Various Artists: ‘A Complete Introduction To Northern Soul’ (Label: Universal)

  • Home
  • Reviews
  • Various Artists: ‘A Complete Introduction To Northern Soul’ (Label: Universal)
Various Artists: 'A Complete Introduction To Northern Soul'

As myth has it, Northern Soul began life as two simple words scrawled on a cardboard box of 45s by record shop co-proprietor Dave Godin during the late ’60s. Godin’s words aimed to describe for browsers US records with a driving, Motown-esque, beat that soul fans in the north west of England seemed to prefer in comparison with their southern counterparts. Godin, of course, went on to write a column for the then influential ‘Blues & Soul’ magazine and by that time, the term he’d casually coined in the ‘Soul City’ record shop, went on to assume a new significance, giving rise to a phenomenal cult music scene that exploded in the early ’70s and which still exists today. Famed DJ, Russ Winstanley, is undoubtedly one of Northern Soul’s principal movers and shakers and he was a key figure in spreading the Northern Soul gospel in the 1970s (he was a resident DJ at the legendary Northern Soul venue, the Wigan Casino). Winstanley’s the architect behind a well-appointed new box set called ‘A Complete Introduction To Northern Soul,’ which comprises 96 tracks, largely culled from the vaults of Motown. The tracks are divided into four themed-CDs. The first disc, ‘Motown Memories,’ features classic Detroit floor-fillers not only from big hitters like Marvin Gaye (‘Little Darling [I Need You]), Martha & The Vandellas (‘Nowhere To Run’), Stevie Wonder (‘Uptight [Everything’s Alright]), and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (‘Whole Lot Of Shakin’ In My Heart’) but also less acclaimed acts like The Elgins (‘Heaven Must have Sent You’), Chris Clark (‘I Want To Go Back There Again’) and Kim Weston (‘Helpless’). There are also fine cuts from J.J. Barnes, The Velvelettes, The Marvelettes, The Contours, and the Isley Brothers. The second CD, ‘Motown’s Hidden Nuggets’ features some underappreciated sides by the great and small of Motown – ranging from Gladys Knight, Brenda Holloway and Tammi Terrell to Kiki Dee, Debbie Dean, David Ruffin, Sisters Love and Edwin Starr & Blinky. There, you’ll also find arguably the most highly-prized Motown Northern Soul tune of all time, Frank Wilson’s much-coveted ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do).’ CD 3 – ‘Northern Floorshakers’ – features sides on ABC, Philips, A&M, Stax, 20th Century, Cameo-Parkway, Cadet and Polydor as well as Berry Gordy’s iconic label. Among the key tunes are Bobby Hebb’s ‘Love Love Love,’ Johnny Taylor’s ‘Friday Night,’ David Ruffin’s ‘Walk Away From Love,’ Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love,’ Barbara Randolph’s ‘I’ve Got A Feeling,’ and The Dells’ ‘Wear It On Our Face.’ The fourth and concluding CD, ‘Northern Anthems,’ continues the dance floor euphoria: kicking off with Yvonne Baker’s ‘You Didn’t Say A Word,’ it also includes Evie Sands’ ‘Picture Me Gone,’ Terry Callier’s ‘Ordinary Joe,’ Tobi Legend’s ‘Time Will Pass You By,’ Spyder Turner’s ‘I Can’t Make It Anymore,’ Dean Parrish’s ‘I’m On My Way’ and Patti & The Emblems’ ‘I’m Gonna Love You A Long Time.’ It all adds up to a cornucopia of vintage soul riches, though it’s hard to say whether the compilation truly lives up to the bold claim of its title. What does ‘complete’ mean when, according to a new book, ‘The Essential Northern Soul Price Guide Volume 2,’ there are a staggering 25,000 records classified as Northern Soul collectables? However, as an entry to a type of music that long ago achieved critical mass in terms of the records that are considered classic examples of the genre, ‘A Complete Introduction To Northern Soul’ does a sterling job. The music comes in a handy, paperback book-size package that includes lots of evocative photos and track-by-track comments from Winstanley, who puts his own spin on the mind-boggling phenomenon that is Northern Soul. The music here is mostly exceptional, though as a soul fan who despises the myopic factionism and petty jealousies that the DJ culture of Northern Soul has fostered, I prefer to agree with the great Duke Ellington, who once sagely opined that ‘there are only two types of music: good and bad.’ And here, you’ll find nothing but good…
(CW) 4/5