fight all have that mellow magic, and the set also includes two beautiful covers: I'd rather go blind and Light my fire. Thanks to Sequel. and please go on and reissue CC's next two Atlantic LP's - Testifyin' and Patches. [ latest newsflash - they did! and again, the albums contain the original tracks plus non-LP bonus tracks. Testifyin' is a classic. Patches is not as good as the other three Atlantic CC LP's, but still it still reccomended if you are a true CC fan]. Our less serious colleagues may do with the previous Snatching It Back CD compilation, but we'd rather have the original albums, and if they are completed with non-LP tracks - that makes them perfect.
Johnnie Taylor - Good Love! * * * * US Malaco
A new album by Johnnie Taylor, and it is a beautiful one. The man who never lost his soul is back again, and this is his best material in years. This album is a blend of two types of sounds. The more surprising one, heard on "Good Love" and "Body Rock", exhibits rhythms and backing tracks that are totally current in style, yet perfectly soulful. Imagine driving your rented Chevrolet down an American highway in your next coast to coast trip in 1997, and suddenly "Good Love" by Johnnie Taylor comes on from your local "Urban Contemporary" radio station - and you say to yourself, hey, it's still soul music, after all these years - these are the moments life is worth living for. The other type of sound on this album is the traditional Malaco sound - southern style ballads and blues numbers, and some of these are also top-notch tracks. My favorite is a George Jackson composition, Walk away with me, complete with a beautiful horn-heavy arrangement. Also included is a duet with Tasha Taylor - Johnnie's daughter - on "Ain't that loving you", a wonderful song which J.T was the first to record on a Stax 45 in 1967, then became a hit for Luther Ingram, then for Isaac Hayes and David Porter (and there's also a good reggae version by Alton Ellis - and a classic DJ version by U Roy). Buy this CD, support current soulful soul.
Thelma's Detroit Collective * * * * UK Goldmine
A compilation of tracks released on Detroit's Thelma label. For me this is Emanuel Laskey's label, and if you don't have the 45 "Lucky to be loved by you" you must get this CD, this is probably the most beautiful Northern Soul song ever, written by Detroit's greatest writer and producer, Don Davis, who produced several of the tracks on this compilation. There is also another good Emanuel Laskey track here - What did I do wrong (see his discography on this site). Other good tracks include Whirlpool - Steve Mancha (another Don Davis artist) , both sides of a great Holidays 45 - I'll love you forever / Making up time (the latter is a classy Northern Soul instrumental), I can hear you crying - Eddie Hill, and Hit and run, a demo by Martha Reeves (moonlighting?). 24 tracks.
Northern Soul Fever vol. 4 * * * * * UK Goldmine
Number 4 in this excellent series of double CD Northern Soul compilations. Standout tracks: Can we talk it over - LA Allen, the piano intro packs all the excitement of Northern Soul into five seconds, sounds like a demo that came out so well they released it as it was. Also: Darling I love you - The Superiors - not an original song title, but a very original horn pattern all along; Especially for you baby - The Four Puzzles - one of the most soulful Northern records ever discovered, I love you just the same - Winfield Parker, and lots more - 60 tracks in all.
