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VA: - Let The Music Play - Black America Sings Bacharach & David
Our “Black America Sings…” series has already turned the soulful spotlight on the compositions of Bob Dylan, Lennon & McCartney and Otis Redding. Now it’s the turn of Bacharach and David.

Burt Bacharach’s music and the lyrics of Hal David have been appreciated by black American artists for over 50 years. Dionne Warwick was the first to record many of their songs and by doing so made them visible to others as a source of hits or album tracks. The pair had no finer interpreter than Warwick– with the possible exception of her male counterpart Lou Johnson – but all the acts included here demonstrate the quality of their work.

The song titles here speak for themselves, and the reputations of the artists are enough to guarantee quality performances. Every listener will have their own favourites. I have more than a few, but am especially fond of Dionne Warwick’s original demo of ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’, Ruby & the Romantics’ ‘I Cry Alone’ and Isaac Hayes’ elegant elongation of ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’. There are many other highlights, but if these three tracks can’t sell you on the project, nothing will.

Plans are underway to extend the “Black America Sings…” series, with the next instalment due later this year. In the meantime, here are two dozen of Bacharach and David’s best-known compositions performed by some of the finest soul artists of the 1960s and 70s.

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2014 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Let's Crossover Again
Ace Records 1999 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Let's Paint The Town Red Vol. 2
Floridita Records 2008 LP 13.00 €
VA: - London American Label Year By Year 1963
The USA was the first country in which a London label appeared. It was the flagship of British Decca’s American operations as far back as 1934. In 1949 the first batch of these American records was made available in the UK on the new London American imprint. In 2009 Ace launched its “London American Label Year By Year” series, which with this volume devoted to 1963, stands at five volumes.

1963 was a very good year for Phil Spector, the releases on whose Philles label appeared on London American in the UK. Until very recently, Philles recordings were out of bounds for compilations such as this one, but with the record producer presently out of circulation, his catalogue has very recently become available for license. Every cloud, eh? Let’s face it, this particular edition would not have been an accurate representation of 1963 without the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans, all of whom are present and correct. Yay!

The inclusion of Darlene Love’s ‘A Fine Fine Boy’ here marks the first time the original 45 version has been legally available on CD. (All other digital issues contain a re-edit that is the result of irreparable damage to the original master.) Spector owed a lot of his success to Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry, with whom he collaborated almost exclusively throughout 1963. The threesome co-wrote ‘A Fine Fine Boy’, ‘Then He Kissed Me’, ‘Be My Baby’ that year, and many more besides. Greenwich and Barry also penned bathos specialist Ray Peterson’s death-disc ‘Give Us Your Blessing’ and the Raindrops’ ‘What A Guy’, included here too. (Ellie and Jeff were the Raindrops, but you knew that.)

1963 was also a prime year for girl groups and female singers in general, a fact reflected here via the Sherrys, Little Eva, Marcie Blane, Robin Ward, Shirley Ellis and Ruby & the Romantics, not forgetting 50s R&B star LaVern Baker and South African ex-pat Miriam Makeba.

There’s a lot more to this CD than Phil Spector, girl groups and Brill Building songwriters, but hey, that’s me for you. In all, this collection contains the A-sides of 28 of the 178 singles released on the London American label in 1963. As the series is expanding in two directions, we’re unsure if the next volume will focus on 1964 or 1958, both of which were very good years for American music. Watch this space to find out. Either way, it’ll be a winner.

By Mick Patrick (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2011 CD 17.00 €
VA: - London American Label Year By Year 1964
1964 was not a great year to be an American chart hopeful. After an indifferent start in ’63, the Beatles had finally come, seen and conquered the US Hot 100. If your chances of scoring a decent-sized hit weren’t already hindered by the Fab Four’s domination of the Top 20, there was the mighty rearguard of the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, Freddie and the Dreamers, Petula Clark and anyone else who sang with a British twang to contend with. If the majority of American singers and musicians started to feel like strangers in their homeland courtesy of post-Beatlemania pandemonium, you can hardly blame them.

Fortunately, despite the chart success of UK acts, there was still plenty of great American music being made, and a lot found its way into British ears courtesy of the London-American label. Not as much as in previous years – as London now had stiff competition for US product from Stateside and Pye International – but enough to make the 1964 entry in our “Year By Year” series as varied and enjoyable as the previous volumes.

1964 was a watershed year for London. They lost representation of several labels that had been vital components of their catalogue. Some, such as Atlantic, gained their own identity elsewhere within the Decca organisation. Others – Sun, Specialty, Cadence – more or less ceased to function. Dot Records, a major player in London’s past success, moved across town to Pye. But the London A&R division kept on with Monument, Philles, Kapp and other important US repertoire sources, and actually managed to rack up more UK hits than they had the previous year.

Our collection gives you the gist of how London faced up to the challenge of 1964. Early soul classics from Solomon Burke, Otis Redding and the Drifters; examples of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound from the Crystals and the Ronettes; Buddy Holly clones Ray Ruff and David Box; Elvis soundalike Terry Stafford; boss instrumentals courtesy of Willie Mitchell, the Baja Marimba Band and Bill Black’s Combo; country hits from Jerry Wallace and Ned Miller; and even some American Merseybeat from Washington DC’s Chartmakers, All this and Jerry Lee and Satchmo too – what’s not to love?

As ever, the booklet is full of label illustrations, reviews, sheet music and copious track-by-track annotation. Wherever possible, London’s own original tape sources have been used to preserve authenticity. It’s taken longer to pull this volume together than any previous one, but we are sure the end product will justify the wait for London American collectors and all fans of mid-60s US pop.

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2013 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Lookey Dookey - Talking Trash
Rhythm & Blooz LP 15.00 €
VA: - Love Songs
Elvis, Jackie Wilson, Dino Desi & Billy, Tom Jones, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Brooklyn Bridge,Lulu, Beatles, The Fifth Dimension, Smokey Robinson, The Carpenters, The Mamas & Papas. 63 min. 18 tracks.
Eagle Vision 2004 DVD 9.00 €
VA: - Manhattan Soul
Kent Records cut its teeth on these great New York labels’ recordings. The imprints were so much more than the sum total of their hits. Many of the big records are out on Kent already, so we have gone back to the one-offs, neglected sides and the newly-discovered that have turned up more recently: for soul collectors only.

Dancers are catered for by Northern Soul’s adopted sides such as Marie Knight’s ‘That’s No Way To Treat A Girl’, here in the intriguing long version that Kent first discovered, Betty Moorer’s Latin-tinged ‘Speed Up’, Diane Lewis’ Detroit opus ‘Without Your Love’ and J.B. Troy’s current in-demander ‘Live On’.

