VARIOUS: Westbound Detroit Northern Soul (Label: Kent)

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VARIOUS: Westbound Detroit Northern Soul

Think Detroit soul and you’ll obviously think Motown. Berry Gordy’s empire dominated the Motor City but all savvy soul people know that the place had a lot more to offer. A myriad of small labels existed alongside the Hitsville set up and of those, Armen Boladian’s Westbound outfit (founded in 1969) is already well known to collectors and connoisseurs. Both groups will find lots to enjoy in this new Kent album which brings together a generous 26 of the label’s more up-tempo items – hence the Northern soul tag. Best known names on the album are Denise LaSalle, the Detroit Emeralds and Funkadelic whose ‘Can’t Shake It Loose’ is a lilting throwback to their harmony group days, while the terribly underrated Fantastic Four offer their driving ‘I Got To Have Your Love’ – as good a anything that the Motown machine released in the 70s and begs the question as to why they never made the big league with Gordy. Most of the other artists featured on the album fared even worse in the notoriety/popularity stakes but that doesn’t make their recorded efforts any less worthy. In fact cuts here from relatively unknown artists like Denise and Abe, Eddie Hill and the Houston Outlaws are real gems and for fans of sweet harmony groups there’s plenty to rival the best of the genre. The Magictones’ ‘Happy Days’ is particularly strong as is ‘My Bay Ain’t No Plaything’ from the New Holidays. Best of the bunch though comes from Unique Blend. Their ‘Yes I’m In Love’ is a delight from beginning to end and will make you realize (yet again) why you got caught up in the world of soul in the first place. Other goodies include a strident cover of the Association’s ‘Never My Love’ from Emanuel Lasky and ‘It’s No Fun Being Alone’ from the aforementioned Houston Outlaws. That one is the collection’s only real ballad and, rightly, brings the compilation to a gentle ending. Kent have come up trumps again‚Ķanother quality old soul collection that comes with the usual thorough notes and annotations.
(BB) 4/5