Scepter, Wand and Musicor were three of New York’s most important soul issuing labels through the 60s and 70s and UK reissue specialists, Kent (a subsidiary of Ace Records) has regularly plundered their respective vaults to make available, all over again, countless uptown soul gems. Kent has also issued numerous single artists sets on those labels’ stars and Kent’s famed compilations regularly feature Scepter, Wand and Musicor material. This new 24 tracker is Kent’s second compilation to focus specifically on that label trio’s output and what a treat it is for fans of softer, smoother , uptown soul music and what’s more, for this collection, the Kent archivists have had access to the original multi-track master tapes. So whereas, for instance, past CD reissues of Jimmy Radcliffe’s ‘Deep In The Heart Of Harlem’ had been dubbed from disc, here now you can hear it in a bigger, fuller aural version. The same goes for Benny Gordon’s rollicking spin on the “Horse” dance craze, ‘Horsin’ Around’, Lois Lane’s gospel-esque ‘No Jealous Lover’ and the Catalinas’ beach music classic ‘Who Knows Better’.
They’re just four of the album’s standouts. Other goodies include Tommy Hunt’s ‘New Neighbourhood’, Big Maybelle’s ‘How Do You Feel Now’ (both new to CD, we’re told), Nella Dodds’ ‘I Just Gotta Have You’, Will Hatcher’s ‘Who Am I Without You Baby’ (Hatcher was a cousin of Edwin Starr, by the way) and Freddie Hughes’s perennial fave, ‘I Gotta Keep My Bluff In’.
The album also sheds a light on record label chicanery in pre-plagiarism litigation days. Ed Bruce’s ‘I’m Gonna Have A Party’ is a based almost entirely on Burt Bacharach’s ‘Any Day Now’ while The Inspirations’ ‘Kiss And Make Up’ is a note-for-note copy of the Impressions’ ‘Keep On Pushing’. That, though, doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. Like everything here they’re wonderful artefacts of a great time and a creative place in soul’s history.