There are some choice unissued recordings from the unknown Helen Henry, singer/producer Ed Townsend (who purveys a beaty proto-soul number written by none other than a Poet) and a terrific slab of early funk from the mighty Jackie Moore. An Ashford, Simpson and Armstead number ‘One Time Too Many’ is a mouth-watering taster of a forthcoming CD of unissued Shirelles’ recordings. A further previously unheard debut comes from the Fabulous Dinos (a group well from their King recordings as the Fabulous Denos), whose ‘Diamond Ring’ is a different song to Sammy Ambrose’s ‘This Diamond Ring’, although cut for the same Musicor stable. Conversely, debutant recording artist Lee Thomas’ ‘Millionaire’ is the same song Chuck Jackson cut in the early 60s and which caused quite a stir in rare soul circles when first played out and eventually released in the mid-80s.

The more modern sounds of the labels’ influential 70s singles are represented by a southern-sounding Ann Bailey, a Curtis Mayfield-inspired Patti Jo and the oddly named, but surprisingly soulful, Buckeye Politicians, whose fascinating biog is featured in the booklet. Two crossover ballads cut in Philadelphia by Winfield Parker and George Tindley are from the turn of the 60s and show how Wand had a great ear for quality music, even if the sales were disappointingly low – what they lost in $, we’ve repaid them in admiration over the past decades. From the same city, but from a musical era a world away, comes one of the first deejays to cut (as opposed to spin) a disc, Douglas “Jocko” Henderson. His ‘Blast Off To Love’ is a catchy mover that was style over soul, as befits a hip wordsmith.

Overlooked 45s such as the Tabs’ ‘Take My Love Along With You’ sound great from a new mix-down from the original multi track tape, while Johnny Maestro’s ‘Afraid Of Love’ (the flip of ‘Stepping Out Of The Picture’) has been neglected solely because of the attention paid to its topside (well, that and the four-figure price tag). Dan & the Clean Cuts substantially cheaper ‘Walking With Pride’ epitomises cool long before the term was universally applied to anything vaguely half-decent.

The booklet has some stunning photos of the artists along with a nice selection of label scans to pretty up the several thousand word musical and historical appraisal. Welcome back Scepter, Wand and Musicor. It’s been too long.

By Ady Croasdell (ACE Records)
Ace Records 2011 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Manhattan Soul Vol. 2
Scepter, Wand and Musicor have been a staple of the Kent connoisseur’s diet for nearly thirty years, since Jack Montgomery’s ‘Dearly Beloved’ opened the “Club Soul” Kent LP in 1984. Along with stunning solo compilations from Maxine Brown, Tommy Hunt, Chuck Jackson and the Shirelles there have been about a dozen LP and CD compilations of all the great artists who didn’t have enough tracks for solo albums. These varied from out-and-out Northern Soul, to big city ballads, to Southern Soul to Modern and funk. We don’t categorise quite as much nowadays and Kent has always been liberal in its mixing of the genres, so it is not surprising to see a typically diverse selection on our latest Manhattan Soul volume.

One of the main reasons we’ve re-visited the series is the new access we have had to the multi-track tapes, which either contained previously unheard songs or offered great tape quality on seminal tracks that had been dubbed from disc n the past. The “new to our ears” recordings on this compilation include Jimmy Radcliffe’s original demo (or first stage recording) of his classic self-penned song ‘Deep In The Heart Of Harlem’, a Benny Gordon rousing vocal work-out to his fast and funky ‘Horsin’ Around’ groove, Lois Lane’s rhythm & soul with a touch of gospel ‘No Jealous Lover’ and the Catalinas’ blue eyed beach music of ‘Who Knows Better’.

Greatly improved sound quality can be heard on the Soul Brothers beat ballad ‘The Parade Of Broken Hearts’, Ed Bruce’s sublime study in melancholy ‘I’m Gonna Have A Party’ and the most infectious dancer since ‘Dance To The Music’ in Lou Lawton’s ‘Knick Knack Patty Wack’; don’t let that title phase you.

While we were recreating those sessions from the 60s we looked at the whole of the formidable catalogue and found some wonderful masters that hadn’t been available since the vinyl to CD switch. Tracks from soul legends such as Big Maybelle with ‘How Do You Feel Now’, Roscoe Robinson and his plaintive ‘Lonesome Guy’ and tommy Hunt's ‘New Neighbourhood’ which took me back to those rammed-out, steamy 100 Club all nighters of the mid 80s. Other gems like Willie Hatcher’s magnificent ‘Who Am I Without You Baby’, Joe Perkins’ atmospheric ‘Runaway Slave’ and the close soul harmony of the Premiers on ‘Lonely Weatherman’ had never graced a digital disc before.

Researching the music was no less interesting than listening to it. We unearthed a current member of the US House Of Representatives; a lead singer who flew his plane into a mountain; and a one-single wonder who still plies his trade crooning in Las Vegas.

Apart from the Big Apple, there’s a hunk of Philly, a splash of Chicago and some Memphis grits; all making for a soul food sandwich to savour.

By Ady Croasdell (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Masterpieces Of Modern Soul
To the uninitiated I won't go into the full explanation of Modern Soul, there are more than enough words in the sleevenotes. Suffice it to say that it is primarily danceable 70s soul music with a solid, as opposed to a funky beat.

Having said that, the Modern Soul crowd has a very liberal view on what is danceable and having emerged at least partly as an antidote to the 100mph Northern Soul stompers, are willing to wander on to the dancefloor to the most laid-back of tunes. In fact the intimacy of many of their venues and the occasional lack of floor space often sees discerning soul fans grooving to their favourites on linoleum, sticky carpet or even table tops. The quality of the song and the singer's performance are given higher priority than the correctness of the rhythm, while clever dance moves are considered less important than say flowery bowling shirts or an encyclopaedic knowledge of Tyrone Davis' recording career.

One of the most typical Modern Soul tracks on this CD would be Ted Taylor's recently discovered master tape Fair Warning. Ted was a southern USA style, emotional soul singer with an accomplished roster of recordings. The song was provided by some of Leon Haywood's admired writing team, has a memorable melody, apt lyrics and moves at an easy mid tempo pace for 30+ year-olders. It has a full production with string and horn sections and a few funky guitar licks thrown in at the change of tempo breaks. Some discerning Modern Soul DJs have been given advance copies of the track to insinuate it into the subconscious of their unquestioning followers (joke!), so as this is the only form in which it is available to the public, sales are assured and I could shut up now.

But checking my word count and the rest of the music on the CD, I won't. Similarly soulful 70s offerings include tracks by Millie Jackson, Jacqueline Jones, the Four Tees (no relation to the 6TS) and Garland Green. Even more laid-back crossover numbers abound in Sam Nesbit's rare and expensive Chase Those Clouds Away and the Millionaires' great soul group sound I'm The One Who Loves You.

