Though he doesn’t always get the credit, Bert Berns was one of the founding fathers of modern popular music. His achievements put him up there with the likes of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Phil Spector, the Chess Brothers and the team at Atlantic. Maybe it was his premature death in 1967 that ultimately denied him the status he deserved, but now with this wonderful Ace 26 tracker of music he worked on, music fans and critics alike can at least start to reassess Berns’ contribution to the 20th century’s most enduring art from. Born Bertrand Russell Berns in 1929, the native New Yorker went on to write and produce a slew of hits that became 60s pop mainstays. More, he recorded himself as Russell Byrd, worked in swingin’ sixties UK, owned his own label and was so influential that the savvy Atlantic bosses bought him in to work for them. That huge variety is reflected in this album which covers his career from 1960-1964. The two main focuses are Solomon Burke’s ‘Cry To Me’ and the Isley Brothers’ ‘Twist And Shout’. Both those recordings would guarantee Berns iconic status but add to that cuts like the Vibrations’ ‘My Girl Sloopy’, Little Esther Philips’ ‘Mo Jo Hannah’, the Drifters’ ‘One Way Love’, the Jarmels’ ‘Little Bit Of Soap’ and Ben E King’s ‘Gypsy’ and you’ll start to understand Berns’ importance. Those cuts of course, are all great New York 60s soul sounds but there’s great pop here too from people like Gene Pitney, Mel Torme and little old Lulu – whom Berns recorded on his song ‘Here Comes The Night’. You’ll know that Van Morrison’s Them also cut the tune – leading to Morrison signing to Berns’ label and the start of his solo career. But that’s another story and one we’re promised will unfold in Volume 2 later in the year.
(BB) 4 out 5