Blessed With a Love
Keepin' it at the top: SOULCIALISM is next friday, Nov. 24, night after Thanksgiving, at the Eagle as usual - be there and give thanks for the goodness! New acquisitions are a-plenty and bountiful, so you'll wanna check out the tracks you'll be grooving to for parties to come!
Now for some discs worth checkin' out...
Northern Soul - Rare as Hen's Teeth
Goldmine (UK), released 2006
Doo-Wop Meets Northern Soul: 24 Tracks from the Roots of Northern Soul
Goldmine (UK), released 2006
Most Northern comps - and their fans - tend to fall into two distinct categories: Those arranged around a common theme - be that the club the tracks were broken at, the city from whence they came, or the label they were issued on - and those that act simply as collections. While the former may be more likely to contain some misses (Every club, city, and label produced some total shite!), the latter tends to stray more towards gratuitous stormers - the "Best of Northern" deals that result in you having ten discs with "Come On Train" on them. On these two Goldmine discs, however, we're offered up one of each type that, with a few minor exceptions, break those molds. Northern comps, in other words, worth listening to start-to-finish, rather than iPod-Shuffle stylee...
Rare as Hen's Teeth maintains that its tracks are threaded together around the theme of rarity: Yeah. Whateves. Sure, I'll never own any of these originals, but that can be said of thousands of soul and funk records. These are, essentially, rare tracks from the Goldmine record collection that may not have fit onto other Goldmine comps for whatever reason. But lets be thankful this holiday season that Hen's Teeth offered a chance to drop these on the public. There are some stormers on here, as you might expect, like The Dream Team's post-Otis answer, "I'm Not Satisfied," and the Videls' "Ain't Gonna Do You No Good." But for the most part, these are gorgeous mid-to-up-tempo dance tunes featuring truly original arrangements (the Tranells' "Blessed With a Love," also out now on a reissue 45 from Soulcialism pal Des Parker!), uplifting vocals from the likes of Derek Martin and Anetta Archibald (whose "Clip My Wings" also has some of the most beautifully subtle jazz-soul guitar playing in the Northern canon), and endearingly sincere cheese. (I'd love to hear Artie Feldman's "Wave a Banner," complete with timpanis, at a club - who's man enough to play it?) Side note: If you need a reason to pick this up, it's Sidney Hall's "Weekend," which - at $1,000 on Shrine original - you'll never otherwise hear, and which immediately joined my personal top-10 Northern tracks ever.
On the other side is the Doo-Wop Meets Northern Soul comp which, in the tradition of Goldmine's R&B Meets Northern Soul comps, looks back in order to move forward. With the tough R&B sounds spreading across dance floors in England's Northern scene peering further and further back into American soul music (hell, Keb Darge plays rockabilly and straight-up blues - but he doesn't really give a f&ck about anything; hence his enduring brilliance), it only makes sense to check out some of the more danceable Doo-Wop crossover sounds - from the period when doo-wops were gaining in tempo, more influenced by Sam Cooke and other artists beginning the transition to what would become the 60s sound. If you're a stormers-only fan of Northern, there might not be much to dig your feet into here. But for the more music-minded, Doo-Wop Meets... is a rich vein to mine: The Five Royales prove that "Catch That Teardrop" was no fluke with "Standing in the Shadows," which builds from almost nothing into a cathartic despair, and Vito & the Salutations - whose doo-wop "Unchained Melody" scored them a hit and landed them, 30 years later, in Goodfellas - make a mod-floor-filler-to-be with "I'd Best Be Going." (More cowbell!!) A few of these sound to me like they'd fall flat on a straight-up "Northern" dance floor - the Pheasants' "Out of the Mist" is harmonious and odd enough for a Charlie Apple or Porky Chedwick to drop a needle on it (412, baybee!), and Pookie Hudson's "Miracles" probably does get American 'oldies' play. But that only adds to the beauty of it all: In the hands of a maverick DJ and an open-minded audience, a whole new world could open up. And really, isn't that what Northern Soul ought to be?
(NOTE: I've linked comps to their Dusty Groove pages, not because I've got anything to do with 'em, but because it's the cheapest and easiest way to get these imports in the U.S. that I've found so far...)