VARIOUS: Soul City Detroit (Fantastic Voyage)

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The 50 year copyright-lapse law (sadly now under threat) has meant that in the last few years lots and lots of valuable and historic archive popular music has become readily and affordably available for collectors. This great new 2 CD, 60 tracker look at the Detroit soul scene in the early 60s illustrates perfectly what I mean. Compiled and with sleeve notes by veteran soul journalist Clive Richardson, ‘Soul City Detroit’ is a seminal sonic snapshot of a vibrant, energized music scene – which just needed some structure and organization to allow it to take off and flourish. That structure and organization was provided by a pugnacious entrepreneur called Berry Gordy. His Motown Empire –even in its infancy – marshalled all the best latent energy and creativity in the Motor City… and the rest, of course, is history.

A good three quarters of the tracks in this collection are from Motown’s early catalogue and they range from the well-known to the downright obscure. Amongst the better known items are songs from Mary Wells (‘Two Lovers’), The Miracles (‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’) and Marvin Gaye (‘Stubborn Kind Of Fellow’). The included lesser Motown luminaries include Sherri Taylor, The Downbeats, Hattie Littles and Saundra Mallett while there’s enough Motown quirkiness to keep the anoraks happy. For instance, there are a couple of cuts on The Pirates – ‘Mind Over Matter’ and ‘I’ll Love You Till I Die’. The voices sure sound familiar… The Pirates, you see, were The Temptations masquerading as buccaneers to try and secure the hit that their own name wasn’t providing. Then there’s femme group, The Vells – essentially the Vandellas with an “outside” singer, Gloria Williams, on lead. Want more interesting obscurity? …try Lamont Dozier’s 1962 ‘Dearest One’ –the first recorded fruit of the Holland-Dozier- Holland team.

The real obscurities though come from the cuts taken from the vaults of labels like Fortune, Correc-Tone and Lu-Pine. Indeed its from Lu-Pine we get a brace of tunes from the soon-to-be Supremes, The Primettes and two cuts from The Falcons – one with Wilson Picket on lead, the other with Eddie Floyd out front. Other featured artists include The Contours, Mack Rice, Joe Stubbs (Levi’s brother), Bobby Williams, Gino Washington and the Quails who recorded for Harvey Fuqua’s Harvey imprint – no wonder their lovely ‘Been A Long Time’ has a flavour of the Moonglows about it…evocative and memory-jerking, like everything on offer here.

(BB) 4/5