VARIOUS; Atlanta – Hotbed of 70s Soul (Kent)

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The name of Georgia “businessman”, Michael Thevis might not be that well known amongst the soul community but bear with us and you’ll see that he was indirectly responsible for some wonderful, timeless, classic soul music. Of Greek heritage, Thevis (who died in prison in 2013) was proud to call himself a “gangster!” Indeed when facing a Grand Jury in the mid-70s, he  described his “business activities” as the “General Motors of Pornography”. For sure he’d made millions from porn and other nefarious activities – drugs, prostitution, extortion, protection and gambling amongst them but at the same time to offer a sort of legitimate front and to launder the money from his empire he also created a series of record labels… amongst them GRC, Aware, Hotlanta and later he took over more labels –  notably Moonsong and Showtime. How serious Thevis was about his record business is open to debate and, interestingly, the label’s biggest hit was a country song – ‘Chevy Van’ by Sammy Jones. However, because his home base was  Atlanta, GRC and the other labels were  home to countless soul performers and there was minor chart success for Thevis on people like Ripple, Loleatta Holloway and King Hannibal. By 1975, though,  Thevis’ past was catching up on him (he was arrested on a murder charge!) and his music operation folded, leaving countless recordings in the vault.

UK reissue specialist Ace/Kent has access to the Thevis music archive (now owned by Ginn Music) and over the years they’ve released a series of albums of Thevis-originated soul and this album, ‘Atlanta – Hotbed Of 70s Soul’ is the latest and the quality of the 24 tracks is remarkable especially when you consider that many of the recordings   have never been previousy commercially available. Case in point is the stunning Deep Soul ‘Con Me’  from Miss Louistine. This one opens proceedings and instantly ticks all the right boxes It will  remind you of why soul is your chosen music preference. It also highlights a paradox that  plenty of real soul music throws up – how can something so sad and painful be so pleasurable? It just is, I guess! We learn from the extensive sleeve notes that Ms Louistine was an Atlanta soul wannabee and that the song was penned by Sam Dees! No surprise really. Miss L  delivers another track on the set – her reading of another Dees’ song, the pacey ‘Extra, Extra’.

Indeed the spirit of the incomparable Sam Dees looms large over the collection. Amongst the other Dees’ songs are ‘Paper Man’ and ‘Someone To Run To’ from Alpaca Phase III, ‘Love Making’ from Jean Battle, ‘Can I Hold You To It’ from Lorraine Johnson and Joe Hinton’s ‘Shouldn’t I Be Given The Right To Be Wrong’. This “Joe Hinton” is the Los Angeles Hinton; not the ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ one and here he delivers two more selections – ‘Grant Me One More Day’  and ‘Depend On Me’. Hinton co-penned those two with Louvain Demps who left her job with Motown’s backing girls the Andantes to move to Atlanta with Hinton. Their ‘Grant Me One More Day’ is another deep soul beauty. There’s more  Detroit connections – The Steppers’ ‘Keep On Walking’ was written by J J Barnes and cut in Detroit. Deep Velvet, who have two track on the set, also hailed from the Motor City. Mr Thevis’ tentacles, it seems, stretched a long way!

‘Atlanta – Hotbed Of 70s Soul’ throws up a plethora of soul treasures and the Ace/Kent team have got the title just right; ditto the extensive sleeve notes which will keep the geekiest anorak happy for hours! So gangster/hustler – murderer even… we have a lot to thank Michael Thevis for!

(BB) 4/5