This lovely 24 tracker, as the title suggests, is Ace/Kent’s third dip into the vaults of some of New York’s best indie soul labels, notably Wand, Scepter and Musicor. Proper soul fans will need no explanation about the importance of those labels and the same fans will relish having easy access to some great tunes from legendary soul artists like Big Maybelle, Van McCoy, Brenton Wood, Tommy Hunt, the Shirelles, the Platters and one of my all time favourite harmony groups, the undervalued Esquires. Their contribution is their 1968 Bunky outing ‘How Could It Be’. If you know the group, you’ll know that their harmonies were always superb, in the manner, I guess, of the Impressions and I’ve often wondered why they were never bigger.
Other album highlights (for me at least) include the cuts from the aforementioned Tommy Hunt, Big Maybelle and the Platters. Hunt’s track is the little known Bacharach tune, ‘Lover’. Great tune, even if it does use a very familiar backing track… ‘Any Day Now’. Big Maybelle’s offering is her version of the 1928 standard ‘If I Had You’ while the Platters’ cut is ‘Does It Ring A Bell’ from their in-demand ‘Sweet Sweet Loving’ LP. Lead voice on the track is Sonny Turner who left the group in 1972 and with a lovely completeness the Kent compilers include one of his solo offerings, the smooth and sweet ‘Now That You’re Gone’ which came out on Musicor in ’72.
That’s just one of the many little twists that Ace/Kent manages to incorporate into their releases. Another here is the inclusion of Melba Moore’s debut single… 1966’s ‘Does Love Believe In Me’, a lovely Dionne Warwick style uptown ballad.
As interesting is the fact that though the album is billed “Manhattan” soul, a number of the inclusions come from elsewhere. Stuff like Dan and the Cleancuts’ ‘Open Up Your Hear’ (a Los Angeles recording) and ‘Haven’t I Been Good To You’ from New Orleans’ guitarist Johnny Moore were licensed to the New York labels…. but whether the source is NYC, LA or the Big Easy, the soul quality never falters. Hugely recommended for proper soul fans.