Several of the items will appeal to Northern fans too, especially the Houston Outlaws' vinyl rarity Ain't No Telling: a hugely tuneful and attractive song. The opening track, previously unissued, will excite all kinds of soul fans, as Debra Johnson's To Get Love You've Got To Give Love is danceable, soulful and features the kind of classy Miles Grayson arrangement that made Lynn Varnado's Wash And Wear Love such a rare soul classic. This song also features the noteworthy lyric "I don't want to be just your appetiser: now your main course is someone else" (note to self, must approach KFC with view to licensing). Lynn's super rare single Second Hand Love is also featured and, like the Ronnie Walker and Pretenders tracks, is more old school 70s Northern than Modern but falls under the latter's big musical umbrella.

Like most good Kent CDs, there are some pleasant surprises that many might have missed. I was particularly chuffed with the Jean Shy Fantasy track that I found lurking in my racks after collector Dave Welding reminded me of it. Similarly I hadn't realised how much I enjoyed the Renfro Records oddity Love Me Baby by Tender Loving Care until I'd listened through the finished master a couple of times.

Some of the tracks have been out in one form or another but probably have been missed by most Modern Soul devotees. It's not too likely that soul fans would have added the double LP, BGP CD of jazz brother Idris Muhammad just to get the soulful I'm A Believer on to their sound system. Similarly many will have missed out on the early 80s soul of Gil Billingsley as it was featured on a primarily 60s Kent Detroit soul CD. Al Christian's Chant single version of Bobby Wilburn's I'm A Lonely Man is quite different from the original, and as Steve "Guru" Guarnori pointed out to me, is not to be found on either of the Bill Haney Chant CDs on Kent.

We've jumped at the chance to re-release Mary Love Comer's Modern Soul anthem Come Out Of The Sandbox simply because we could. It's not been out since Kent's Mary Love solo CD that combined her early Modern songs with the later Colove recordings. Listening to it again for this compilation, I was bemused as to why it had sold in relatively low numbers-.-it really is a good CD (hint, hint).

Finally I was hit by a piece of glaringly obvious inspiration and managed to license a 2002 recording from Lou Pride to round of this disc. Bringin' Me Back Home is a great soul song for any decade and reflects well on the Modern Soul crowd who are constantly seeking out the best US soul tracks for their appreciation and enjoyment, whatever the date on the disc is.

by Ady Croasdell (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2003 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Vol. 3
It’s been two years since the last in our “Masterpieces Of Modern Soul” series. We compilers patiently accumulate a list of ingredients for the forthcoming feast and when it appears that the quantity and quality of the components are just so, into the pot they go. Occasionally the concoction doesn’t taste quite right and we jettison a flavour once its replacement has been lined up.

The fun is in the cooking and this time my initial flavour-burst came with the opening track, an obscure 1978 Los Angeles release by 7 Days Unlimited on the Big Town label, a subsidiary of Modern. It’s so laid back, the guys’ heads touch the floor, but the record has so much quality I’m sure it will be acclaimed a classic once heard.

After such a left-field choice, my conservative nature kicked in and I followed up with two sure-shots. Art Gentry’s 1972 Fame Studios recording of a great George Jackson song, ‘This Is My Chance’ has been played by discerning customers since its debut on Ace in 1997; now at last it is featured on a dedicated dance compilation. Similarly certain will be the positive reaction to Candi Staton’s ‘One More Hurt’ – if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

As with the Art Gentry track, the Hesitations’ ‘Go Away’ and Loleatta Holloway’s ‘This Man’s Arms’ first appeared on Kent promotional vinyl. It seems a bit odd to be illustrating our own records in the booklet, but with limited presses and the passing of up to 16 years, these babies ain’t spotted too often.

The contributions of Eddie Hill, the Sweeteens, Nightchill and James Carpenter have all been on Kent CDs before, but mainly on label- or producer-based collections that may have escaped the busy modern soul man about town.

The CD also boasts its quotient of previously unreleased gems. Marshall McQueen interprets his excellent composition ‘Any Fool Can Feel It’ to a fully orchestrated track produced by evergreen Los Angeles legend Kent Harris. Detroit singer Rose Batiste offers her last-known recording ‘The Feeling Is Gone’, created by writer-producers George McGregor and Jerry Williams. If the credits weren’t enough to excite, listen to the wailing desperation in Rose’s voice and rejoice in this long lost tape’s appearance.

Although the modern vibe tends to be mid-tempo and super-soulful these days, we never forget our Northern roots and records such Charles Russell’s Dave Crawford-produced ‘It Ain’t Easy’ helped mould both dance scenes from its discovery in the late 70s, a handful of years after its release. The admirable Jesse Davis gives us an out-and-out uptempo dancer from his San Diego-produced album “Hollywood Gypsies”.

One to raise the eyebrows of the vinyl hounds is Gloria Lucas’ ‘You Won’t Be True’ on the insanely rare Flodavieur label. I doubt if this has had many plays as copies just aren’t around; we have a label scan to prove it exists, though. The Crusaders and Betty Gouché will also set you back a few quid to own the plastic, while Tommy Bush’s first of two Specialty 45s is reasonably priced now, but get onto this winner sharp-ish, while you still can.

We’ve also got deep soul from Barbara Brown, scat singing from Melvin Sparks’ vocalist Jimmy Scott, modern soul monsters from Tommy Tate and Eddie Billups, slow grooves from Darondo and even some hot-lovin’ from Pat Livingstone. If that don’t turn you on, nowt will.

By Ady Croasdell (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2011 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Memphis Boys - The Story Of American Studios
There can be few with an interest in the music of the American South who didn’t welcome the recent publication of Memphis Boys, Roben Jones’ essential history of American Studios.

Established by songwriter-producer Chips Moman and his business partner Don Crews in 1964, it took a couple of years for American to find its true audio identity, but once the in-house group of key musicians – the Memphis Boys of Roben’s title – were all in place the steady trickle of hits and future classics quickly became a flood. Thanks to those players – Tommy Cogbill, Reggie Young, Bobby Emmons, Gene Chrisman, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and others – the American sound became as important a part of recording history as that which emanated from the studios of Motown, Cosimo’s, FAME and Memphis neighbours Sun, Stax and Hi.

The first Hot 100 biggies to be recorded at American – James & Bobby Purify’s ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ and Oscar Toney Jr’s ‘For Your Precious Love’ – were taped at the same session in March 1967, around the same time as Dan Penn was putting the Box Tops through their paces on ‘The Letter’, one of the biggest hits of 1967 and American’s first worldwide chart-topper. Not a bad year by anyone’s standards.

How quickly American’s stock rose in the eyes of others – particularly the companies that used the studio and the Memphis Boys on a regular basis – can be assessed by the fact that, by 1968, American was entertaining a client roster that included Neil Diamond, Petula Clark, B.J. Thomas, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield and a local boy by the name of Elvis Presley who was looking to make his music as relevant as it had been 15 years earlier.

