JACKIE LEE: The Mirwood Records Masters (Label: Kent)

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JACKIE LEE: The Mirwood Records Masters

Jackie Lee is the archetypal Northern soul hero. Revered and respected by the brother and sisterhood, he’s largely ignored by the rest of the soul crew and totally unknown to the mainstream. Oddly, though, most of that mainstream and all the soul crowd will know and love ‘Harlem Shuffle’ – a massive ’69 UK hit for Bob and Earl (though recorded much earlier). “Earl”, of course, was our very own Jackie Lee – born Earl Lee Nelson Jr. in Louisiana in 1928. His work on ‘Harlem Shuffle’ furnished him with his biggest European hit, but his solo sides for the legendary Mirwood label carry more currency with the true soul collectors , especially those of the Northern persuasion. Here Kent have assembled all his output for Mirwood and its associates and, as you’d expect, the overriding sound is what is now accepted as the classic Northern soul template – tinkling vibes, shaking tambourine, bouncing bass lines, eerily echoing femme backing vocals, honking sax break, committed lead vocal, irresistible pacey rhythms and lyrics that rarely go beyond exhortations to shake, slide, skate and shimmy. Any number of cuts amongst these 28 fit that blueprint … ‘Do The Temptation Walk’, ‘Your Personality’, ‘The Duck’ and ‘Everybody Jerk’ for starters. Those songs, of course, were Mirwood-generated and when the Mirwood people ran out of ideas they simply had Jackie record old favourites – albeit with that magic Mirwood touch. So, Jackie Lee versions of ‘Land Of 1,000 Dances’, ‘Do You Love Me’, ‘Treat Her Right’ and ‘Dancing In The Street’ are both unusual and interesting. As intriguing are Jackie’s solo stab at his own ‘Harlem Shuffle’ and the previously unissued cover of Bobby Womack’s ‘Trust Me’. Vocally Jackie has bags of passion and is his own man, but listen hard and you’ll hear echoes of Major Lance and Joe Tex, while the spirit of Sam Cooke pervades almost everything. In depth sleeve notes unravel the Jackie Lee story (he passed in 2008) and explain the part played by Barry White and James Carmichael in the Mirwood saga. The notes also allude to the shameful way in which the label’s catalogue has long been bootlegged by unscrupulous British dealers. Here everything is above board – totally legit and totally enjoyable.
(BB) 4/5