THE SPINNERS: Ain’t No Price On Happiness (SoulMusicRecords)

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I was first introduced to the Spinners via Georgie Fame’s magnificent 1966 cover of their ‘Sweet Thing’. Its excellence forced me to seek out the original which I found on their ‘Original Spinners’ Motown debut album. It was stuffed with great tunes like ‘I’ll Always Love You’, ‘Truly Yours’, ‘Where Is That Girl’ and, of course, ‘Sweet Thing’. I followed the group’s career with interest but despite a massive hit in 1970 with ‘It’s A Shame’, they never got anywhere near Motown’s Premier League and they seemed to drop off the radar. Then in 1973, they re-emerged on Atlantic … and what a re-emergence! Their eponymous debut for the label quickly became a massive seller and was soon hailed as a classic of the art of soul group harmony. Everything about it was spot on – the performances, the songs, the production, the arrangements – and that excellence was, it seemed, chiefly down to one man – uber-producer Thom Bell who by ‘72/’73 had outgrown his relationship with groups like the Delfonics and the Stylistics and was searching for a new challenge. He remembered the Spinners from their Motown days and when the Atlantic execs asked him to produce some of their artists, he straight away chose them … and the rest is, well, soul excellence in abundance!

If you doubt this fan’s hyperbole, then check out this new mighty 7CD, 92-track collection from SoulMusicRecords which collects together all the recordings the Spinners and Bell collaborated on during the group’s tenure at Atlantic. None of the big tunes have wilted with time; ‘Ghetto Child’, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’, ‘I’ll Be Around’ and their Dionne Warwick collaboration, ‘Then Came You’ are all timeless. And has there ever been a better example of soul group harmony than ‘They Just Can’t Stop It (Games People Play)’? Then there’s deep soul ballads – ‘Love Don’t Love Nobody’, and don’t forget, the group could testify with the best… ‘Mighty Love’ anybody?

What makes this collection so special is the inclusion of remixes (mainly Mike Mauro and Tom Moulton) of key cuts, single edits and rare tracks like ‘Once In A Life Proposal’ which was never issued on a Spinners’ album but was the B-side of the single ‘If You Wanna Do A Dance’. Also included are the four tracks produced by Jimmy Roach which, in effect, were the group’s audition for Atlantic and Bell. They passed, of course! Completing the picture are the excellent sleeve notes, the archive pix and the thorough annotation.

(BB) 5/5

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