Although this collection doesn’t contain every major hit that came out of the funky little studio on Thomas Street, Memphis (we’re saving some for a possible second volume), as a listening experience it’s hard to beat – particularly when enjoyed in conjunction with Roben’s brilliant book.

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Midnight Brew - 22 Instrumental Northern Soul Gems
Vinyl Only Records 1999 LP 18.00 €
VA: - Midnight Special - The Oriole Records Story 2CD
Oriole Records was the first British record label. It was founded in 1925 by the Levy family, who built up their business from an east London record shop, and had its own distribution system, recording studio and pressing facilities. It enjoyed a fruitful first decade of operation but lay dormant until 1950, when Morris Levy revived it. It started its rebirth by licensing from the American Mercury Records label, before turning to British acts.

Early hitmakers included the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group with the Number 5 ‘Freight Train’, featuring Nancy Whiskey on vocals, and Liverpool-born former Butlins Redcoat Russ Hamilton’s ‘We Will Make Love’, which reached Number 2 in the UK singles chart in 1957. Oriole also produced cover versions of chart hits, released on the budget Embassy Records label through Woolworths stores.

The stakes rose considerably when John Schroeder joined in December 1961. His brief was to develop Oriole, the only independent record company at the time, into a rival for major labels like EMI, whence he had come after carving a reputation as Cliff Richard producer Norrie Paramor’s songwriting sidekick. It was, he admitted, ‘Quite a daunting proposition.’

His first hits came with singer Clinton Ford, who mixed country with comedy, followed by Maureen Evans. Her ‘Like I Do’ made Number 3, sold a quarter of a million records and inspired Paramor to send Schroeder a personal note saying: Congratulations on “Like I Do”. Please leave some space in the charts for me!’

The Spotniks, an instrumental group from Sweden, introduced themselves to Oriole when their manager heard the label’s sponsored show on Radio Luxembourg. They made the Top 30 with ‘Orange Blossom Special’, promoted by an appearance in space suits on BBC-TV’s Top Of The Pops (this was in the era of the space race between America and the Soviet Union). They would follow up with an equally unlikely cover, ‘Hava Nagila’; this did even better, but the gimmick inevitably faded.

Other signings of note included Susan Singer (Helen Shapiro’s cousin) and the Dowlands, a duo produced by maverick Joe Meek in an independent deal. Jackie Trent was another discovery, a talented singer-songwriter who would eventually team personally and professionally with Tony Hatch.

Among the people who approached Oriole but didn’t make it were Jonathan King, a chart-topper a few short years later with “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon’, and Galt McDermott, Canadian composer of the hit Sixties musical Hair.

Oriole and Schroeder’s place in the history books was assured when they became the first record label to bring Motown to Britain. Schroeder took label boss Berry Gordy and vice president Barney Ales to dinner at the Talk of the Town nightclub to seal the deal. He had something in common with Gordy in that they were both successful songwriters, Schroeder having penned Helen Shapiro’s first hits.

‘I knew we had a mammoth task ahead of us,’ Schroeder later explained, ‘but I also knew the sheer talent featured on this label could not help but eventually register. It was only a matter of time.’ Oriole released nineteen Motown discs in total on their black and white Oriole American label, but were stymied by the lack of domestic airplay for the music.

Schroeder had the courage to begin the operation with three singles released simultaneously in September 1962 – Mary Wells’ ‘You Beat Me To The Punch’, The Contours’ ‘Do You Love Me’ and the Marvelettes’ ‘Beechwood 4-5789’, all featured here. For two years he and his team worked on Motown’s music. But no sooner had they tasted real success with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Fingertips Part 2’, than the licensing contract expired and Motown moved on to EMI Records.

John Schroeder’s next move, in July 1963, was to thrust Oriole into the thick of domestic pop by taking a mobile recording unit to Liverpool and recording two albums of local talent entitled ‘This Is Mersey Beat Vol 1 and 2’. Many bands got their first break this way, but while Schroeder met both John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein he was inevitably beaten to the biggest names by his wealthier rivals.

Oriole ceased to exist in 1964 when American recording giant Columbia bought the company and renamed it CBS Records. The attraction was Oriole’s record pressing factory in Aston Clinton Buckinghamshire. John Schroeder had, by then, moved on to Pye Records where he would produce Status Quo and Man, among many others. He has written about his Oriole years in a book, Sex & Violins (Pen Press), which is much recommended.

Oriole worked hard to compete with the ‘big boys’, but ultimately the stakes were too high for a family firm. The music they brought to the market was, however, fascinating, and still has the capacity to entertain half a century later.
One Day Music 2013 2-CD 8.00 €
VA: - Mirwood Soul Story
24 tracks
Ace Records 2005 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Mirwood Soul Story Vol. 2
24 tracks
Ace Records 2006 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Mo' Mod Jazz
22 tracks
Ace Records 1998 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Mod Jazz
25 tracks
Ace Records 1996 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Mod Jazz Forever
The night is dark, and crisp enough to require a dark blue woollen overcoat over your midnight blue two-button narrow-lapelled, slim-fitting suit. Your loafers are oxblood and polished to a shine that reflects well on the rest of your outfit. You’re looking for the perfect soundtrack for a night on the town, not just any town, but a city, a bustling metropolis lit by neon and a full of a million souls – although you only want to be seen with a small percentage, the ones who can share your outlook and need the right sort of sounds.

Fortunately for you the mod jazz crew are back in town and we have scoured the world to provide you with the perfect blend of jazz, with a touch of the blues, a shake of soul and a pinch of latin. Whether you are sipping a whisky sour in a wood-panelled bar, trying to created the perfect Mad Men moment, or working up a sweat, we have the number for you.

As usual, we pay only lip service to genre divides, and bring you lots of great jazz vocals, often with an R&B twist. Check Troy Dodds’ ‘The Real Thing’ (the B-side of a super-expensive Northern soul hit) or Floyd White’s ‘Finders Keepers’, lifted from a previously unreleased Invader session. Mod jazz favourite Mark Murphy turns up with the amazing rare 45-only ‘It’s Like Love’ and Clint Stacy, Bobby Jenkins and Little Bob all help keep the mod jazz quality high. On the female side we have the phenomenal Tobi Lark, who is known for her soul numbers but was a consummate jazz performer, as was Byrdie Green, who gives us her take on Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Return Of The Prodigal Son’.

A good mod jazz record needs plenty of roaring Hammond organ, which we give you by Brother Jack McDuff, Johnny “Hammond” Smith and the great Reuben Wilson with one of his earliest recordings. That other great Hammond exponent Billy Larkin sings like Georgie Fame and strokes some piano keys on ‘Looking’, which sounds rather like ‘Fever’, a song served up in a wonderful version by Buddy Guy. The Night Beats deliver a garage jazz take on ‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf Pt 2’ mod jazz regulars Hank Jacobs, Dave Hamilton and Johnny Lytle keep our toes tapping and our fingers clicking. As you leave the room to the previously unreleased British jazz cut ‘Sunshine Superman’ by Bocking, Robinson, Morais you will be feeling as sharp as ever. Another mod jazz miracle.

