In 1973 Billy Griffin was handed one of the most difficult jobs in soul history – he was asked to replace Smokey Robinson as lead singer in the legendary Miracles. By general consent Griffin did a good job but by the early 80s a solo career beckoned and with the crisp anthemic ‘Hold Me Tighter In The Rain’ he scored a decent hit – and, for complicated reasons, he also won a special place in the hearts of the UK soul fraternity. The UK link blossomed with Griffin’s association with Expansion Records and that’s the label responsible for this pleasing 16 track retrospective. The set offers tracks from his Columbia albums ‘Be With Me’, ‘Systematic’ and ‘Respect’ alongside a brace from his most recent Expansion set ‘Like Water. There’s also a couple of his Miracle highspots – ‘Love Machine’ and ‘Spy For The Brotherhood’ but the big bonuses are ‘Believe It Or Not’ (a rare Atlantic single) and ‘Olivia’ an often overlooked duet with Ahira Jimbo. The proceedings start, of course, with ‘Rain’ and in truth few of the other 15 cuts come near to matching its ageless quality. It’s one of those songs which, as Ralph Tee opines in his sleeve notes, helps to define an era and though it is very much an 80s artefact it is timeless. Some of the other cuts haven’t travelled quite so well – it’s clear that the producers like John Barnes were still trying to perfect the use of synths in soul – but for those who came to soul in the early 80s the collection is unmissable, while Griffin fans will be delighted to get hold of cuts that have never been legally on CD before – notably the extended mix of ‘Understand’ which features the inimitable Gerald Albright on sax.