THE SPINNERS: Original Album Series (Label: Rhino)

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THE SPINNERS: Original Album Series

Seemingly underappreciated by Berry Gordy, Detroit’s Spinners had largely been languishing in the shadows at Motown – although they’d scored a rare chart smash with ‘It’s A Shame’ in 1970 – until Atlantic Records came calling in 1972 and turned their fortunes around, mainly thanks to Philly producer, Thom Bell. Under Bell’s supervision, The Spinners were transformed into a hit-making machine and dominated the ’70s and early ’80s. This new Rhino package (five albums presented in mini replica LP sleeves) is well-worth acquiring for soul fans that only possess the band’s greatest hits CD in their collection and would like to delve deeper into their back catalogue. It kicks off with the Spinners self-titled 1972 Atlantic debut, arguably one of the best soul albums of the ’70s, which includes the quintet’s first chart topper, ‘I’ll Be Around’ plus ‘Ghetto Child’ and the soul evergreen, ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.’ The magnificence of Phillipe Wynne’s ultra-expressive lead vocals (and those also of Bobby Smith) combined with the group’s velvety smooth background harmonies and Thom Bell’s shimmering Philly production – not forgetting some memorable songs – results in a set to savour. There’s not a weak track on the album, and the Spinners even venture into jazz territory with the finger clicking supper club swinger, ‘Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You.’ Their next long player for Atlantic, 1974’s ‘Mighty Love,’ is almost as good and is packed with great tunes (the anthemic title track, plus ‘I’m Coming Home’ and ‘Love Don’t Love Nobody’) and superb arrangements. They released a second LP in ’74, ‘New And Improved,’ a strong set that included ‘Then Came You,’ their hit duet with Dionne Warwick. Another great album followed in ’75 – ‘Pick Of The Litter,’ which spawned the US R&B number one, ‘They Can’t Stop It (The Games People Play).’ Besides four classic studio efforts, the new Rhino pack includes 1975’s ‘Spinners Live!’ It’s not an essential listen but it paints a vivid picture of the group’s exciting live show at the time. The only downside to this collection is that the LP sleeves are so small that people that like to peruse the credits will need a magnifying glass, if not a microscope – also there are no new liner notes to put the amazing music that the Spinners and Thom Bell crafted into any kind of context. But in terms of the music contained therein (which is sourced from Atlantic remasters of the late ’90s) it’s a fantastic set that newcomers to Philly soul should purchase post haste. Other soul artists featured in this series are The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, Otis Redding, George Benson plus funk acts Slave and Bootsy’s Rubber Band.
(CW) 4/5