Time was when new Northern soul compilations seemed to be being released almost every month. Oddly, it seems like a long while since we’ve had a new one… and it’s been ages since we’ve had one as good as this! Put simply, this new 22 tracker – compiled by Spectrum label boss, Johnny Chandler is excellent. Why? Well, as with all good compilations of this sort he’s mixed the well-known with the more obscure; then rather than plump for a whole LP’s worth of frantic 100 mph, full on the floor, “classic” Northern dancers, Johnny’s gone for a goodly number of more laid back, sophisticated items – reflecting maybe the advancing years of many genre aficionados.
Amongst the well-known items are the Dells’ ‘Run For Cover’ and Fontella Bass’ ‘Rescue Me’, while to add even more variety, with some big name artists, the selection is a little more left field. So we have the Temptations with the sublime ‘Girl Why You Wanna Make Me Blue’, the Supremes with ‘Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart’ and Billy Stewart with ‘Secret Love’. Lesser known selections on the set include Joe Cato’s ‘I’m So Glad’, The Hit Pack’s ‘Never Say No To Your Baby’ and the Kelly Brothers wonderful laconic interpretation of Tommy James’ ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’. Other featured artists include The Impressions, Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, Terry Callier, Tammi Terrell, Yvonne Baker, Bobby Bland, Mary Wells and dear old Dusty Springfield whose offering is the shifting, rhythmic ‘What’s It Gonna Be’.
Yes, great, great music. My only beef with the collection is the standard of the sleeve notes. Written by Paolo Hewitt( lauded for his books on Oasis and the Jam –which probably explains the problem here) they lack both depth and accuracy. For instance in his paragraph on the Impressions’ ‘Can’t Satisfy’ he insists that Holland-Dozier-Holland used the song as the basis for their ‘This Old Heart Of Mine’. All proper soul fans, of course, know it was the other way around. Curtis Mayfield wrote ‘Can’t Satisfy’ as his response to the then all-conquering Motown sound. Music as good as this deserves better! Fabulous, fabulous music…shame about the notes!