Hot on the heels of the recent ‘Black Gold’ (see our reviews archive) Universal are about to unleash another fabulous CHESS compilation. The new one, though, is markedly different.

First up it’s a vinyl box set… seven 7″ singles (complete with download card) offering fourteen classy Chess classics. And, second, those classics are a little less esoteric than the material on the ‘Black Gold’ set. Where the tunes on that one were from the jazzier, more experimental section of the Chess catalogue, the 14 cuts on ‘CHESS NORTHERN SOUL volume II’ are a little less complex… straightforward examples of the sheer joy that unbridled soul can bring.

Interestingly, complier Ady Croasdell has eschewed some of the more obvious examples of what we could call “Chess Northern flavours” and gone for the more collectable, harder to find gems, like ‘A Mighty Good Lover’ from the Vashonettes. It’s as good a definition of proper Northern soul as you could get. The same apples to the Chessmen’s ‘Why Can’t I Be Your Man’, Marlena Shaw’s ‘Let’s Wade In The Water’ and Denise LaSalle’s ‘A Love Reputation’. Jackie Ross (‘My Square’) and Sugar Pie DeSanto (‘Talkin’, Dreamin’, Boastin”) offer definitions of the wonderful early Chess sound while if you’ve never heard the Gospel Classics’ ‘More Love, That’s What We Need’ you need to get on board pronto! It’s one of those tunes that make you realise why you got caught up in the crazy world of soul in the first place!

Elsewhere there are a few surprises. Terry Callier’s ‘You Were Just Foolin’ Me’ has his distinctive folksy feel; ‘Two in the Morning’ from Spooners Crowd (The Muscle Shoals session team) serves up southern soul while The Vibrations’ ‘Make It Last’ (a Vince Montana production) is sweet, sophisticated Philly soul.

My only gripe is that there’s nothing from the mighty Dells or the equally mighty Billy Stewart… still the excellence of the rest almost makes up for that!

‘CHESS NORTHERN SOUL volume II’ is released on 19th August.