required listening

CD Review

VARIOUS ARTISTS  -  Fame Northern Soul

Kent Dance (UK) CDKEND 475

JAMES BARNETT-Keep On Talking/BILLY & CLYDE-A World Of My Own/GEORGE JACKSON-It’s Not Safe To Mess On Me/ART FREEMAN-Slippin’ Around With You/JIMMY HUGHES-It Ain’t What You Got; I’m Getting Better/CLARENCE CARTER-Looking For A Fox/MARJORIE INGRAM-In The Heat Of Love/CANDI STATON-One More Hurt/SPENCER WIGGINS-I’m At The Breaking Point; Holding On (To A Dying Love)/RALPH ‘SOUL’ JACKSON-You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy/JUNE CONQUEST-Almost Persuaded/BEN & SPENCE-A Stone Loser/GEORGE SOULE-Midnight Affair/JAMES GOVAN-Your Love Lifted Me/OTIS CLAY-I’m Qualified/HERMAN MOORE-Love Light/DAN BRANTLEY-The Door To My Heart/ARTHUR CONLEY-I Can’t Stop (No No No)/BOBBY MOORE & the RHYTHM ACES-Baby Come Back/LINDA CARR-Everytime/DAVID & the GIANTS-Ten Miles High/PRINCE PHILLIP-Love Is A Wonderful Thing

Via the two dozen tracks here, the southern soul of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, USA meets up with the northern soul genre identified with that part of England, not perhaps in the more obvious fashion of multi-stringed works but as mainly more down-to-earth items but with that must-be-danceable ability.  In the 24-page booklet, fully illustrated and with a rare - to me anyway - colour picture of a young Candi Staton in the snow on the back, compiler Ady Croasdell gives us a complete run down on each track so where better to start than James Barnett’s opener, ‘Keep On Talking’?  There are shades of the Impressions in the harmonised title three words but composer credits go to Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham rather than Curtis Mayfield and it’s also that  songwriting duo who handed the closing item, ‘Love Is A Wonderful Thing’ to Prince Phillip [Mitchell], although as Fame was temporarily inoperative as a label at the time - 1968 - the record was actually issued on Mercury’s Smash subsidiary.  In between the topper and the tailer, we get a nice selection of outings including two each by Jimmy Hughes and Spencer Wiggins, Hughes’ splendid almost uptown-y beat-ballad, ‘I’m Getting Better‘ and Wiggins‘ ‘Holding On (To A Dying Love)‘ - here in a previously unreleased version with added strings - being particularly notable.  Elsewhere, as one might expect from Fame, any fire of the laser finds a goodie, amongst them distaff offerings by Marjorie Ingram, a mid-paced ‘In The Heat Of Love‘, complete with blues harmonica support, June Conquest’s roll-along ‘Almost Persuaded‘ - Ady tells us June made a fuss when the song failed to succeed and was allowed to walk away from her contract - and Linda Carr, best known in the UK for her pop hit, ‘Highwire’, doing a [Diana Ross & the] Supremes with ‘Everytime’.  And, of course, we also have the abovementioned Candi Staton, whose strong ‘One More Hurt‘ shamefully remained under wraps until unearthed by Kent in 2013.  Making sure the guys also get a look in - indeed, they dominate the proceedings, hence a personal need to make sure all the ladies get a mention - Arthur Conley delivers the definitive version of Dan Penn and Roger Hawkins‘ ‘I Can’t Stop (No No No)’, Otis Clay’s update of Jimmy Hughes’ ‘I’m Qualified’ marked his final Cotillion single in 1971; Ralph ‘Soul’ Jackson also got his hands - and chops - on another previous Hughes’ song, ‘You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy’, while George Soulé’s flowing treatment of ‘Midnight Affair‘ is a true beaut.  Southern soul duets are represented by the gritty ‘A Stone Loser‘ from Ben & Spence, Ben Moore actually going on to become the second incarnation of Bobby Purify and by Billy & Clyde, Billy clearly being influenced by Billy Stewart in his vocal approach.  Meanwhile, taking one for the groups, Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces deserve a mention for romping their way through the Moore-penned ‘Baby Come Back’.

review posted 7/2/19