VARIOUS: Essential Motown Northern Soul (Universal/Spectrum)

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There are any number of Motown compilations out there but most tread the safe and predicable path of “classics” and “greatest hits” sets. From time to time though the label custodians come up with something a little different and therefore a little more exciting… and this new 3 CD, 66 track collection is just that. Here we have a plethora of the venerable old label’s best tunes that were espoused and championed by the Northern soul scene… and, yes, that title is right…. “essential” is bob on.

The pack kicks off with a cut that says everything about the connection between Motown and the Northern scene…Frank Wilson’s ‘Do I Love You’. This ticks all the boxes implicit in the collection’s title and yes, at one time (reportedly) ‘Do I Love You’ was one of the world’s rarest records. And yes, the first pressing 45s might be as rare as a Jose Mourinho smile but the tune is now mighty familiar and readily available in all kinds of formats. I remember it was recently used as a main theme in a BBC drama series. But that familiarity doesn’t diminish its magic and pizzazz! It’s still a masterpiece. And this set boasts plenty more that’s just as familiar and magical…. The Velvelettes ‘Lonely, Lonely Girl Am I’, Edwin Starr’s ‘I Have Faith In You’ and Earl Van Dyke’s ‘6 By 6’amongst them. Other big names and big tunes rub shoulders with Motown second stringers (people like Debbie Dean and Frances Nero) and that only adds to this sets attraction.

Another attraction –for me at least – is that not all the cuts are frantic and frenetic four on the floor beaters. There’s plenty of subtly mellower moments and my guess is that as the original Northern crew age (disgracefully or whatever) they’ll really enjoy stuff like Marvin’s version of ‘Sweet Thing’, the Supremes’ cover of ‘Stormy’ and Barbara McNair’s delicious ‘It Happens Every Time’. Essential? I’d say…. and retailing at something like £4.99 even more so!!!

(BB) 5/5