Los Angeles was never an urban soul epicentre in the way that Detroit, Philadelphia or Chicago were, but the city was home to countless soul and R&B labels and perhaps the most important was the Kent/Modern label group, founded and run tightly by the Bihari brothers (Saul and Jules). In the 50s the label issued plenty of classy R&B and its roster numbered people like Etta James and Jimmy Witherspoon and through the 60s the brothers released plenty more quality soul sides, sadly without too much success. The label folded in 1971 and its catalogue was eventually bought by UK label, Ace and, of course, Ace uses the “Kent” name still for its soul releases and Kent (new) is the source of this new 24 track compilation of Kent (original) and Modern material.
Listening to the 2 dozen tunes you can begin to hear why LA never really established itself as a major, “particular” soul force and why Kent/Modern never rivalled Motown or the famous Philly labels. In simple terms, the music is too varied; there isn’t a sonic signature. The reason is obvious, the ever-resourceful Bihari brothers didn’t just record local acts in their own studio (creating a special template) they also sourced music from all over the States. So here you can enjoy Memphis soul (Earl Wright’s ‘I Don’t Know), Texas-recorded soul (The Other Brothers’ ‘It’s Been A Long Time Baby’), New York soul (Jackie Shane’s version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’) and cuts from various other soul outposts.
That, of course, doesn’t make the music less soulful or indicate a lack of quality; it just means there’s plenty of variety and soul lovers of every hue will find something here to satisfy. I’ve always been a sucker for the sweet harmony ballad and here I keep coming back to the Intentions’ ‘My Love She’s Gone’ and the Windjammers’ ‘All That Shines Is Not Gold’. Elsewhere there lots of really interesting stuff like ‘You Saved Me From Destruction’ from Difosco. It’s a pulsating slab of psycho-soul with Difosco revealed as an alter ego of Big Dee Irwin. The tune’s a million miles away from that swinging star! Then there’s a previously unissued track from Felice Taylor…. ‘Sing Me a Love Song’ – a kind of cross between ‘Baby I Need Your Loving’ and her own ‘I Feel Love Comin’ On’. A bit poppy, maybe, but if you crave real soul look no further than the set’s closer, ‘You’re Gonna Miss Your Chance’ from Maurine Williams and the Mount Olive Baptist Church Choir. Like I said, something for everyone.