VARIOUS; Ethereal Magic 3 (Expansion)

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 20:28 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altTony Monson is a respected UK soul writer and broadcaster... indeed he's' one of the founding fathers of Solar Radio. Some years back in his late night shows Tony would play some real left field items that were linked by their laid back qualities, their complex arrangements and poignant vocals. The spot during which he played these tunes he dubbed "the Ethereal Magic Sessions" and to his surprise the station received loads and loads of positive feedback most notably from the team that runs the Expansion soul label. They commissioned Mr M to compile an 'Ethereal Magic' album and the collection was so successful that volume 2 soon followed, and now – voila... here's Volume 3.

This new 16 tracker, naturally, follows the same pattern as volumes 1 and 2...that's to say lashings of what we mentioned above.... laid back qualities, complex arrangements and poignant vocals. And like those first two collections Tony M hasn't just restricted his choices to the soul genre. Here you can enjoy classy, adult pop like England Dan and John Ford Coley's 'Love Is The Answer' and Judie Tzuke's 'Stay With Me Till Dawn'; laid back jazz like Bobby Mc Ferrin's version of Van Morrison's 'Moondance'; Deep House in the form of 'Into The Sunrise' from the Ananda Project'; and Judy Collins' bleak, genre bending reading of Randy Newman's 'I Think Its Gonna Rain Today'.

Given Monson's pedigree you can be sure that there's plenty of great soul too – and a well-thought out mix of big names and lesser luminaries. I mean the Isley Brothers ('Groove With You') sitting cheek by jowl with the almost unknown Buford Powers whose 'Bluz 4 You' channels a wonderful Lou Rawls. Add to all this, music from the Jones Girls, Ola Onabule, Sweetback and Lesette Wilson and you have a very different kind of compilation and one that works on many levels.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 December 2017 20:38


VARIOUS: Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 6 (Kent)

Monday, 18 December 2017 20:18 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altAs you can see from the heading, this is Ace/Kent's sixth volume in their Northern Soul's Classiest Rarities series and as the introduction to the sleeve notes point out, it is amazing that so much great 60s and 70s soul is still being discovered!

Like the previous five volumes in this franchise the Kent compilers have cast their soul nets far and wide and come up with a 24 tracker that highlights music from plenty of big names alongside a crew of soul wannabees.

First the big names.... maybe none bigger here than Johnnie Taylor. JT's offering is the 1970 Stax outing 'Friday Night' which was first released as the B side to Taylor's #3 hit 'Steal Away'. The song is a Hester/Wylie affair and soul heads will know it via the Steve Mancha Groovesville version but here producer Don Davis ups both the beats and the funk quotient.

Other "names"? Well what about Betty Everett, JJ Barnes, The Detroit Emeralds, Carla Thomas and Maxine Brown! Maxine's track, by the way, is 'One In A Million' and I can already hear you saying ... "rarity... never!" Sure, the song is one of Maxine's best-known outings (indeed one of Northern Soul's enduring anthems) but here you get a previously unissued version – one of five early takes of the song recently found in the vaults. You'll spot and appreciate the differences right away!

The lesser-known artists include people like The Lon-Genes, the Vows, Jock Mitchell, the Hyperions and The Fidels whose 'I Only Cry Once A Day' is a huge in-demand item. Collectors will also be pleased to have easy access to the Jack Ashford produced 'I Can Fly' by the Magnificents... classy and rare – like each of the other 23 inclusions!

(BB) 4/5


VARIOUS: We Got A Sweet Thing Going On 3 (Soul Junction)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 20:52 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

altJust in time for that last minute soul stocking filler, UK reissue specialists, Soul Junction offer volume 3 in their wonderful 'We Got A Sweet Thing Going On' series. A series that sets out (and succeeds) in turning up rare, esoteric, sweet group harmony sounds.

As with volumes 1 and 2, the team at Soul Junction have scoured all the major Stateside urban soul centres to come up with their goodies. So let's start by revealing what they discovered in "Sweet Soul Central" – Philadelphia. From the City of Brotherly Love you can enjoy great soul harmonising from the Toppiks, Bobby Banks, Music Machine, the Delegates of Soul, the Four Thoughts, the Coalitions and the Jonsettes. All offer strong tunes but maybe soul collectors will find most interest in the trio of tunes from the Toppiks.... 'Give It A Chance To Grow', 'Win All Your Love' and 'Surrender'. All are gorgeous examples of sweet Philly soul and feature classic lead lines from a certain Ted Mills – later, of course, of Blue Magic. The Jonesetts, by the way, are the only girl group on the album. Here you have both sides of their only single – 'Once I Had A Love'/'Stop Look And Listen' – Norman Harris involved in both; quality assured!

Chicago soul is represented by the Flairs. They have two cuts – 'Where You Live' and the finger-clicking good 'You Got To Steal It'. The Motor City sounds come via The Holidays while The Donations (their cut is 'I'm Going To Treat You Good') hail from Cleveland.

