Ace Records 2005
When I visited Gerard W Purcell's New York offices above his Paparazzi restaurant around 1990, I wasn't really sure why I'd gone there. Though I rated his GWP label highly, there weren't any big Northern Soul sounds or rarities on it and though Debbie Taylor's 'Don't Let It End' is one of my all time favourite soul songs, it wasn't going to move box-loads of CDs. I knew there was some link with the fabulous 60s soul of Detroit's Pied Piper Productions, that we had already released on the "Rare Collectable & Soulful" CDs, but apart from shared publishing, it was hard to figure out the exact nature of the relationship. Gerry Purcell himself was amicable enough, though he didn't seem to know much about the nitty gritty of the recordings that I revered so much.
His main interest was in a series of London-recorded pieces of orchestral music, based upon the signs of the zodiac; fascinating, but of zero musical interest to me. He spoke with affection about England and Ireland, but most of the time I was distracted, looking over his shoulders at some large, old green filing cabinets that just oozed possibilities. Despite us getting on well, Jerry had better things to do than to let a bizarre Brit rummage through his documents and I left his office thanking him kindly but not really knowing if I'd wasted my time or not. However, from little seeds some years later Ace was contacted by GWP who was looking for a European deal on his R&B recordings; this time it was arranged that I could get to see the master tapes. My curiosity and optimism was rekindled.
By now the offices had been moved into Gerry's home in Bayside, NY where I renewed acquaintance with him and was introduced to his musical right-hand man and the person in charge of his soul recordings, Ed Bland. Ed and I got on well once we had swapped some music talk and it became apparent that apart from representing GWP's interests, he wanted to see the music given a new lease of life to people who cared about it. The tapes looked terrific. Lots of ¬º", ¬?" and 1" masters in great condition. Nearly all of the ones we knew about were there and there were plenty more besides. We arranged to get them copied.
Now; "was there any other material or information around that would help us when we compiled the CD?" Ed took me into a dingy basement room where some reassuringly familiar dark green filing cabinets lived. "Have a look in those, there might be some things of interest." The drawers related to Millbridge and other publishing companies that GWP owned and were crammed with sheet music and reference copies of records for each of the published songs. Not only was there at least one vinyl copy (usually several) of each song published, if GWP also published the flip, there would be a separate file with copies for that too. Records like September Jones 'I'm Coming Home' / 'No More Love' would have at least two copies; in this case six. Even better there were acetates (multiple copies of some) of some of the unissued Pied Piper recordings that we had already licensed from RCA, such as Willie Kendrick's 'She'll Be Leaving You' and Lorraine Chandler's 'You Only Live Twice'. But even betterer, some of the acetates were of songs I'd never heard before. Larry Banks' manic original of 'Ooh It Hurts Me' and some storming Nancy Wilcox RCA reference dubs, impressed me immediately.
The avaricious record collector in me (coupled with the musicologist's caution of course), couldn't let these Aladdin's cave musical jewels go back into dormancy for another thirty years. I pointed out to Jerry, after running it by Ed, that there were more copies of each song than were required for reference purposes. The discs would be better appreciated across the Atlantic where they would soar into DJ's collections like released Phoenixes. Luckily Jerry had pity and a big heart and told me to take what I wanted; I even had to press dollars into his hand to keep my conscience clean. Some years later a series of events (which I'll relate to you in GWP Volume 2), made it clear that I had taken the right moral path and I can still sleep easily at nights.
Sadly Jerry passed away a few months after this meeting, but Ed Bland fought Ace's corner in purchasing the label from Jerry's son Eric Purcell and five years on (fifteen from the first) we are the proud owner of these great soul recordings.
The original GWP label recordings were made in 1969, mostly arranged by Ed Bland and produced by the great George Kerr. Debbie Taylor, the Hesitations and the Persians were the main acts, all of whom recorded some sublime 60s soul sounds, just as that Renaissance-like decade was drawing to a close. These recordings were fully produced with New York's top R&B session musicians and with songs from George Kerr, Ray Dahrouge and Billy Terrell, the already established classy soul singers gave some great performances. The Hesitations' 'Is This The Way To Treat A Girl', Debbie Taylor's 'Let's Prove Them Wrong' and the Persians' 'I Don't Know How' are as good as it got in that period. A huge bonus has been finding unreleased tracks - like Debbie Taylor's stunning ballad 'All That I Have' and the Hesitations original version of the Moments' early 70s hit 'Gotta Find A Way'. GWP also produced for other labels and Alice Clark's 'Heaven's Will' is another excellent and very moving, deep soul ballad. Little Rose Little and Betty Barney's recordings for the label are on the grittier side of soul but it is the earlier pre-GWP label productions that a lot of Kent fans will be bowled over by.
Larry Banks' prot?©g?©s the Devonnes sing a captivating version of Terri Bryant's Verve single '(You'd Better) Straighten Up And Fly Right'; the unknown Bobby Penn contributes a great original dancer called 'No Defense' and the Shaladons, who never had a record released, show the Hesitations (who cut it on an LP) how Larry Banks' 'Without Your Love' should really sound. There's a brand new and oh too rare, Jaibi recording; previously unreleased southern soul from Benny Gordon; a mid-tempo, Detroit sounding number from Lily Fields and Frankie Newsome's Chicago R&B hit 'My Lucky Day'. Ed Bland and Ray Dahrouge contributed stories and information to unravel this mysterious chapter of the Big Apple's soul story and the photos of the acts are especially fabulous; check out Debbie and Lily's glamour shots and the Persians funky headgear.
The moral of the story then is: follow all leads; don't be too shy; never give up and you'll end up with a CD or two's worth of righteous soul sounds.