By Dean Rudland (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
VA: - More Miles Than Money 2CD
More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music is a book I researched and wrote between 2006-2008. In many ways I’d been waiting my entire life to write More Miles. Growing up in Mt Roskill – a working class suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, where there were no music venues, cinemas, pubs, nothing but churches and rugby fields – I took refuge in Mark Twain and Jack Kerouac’s adventures while AM radio (modelled on US radio) spun hits by Freddy Fender, the Amazing Rhythm Aces, Little Feat et al. I dreamed of escaping Auckland’s suburbs to ride Route 66 and Highway 61, ears and eyes open. Eventually I got to live my dream and More Miles is the story of those travels.

I didn’t know it back then but Kiwi radio was often playing music akin to that which Charlie Gillett played on his Honky Tonk radio show in London. Discovering Charlie’s book The Sound Of The City sent me scouring through secondhand bookstores in search of old copies of Cream, Creem and Let It Rock, where the writings of Charlie and other likeminded journalists appeared. I’d go so far as to say that a feature Charlie wrote on the great New Orleans producer-arranger Harold Battiste (Cream #5, Sept 1971) was what initially inspired me to want to search out the largely unsung heroes of American music.

At the same time as reading Charlie Gillett I was buying US imports on a variety of labels, with Arhoolie being my favourite. Mexican culture fascinated me, especially that which arose from the borderlands, the Tex-Mex/Tejano music. (Blame this on my dad taking me to see Sam Peckinpah’s westerns.) Discovering a bin full of Arhoolie Records in a downtown record shop introduced me to a treasure trove of magical Mexican American music and reading about Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz’s efforts to record the finest American vernacular music provided even more inspiration. Later on, Canyon Records would open my ears to how Native American culture celebrated its survival. Around the same time an uncle who loved jazz gave me Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” album – he found it too funky for his tastes. Talk about life-changing records: to this day Curtis remains my favourite US soul singer.

I dedicated More Miles Than Money to Charlie, Chris and the indomitable spirit of Curtis Mayfield. Tragically, Charlie died earlier this year. He, like Curtis, lives on as an indomitable spirit and continues to inspire me. This compilation is, again, dedicated to Charlie, Chris and Curtis: the three Cs who helped me hear America.

More Miles Than Money reflects on an America that made the mightiest music of the 20th Century. This compilation aims then to salute those who inspired me to ride US highways and document those I encountered as I wandered through honky-tonks, juke joints and barrios. Enjoy!

By Garth Cartwright (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2010 CD 20.00 €
VA: - More Perfect Harmony - Sweet Soul Groups 1967-1975
The general popularity of 60s and early 70s ‘Group Soul’ seems to continue to be on the rise, an increasingly collectable commodity in recent years. This is due in no small part to the swell of interest among doo wop collectors in the past 10-15 years. The line between the very best doo wop cuts and the very best soul harmony sides is not a very long one. Thus it was perhaps inevitable that those collectors who either have every important group record from the 1950s and early 60s – or can’t afford to invest in the ones they don’t have – would eventually unite them with those of us who have long extended a similar level of appreciation in the other direction.

Kent’s “In Perfect Harmony” series was introduced to cater to both camps, with a mixture of tried and trusted soul favourites – by some of the genre’s most outstanding groups – and previously unissued gems from group soul’s golden decade (approximately 1966-1976, in your compiler’s opinion). Its aims, as a series, are to show that these kind of records were both pan-American and multi-racial in their execution and that, as always, soul – and in this case, sweet soul - is not really about where you’re from or what colour you are. This is especially true of our all-new Volume Two. Within its hour and a bit’s playing time, we feature blue-eyed soulsters from Nashville in the Magnificent 7, the mixed race Soulville All-Stars from Pittsburgh, PA (who also played their own instruments, as well as singing as pretty as you like) and the pride of New York’s latin soul community, brother Joe Bataan. We also have the best in African American vocal groups – of both sexes - from cities as far apart as Memphis and Detroit, Los Angeles and New York, New Jersey and Chicago. All, we’re happy to say, fully dedicated to bringing you MORE PERFECT HARMONY in the sweetest and loveliest way.

Aside from the obvious fact that we are joyfully privileged to bring you hitherto unreleased gems from the vaults of Stax, Twinight and Westbound Records, I’m personally delighted - as series compiler - that so many of our inclusions have never previously been reissued, in any shape or form. There’s something great going on here, almost everywhere you point the CD player’s laser, be it the sultry Island Soul of Foxy’s I Like The Way You Love Me, the endearingly low-budget lilt in Lee Williams and The Cymbals’ Northern favourite A Girl From A Country Town, the relentless beauty of the Climates sublime Memphis masterpiece No You For Me or the overwhelmingly intense Chi-town classic Someone Else’s Arms by Channel 3 – at least twenty times better than its much acclaimed Northern flip The Sweetest Thing (something on which annotator John Ridley and compiler yours truly both agree!).

These are just a few of the many delights in store for you in “More Perfect Harmony” – a CD with a heartbeat that is summed up by Joe Bataan’s exquisite version of the Exits’ essential Under The Streetlamp. Doo wop and group soul devotees alike can both agree that, where this kind of music’s concerned, the “Street”s the same, only the “Lamp” has been changed to protect the heritage!

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2005 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Mostly Ghostly - More Horror For Halloween
Ace Records 2010 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Motown Christmas 2CD
Universal Music 2009 CD 13.00 €
VA: - Move With The Groove - Hardcore Chicago Soul 2CD
Charly Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
VA: - My Goodness, Yes !
20 tracks
Sundazed Music 2005 CD 20.00 €
VA: - New Breed Blues With Black Popcorn
Make way for a brand new selection of collectables, curios and rug-cutters for R&B fans who feel the beat and need new sounds to scratch their itch.

Tracks such as Marva Josie’s ‘You Lied’, Sinner Strong’s ‘Don’t Knock It’ and the Idols’ ‘Just A Little Bit More’ seem to have been around for an eternity without being properly comped, whereas ‘Why Oh Why’ by Austin Taylor, ‘Well I Done Got Over It’ from Bobby Mitchell and Dolores Johnson’s ‘What Kind Of Man Are You’ are currently raising eyebrows and overdrafts. J.J. Jackson’s ‘Oo-Ma-Liddy’, Little Johnny Taylor’s ‘Somewhere Down The Line’ and Etta James’ ‘Nobody Loves You Like Me’ are perfect for this CD.