Birth of Soul * * * UK Kent
Birth of Soul Volume 2 * * * * UK Kent
What was the first soul record? Some soul historians say it's Ray Charles - I got a woman, (1955) claiming this is the first record which is actually straight Gospel music with secular lyrics. Others say it is James Brown - Please please please (1956). But the real soul revolution came in 60's. By 1964, soul music was a full-fledged style, so it is up to the very early 60's to show how soul music evolved. This CD is a nice compilation of such early soul, a good mixture of well known hits and less known records, and a there's a balance between uptown soul and southern soul. Among the well known early soul hits are Cry baby - Garnet Mimms, Pain in my heart - Otis Redding (an out-take included here), Mockingbird - Inez & Charlie Foxx, You'll lose a good thing - Barbara Lynn. Less obvious, and therefore probably more appealing to 60's soul collectors are tracks such as Daddy Rolling Stone - Derek Martin, I'm qualified - Jimmy Hughes, and She ain't ready - J. J. Barnes. A total of 28 tracks makes this a worthwhile purchase, but personally I could do without tracks such as You're not the guy for me - Ernestine Anderson, which is very uptownish, almost straight pop, and what's more, dates from 1965, a year from which anybody could pull out hundreds of terrific, amazing true soul records - albeit too late for a birth-of-soul tag. Bearing in mind that it is much easier to compile a list of records than to a real CD, due to licensing problems and master tape availability, I made a list of some of the records that I would have compiled for a "Birth of Soul" collection: Shout - The Isley Brothers (1960) I lost someone - James Brown (1961) Just you and me - James Brown (1961) Last night - The Mar Keys (1961) Soothe me - The Simms Twins (1961) Looking for a love - The Valentinos (1962) I found a love - The Falcons (1962) These arms of mine - Otis Redding (1962) Soul Twist - King Curtis (1962) I'm Blue - The Ikettes (1962) Down in the valley - Solomon Burke (1962) The town I live in - Mckinley Mitchell (1962) It's too late - Wilson Pickett (1963) I'll never be the same - Wilson Pickett (1963 LP track) Rainbow - Gene Chandler (1963) I am a witness - Tommy Hunt (1963) That's how strong my love is - O. V. Wright (1963) That's how it is - Otis Clay (1963) Cry to me - Betty Harris (1963) It's all right - The Impressions (1963) Walking the Dog - Rufus Thomas (1963) What kind of fool - The Tams (1963) Harlem Shuffle - Bob & Earl (1963) Shake a Tail's Feather - The Five Du-Tones (1963) That's the way love is - Bobby Bland (1963) All wonderful Soul Records, and none later than 1963. I picked records which were (at least minor) hits, so these are the records and the artists that actually paved the way for the soul music. 1963 was also the year Motown made it with great soulful records such as Can I get a witness - Marvin Gaye, Come get these memories - Martha & the Vandellas, Mickey's Monkey, I've got to dance to keep from crying (The original Northern Soul record?) - Miracles and many others.
Months go by... and now there's volume two: well, a few of my suggestions have entered this volume (do the folks at Kent visit the Soul of the Net? Nah, just great soul minds thinking alike. I still haven't received it but judging from the tracks included, most of which I know, the second volume is in fact a little better. Here's the full track listing: Walk Around Heaven All Day - The Caravans / Heart Full Of Love - The Invincibles / Man's Temptation - Gene Chandler / Here's A Heart - The Diplomats / There Goes My Baby - The Drifters / Two Lovers Make One Fool - The Serenaders / I Never Dreamed - The Cookies / Come Tomorrow - Marie Knight / I'll Give My Life - Brenda Holloway / Sad Girl - Jay Wiggins / I'm Counting On You - The Freeman Brothers / I Found A Love - The Falcons / What'd I Say - Ray Charles / The Wrong Girl - The Showmen / Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette) - Benny Spellman / Down In The Valley - Solomon Burke / Always Accused - Willie Tee / Call Somebody Please - The Manhattans / Lover's Prayer - The Wallace Brothers / This Is My Prayer - Theola Kilgore / Time Waits For No-One - Eddie & Ernie / Cry To Me - Betty Harris / Long Haired Daddy - Vernell Hill / Spring - Birdlegs & Pauline And Their Versatility Birds / Standing In The Shadows - Kenny Gamble / Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um - Major Lance / It's No Good For Me - Johnny Nash / All In My Mind - Maxine Brown.
These are not recent releases, but just some CDs you've got to have.