The album's other featured artists are The Scott Three and Robert Montgomery who originally came from Georgia and though a solo artist (of course) his sweet n' lovely 'Love Song About You' perfectly fits this album's template.

Soul Junction is known for quality 7" vinyl single releases and a number of this album's cuts have been issued in that format by the label. However, even if you already have some of those, it's soulfully exhilarating to have them alongside lots of previously unissued material. Together the 18 tracks offer a wonderful sweep of the sweet soul genre.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 December 2017 21:09


GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: '2nd Anniversary' (Elemental)

Saturday, 09 December 2017 08:39 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                         altDespite scoring a raft of hits for Motown, including three US R&B number ones, Gladys Knight & The Pips believed that the label's supremo, Berry Gordy, regarded them as a second tier act and consequently, they left his Detroit company for Buddah Records in 1973. At Buddah, Gladys and the Pips received the attention they felt they deserved and hit new commercial heights, scoring big US pop smashes with 'Midnight Train To Georgia,' 'I've Got To Use My Imagination,' and 'Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.'  This reissue of the group's fourth long player for Buddah, catches up with them in 1975 when they went in the studio as co-producers working alongside noted singer/songwriter/producer, Gene McDaniels, and production duo, Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise.

There are four McDaniels-helmed tracks, the first of which the message song, 'Money,' was a #4 US R&B hit and showed the group heading in a funkier, blaxploitation-style musical direction. The quartet also served up a six-minute version of the McDaniels'-penned 'Feel Like Makin' Love,' which had been a big hit for Roberta Flack in 1974. They do it totally differently, slowing it down to a sensuous simmer, with Gladys doing her own inimitable thing vocally, aided by gospel-like responses from the Pips.  Another McDaniels' tune, 'Summer Sun,' is more sturdy, direct and earthy, seasoned with rousing gospel cadences. Arguably the most interesting McDaniels' cut is the socially-aware 'Street Brother,' which is significant because all of the lead vocals are handled by the Pips sans Gladys - the first verse is sung by Edward Patten, the second by William Guest, and the third by Bubba Knight.

Other highlights include a finely-nuanced interpretation of Bread singer/songwriter David Gates's 'Part Time Love,' which was a #4 R&B hit in 1975, and a jazzy, atmospheric take - complete with a voiceover intro by Gladys - on Hoagie Carmichael's 'Georgia On My Mind.'  A similar vibe defines the mournful ballad, 'You And Me Against The World,' while Rusty Young's pining steel guitar adds a country feel to the heartbreak ballad, 'Where Do I Put His Memory' (written by Mississippi tunesmith, Jim Weatherly, who wrote several big hits for Gladys and the Pips, including 'Midnight Train To Georgia').

A solidly soulful rather than stunningly spectacular album, '2nd Anniversary' - which is now remastered and available as a limited edition release in a mini replica gatefold LP sleeve - should nevertheless be at the top of your shopping list if you're a fan of one of soul music's greatest ever groups.

(CW)  3/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 December 2017 16:42


EDDIE KENDRICKS: 'Vintage '78' (Elemental)

Saturday, 09 December 2017 08:34 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                     altThe sweetly-soulful falsetto foil to raspy-voiced David Ruffin in the original incarnation of the Temptations, Eddie Kendricks quit the Motown vocal quintet in 1971, three years after Ruffin had been replaced by Dennis Edwards. Alabama-born Kendricks stayed with Motown to launch his solo career, and scored seventeen US R&B hits (including three number ones) for Berry Gordy's label between 1971 and 1978 before leaving for Clive Davis' Arista imprint where he released his debut LP for the company, 'Vintage '78,' later the same year.

Kendrick's short tenure with Arista - he only stayed for two albums before departing to Atlantic - tends to be eclipsed by his longer Motown stay. That's understandable, given the number of hits that the Birmingham-born singer racked up for Berry Gordy's label in the early '70s, but as this fine reissue reveals, Kendricks was still making solid records away from Detroit, though they often didn't get the attention they deserved. 'Vintage '78' (the first of two albums for Arista) adheres to a similar formula that characterised the singer's Motown output, blending propulsive disco grooves with plaintive, storytelling ballads. Kendricks is at his most expressive on the latter and on this particular album, the pleading 'Your Wish Is My Command,'  'Maybe I'm A Fool To Love You,' and the elegant 'The Best Of Strangers Now' (the latter a Top 50 R&B hit) stand out as shining examples of the singer's gift for balladry. The biggest hit from the album was 'Ain't No Smoke Without Fire,' a thumping, richly orchestrated disco groove over which Kendricks' seraphic voice floats sublimely, punctuated by earnest female background vocals. Also on the dance front, 'Whip' impresses with its mirrorball energy, anthemic chorus, and blend of sinewy bass line and blaring horns. While it's not an absolute, indispensable classic, it is, nonetheless, a solid, enjoyable set that's well worth hearing, especially if you're an aficionado of '70s soul.

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 December 2017 16:43


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