Ace Records 2003
Stunningly good but rare West Coast 60s & 70s harmonic soul-.-from an unheralded producer whose time has come at last.
By Ady Croasdell (Ace Records)
I'll tell you how good this CD is. I'm listening right through it for a final check on how it sounds technically, I'm up to track 18 and loving it, and I've just realised there's still four or five of my favourites to come. Unfortunately it ain't always that way. After you've played a compilation several times, in the course of getting it ready for production, ear-hole fatigue usually sets in. Even tracks that are well worthy of inclusion can drag a bit after the eighth run through, but not on this one Baby.
It helps that Lee Silver's work is almost as big a pleasant surprise to me as it probably is to you. As recently as less than two years ago I didn't expect the man who had been responsible for writing the Royal Teens Short Shorts (covered over here by none less than Freddie and The Dreamers) to have produced a string of sublime soul singles throughout the 60s & 70s.
It mainly came about through Lee's management of, and friendship with, the Pentagons. After their first doo wop hit To Be Loved, the group cut two great early soul singles for Jamie, one for Philips under the alias of the Chesterfields and then broke up into two groupings. Lead singer Joe Jones aka Joey Jones aka Joe C Jones went solo and then returned to Lee's stable in the late 60s as the Jones Brothers with his half-brother and ex-Pentagon Otis Munson. The rest of the group under the guidance of original group member Ken Goodloe formed a new outfit, which was known variously as the Corduroys, Themes, 21st Century and Soul Patrol. It was this conglomeration that was responsible for a very large proportion of Lee's soul music output, contributing 11 of the 24 tracks here.
Apart from occasional great lead vocals, Ken Goodloe wrote most of his groups' material in association with his brother Ted or Bill James-.-he sometimes called himself B Goode on the credits. That was how he described himself on the mysterious Pentagons' double-sider, Gonna Wait For You / Forever Yours. The first side moves at a great pace and features the group at its finest in harmonies and traded lead vocals, while the beautiful ballad flip of Forever Yours harks back to their successful vocal group days with a beautiful soul song. To make it more intriguing it seems that it wasn't the Pentagons classic line up at all, more the Goodloe brothers grouping-.-it was apparently first issued as by the Corduroys. As the Themes that group reached the highest peaks for me with one Minit 45, Bent Out Of Shape / No Explanation Needed and two terrific unreleased tracks, Do Yourself A Favor / Reminds Me Of You held in the can for more than thirty years. Having said that, all the 21st Century tracks are good-.-the previously unreleased Search The World Over being a particularly wonderful ballad which exemplifies Lee's symphonic approach to producing and his ear for a great song.
The Jones Brothers have the biggest number of individual credits on the CD with six songs. My favourites are the big ballad sound of That's All Over Baby and their so soulful take on Good Old Days which utilises the same backing track as Nathan Williams' ultra rare (and equally good) Lime recording 'What Price'. Apart from Nathan Williams' 45 there was also a one-off single from Minnie Jones & The Minuettes whose version of Shadow Of A Memory on Sugar Records is highly rated by DJs and collectors and adds a female touch to an otherwise male dominated CD.
However the third major grouping in Lee's stable also featured females. The Primers aka the Vines consisted of three guys and two girls from San Diego, and though they only came out with two released singles, their How Does It Grab You on Hale Records has proved to be one of the biggest Northern Soul vinyl discoveries of recent years. They also cut a follow up called It's Laid On You which is pretty damned hot too and we hope to include that on a later CD of Lee's material.
Lee's music has been one of the delightful surprises of the last few years for me and I'm sure Kent fans will be thrilled too. The fact that he's such a thoroughly nice chap too has been a bonus for me and the many soul fans who have been contacting him to pass on their praise and to see whether he has any old Hale singles lying about anywhere. He doesn't, but you can get all that great music on this little s(S?)ilver disc.