Out On The Floor * * * * * UK Goldmine
Out On The Floor Again * * * * UK Goldmine
Two Northern Soul compilations by Kev Roberts, which are strongly reccomended as THE introduction to Northern Soul. Most tracks are shameless Northern Soul Oldies, very well known in NS circuits. Some have appeared on former vinyl or CD compilations, some have not, but the quality of the tracks on these compilations, especially on the first volume, is unparallelled. If you've never heard of Northern Soul this will surely put you in the groove. If you have, you may find some of the tracks too obviuos, but it's nice to have a compact collection of some of the creme de la creme of NS. Some of the gems on Volume One: She blew a good thing - The Poets, Girls are out to get you - The Fascinations, I'll do anything - Doris Troy, Queen of fools - Barbara Mills, Nobody but me - Human Beinz, I dig your act - The O'jays, This thing called love - Johnny Wyatt, Try a little harder - The Fi-Dels, Don't be sore at me - The Parliaments, Somebody somehwere - Darrell Banks, A little piece of leather - Donnie Elbert, and the title track - Out on the floor by Dobie Gray. Some of the pearls on the Again volume: Love love love - Bobby Hebb, Boogaloo party - The Flamingos, I spy for the FBI - Jamo Thomas, At the top of the stairs - The Formations. On this volume there are some less obvious tracks. I liked Green door by Wynder K. Frog, a groovy instrumental that is not mentioned on Kev Robert's notes, but if my memory still serves me, it's a UK recording. Also two Reggae stars here - Jackie Edwards and Jimmy Cliff with their contributions to the Northern Scene.
Andy Barrett wrote in: Wynder K Frog is a pseudonym of Stevie Winwood!
But Pete Smith, editor of the "Beatin' Rhythm" fanzine, contradicts this: "Wynder K. Frog was actually a guy named Mick Weaver, a well known session man who also worked with Traffic. As far as I can recall, the only pseudonym Winwood ever recorded under was as The Anglos (Incense on Brit/Fontana/Island). Wynder K Frog also did a great instrumental version of I Feel So Bad."
JJ Barnes, Steve Mancha, Darrell Banks - Don Davis Present the Sound of Detroit * * * * * * US Stax (Fantasy) / UK Stax (Ace)
This is not a compilation but a reissue of two of soul music's greatest LPs, which originally came out on the Stax subsidiary Volt - Darrell Banks "Here to Stay", and J J Barnes and Steve Mancha - "Rare Stamps". These two LPs do belong together, being a showcase of Detroit's Don Davis songwriting and production magic with the performances some of soul music's most beautiful voices. The set includes 12 tracks by the late great Darrell Banks - the eleven original LP tracks - e.g. Just because your love is gone, Forgive me, Beautiful feeling, I could never hate her (I get chills up and down my spine just mentioning the titles of these songs), plus a bonus non LP track "I'm the one who loves you". There are 7 J J Barnes tracks, 6 of which were on the original LP (e.g. Sweet Cherry, Now that I got you back), and the bonus non LP "Snow flakes" - you must play this on your next Christmas party. Steve Mancha has six tracks, e.g. "Don't make me a story teller", "I don't wanna lose you", but sadly no bonus track. This music is the soundtrack of my life, and I envy anyone who has never heard these tracks for being able to listen to them for the first time.
Bobby Byrd - Got Soul - The Best of Bobby Byrd * * * * * US Polydor
The underrated Bobby Byrd could do the James Brown thing better than JB himself. Assisted of course by the boss on every track, but for me the combination Bobby's husky but oh so soulful voice with the magic of the James Brown band is what Funky Soul is all about, and, no coincidence, this is also the title of Bobby's greatest recording, included in this set. Also included are the now-famous-due-to-rap-sampling I know you got soul, Keep on doing what you're doing, I need help (can't do it alone), and some beautiful ballads - You've got to change your mind (1968 duet with James Brown) and No one like my baby - a somber ballad, with an eerie organ by JB. 22 tracks in all.
