Over the years Kent/Ace have issued several splendid series of albums – Dave Godin’s ‘Deep Soul’ collections immediately spring to mind. Just prior to his death Dave also worked on a series called ‘Birth Of Soul’ and label execs have resurrected that particular idea – with a subtle twist. Instead of the music being across the board, each album in this new series will focus on one particular geographical area and the whole thing kicks off by focusing on Chicago in the late fifties/early sixties. Most soul folk would agree that the Windy City is the logical starting point for the series. In Chicago at that time, all the strands that were to morph into soul were out there. There was also a huge, hungry talent pool and a proletariat that was becoming, more and more affluent – while musicologists more eminent than me will argue that in the Impressions’ ‘For Your Precious Love’ we have the first truly, real soul record….and that’s the song that opens this wonderful 24 tracker. However, this particular version is the original (and previously unissued) demo version that Curtis Mayfield pitched (unsuccessfully) at the Bandera label. It’s quite simple and totally unadorned but that only makes it more intense than the later Vee Jay hit version and makes the album quite unmissable for collectors. To many, Mayfield typified classic Chicago soul and his spirit permeates this whole album. Songs he crafted with and for Major Lance, Jerry Butler, Jan Bradley, Wade Flemons and Gene Chandler are standouts, defining Chicago sounds. But even without the Gentle Genius, Chicago would still have been a soul seminary. For a time the city’s Chess Records rivalled Motown and that label is represented by material from Don and Bob, The Radiants, Etta James, the Dells and Sugar Pie DeSanto… though best of the Chess bunch is the little known but superb Etta James duet with Harvey Fuqua, ‘My Heart Cries’ … originally a throwaway B-side! Other featured artists include Betty Everett, Rosco Gordon, The Accents, Gerald Sims, The Chanteurs, Dee Clark, Barbara Lewis and The Drew-Vels whose Patti Drew-vocalised ‘Tell Him’ was recently revived by Amy Winehosue protégé Dionne Broomfield… talk about what goes around! In essence though, that’s the beauty of all the music here… it’s timeless – still good-to-go, even though it may have been recorded fifty years ago! Despite all the fine, fine Motown compilations issued this year, I nominate this set as the best REAL old soul compilation of 2009.