VARIOUS ARTISTS: Best Of Five Years (Label: Vinyl Masterpiece)

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’80s soul compilations don’t get much better than this. This new 28-track/2-CD set from Holland’s Vinyl Masterpiece label – subtitled ‘From Rare Grooves To ’80s Disco Funk Classics’ – has been compiled to celebrate the company’s fifth anniversary. It’s essentially an overview of the Vinyl Masterpiece story as it cherry picks key cuts from various albums the company has reissued as well as the many ’80s compilations it has released under the Vinyl Masterpiece banner. Apart from Luther Vandross’s perennial dance floor favourite, ‘Never Too Much’ – by far the most familiar cut on the collection – there’s nothing too obvious or predictable about this set. What results is a refreshingly different ’80s album that kicks off with the BB&Q Band’s gorgeous Jam & Lewis-inspired ballad ‘Genie,’ and includes fabulous dance floor cuts by Lillo Thomas (‘Your Love’s Got A Hold On Me’), Rene and Angela (‘I Love You More’), Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King (‘Out Of Control’) and Mtume (the group’s infectious ‘Prime Time,’ featuring wonderful vocals from the awesome Tawatha Agee). Also included is some edgy, synth funk from mid-’80s Motown vixen and Rick James’ protégé Val Young (‘Mind Games’), and a succulent slice of Compass Point-begotten Island funk from golden-voiced Gwen Guthrie (her 1983 Sly and Robbie-helmed ‘Peanut Butter’). Other fine cuts come from Starpoint – their 1982 smash, ‘Bring Your Sweet Lovin’ Back’ – Howard Johnson, Oliver Cheatham (an extended version of his recently revived ‘Get Down Saturday Night’), Dayton, Stephanie Mills, Nona Hendryx, Jeffrey Osbourne, Maxine Singleton, Klique, and even the UK’s Total Contrast (their brilliant ‘Takes A Little Time’). It’s all good, well-chosen stuff and captures the sound of an era that many so-called soul experts continue to deride – it will certainly bring back a lot of memories for soul fans that liked to strut their stuff in the 1980s. Let’s hope that Vinyl Masterpiece ( continues to keep up the good work during the next five years…
(CW) 4/5