VARIOUS ARTISTS: ‘Soul Ecstasy’ (Label: Expansion)

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This new 16-track collection from compiler Ralph Tee certainly lives up to its title. It’s a really fabulous compendium of late-’70s and early-’80s dance floor soul tunes that will evoke plenty of happy memories in forty and fifty-something soul boys and girls who used to be frequent club goers back in the day. The set kicks off with Gayle Adams’ infectious dancer, ‘Let’s Go All The Way,’ which establishes a euphoric, foot-tapping vibe that continues with Beau Williams’ ‘If You’re Ready,’ Patti LaBelle’s insistent ‘It’s Alright With Me,’ George Duke’s slick, EW&F-influenced ‘Say You Will,’ The Manhattans’ disco-inflected ‘Locked Up In Your Love,’ and Major Harris’s ‘How Do You Take Your Love.’ There are also two fine cuts from cult soul man, Ronnie McNeir (‘The Good Side Of Your Love,’ which is available from Expansion as a limited edition 45 to tie-in with this album’s release, and ‘Is This What Happens To A Love’) plus the Isley Brothers’ hypnotically brilliant ‘Here We Go Again’ and the instrumental version of Tavares’ ‘Never Had A Love Like This Before.’ Sinuous grooves from Breakwater (‘Say You Love Me Girl’), Damaris (the anthemic ‘What About My Love’), Ronnie Dyson (‘I Want To Be Where You Are’), Champaign (‘Can You Find The Time’), flautist Hubert Laws (‘We’re In Ecstasy’), and Main Ingredient (the 7-inch version of ‘Evening Of Love’) complete a set packed with elegant grooves and moods that crystallise the essence of well-produced, sophisticated, late-’70s soul. Expansion has also done a good job on the mastering front, making the tracks sound fresh and punchy. You probably won’t hear a better soul compilation this year.
(CW) 4/5