SHADES OF SOUL #31 - April '04
Magic Tones - It's Better To Love - Solid Hit 108
The Northern Soul scene has had a long and lasting love affair with soul music from Detroit since its inception, and the Solid Hit label has been a good source of classics since those times...no surprise considering the production teams and artists involved with the logo. However, for the past 30+ years the label has kept a secret back from nearly us all, in that it has remained incomplete with a single missing catalogue number, #108. Most collectors assumed it was unreleased...I mean, all those collectors/years of searching and the label being as well known as it is, surely someone would've unearthed a copy, if it had existed? So, here's a little story for you...I was on the phone to that young scalawag and Chelsea fan, Irish Greg last year, and he was reading a list out to me of various discs an old record company bloke had tucked away in the US and was offering him. Now, the one that caught his eye was the Camaros on Dar-Cha, as it would, and he rattled through the rest quickly, as there was nothing much else, or was there? 'Wooooow!' says I, 'repeat that last one' (adopt an Irish accent now), "The Magic-Tones on Solid Hit, 'It's better to love'' on Solid Hit". Easy to miss in amongst the bog standard titles coupled with the fact that it's release on the Mah's label isn't exactly a toughie. Maybe it was merely a mis-print? What the hell, it's worth a gamble isn't it and on my advice he put in an offer for it. During the next couple of weeks I asked a few folk about this possible release, and all shook their heads about it...someone told me that he heard it might have been scheduled for another Pat Lewis release, but nothing definite. Two weeks later another phone call from Greg tells me that the package had duly arrived from the States and that the Camaros was mint yea, yea, yea, what about the Magic-Tones...yep, it's on Solid Hit...frickin' 'ell! Now, I must admit I was a lot more excited than Greg was about it, but then again he had just landed a Camaros! Label gets scanned and a few mails go into a couple of internet groups announcing its existence. Amazement all round. Being the enterprising lad that Greg is, he's not content with what he's had from the US bloke yet, and during more correspondence with him, he enquires if there are any other copies of certain discs and hey presto in the next package there's a second copy of the Magic-Tones. Does that mean he has a box full fortunately / unfortunately no. Who is this US bloke, well naturally not gonna say much about him, but he was connected to Solid Hitbound Productions once upon a time. The story doesn't end there though, as after Greg kindly offers me first refusal on the second copy (taken up immediately), I soon discover that the ZTSC (126448) numbers are in fact different to the relevant Mah's numbers (127299) (both sides appear on separate Mah's releases). Could the Solid Hit takes be different...yes, dear reader, with the main side featuring an additional brass section! I call up my ol' mate Hippo...plays him the main side over the blower...he then points out that the lead vocal itself is actually a different take too...that Hippo has sharp ears! That's about it really, apart from the fact that it's actually a good track if you don't know it, with a typical / classy Detroit Soul easy-going mid to up-tempo Solid Hitbound production...you know what I mean?! So, here endeth another scene mystery...what next...the missing Revilot numbers?
September Jones - Give Me All Of Your Love / I'm With You - Unissued Pied Piper
I've exclusively featured these two tracks during the last few years, and both of them are faultless in my opinion...and a crime that they were left in the can. I acquired these from a friend in mainland Europe years ago and was amazed that they never made it onto Kent compilations. However, after asking Horace about them he informed me that the only tracks that MCA could turn up from their vaults were the a and b sides of her only release on Kapp, the mighty, 'I'm coming home/No more love'. Odd, but then again should we ever be surprised when it comes to soul hunting?! On first hearing them I was half expecting non-Northern tunes, let alone complete tracks, so I was more than gob-smacked that they both turned out to be completed and perfect Northern! GMAOYL is the more 'obvious' being up-tempo with trademark Pied Piper production tambourines being slapped with some force by a probable Jack Ashford. It takes influences from both sides of her Kapp 45, and several well respected collectors have all agreed that it could be the biggest NS sound on the scene, if in the hands of a major DJ, or were they just knocking me with my casual approach to DJing...lol! It certainly proved to be an instant success at the Dome club, and has delighted dancers/got the collectors scratching their chins, on my DJ forays outside of the M25 too. However, I personally have always preferred IWY, with its more subtle mid-tempo approach, yet still undeniably Pied Piper. September's vocal is nigh on perfect on this track, smooth as velvet, with a more than able chorus behind her, making for one beautiful tune; 'I'm with you no matter where you go, with my heart I will always love you so. No matter where that you go, I'll be there by your side, with love as my guide.' Sheer poetry, it continues, 'Stay with me, I'll always love you so. My heart knows you are my dream come true.' Great stuff, I'm sure you'll agree, 'Be my love forever and a day. In your heart you will always know the way.' Maybe, just maybe they may appear on a forth-coming CD compilation of Pied Piper material, but on first inquiry not even Jack Ashford had them on the tapes we'll see.
