VARIOUS: Loma Northern Soul (Kent)

Loma is one of those magical, mystical US record labels. Like Golden World, Ric  Tic, Mirwood, Wand, Okeh and Brunswick they have a very special cachet with serious soul collectors. And rightly so. Each of those imprints guaranteed something special for soul lovers and original 45s on any of those labels now command big bucks. Loma material in particular is much in-demand because the label only ran for four years without too much commercial success, so actual physical Loma material is hard to come by. That lack of commercial success, as collectors know, is no reflection on the quality of the music. Witness this album!

First a little back story. Most soul histories suggest that the people who ran Loma didn’t quite know what to do with their music; they lacked the knowledge of how and where to promote Loma. And the reason seems to be  that Loma was a custom-made label.  It was set up by bean counting execs at Warner Bros who looked at the growing market for soul and wanted a piece of the action. Thus, without too much knowledge  of the genre, they created  Loma in 1964. The Warner suits then brought in some big soul names to get the label up and running – arrangers and producers like Garry Sherman, Richard Tee, Van McCoy, George Kerr, Jerry Ragovoy, Don Costa, Gene Page, James Carmichael, Jerry Long, Len Jewell Smith and Marc Gordon. Then they hooked up with writers of the calibre of Willie Hutchison, Mort Shuman & Jerry Ragovoy, Randy Newman, Van McCoy and Sammy Turner. Those back-roomers were tasked with finding the artist to deliver the hits (and the revenue) but apart from Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘Tell Her I’m Not Home’ and a couple of Linda Jones releases, success was hard to come by.

However, after the demise of the label Loma product became popular on the UK Northern soul scene  and over the years Loma 45s have achieved legendary status. Collectors labels have reissued all sorts of Loma music – single artists sets and compilations – to satisfy demand at a decent price. Amongst those labels, Ace’s Kent imprint has done sterling work which continues with this 25 track compilation of Loma material which has been issued as part of Kent’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Among the selections here are some legendary Northern tunes like Ben Aikens’ ‘Satisfied’, Larry Laster’s ‘Go For Yourself’ and the Marvellos’ ‘Something’s Burning’. But this compilation features plenty of lesser known items and a slew of previously unissued  tracks like ‘It’s Your Love That I Need’ and ‘ I Need You’ from the Marvellos and three from Northern faves, The Invincibles. Their ‘Pease Be True’ is a lovely Impressions pastiche .

Distaff soul is represented by Linda Jones’ ‘My Heart Needs A Break’, Delilah Kennebreuw’s Spector-flavoured  ‘Bright Lights’ and the pacy ‘See The Silvery Moon’ from the Apollas.

Amongst other highlights are Clyde & The Blue Jays’ ‘The Big Jerk’ (based on ‘The Monkey Time’ but none the worse for that) and Billy Storm’s ‘Baby Don’t Look Down’, an early Randy Newman song. In best Northern soul tradition, the collection ends with two lovely slowies… Bobby Reed’s ‘I’ll Find A Way’ and Tommy Starr’s ‘Better Think Of What You’re Doing’.

The sleeve notes are exhaustive and exhausting – anorak central  for sure and anoraks out there might want to investigate the special Loma box set which Kent have just released. This contains seven 7” singles featuring plenty of Loma classics. Great stuff!

(BB) 5/5