Is there a sweeter sound in soul than that of the vocal group? I don’t think so, and to help prove my point Ace/Kent have just issued a lovely 24 track anthology of stunning soul group performances. Most of the tunes on offer are obscure and almost all the groups are relatively unknown… the biggest names being The Dramatics and The Mad Lads, but what they all have in common is a sound and style that blends gospel with doo-wop along with a passion to emulate the genre’s big names like The Temptations, The Impressions and Four Tops.
The cuts from the “name” groups are ‘Since I’ve Been In Love’ (The Dramatics) and ‘Don’t Have To Shop Around’ (The Mad Lads) and both are exactly as you’d expect from such consistent performers but in terms of quality, vocal polish and soulful commitment they’re no better than the offerings from the lesser known outfits like The Premiers, The Radiations or the Inconquerables. The Premiers offer ‘I Won’t Stand In Your Way’ – a sweet ballad that Smokey and the Miracles would have been proud of; ‘Love Be Not A Stranger’ from the Radiations is a more complex thing with hints of the Dells; while the earlier (1967) ‘Wait For Me’ from the Inconquerables (a tale of a lonely solider) has its roots in doo-wop and the classic Impressions sound. In honesty, though, dip in anywhere here and you won’t be disappointed with what the Ace/Kent music detectives have unearthed. At the moment, I’m loving ‘Take Your Time’ from the Festivals… a Philly group whose Colossus recordings were overseen by the great Johnny Pate – who, of course, knew a thing or two about sweet, soul harmony.
This 24 tracker includes no less than six previously unissued recordings and to keep the equality people happy a number of girl groups are included too – notably The Lovettes and the Symphonies, while anoraks will, of course, know that The Dynamic Soul Machine boasted a four boy/two girl line up.