Kent’s forte is the previously unissued humdinger and here we have a handful of the best to tempt even the most OVO (original vinyl only) of collectors to shell out for this piquant package. Two gems from earlier Ace CDs can be found in Art Wheeler’s Downey side ‘Baby We’re Through’ and Carl Edmondson & the Charmaines’ Fraternity number ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’, while the more recently issued 45 of ‘I Ain’t Talkin’’ comes from last year’s CD of Kent Harris’ R&B productions.

Inevitably it’s the debutantes that will steal the show and attract the more traditional R&B fan. There is a pounding blues by Freddie North from Bob Holmes’ tapes, when he was working with Freddie along with Slim Harpo in Nashville in the late 60s. From Los Angeles there is Adolph Jacobs’ unreleased Class recording ‘Cannibal Stew’ that sounds like the Coasters and might even have them singing behind him (he was their guitarist at the time). Then we have a taster for the forthcoming Ace CD of Richard Stamz’s Chicago blues productions, with a fine mover from Tony Gideon called ‘So Strange’.

Finally, there is a track that put me into a state of frenzy, ‘When You See Me Hurt’ by Carl Lester & the Showstoppers – 2 minutes 30 of unadulterated hip-shaking heartbreak. I must have one now!

By Ady Croasdell (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2013 CD 18.00 €
VA: - New Breed R&B with Added Popcorn
24 tracks
Ace Records 2008 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Next Stop Is Vietnam - The War On Record 1961-2008
(13-CD set, LP-sized slipcase with 304page hardcover book. 334 tracks, playing time: more than 16h:49min). The most comprehensive anthology of music inspired by the Vietnam War ever released. Over 330 titles covering all facets of the war and its aftermath featuring The Doors, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Country Joe McDonald and dozens of other artists. Rarely heard documentary material including patriotic Public Service Announcements, field news reports and intercepted North Vietnamese radio transmissions of Jane Fonda and Hanoi Hannah. A heavily illustrated, full-colour 304-page book containing extensive artist/song notes, Vietnam War history and recollections by vets on their favourite songs. Two discs of music exclusively by Vietnam veterans. Never-before-released tracks recorded during the war by in-country soldiers. Mister, Where Is Vietnam ...NEXT STOP IS VIETNAM: The War On Record, 1961-2008 is a stunning, years-in-the-making anthology of the Vietnam War's musical legacy. Presented on 13 CDs with a 304-page book illustrated with numerous archival photographs, this collection examines the war in a powerful and unprecedented way. Over 330 music and spoken word tracks take the listener through a guided tour of this epochal period of modern history. From America's first, na‹ve impressions of a country called Vietnam through the spirited musical debate over the morality of the war to the healing meditations on the conflict's lengthy aftermath, this set captures it all and more. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez,Merle Haggard, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, Johnny Cash, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, The Doors, Country Joe McDonald and dozens of other artists including many Vietnam veterans are the tour guides through this enlightening and entertaining journey. - The full-color book that accompanies the music is packed with information on the songs and the artists who recorded them by music scholar Hugo A. Keesing; a history of the war by Vietnam historian Lois T. Vietri; and an oral history of the tunes that 'incountry' vets loved best by authors Doug Bradley and Craig Werner. The introduction to this remarkable tome is written by the legendary Country Joe McDonald. Strap in for a long and fascinating ride ...NEXT STOP IS VIETNAM.

Bear Family 2010 CD-Box 200.00 €
VA: - Nobody Wins - Stax Southern Soul 1968-1975
One of the projects that we feel proudest of is “Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story”. It was a labour of love and a lot of people were very appreciative of it, justifying our own confidence in the project. In the wake of its success we thought it would be good to do some single CD follow-up projects looking at specific areas of the Southern Soul world; unfortunately other things got in the way, including the rather wondrous opportunities we have had with the chaps at Fame, so we put the idea on the back burner until we could do it properly. With “Nobody Wins” I hope we have been able to do so.

Focussing on the output of Stax Records may seem like shooting fish in a barrel, but by 1968 a lot had changed at the label that had effectively codified Southern Soul music with William Bell’s ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’, and then took it to the world via Otis Redding. Otis had died in a plane crash in 1967 and then, at the termination of the label’s distribution deal with Atlantic, Stax had been left without its back catalogue. To combat these problems label head Al Bell had formulated a plan to make it a full-service record label, recording, manufacturing, distributing and marketing the recordings. To make this viable Stax had to compete with the biggest R&B label Motown and release far more material. With this is mind producer Don Davis was brought in to add some Detroit know-how, and music and ideas were imported from all over the USA.

Stax may not have been exclusively releasing Southern music any more but it was still a Southern label. Most of the acts were came from the local area, and as the biggest label outside R&B’s traditional Northern strongholds, it was a magnet for anyone from the region who hoped to get a record deal. On top of that the Southern sound was so successful that even records that were recorded in other parts of the country tried to emulate the sound (noticeable on Calvin Scott’s Stax album for example). “Nobody Wins” gives an overview of the prevailing developments within Southern Soul, which show a move from a Stax-dominated landscape with our earliest productions, to something that ends up looking towards the styles being championed by Hi Records on the other side of Memphis.

The music is uniformly excellent and sometimes, as on Johnny Daye’s ‘Stay Baby Stay’, William Bell’s ‘Loving On Borrowed Time’ or ‘Shouldn’t I Love Him’ by Mable John, transcendent. It is a great treat to be able to spotlight neglected cuts from Willie Singleton, Mack Rice or Freddie Waters, which have been hidden away as B-sides or on expensive box-sets. We’ve also discovered some previously unreleased gems from the previously unknown Sylvia and the Blue Jays, and from Bettye Crutcher and Chuck Brooks. It is also great to be able to focus on some better-known tracks by the Soul Children and Ollie & The Nightingales and bring them together with the other tracks featured here. From start to finish this is great, great soul music.

By Dean Rudland (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2012 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Northern Monsters
24 tracks
Ace Records 2007 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Northern Soul's Classiest Rarities 2
24 tracks
Ace Records 2005 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Northern Soul's Classiest Rarities 3
Ace Records 2008 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Northern Soul's Guilty Secrets
The Northern Soul scene started over four decades ago and was never meant to be more than a passing fad. It just got so good we couldn’t bear to let go, or grow up. We still have an emotional attachment to records played by teenagers to teenagers an eon ago. The music was all brand new to us at that time and being brought up in a culture thousands of miles away from its source, we had to make it up as we went along. Knowledge was limited and we had no idea of the circumstances or origins of the recordings. For all we knew, Barnaby Bye could have come straight outta Philly’s black ghetto. Actually, we wouldn’t have cared had we known they had long hair and flares; the beat and sound was all. Dance records were what we wanted. They were usually based on the classic Motown sound, but we veered off up many a dark musical alley. Soul revisionism didn’t happen until the momentum and euphoria finally calmed down in the late 70s.