The Staple Singers - Soul Folk In Action * * * * * US Stax (Fantasy) / UK Stax (Ace)
An CD reissue of an underrated classic. The Staples Singers were a well known gospel group which turned half-secular. They agreed to record songs with lyrics dealing with social commentary, but not love songs. (As a solo artist, Mavis Staples did record love songs). The outcome on Stax had a very unique sound, with Pop's distinctive guitar and Mavis's shimmering lead vocal. This album, issued in late 1968, contains some of their best work at Stax. This was before they got really famous with Respect Yourself and I'll take you there in 1971/72. In fact, none of the tracks on this album got into the R&B charts, which just goes to show that they were ahead of their time. My favorite tracks are Slow train, a beautiful ballad, Long walk to DC, an exciting social statement, and the very original musically and reflective lyrically I see it and This year, with a sitar part on the latter. This is the direction soul music should have taken towards the end of the 60's decade, but didn't. There are two bonus tracks here, but they are not full fledged Stax recordings with the MG band, but seem like just Pops and the kids playing around the studio.
The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968 * * * * * * US Atlantic
What can I say, the title tells it all - complete, high
quality re-masterings of each and every Stax and Volt single, from the early
Satellite years to the classic Soul years, up until the end of the Atlantic
distribution deal (The blue label period). The box set includes 9 CDs and a
book, and obviously no soul fan can do without it Even if you are a serious 45
collector - no one has ALL the singles. The only regret is that only some of the
B sides are included. Still, this is the story of The soul music label, and the
sheer quality of the music, track after track., year after year, especially from
1963 onwards, when the company really found its soulful direction, is simply
amazing. You will not buy this for "Dock of the bay", "Soul man" or "Knock on
Wood", although of course they are included here, but for the many other
Stax/Volt records which were just minor hits or non-hits, and for a general view
of how the Stax sound evolved. Some of my personal favorites: Bar-B-Q - Wendy
Rene , Goodnight Baby - Sam & Dave (non-LP B side) I'll run your hurt away -
Ruby Johnson. Sister's got a boyfriend - Rufus Thomas, Love sickness - Sir Mack
Rice, I got a sure thing - Ollie & the Nightingales, What will later on be
like - Jeanne & the Darlings - just to mention a few. But don't forget -
every Stax/Volt single (A side, at least) by Otis Redding, Sam & Dave,
William Bell, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Mable
John, The Astors, Booker T, & the MG's, The Mar Keys - they are all here, in
chronological order, along with many other surprises by less known artists, in
these 9 CDs, each jammed with 25 to 28 tracks. Absolutely essential. And to the
reissue forces that be we say - let's have the rest of the B sides!
The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Volume 2 1968-1971 * * * * * * US Stax (Fantasy) / UK Stax (Ace)
part 2 of the story - the yellow label period with the finger snappin' logo.
Sometimes these years are a little underrated in comparison to the blue label
years, but - as this second 9 CD box set reveals - the material here ,especially
from 1968-69 vintage, is the peak of everything soul music had to offer.
Although Otis was already gone, the rest of the creative powers were still going
strong, Don Davis came in to work with Johnny Taylor and others, and Isaac Hayes
discovered himself as a performer. I just wonder what Otis Redding would have
recorded in these last years of the 60's soul prime. As in the first box, there
are many well known hits here, such as "Who's making love", "Private Number",
"Funky Chicken", etc., but these are not the ones for which you will buy this
216 track set. Even more than in the former set, this one includes many heavenly
gems almost totally unknown to the general public. To name but a few: Stay baby
stay - Johnny Daye, I've got to have your love - Eddie Floyd, You're leaving me
- Ollie & the Nightingales, Just because your love is gone - Darrell Banks,
Happy - William Bell (a Northern Soul hit many years later), Help me put out the
flame - Ernie Hines. Sadly, this set also demonstrates the decline of soul music
around 1970 - in discs 5 to 9 some of the tracks already reveal signs of the
change in the music towards the more self conscious, and generally less soulful
style of the 70's, while some others are simply not up to former Stax standards
- but yet some other tracks show that Stax could produce perfect soul music well
into the 70's - especially with Johnnie Taylor, Jean Knight, The Emotions, as
well as others. Just as the first Stax box - this one is absolutely essential,
and we still say - let's have the rest of the B sides!