VARIOUS: Didn’t I Blow Your Mind; Thom Bell (Kent)

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Back in 2020 Ace/Kent celebrated the art of Thom Bell with a wonderful 23 track compilation of some of his very best writing and/or production credits. At the time the compilers noted that choosing just 23 tracks from the maestro’s back catalogue was a gargantuan task – what to choose… what to omit? In  truth they acquitted themselves well  with classic Bell cuts like the O’Jays’ ‘Backstabbers’,  Jerry Butler’s ‘Moody Woman’, the Spinners’ ‘Could It Be I’m falling In Love’, New York City’s ‘I’m Doin’ Fine Now’, Teddy P’s ‘Close The Door’, the Stylistics’ ‘People Make The World Go Round’ and  the Delfonics’ ‘Ready Or Not’. Those very familiar song were peppered with lesser known items  like the Orlons’ ‘I Can’t Take It’, Lesley Gore’s ‘Look The Other Way’ and Connie Stevens’ ‘Tick Tock’.

Now four years on the Kent team deliver another Thom Bell tribute and, like that first volume, this 20 tracker mixes the familiar with the more obscure. For starters there’s tracks  from (arguably) Bell’s three key muses – the Delfonics, the Stylistics and the Spinners. The Delfonics offering is their groundbreaking ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind’ (for which the compilation is named); the Stylistics deliver two cuts – ‘You Are Everything’and ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’ while  the Spinners’ offer their Dionne Warwick hook up, ‘Then Came You’ and ‘The Rubberband Man’ – in truth one that most soul fans would pass on, but it does  show another side to Bell’s skills.

Other familiarities come via people like the O’Jays and Jerry Butler but as with volume one, it’s the less familiar that bring the interest. So here enjoy Elton John’s ‘Nice And Slow’ (from his controversial sessions with Bell) , the Chargers’ ‘You Gotta Be A Lady’ , Dee Dee Bridgewater’s ‘One In A Million’, Lou Rawls’ ‘Will You Kiss Me One More Time’, Nancy Wilson’s version of ‘Joe’, Bell and James’ ‘Nobody Knows It’ (“Bell” being Thom’s nephew, Leroy) and a  whole lot more.

Familiar or not so, what the 20 cuts prove is the obvious; that Thom Bell created a whole new soul sub-genre – sweet, smooth  and sophisticated. Often copied but never bettered!

Bell died at the end of 2022 and there’s can’t ’t be too many soul fans/collectors who don’t have a mass of his material in their collections already. However, this new compilation (along with the 2020 set) offer concise and fresh perspectives and both serve as wonderful tributes!

(BB) 4/5