I think all of the tracks on here were first played in the early 70s days of the scene (the Rumblers may have been a bit later) but hardly any of them have been played as oldies since. They’ve been airbrushed from our musical history. These are the ones we’ve removed from the DJ box, but left close to hand for that nostalgia trip. I can understand why more serious music fans look down on some of these tracks, but it really is their loss.

Ann D’Andrea is so basic I thought they’d sent a demo take, but what an uplifting bouncy, catchy number it is. I recently had a discussion about David & the Giants with a serious soul fan, who claimed their record’s appeal was down to the Fame studio musicians and production. I’m sure that was him trying to justify his love of it. I think it’s the way the group captured the essence and exuberance of young love that makes it.

That same goes for Kiki Dee’s ‘On A Magic Carpet Ride’. As a longhaired left-wing member of the Market Harborough underground in the late 60s, I couldn’t have pictured myself raving about a song featuring “rainbow’s end” lyrics in later years. John Fred’s ‘Hey Hey Bunny’ sounds like an early bubblegum record, but what fun and, if you’re a dancer, a great one to burn some energy off to.

I beg you to get past the artists and titles that have repelled you for years and give this maligned side of Northern Soul an honest appraisal. If it gets one grumpy soul stalwart skipping across the kitchen to ‘Put Me In Your Pocket’ it’ll all have been worthwhile.

By Ady Croasdell (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2011 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Old Town & Barry Soul Survey
26 biisiä
Ace Records 2005 CD 18.00 €
VA: - On Vine Street - The Early Songs of Randy Newman
26 tracks
Ace Records 2008 CD 18.00 €
VA: - One In A Million - The Songs Of Sam Dees
Surely the greatest endorsement for any songwriter is the calibre of artists who record their compositions. Sam Dees can boast cuts on acts such as the Temptations, Johnnie Taylor, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Millie Jackson, Jackie Wilson and other upper echelon soul stars. Having previously issued two CDs of Sam’s recordings, we felt he was overdue for an entry in our Songwriter series. The aptly titled “One In A Million” is exactly that.

The CD takes its title from what is probably his most commercially successful song, thanks to Larry Graham’s chart-topping recording from 1980, and covers Sam’s career from the late 1960s through to the mid-80s. Whittling his catalogue down to a representative 22 songs was a challenge and a half. Many of the artists featured, such as Loleatta Holloway and John Edwards, returned to Sam’s songbook again and again, while others drew from it only once or twice. The common denominator between them is they all recognised a great song when they heard it.

There’s a preponderance of titles from the period Sam’s most ardent admirers seem to like best, the mid-70s, but we’ve not neglected the early 80s, when his compositions were recorded by some of the biggest names in soul and records bearing his name under the title were starting to sell in their millions.

The only disappointment for Sam’s fans is his career as a singer has always been somewhat fragmented due to the demand for his songs. As a demonstration of his vocal greatness we have included his 1977 recording of ‘My World’, a song he performs so definitively that it’s hardly surprising to find his is the only version.

“One In A Million” presents the sublime songs of Sam Dees in performances that will live on in the hearts and collections of his army of fans. Some will be better known than others, but all will surely be admired and cherished in the same way the man who wrote them is.

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2014 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Original Up-Town Divas
18 tracks, 60 min Gladys Knight, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, Tina Turner, Tanya Tucker, Susan Anson..
GMVS 2004 DVD 9.00 €
VA: - Pass The Soul - 25 searing soul rockers
25 biisiä
  CD 19.00 €
VA: - Phil Spector - The Early Productions
In the early 60s, pop was a hidden industry whose interface with the public existed only at performance level. The big money wasn’t around then and the record game wasn’t seen as a legitimate vocation for sons and daughters. In this subterranean milieu, income depended on factors that were both difficult to predict and control and it seemed a safer bet becoming a lawyer, a doctor or a dentist.

This was the awesome challenge facing 21 year-old Phil Spector as he barnstormed his way through recording circles, making an immediate impact with major hits such as ‘Spanish Harlem’ (Ben E King), ‘Pretty Little Angel Eyes’ (Curtis Lee) and ‘Corinna Corinna’ (Ray Peterson).

It all began for Spector with the Teddy Bears, an ad hoc vocal group he organised as a vehicle for his songs back in 1958. Events had moved fairly quickly in his life since he’d moved with his mother and sister from the Bronx to Los Angeles in 1953. By the time he’d graduated from Fairfax high School in 1957, Spector had become proficient on the guitar and turned his hand to song writing. Some crudely recorded demos including ‘Don’t You Worry My Little Pet’ (heard here) caught the attention of Doré Records who sanctioned further recordings resulting in the worldwide hit ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’.

Riven by personality conflicts, the Teddy Bears soon disbanded and Spector teamed up with Lester Sill and Lee Hazlewood, the force behind twangy guitarist Duane Eddy’s hits. Placed in charge of Sill’s new signing Kell Osborne, Spector wrote and produced the gritty ‘That’s Alright Baby’. Spector then expressed a desire to move back East. As a favour to their old mentor, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller agreed to look after him. Alternating between coasts, Spector recorded the Paris Sisters, a vocal trio signed by Sill. His faith in Spector was more than justified when the trio’s ‘I Love How You Love Me’ climbed to #5.

Following a short stop at Liberty records – the only official staff post he ever held – Spector walked away to concentrate on his own Philles label. Four years had lapsed since he’d stepped untrained into a recording studio with three friends to record a hit almost by chance. Since then, he’d learned his craft, paid his dues and finally become his own boss. Now, at 23, he had the industry in the palm of his hand and only himself to account to.

“Phil Spector: The Early Productions” covers this formative phase of Spector’s career without duplicating too many hits available on other Ace comps. 12 of the generous 28 tunes are new to CD and both the sequencing and mastering make them a delight to the ear while the booklet is a presentational tour de force. Let’s remember him this way rather than the other.

By Rob Finnis (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2010 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Pounds Of Soul
24 biisiä vuosilta 1967-1975
Ace Records 2003 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Pulp Fiction
MCA Records 1994 CD 10.00 €
VA: - Rare Blues & Soul From Nashville The 1960s
Rare Blues & Soul From Nashville The 1960s With the exception of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, Nashville, Tennessee had more independent record companies than any other city in the United States during the boom years of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. This collection will help you to get an idea what it was like during the golden era of Nashville Blues and Soul Music. They just don't make records like this anymore, but thankfully we can still hear them...and they sure sound good.
Superbird Records 2009 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Rare Blues & Soul From Nashville The 1960s Vol. 2
Superbird Records 2010 CD 13.00 €
VA: - Rare, Blue Eyed & Northern Soul
Vinyl Only Records 2006 LP 18.00 €
VA: - Real Thing - The Songs Of Ashford, Simpson & Armstead
The songs of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson could occupy a whole Hall Of Fame to themselves. There can’t be any students of popular music who are not familiar with at least a few of their classics, be they their own hits like ‘Solid’ or those they wrote for Motown’s ‘A’ list artists, such as ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ and ‘Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing’ for Marvin & Tammi and ‘Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)’ for Diana Ross.