Byron - I Just Want You For My Own - Sidra 9013
Another Detroit oddity for us to scratch our heads about! This disc (I hesitate to use the term, 'release') shares the same catalogue number as the final release on the label, 'Mr.Soul Satisfaction' by Timmy Willis. The track is blessed by a Dale Warren production complete with a string section and organ, even. I'd love to hear this track with a more powerful vocalist over the top of it, by the way, as Byron (anyone know who he is?) doesn't ever really let rip. Maybe this is a vanity recording? Like the Solid Hit situation with the Magic-Tones' disc reviewed before, this disc was actually missing from most Sidra discographies that had been put together over the years, with but a few collectors being aware of it's existence. I believe the copy I have has ironically been across the Atlantic a couple of times, having been passed between a couple of dealers and collectors, but as to how many have actually surfaced, ever, I dunno, but can't be many. So, what's it like...uptempo, nice bass-line, a touch of organ work and several instrumental break downs, maybe too many of these breaks, but it probably still has what it takes to keep most collectors and dancers happy.
Voices Incorporated - Thinkin' - Columbia 443535
This is a real belter of a track from '66! Admittedly it took me a few plays to get really hooked on it, but the few I played it too prior to exposing it to a wider audience all loved it, and didn't know it. It's kinda like a meaty fem Etta James style vocal meets a backing track with certain influences of the Ad-Libs' hit, 'The boy from NYC' (both actually penned by Leiber and Stoller) and Helen Troy's Kapp thumper, 'I think I love you'. On with the cover up label of 'Helen Troy - Bring that man my way', and an instant Dome club favourite was born! OK, it leans towards the R'n'B end of the soul spectrum, but it is certainly has an undeniable soul-disc pedigree. The 45 label states that it is taken from the groups album, 'Roots - an anthology of Negro Music In America'', and the sleeve note reveals, along with several pictures, that the group is an all black thirteen piece outfit, including Garrett Saunders of 'A day or two' on Serock fame. The lead vocalist on this number is one Melba Smith, by the way. Be warned that the album version is a lot different from the 45, in that it doesn't feature the fuzzy guitar and is a lot lighter in its overall production...gospel like even and not a patch on the 45. Only a few more copies have appeared thus far...maybe they're filed under Gospel in the US, and no stock copies of the 45 have surfaced either. This track still has a lot of life left in it and here's what the sleeve note so eloquently had to say about it:
'The emergence of Rhythm and Blues, which is an inadequate name for an unnamable sound, coincides with the emergence of the Negro as a powerful buying power. Since World War II, with the growth of the Negro consumer market, there has been added to the basic component of Negro folk music a multitude of electronic instruments. The result is a new sound which is called by many names, ('Detroit Sound', 'Hard Sound', 'Rhythm and Blues', Rock and roll', for example), but is, regardless of name, perhaps the single greatest unifying factor among the young people of this country, for there is no need to be white to find the sound, and no need to be black to love it.'
Delores Ealy - I've Ben Looking - VelVet 102
This disc has been with me for many years, and is worthy of scene exposure. Delores is quite a prolific artist and also has a hard Funk tune on Duplex ('The honeydriper'), but this is her most Northern track I've come across. Her vocal style on this one is almost identical to Fran Oliver on her 'Next time you see me' on Sonar, hence another cover up was born, 'Fran Oliver - Searching' for my man'. The track is powerful, yet instrumentally fairly sparse, with organ work keeping things alive and well throughout, coupled with a fat biting bass-line, with special mention to a memorable hard-blowing rip-rawing sax instrumental break. It has proved to be fairly popular at the Dome, and has had several collectors hounding me to sell it for a while, but I'm resisting especially as I've only found three copies in almost twenty years.
Marlyn Barbarin - Just A Teenager - Nola 741
This is quality 100 mph Northern Soul, without a doubt and no mistake! Typical New Orleans production and instrumentation...imagine Gerri Hall's, 'Who can I run to', but speeded up and you'll get the picture. The female backing chorus is also wonderful, as is the brass section, all making it a bit anthem like. This has received a fair few spins via Kenny Burrell, who had it down as 'Ginger Logan', and it is genuinely a rare disc with more pairs of ears yet to hear it. It's the final release number on this classic collectable New Orleans label, and unlike any other disc I've seen on the logo, it's got an orange label...may explain the 'Ginger' bit, eh?! A bit of digging around revealed that the Barbarins are quite a well known family from the South, and the lady herself (Marilyn, not 'Marlyn' as stated on the label) has made a few other recordings and done backing-singer work as well. I was fortunate enough to track down three copies in a single hit, but I still think that you can probably count the number of copies that have surfaced in the UK on your two hands, if not one.
