Throughout the 60s the Exciters were one of New York’s most formidable soul groups. They toured regularly to packed theatres and were acclaimed by those in the soul-know, but, incredibly, they only enjoyed one major hit – the energy-charged ‘Tell Him’ – and even that played seconds fiddle in the UK and Europe to a second rate cover by Billie Davis. Equally bizarre is the fact that the Exciters’ other best known outing – ‘Do Wah Diddy’ – suffered from being covered by Manfred Mann – the group who most people would associate with the song. Despite these disappointments, the quartet – Brenda Reid, Lillian Walker, Carol Johnson and Herb Rooney – kept on trying and in legendary producer Bert Berns they had a champion who was equally determined, and when their contract with Roulette expired he was more than happy to sign them to his own Bang and Shout labels … and this is where this excellent 21 track retrospective begins. Berns was the savviest of entrepreneurs and he provided material for the foursome that was right on the 1966 New York soul button. Cuts like ‘I’m Gonna Get Him Someday’, ‘You Know It Ain’t Right’ and ‘You Better Come Home’ (listen to that tambourine!) were Big Apple takes on the then dominant Motown up-tempo sound while the ballad ‘You Got Love’ took more than a page out of the Burt Bacharach songbook. Despite their excellence the songs failed to chart – even the wonderful ‘Soul Motion’ and a remake of ‘A Little Bit Of Soap’ missed out. Then, bitter disaster. Berns died suddenly and the label-less group were about to quit when they were snapped up by RCA – who pacted them with Larry Banks and it’s the Banks-helmed singles along with the tracks from the RCA long player, ‘Caviar and Chittlins’ that make up the rest of this collection. Again the RCA material was based on the music that was then popular. So again, the Northern evergreen ‘Blowing Up My Mind’ is Motown by any other name while the lovely ‘I Don’t Have To Worry No More’ has the feel of those magical moments that Ollie McLaughlin conjured up with Deon Jackson and Barbara Lewis. Other great cuts include ‘Give It All’ (big, brassy and harmonic) and the Rooney-led ‘You Got Me’. The fact that despite the lack of success producers and labels kept faith with the Exciters is testimony to the faith they had in the incredible voice of lead singer Brenda Reid and this collection is a veritable testament to her and, of course, real soul people know full well that chart success doesn’t always equate with soul quality and artistic merit. If you doubt that – here’s the proof.