These and many like them are as much a part of our lives as getting up in the morning. Less well known outside of connoisseur soul circles are the songs they wrote in the years immediately leading up to ‘Ain’t No Mountain’, with their original collaborator Joshie “Jo” Armstead. Between 1964 and 1967, the trio collaborated on a significant number of superior songs to provide hits for artists including Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown, Betty Everett, Aretha Franklin and scores more.

This month we celebrate their three-way collaborations with “The Real Thing”, the latest volume in our songwriter series and the first to appear on Kent. This CD brings together just about all of the most notable “JoValNick” compositions and embellishes them with a handful of early songs that Ashford and Simpson wrote without Jo. Given that it’s a Kent CD, the soul content is very high – as well as those already mentioned, others who bring the songs to life include the Crystals, the Coasters, Candy and the Kisses, Tina Britt, the Shirelles, the Apollas, Marie Knight and blue eyed soulster Ronnie Milsap. (The inclusion of many of those and other equally notable names will ensure that it also goes straight onto the shopping list of every girl group aficionado…)

And as for those songs, there and many among those who will buy it who will not be familiar with at least one version of ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’, ‘Running Out’, ‘Cry Like A Baby’ or ‘You’re Absolutely Right’. These are part of the very fabric of 60s soul and it would be impossible to imagine life without them after almost 45 years!

Mick Patrick has maintained the perfect balance between the strikingly familiar and sensationally obscure that we always continue to aim for throughout this series and he is to be congratulated for doing so, given that Nick, Valerie and Joshie worked together for a much shorter period of time than most of those who’ve so far appeared in the series.

Valerie and Nick are said to be hard to please when it comes to reissues of their early work, but they can feel justifaibly proud of this splendid revelation of the genesis of their songwriting (as can Ms Armstead).

Looks to me like this could be The Real Thing! Ain’t Nothing Like It…

By Tony Rounce (Ace Records)
Ace Records 2009 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Red Bird Story Vol. 1 2LP
60 original recordings from the celebrated New York label including classic tracks from The Shangri-Las, The Dixie Cups and more.
Founded in 1964 by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Red Bird Records may only have been operational for three years but during that time the label became synonymous with the 60s girl group sound, particularly due to the success of The Shangri-Las and The Dixie Cups – both of whom scored No.1 hits for Red Bird in its fledgling year. Rising Phoenix-like from earlier try-outs with Tiger (founded in 1962) and later Daisy (in 1963), Red Bird was unique among indie labels in that its output was of a consistently high standard and almost half of its releases made a commercial impact.

The secret to Red Bird’s “hit factory” lay in no small part with the chart-topping Brill Building songwriting team of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry who’d previously penned hits for producer Phil Spector’s Ronettes and Crystals. In the years prior to the British Invasion, the husband and wife wrote prolifically for most of the label’s biggest names including the aforementioned Shangri-Las (‘Leader Of The Pack’, ‘Out In The Streets’) and Dixie Cups (‘Chapel Of Love’) The Butterflys (‘Goodnight Baby’), Sam Hawkins (‘Hold On Baby’), The Ad Libs (‘He Ain’t No Angel’) and Andy Kim (‘I Hear You Say’), as well as occasionally recording in their own right.

This deluxe two disc set draws together the best of Red Bird along with tracks from its Blue Cat Soul/R&B subsidiary and material from the short-lived Tiger and Daisy affiliates. Carefully compiled and annotated by Roger Dopson, this compilation is a worthy successor to previous volumes incorporating lesser-heard gems alongside the major hits.
Charly 2012 LP 28.00 €
VA: - Red Bird Story Vol. 2 2LP
Charly 2012 LP 28.00 €
VA: - Respect - Aretha's Influences And Inspiration
Considering she is still such an influence on so many others artists, Aretha Franklin’s own inspirations might have been a little overlooked. This Ace CD addresses that situation perfectly. The 24 R&B, soul and gospel recordings here, many of them performed by Aretha's favourite artists, helped influence and inspire her to become the great artist she is.

Aretha recorded a tremendous number of covers over the years. Her choices of the best songs to record in her own way were impeccable. ‘Respect’ is totally different to Otis Redding’s storming original and it established her as the female soul singer to beat for years to come. Likewise Don Covay’s See Saw’, which in her hands proved to be a bigger R&B hit than its writers’ own version.

An important influence on Aretha was Little Miss Cornshucks. Obscure to the general public, Ahmet Ertegun named her as his favourite blues singer of all time. Here is her recording of ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ from 1952, generally regarded as the first R&B version of this classic song. Aretha recorded the number for Columbia in 1962.

Aretha first heard Ray Charles’ version of ‘Drown In My Own Tears’ (originally cut by Lula Reed) on the radio one night after she had gone to bed. She said she heard his voice coming out of the dark and that she had never heard anything like that before. I’ve a soft spot for the version by the underestimated Jean Wells. Coincidentally Wells is featured here singing Clyde Otis’ ‘Sit Down And Cry’, later recorded by Aretha for her “This Girl’s In Love With You” album. From the same Calla label as Jean’s record comes ‘Prove It’ by the under-recorded Mary Wheeler from 1966, which Aretha cut a year after for the “Aretha Arrives” LP.

One of Aretha’s greatest influences was the gospel legend Clara Ward, featured here with ‘The Day Is Passed And Gone’, a song that was among the very first she covered, and sung by her at Clara’s funeral in 1973.

As often with Ace compilations an alternate, extended or album cut is used, not just securing sales to completists (join the club!), but giving an interesting slant on well-known or well-loved recordings. This collection is no exception, offering, for example, the stereo LP versions of Otis’s ‘Respect’ and Ben E King’s ‘Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)’, which features the verses in a different order to the single.

Other big names include Wilson Pickett with the tremendous ‘I’m In Love’ (Aretha considers Pickett to be one of the great soul singers, and vice versa, if you remember his comments about a party at her house in Only The Strong Survive), Bobby Womack, Howard Tate, Bobby Bland and Dinah Washington. The woman recently named the Greatest Singer of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine certainly has the best of taste.

(Ace Records)
Ace Records 2009 CD 17.00 €
VA: - Return Of Mod Jazz
24 tracks
Ace Records 2005 CD 18.00 €
VA: - Richard Rodgers' No Strings - An After Theatre Version
Broadway Musical Hit - Chris Connor, Bobby Short, Lavern Baker, Herbie Mann
Collectables 2004 CD 15.00 €
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