Barons - I've Got A Feeling - Etah 102
Another solid slab of New Orleans soul just right for reactivation this one, as it was previously featured by Guy Hennigan during his mid 8T's sets, as 'Tower Brooks & The Empires'. This really is meaty and beauty with a chopping guitar that could take down a Giant-Redwood tree! Gutsy male lead vocal, more than ably supported by the band thumping out an obvious New Orleans sound with subtle guitar twangs and a brass section that could blow your playhouse down. Back to that chopping guitar...it's so up-front and in yer face throughout, dictating the beat, as well as being able to chop down those a fore mentioned trees! I used to have a WD of this number, but foolishly let it go, only to replace it with a blue stock copy (WD still wanted!) a couple of years later after much searching...we all make mistakes! By the way, have you noted that the label name, ETAH, is actually HATE spelt backwards, and it's also home for another Guy Hennigan monster, remember his 'Darrow Fletcher 'Angel up above'' cover up, as that's Little Tony & The Hawks on Etah too.
Page Four - Take The Rest Of Me (Have Mercy On Me) - Zip 3462
Now this is my kinda sound! A powerful backing track with blistering brass and prominent organ (ooo-er!), that creates a real wall of sound, without having to have a kitchen sink thrown in too! The lead male vocalist is probably blue-eyed, especially considering the garage style flip-side, but the tight harmonies the rest of his buddies hit provide a definite soul quota to keep me happy...love the way they go up and down the scales. The label states that it's produced by, 'Auto City Creations'...sure I've seen that before, and has the 'ARP' stamp in the dead-wax, which was a Michigan based pressing plant (check out my web-site for full details). Considering the lyric, I'd have thought a more snarling vocal approach may have been required, but it is controlled and has a mere tad of attitude; 'You took my love, you had the best of me, when we had our love, that's when you left me. Have mercy on me, I'm in misery, you took the best of, ah take the rest of me.' Sounds excellent over a venue system too.
Vince Howard - If You Need Me - Vis-Co-Jon 5124
I first heard this track during '86, at one of my then customer's record shops where I was their Charly label rep, and he was the album buyer. Fortunately for Charly, and myself the shop owner and buyer liked vintage soul and R'n'B, so 45's were always aired during visits as well as stock orders being taken. The guy got this disc on a trip to LA, and thankfully he taped it for me, as I was unable to find a copy for myself for years...got another one by Mr.Howard on the same label, but sadly not as good. Hop forward almost fifteen years later and I learn that the guy sold up his collection, leaving me wandering what ever happened to this disc. Well, I'm patient man, and low and behold one night at the Dome up pops the disc in a friend's sales box, and after a brief chat it turns out that it is the self-same copy! A sensible price tag was quoted...cash changes hands, and the disc is mine after all this time...and it still sounds good to me! It's an early 6T's string-laden track set at a mid to up-tempo beat. Piano work and snare drum rolls keep it on the Northern side of 6T's pop, and it features an amazing violin solo break...not many Northern discs have those! Vince has the almost obligatory big booming vocal, which always helps these kinda sounds, and in ways the disc reminds me, in parts, of George Pepp's, 'The feeling is real' on Coleman. It will certainly also appeal to the 'Popcorn' fans too, and by the way it's also on blue vinyl!
Explosive Dynamiks - Whole Lotta Loving - Lemco 1005
I think this will be a love/hate track to soulies, as (a) it's not a soul track, and (b) it is too 'garage-y' for some. I must point out that technically it isn't a garage track as it features a horn section, which true garage tracks don't, I'm reliably informed. However, it is a 'Northern Soul' track for sure, and was first featured by Rob Marriot some years ago under the guise of 'The Vibrations', and been reactivated by Martin Gavin in Scotland and both Irish Greg and myself down South. The track itself is a real nighter stormer set at a 100mph pace, with brass stabs and riffs everywhere and some serious Hammond organ breaks and a snarling lead vocal. Imagine the Outsiders/Magnificent Men kinda recordings with loadsa attitude, as if they were handed the mic/instruments just one minute after waking up after a night on the town...and having just stubbed their big toes too...and you get the picture?! The label is out of Lexington, Kentucky, and is recognised in our circles usually for the more common release from the Magnificent 7, with their version of Marvin's, 'Stubborn kinda fellow'. There's also another version of WLL by the Utmost, also on Lemco, but it's nowhere near as Northern, powerful, or as charismatic as the ED's version! I've spoken to a couple of the members of the band (and some of their original fans too!), and learnt that there were a few personnel changes during it's existence, but the outfit that recorded this track consisted of; Buck Huntley - bass, Larry Sumpter - lead guitar, Mike Thomas - lead vocal, Rick David - drums, Lindsey Blair - vocals, Lorenzo Bates - vocals and Charles 'Tyke' Stover - keyboard. The brass section on the disc was courtesy of a couple of session musicians, one playing bass, the other alto sax and a trumpet, although presumably not at the same time! They did the prom circuit tours playing cover versions of the hits of the day, in and around Lexington, Cleveland and Cincinnati, including an appearance on TV along with James Brown. However, this was to be their only released 45, and it was mastered and pressed by RCA at their Indianapolis plant some time during July and December '66, according to the matrix (disc-dating details on my web-site). Not a particularly easy disc to find and plenty of spins left in it...storming stuff to end on!
PLEASE NOTE: - there is a page devoted to the Explosive Dynamiks on this site >>> Here <<<