The latest release from Australian reissue label Playback Records is a wonderful compilation of classic, 60s uptown soul from the catalogues of Scepter/Wand and Musicor. Those New York based set ups practically defined what “uptown soul” was all about and naturally their archives have been regularly plundered by the specialist reissue labels and there are any number of great compilations of material from both organizations.
The good news is that this new generous 28 tracker is a little different. You see the savvy compilers have eschewed the obvious choices – the tunes that have been anthologised countless times already. Instead, they’ve gone for lesser-known gems. Indeed, something like half of the tracks included here have never been on CD before while some of the more familiar tunes are featured in alternative takes that have long lain in the labels’ vaults.
Naturally, there are cuts from the Wand/Scepter, Musicor big hitters… none bigger than Chuck Jackson, Maxine Brown and the Shirelles. Here Jackson offers the little-known but beautiful Goffin-King ‘I Need You’ (best known maybe in the Walker Brothers’ version) and at risk of repetition it really does define the sound of the 60s uptown soul ballad. Ms Brown’s inclusion is the sultry ‘I Don’t Need Anything’ (covered in the UK by Sandie Shaw) while the Shirelles’ tune is ‘I’m Yours’ which the girls recorded during their early 60s prime. Oddly, given its quality, it was never released till 1986 when Ace/Kent choose to reissue it for the specialist European collectors market.
Indeed, many of the selections on ‘Hello Heartbreaker’ owe their notoriety to that market and/or the Northern soul scene, amongst them Jack Montgomery’s ‘Dearly Beloved’ and Jimmy Radcliffe’s ‘Through A Long and Sleepless Night’.
There are plenty of tracks here though that are a lot less familiar – like Bobby Hebb’s pre-‘Sunny’ recording ‘I Love Mary’ and the Toys’ post- Lovers Concerto’ ‘Try To Get You Out Of My Heart’. Other tunes that offer intrigue and interest are Dean Parrish’s ‘Bricks, Broken Bottles And Sticks’, Nella Dodds’ angst-ridden ‘You Don’t Love Me Anymore’ (an early Kenny Gamble song) and Kenny Ballard and the Fabulous Soul Brothers’ sweet and lovely ‘There Will Never Be Another You’. In honesty, though, dip in anywhere and whether it be a known “name” or 60s wannabee you’ll enjoy exactly what the album billing offers – classic, quality “uptown soul” with the emphasis on “soul”. Great sleeve notes too – adding to the overall enjoyment.