Over the years (think it all started in the mid-80s) Ace Records’ Kent imprint has provided a  sterling service to serious soul collectors. The team over at Kent have unearthed and reissued countless soul gems, a plethora of rarities and thousands of long-neglected soul masterpieces from all sorts of sources and labels.

One of the labels  that Kent has specialised in is legendary Washington label, SHRINE. The label was  founded in 1964 by Eddie Singleton and his soon-to-be wife Raynoma. (“Miss Ray” to her associates!). Now, she just happened to be the ex-wife of Berry Gordy  and some histories suggest that Berry Gordy put up some of the money to get the label up and running. Whatever, lacking Berry’s business acumen, Shrine went out of business in 1967.

In its short life, Shrine released a total of twenty vinyl 45 singles comprising forty different tracks. However, none of the Shrine singles were significant hits and to complicate  things, Shrine’s stock of unsold records was destroyed in a warehouse fire in the 1968! Thus very few Shrine records remain today and (obviously) they fetch big bucks on the collectors’ market.

With legit licensing deals in place, Ace/Kent has curated plenty of Shrine product. The label has issued 2 CD compilation, a vinyl album and made a selection of Shrine tracks available digitally. And given Shrine’s brief but significant existence, it’s with plenty of justification that Ace/Kent dubbed Shrine “the rarest Soul label”!

Now Kent continue their stewardship of Shrine by releasing a magnificent collection in this new fangled thing called vinyl! ‘SHRINE RECORDS – RARE SOUL SIDES: WASHINGTON DC 1965-1967’ is a box set that consists of seven 7” vinyl singles (retailing at around £55) that deliver a cross section of the very best of the “Shrine Sound”.

The box features five sides never issued on 45 before, one previously unissued in any format and two tracks never released on Kent. Using new post-production audio techniques, Kent has improved the quality of several tracks and made available some long deleted, hard-to-find soul gems. But that’s just what Kent do!

Across the 14 tracks there’s plenty of variety. As you’d except there are plenty of banging dancers that were espoused (or will be espoused) by the Northern crowd (things like the Cautions’ ‘No Other Way’) but there’s also some (maybe) surprising deep soul (try Jimmy Armstrong’s searing ‘It’s Gonna Take Love’). However, with the material dating from the mid-sixties there’s plenty of sweet, harmony group soul. Don’t miss out on Tippie and the Wisemen’s ‘Wait Till I Get There’ or the Epsilons’ ‘Mind In A Bind’ ( a mix of the sound of the Impressions and the Esquires and quite lovely… by the way, these “Epsilons” aren’t the Philly group who recorded for Stax).

Learn more about this unmissable box and see all the titles @